Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 16

It’s easy to criticize, but much harder to create. We’ve criticized the Star Trek movies a good deal, so maybe it’s time to offer some tips on how we would improve them?

Question: "Andrew, How would you improve Star Trek III?"


Andrew’s Answer: How would I fix Star Trek III? Hmm. This one needs serious reconstruction. The main point to the film is to find a way to bring Spock back. The rest is kind of filler. Oh, and somebody needs to kill off Kirk’s annoying, whiny, pathetic son so Kirk doesn’t end up tied down to this dork in future films.

Let’s start.

First, Kirk’s son: The film should start with a security crew meeting the Enterprise as she returns to port. They are here to arrest Dr. Marcus and son for the high crime of using an illegal substance in the Genesis device. . . flubber. Kirk wants to help them, but he gets called away to a special de-briefing, where he is told Starfleet intends to destroy the new planet. They don’t tell him why. He’s ordered to remain silent about the mission and told all mission logs have been classified.

Next, we need a way to make the McCoy split-personality problem compelling. One of the problems with the split-personality problem in Star Trek III was that there wasn’t really urgency on McCoy’s end. And having him wandering around muttering like Spock once in a while isn’t enough. Instead, McCoy needs to really go crazy. So as Kirk leaves the briefing, worrying about his soon-to-be-dead gay son, he learns that McCoy grabbed a phaser and shot his way off the Enterprise. Once in space dock, he steals a small starship and leaves the planet. This starship belongs to a mobster type (named “MacGuffin”), who immediately sends two ships after him.

Kirk asks for permission to find McCoy, but Starfleet refuses. So Kirk and the other officers steal the Enterprise without telling the crew what they are doing. They chase after McCoy, who needs to stop somewhere on route to let his ship’s engines recharge. This gives Kirk the challenge of tracking him down, before the other bad guys find him, while Starfleet sends the Excelsior after Kirk.

When they come to the first planet where they think McCoy will be, they find a ship which matches the description of the one McCoy took. They board it and encounter the first team of mobsters. This is when Kirk learns of the danger McCoy is in from the mobsters. He also learns that McCoy landed here, that he had burned out his engines to get here so fast, and that he stole a new ship and left.

Meanwhile, McCoy is starting to get his head together. But he won’t turn around because he’s driven to find Spock. This is an instinctual hold-over of the mind meld. But he doesn’t know he’s being followed, so he slows the ship to prevent burning out the engines. This will allow the mobsters to catch up to him. And since he doesn’t know who they are, this puts him in a lot of danger.

Kirk, meanwhile, is racing to find him and encounters the Excelsior and another Enterprise class ship (the Commentarama). He needs to decide if he’s willing to fire on them or not and what he will tell his crew if he does. Kirk comes clean with his crew and tells them he will surrender, but the crew decide they want to save McCoy. So they pull a trick and escape. While this is going on, we get interspersed scenes of McCoy being found by the mobsters. McCoy convinces them there’s a huge secret on the Genesis planet and they decide to check it out before they kill him.

McCoy and the mobsters arrive at the Genesis planet first and find a three ship blockade blocking the planet, with orders to kill anyone who comes near the planet. They are preparing a second Genesis device which they think will explode the planet. Kirk arrives just in time to save McCoy and the mobsters as their ship is blown to pieces. Kirk then confronts McCoy and McCoy tells him he’s drawn to where Spock is. Kirk says, “He’s dead Bones.” And McCoy says, “Don’t you get it Jim? I’m drawn to where is he is because he’s alive.”

Kirk then talks his way to the planet, where they realize that Spock is indeed alive because the material used in the Genesis Planet rejuvenates life and heals animal tissue. He’s just in a coma because McCoy has his consciousness. That is the secret Starfleet is trying to protect because Starfleet doesn’t want anyone knowing that flubber can keep anyone from dying because if no one died anymore, the universe would become a horrible place.

When McCoy finds Spock, Spock is magically restored and McCoy is healed. Then Kirk is taken into custody. The last line in the movie would be something like, “sometimes the needs of the one. . . or the two, outweigh the needs of the many.”

Then Star Trek IV can start with Kirk and the other officers aboard a prison shuttle on their way to Earth, rather than the Klingon cruiser.

Scott's Response: Not bad. Some of what I have to say is simply window-dressing, though. Who exactly are these mobsters and why is their ship parked in a Starfleet facility? Perhaps McCoy could instead beam down to Earth and get involved with some shady characters (smugglers or something), stealing their ship and promising to pay upon his return. And I assume Lt. Saavik is still on the Enterprise? Without her to "help" with Pon Farr, the Spock they find on the planet might be a wreck, whether he's conscious or not. Assuming he isn't affected while he's unconscious, he'd definitely have some wild oats to sow once he's back!

While I understand the reason, I'd hate to just drop Carol and David in the first five minutes, never to revisit them or their crime. That's a talk Kirk needs to have with them at some point. I'm glad you still worked in the theft of the Enterprise (arguably the best scene in the film). It wasn't clear from the description but I assume Kirk still blows it up in this version? I only ask because, while you and I are working in a vacuum, this film did set up a lot of stuff for later films (Kirk's attitude towards the Klingons, getting a new ship in the next film, etc.).

Lastly, David Marcus wasn't gay though the actor playing him might've been. But your comment reminded me of a line in Heathers: "I love my dead gay son!" Then again, since he's arrested at the beginning, does he still die in this story?

Andrew’s Reply: Scott, let's see what the readers think about those questions. . . and what else they would add?

43 comments:

MadMup said...

I like this alternate look at the movie... except for one thing. The best part of III (for me) is all the Vulcan stuff we get to see: the elaborate ceremonies, the whole business of the "katra" (which gets expanded on in some books from the same time), and even the planet Vulcan itself, which we didn't see much of ever.

tryanmax said...

Although I don't think III is entirely beyond redemption, I think the easier and better fix would be to not off Spock in II. Plenty of other awesomeness occurs in that installment. Killing Spock was superfluous.

Still, it's a good rescue. But if you really want to impress me, fix IV.

darski said...

You've lost me on this one. I rather liked ST III. no comments to add.

AndrewPrice said...

MadMup, We could always find a way to squeeze that back into the story. Maybe they go there first with McCoy to heal him before he escapes?

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I must respectfully disagree. Killing Spock was a genius stroke at the end of II and really took it to another level. That's become one of the iconic moments in film. It was very powerful.

Fix IV. Hmm. A lot of people think it was one of the best of the films. I personally don't though. What would you suggest?

AndrewPrice said...

darski, To each his own. :)

MadMup said...

You still lose the never-before-tried Vulcan process of putting Spock's katra back in his body. Remember, Sarek's whole deal is that Kirk needs to get the katra back to Vulcan so it can be stored - this katra is the most important thing. It's only when they find out Spock's body is back that they hit on this "Hey, let's try it!" idea. I think if McCoy went there to be "healed," they would have been all "Hey, Spock's katra!" *yoink* and McCoy wouldn't have had the chance to continue on to Spock's body.

Maybe, though... McCoy goes to Vulcan to get "healed," the Vulcans find Spock's katra and store it in the Archives, Kirk & Co. go on to Genesis for ... some reason, find Spock's body, take it to Vulcan, and the Vulcans can do the same transfer from the storage unit back to Spock's body?

DUQ said...

I love the Commentarama. LOL! Nice touch.

I think this would have been a much better film.

Also, yes, I think David needs to die. Maybe in a prison brawl.

AndrewPrice said...

MadMup, We could always move it to the end. When they find Spock's body, they don't know what to do with it, so McCoy tells them they need to get to Vulcan to save them both. Then they could convince the other starship commander to take them to Vulcan before arresting Kirk.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I would think there would be a USS Commentarama in the future, don't you?

I'm all for David dying in a prison brawl. :)

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Vulcan katra... Now I'd like to see the Vulcan katra suma.

Stealing the Enterprise... I'd love to see Kirk sued for destroying the Enterprise. He mounts the defense that since there is no more money in their world then the Federation's damages are zero. The court agrees that Kirk is grossly negligent, but they also agree that they use no money so they award the Federation the symbolic damages of one cubit from the Battlestar Galactica exhibit at the Smithsonian (which has since moved to San Francisco) -- trebled given Kirk's gross negligence.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Vulcan katra suma! LOL!

Great point about their legal system in the future! I guess they only need criminal lawyers at that point since nothing has any value attached to it anymore?

rlaWTX said...

again, very creative...otherwise, I have no informed opinion.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Thanks. Nothing to add? No surprise twist you think should be there? No vote on whether Kirk's kid should live or die?

tryanmax said...

I guess I shoulda kept my big yap shut. In my opinion, IV is broken beyond repair. Even if I reluctantly accept that the universal translator cannot decipher humpback whale, despite the fact that, evolutionarily speaking, whales and humans should share more brainwave similarities than either would have with, for example, The Companion, which the UT was able to decipher with a few modifications, it still find the whole whale thing exceedingly cloying and uninspired.

Seeing as the central purpose of IV is to give the Enterprise crew a crisis to solve which will mostly absolve them from crimes committed during the previous two installments, almost any plotline could be devised as an improvement. A cop-out of an answer, I know, but one must also consider the cost/benefit of the salvage work. I deem it too expensive.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I'm not a big fan of the film personally. It feels dated and preachy to me. I think they would have been better served either going into the past or going to another planet.

The whale thing doesn't bother me, except that "save the whales" was something liberals were whining about ALL THE TIME back then. That made it much more political at the time than it feels at this point.

To me, the bigger problem is that the whole thing feels "cloying" to use your word. They go for cute over interesting every single time and it feels like all the actors did was walk around trying to be cute.

I think, however, the problem with "fixing" it, is that most people wouldn't consider it broken, so all you could really do would be tinker rather than a complete re-structure.

Doc Whoa said...

Fascinating as always. I think this would have been a better film -- much better. I think this gives the film a sense of urgency, which the actual film lacks. Too much of that film just meanders and seems to be wasting time.

To answer the questions, I like Scott's idea of him stealing the ship from the surface. As for what kind of mobsters, I don't think it matters -- just call them smugglers.

I would like to see David sent to prison, I don't care if he dies. You could have Kirk break him out and give him a heroic death, but I think that just clutters the plot.

Doc Whoa said...

tryanmax and Andrew, Count me among the people who enjoy Star Trek 4, but I do agree that it's cloying at times. In a way, I like that it feels more like an episode.

AndrewPrice said...

Thank Doc. I do think a sense of urgency is missing from the actual film. It kind of ambles from scene to scene toward a conclusion. They try to give it urgency a couple times by suggesting that McCoy could die if they don't find Spock and then having the Klingons capture Kirk's son, but it never really gives the audience any sort of real "ticking clock."

I thought about the idea of Kirk breaking him out, but that seems like too much illegality by Kirk. You could have him out on bail and on the Enterprise when they steal it, if you want him along for the trip. I personally would rather he just left the series.

Picking the spaceship on the planet works fine as well.

ScottDS said...

I guess I might as well chime in...

I like Star Trek III. It's not perfect by any means, the "proto-matter" plot device was just a cop-out (why not simply say the Genesis Device was defective?), and the whole thing has a rather cheap look to it.

As far as Andrew's plot, I would miss Sarek and the Klingons. I suppose Sarek could still pay Kirk a visit at some point (after McCoy leaves but before Kirk steals the ship). And the Klingons... I suppose they aren't needed. Hell, the original draft of the script called for Romulans instead.

But it would nice to give Uhura more to do since the film shuffles her off to the side for a good 30+ minutes!

I also like Star Trek IV. Yeah, some of the gags are a little too cute but after the death and destruction of the previous films, they just wanted to do something fun.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I have tried many times to like Star Trek III and just can't.

You could absolutely still have Sarek in this version. He could be aboard the Enterprise when Kirk steals it, for example. Maybe he's there to talk to Kirk about what happened to Spock's consciousness? You could even have him play a bigger role as he would be with them the whole time.

The Klingons could be anybody in this film. I think they were added to make a weak film seem stronger.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Scott, I don't dislike Star Trek IV at all and I wouldn't really change much if I were to re-write it. I would probably just tighten it around the edges a bit and make sure each of the actors had something to do other than trying to look cute.

MadMup said...

Ah, yes, Kirk's son... blerg.

Listen, I didn't like the guy much, either, and I don't mind that he got killed off, I just... well, see, here's the thing: I felt Kirk was a little too angry about David getting killed off. Sure, he's Kirk's son, but Kirk has only known the guy for a couple of days (weeks?). Spock's dying is going to affect him way more than some whiny loser kid dying, I think.

Also, I'm glad the Klingons were in III because Christopher Lloyd!

AndrewPrice said...

MadMup, I agree. That always struck me as a little too weak of a motivation. Kirk barely knew David for two days and he and David didn't really get along. Plus, Kirk was a bit busy during that period trying to save his ship and his crew and then Spock dying. That doesn't seem like a strong enough relationship for Kirk to get so upset about.

I do like Christopher Lloyd as a Klingon. I'm sure we can find a way to squeeze him in there.

Commander Max said...

I thought ST3 was a well structured movie. That is it meet the basics for making a watchable film.
That said, it was another STINO, just like ST2.
It came across as lets resurrect Spock, and make a movie around it.

My fix for the film, junk it. Make a Star Trek film.

Sorry to unleash a bit of geekdom. But there never was an Enterprise class. The Refit(as it's commonly referred to) is a Constitution class(or Constitution 2), so the Constitution must have been refit before the E(who knows). The Enterprise A was the Yorktown.

Another bit of trivia.
They were never going to put another Refit on screen. For they felt it would confuse audiences. I guess they are confused enough just watching the films/shows.

But it was ok to show other Constitution class starships in STTOS. I guess either audiences were smarter back then, or the guys making the shows back then were not as confused themselves.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, "Junk it" -- good solution! I do agree that the films got too far away from the point of the series and they really don't feel like the same "property" to me.

I do recall that the original Enterprise was Constitution Class, but I thought they called the movie one Enterprise Class?

I don't know why they resisted showing more than one of the same class of ship in the films? They did it all the time in the series.

Jason said...

tryanmax, the funny thing is, in a DC comics run of Star Trek that ran before Star Trek IV came out, Kirk and company saved the Federation from a mirror universe invasion, which helped absolve them of their crimes and let them continue in Starfleet (at least until DC had to adapt Star Trek IV). Maybe the mirror universe plot would have been better!

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, How did they handle the return of Spock?

DUQ said...

Andrew, You guys need to think about fixing Insurrection. That one's the real tragedy.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, That one could definitely use some work, not the least of which is losing the purple bazooka! LOL!

ScottDS said...

Andrew and Max -

The Enterprise seen in the films is a Constitution class ship and I caught this when I read over the article but I chose not to change it. Or rather, I should've changed it to "Enterprise-type ship" instead. (To quote a popular Internet meme, these are "first world problems.")

I don't know where Enterprise-class came from. Perhaps from an unauthorized tech manual?

Speaking of all things Trek, this was released today. I bought mine! There was even a screening and 90-minute panel discussion at the Arclight in Hollywood last night to celebrate the release. I should've went but I didn't.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, You and your massive soundtrack collection! LOL!

I have a hard time seeing the Enterprise in the films as the same class as the original. Yes, they have a similar shape generally speaking, but they are about the same like a 1950s destroyer is the same as a modern destroyer.

ScottDS said...

According to Memory Alpha, Enterprise-class was used informally behind the scenes and in some non-canon games.

As for my soundtracks, blame the labels and the studios for releasing so much cool stuff... and then blame the Musicians Union for negotiating a license-friendly rate! (10 years ago, a 3-disc release like Star Trek: TMP would've been impossible.)

Jason said...

The return of Spock? You mean STIII? I believe they adapted it in comic form, though I don't have that copy. As far as bringing Spock "back up to speed," in the storyline, they had the mirror Spock mindmeld with our Spock, and the effects of the meld brought Spock's cognitive abilities to full strength. Amusingly, the mirror Spock abandoned his earlier mission against the Federation as a result of the meld, and joined forces with the other Spock, so there was a pair of Spocks working together!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Well, clearly the union knew what it was doing as I suspect their sales spiked!

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, LOL! Spock... in stereo! That would have been an interesting film too.

rlaWTX said...

I don't remember enough of this movie - I forgot Kirk had a son altogether... I remember going to find Spock on the jungly planet. I remember McCoy being weird. Aren't they wearing sweater-y uniforms in this one? I have a trek-ish cousin who named her iguana Savik.

So, for a twist - the un-mind-meld goes haywire and Spock's consciousness stays in McCoy and McCoy's goes into Spock and they CAN'T fix it - EVER.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Call me crazy, but that ending would probably have resulted in theaters being set on fire. LOL!

LGD said...

The Mobsters in here just _have_ to be Iotians from A Piece of the Action. Not all would have liked being rehabilitated by the Federation takeover. So there must be plenty with an anti-Kirk ax to grind. Oh, and there's no need to invent an illegal substance 'flubber' for David. He had already used proto-matter. BTW, Kirk had only met David recently, but he had known about him for more than 20 years. "My life that could have been."

AndrewPrice said...

LGD, That would be hilarious! McCoy steals a smuggler's vessel from Bella Oxmix.

That's a good point, he had known about him. Still, the relationship doesn't seem strong enough (especially considering everything else which happened at that time) for this to affect Kirk so deeply.

Michael K said...

AndrewPrice said...
tryanmax, I must respectfully disagree. Killing Spock was a genius stroke at the end of II and really took it to another level. That's become one of the iconic moments in film. It was very powerful.

How many Trekkies got goose bumps and perhaps tear drops when Spock said the "I have been and always shall be your friend" line in the JJ Amrams reboot.:)

AndrewPrice said...

Mike, I do. And when I saw the original STII scene in the theater, I kid you not that there wasn't a dry eye in the place. People were leaving the theater in tears. It was incredibly intense.

Astronut said...

I like this topic. ST: III to me, never had a chance, really, even though I do like it very much - - it came on the heels of what is widely regarded as the quintessential Trek film; how could it possibly come close to that film's greatness? (similar to TDKR after the phenomenal TDK before it.)

I always, always felt that the film needed one more action sequence or at least one more set piece, some other location, where Kruge and Kirk had some kind of encounter. The film always felt too short because of a lack of "just one more set piece." When you watch it again, think of what I'm saying... doesn't the movie feel like it gets to the end sequence too quickly? There should have been more difficulty, at least one more obstacle to overcome.

In any event, with regard to your alternative plot, Andrew, I will say I do like much of what you put out there, however I would miss the Klingon angle... we only got to see them for a few minutes in ST:TMP so I definitely want them in this film. Christopher Lloyd was servicable as Kruge but he needed more meat, especially since Khan was such a well fleshed-out villain.

I can't stress enough how much better the film would have been if - for no other change - they would have given Kruge more material and had just ONE MORE SEQUENCE BETWEEN HIM AND KIRK/CREW. Just 10 or 15 minutes more and I would have been more invested in the threat.

Alternatively, you also made me think of this: They should have worked in a time-sensitive element... say, if they didn't get Bones to Mount Soulaya (sic?) he would have fried and dropped dead, perhaps? A time-sensitive element would have added more tension, more drama to the entire film.

Good stuff, loving the site!

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