Monday, June 3, 2013

Second Decade of the 21st Century

We're living it. Well... perhaps not exactly the events imagined in Star Trek, not exactly... but this is it, this is "the future!" We're whipping out communicators, we're using computers all day, every day, and we're seeing scientists invent things that people only dreamed of a few decades ago. The worst thing about it all is that just as Star Trek predicted, something most Star Trek fans seem to forget about, is that the 21st Century actually sucks pretty bad.

If Star Trek had a Dark Ages this would surely be it, and while Star Trek was just a science fiction television show, we can look around and wonder just how accurate this show was in it's technological imaginations, it seems nobody ever points out that even in Star Trek, the 'utopian' futuristic adventure show, that there's some pretty dark imaginings there. A lot of people look at all the fancy gadgets in Next Generation like the Holodeck which LeVar Burton already pointed out to us in a few articles back that they're working on as we speak, and say, "See we're getting there!" There's one thing they forget though, not only did Star Trek imagine genetic engineering in the 90s, and they were wrong about when these genetically engineered people would be here to kill us all, their dates weren't always on the ball, but one thing they suggested was that in the midst of all these technological advances, we didn't do much with developing our society and it lead to catastrophe. 

Star Trek imagined back in the 1960s that sometime in the 1990s, a genetically engineered super-man named Khan Noonien Singh would go nuts and something called 'The Eugenics Wars' would begin. This didn't happen in the 1990s, but I'm not sure we've actually dodged this bullet. Eugenics is a concept that goes all the way back to the very early part of the 20th Century where basically white people decided to sterilize humans who they saw as 'unfit,' and this happened BEFORE the Nazis came around. Their plan was to breed certain characteristics out of the human race, and while they weren't familiar with things we now call DNA, they were already sterilizing people for being alcoholics, drug addicts, mentally ill... and not being white... 

The Eugenics Movement also created a particularly interesting concept that is still being thrown around today on daytime radio talkshows, a catchphrase called 'the welfare state,' and it was suggested that 'society' not waste its resources or taxes on the weak, the sick, the mentally ill, and 'fixing' these 'social ills' was to be achieved through many different essentially inhuman means, and all argued that 'society needs to eliminate these problem people.' The nazis took up this banner in the 1930s in Germany. Eugenics was born in America.

Today, if there is a Eugenics Movement, it doesn't go by that name any more, but there are still many people out there who believe in its ideals. One goes by the name of 'transhumanism,' but they're constantly adapting and changing their names, 'biohacking,' 'biohackers,' 'techno-progressive' and 'biopunk.' They embrace technology and genetic engineering in a way that fuses the Eugenics ideals with Social Darwinism, and 'survival of the fittest through technology.' Khan would most definitely identify himself as a transhumanist.

While people basically cannot genetically engineer themselves, and neither did Khan, people are developing in ways that could most certainly lead to a Eugenics War. However, before we get to that point, we may have more pressing concerns regarding wars of another kind. Religious wars, drones, mind control weapons, wars for oil and resources seem to be on our horizon. Poverty and the wealthy conspiring to maintain and keep their wealth at all costs are turning the planet into a depressing and hostile place. Nobody can really say for sure what will happen soon enough, but check the news and it's like watching the new in Robocop. The future is here and its already out of control.

Between the 1990s and the 2050s in Star Trek, many things are mentioned as possibly occurring to take note of, obviously, the Eugenics Wars, there's certainly a variety of technological advances that occur during that time, something called the "Mind Control Revolts," and of course World War III. We look to Star Trek as it gives us a positive vision of the future, something to look forward to, something to strive towards, but as many people out there who think of it merely as a silly space show are probably not familiar, it also warns us about our immediate future. It is not so naive to think that we can get there tomorrow, nor that everything's headed there to happy Federation-land right now. We've got problems to solve, and we need to consider some of these things it's telling us. It's not all happy space-people in the future, as soon as we invent faster-than light travel, or some other gadget. Though many die-hard Star Trek fans who do look to a better future believe this. 

We have many technological advances already, but are we really using them in a way that the people of the 23rd Century would admire? Certainly not. We have genetically engineered food, but the companies that manufacture it lie about it, they bribe and blackmail congress when people want their products to be labeled as such. Nobody knows just how dangerous any of it is, and coming from the company which lied about Agent Orange among a long list of other things I won't get into here, we have absolutely no reason to trust them. Ethics are not part of corporate schemes. Most of our technology isn't being used to cure diseases, stop poverty hunger and suffering, because most of the people who develop this technology do it for the money and they are only interested in doing those things if it makes them rich. So they don't cure diseases, they invent things to make money off the sick, they don't stop poverty and hunger, though they are always promoting themselves as doing such, always we find they do nothing of the sort. Nobody's interested in the social aspects of Star Trek any more, only the technology, only the 'power' such technology would give them. If Star Trek's timelines were more accurate, the time of Khan Noonien Singh would probably start around now. 
The Eugenics Wars would likely begin within the next decade, since nobody seems interested in bioethics any more, and more and more people are becoming interested in the ideals of Eugenics and social darwinism, from the right wing, as well as the left. As soon as DNA databases of citizens are collected so that either companies or governments can go through that data, soon enough somebody is going to abuse that and start declaring people unfit 'scientifically' as they will call it. Murdering people the way Colonel Philip Green does in Star Trek will be a socially acceptable act, just as people condone drone assassinations today. Unless we change, and there's one thing that Star Trek does offer to us, is that we do have that ability to change, to alter course, to develop ourselves differently, to see the ethical dilemmas for what they are and respond to them. To build a better future, if we don't, I would argue that we won't make it out of the 21st Century as Star Trek might suggest, because the kinds of global problems we have are possibly more catastrophic than the ones in Star Trek, problems that could cause the extinction of the human race, and possibly all life on this planet by the year 2100. We simply have to change course, we cannot live like this any more, and if you don't believe this, well not only isn't Star Trek going to influence you, likely nothing will, the belief in the "End of the World" is simply going to be a self-fulfilled prophecy and the death of us all. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Star Trek: Out of Darkness

For years, Star Trek Fans have had problems with eachother, long before J.J. Abrams came along to re-brand Star Trek. They argued over Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise and why they didn't like them, and what all the inconsistencies were, and which one's little details offended them that they observed, and to the point of insults and screaming unfounded absolutes at eachother. Opinionated assholes were dismissing people for simply expressing they liked one series or the other, so in a way, the effect of Abrams' negative marketing scheme is nothing new. Before though, it wasn't a marketing scheme, it just emerged out of the many different types of fans of Star Trek. People attempted arguments as if they were theologians in the Vatican, citing 'canon' and 'non-canon' and gazillions of little details whether they had to do with technology, or timelines or dates, character names, actors, or story elements. People with political agendas argued against elements of various shows, and others with the obsession of technical details argued about what was 'continuity' and what wasn't. 

Today, we have new arguments about which parts of J.J. Abrams movies fit and which ones don't and how they do and how they don't and how people need to ignore certain details, and how certain details need to be paid attention to. It sounds the same, but it isn't...not exactly... In reality, not one detail is related, and there is no continuity, and none is even intended. No more than Never Say Never Again is related to Thunderball as any kind of sequel, prequel, or continuation. No more than Peter Jackson's movies have anything to do with the cartoons of the 80s. The perception is created in the movie, in order to market these new movies, but there simply cannot be any real connection whatsoever based entirely on the idea that one can see these characters have been re-written. The 'future' setting has been re-written. Everything has been re-written. These are not prequels, these are not continuations or backstories of any kind, and 'alternate realities' which occur in them still have nothing to do with any single episode or previous movie which ever took place before these two new movies. To believe so is futile. So in fact, no arguments of this kind are necessary. The arguments left, are those of cinematic technicality, that they are bad movies, that perhaps not only do they have nothing to do with the original Star Trek, they don't even contain the same essential philosophy or intended ideas, narrative or themes. It might even be argued they have the complete opposite of them.

When one looks at all this, one sees, whether they like it or not, that every episode and movie which took place before the Abrams films are ALL connected, all part of one series, one long timeline where at no time has it deviated in any way, not like Abrams Trek has.  There are minor little details here and there, but no matter how poorly an episode or movie might have been made before the Abrams films, they all were part of one single story that developed however it developed. One thing that cannot be argued whether you hated ENTERPRISE, or VOYAGER or DS9 or not, and that is that they still all contained the 'spirit' of the original intended themes, ideas and concepts, and the basic narrative which was carried over again and again throughout the years.  They represent some 'thing' that in no way has been re-created in any way by J.J. Abrams. His Star Trek simply has nothing to do with them, no matter how many series there were, nor how long it went, nor whether there were prequels before or not. 

The arguments about the old shows and all their details are made irrelevant when one compares the two. When one compares the original themes, ideas and intentions to the new movies, one finds that whether you like it or not, ALL of them were Star Trek, good or not in your opinion, where as the new one isn't. How can one then believe that his replacement is 'good' for the series, when it isn't part of it? How can one believe that it 'helps' or 'invigorates' or 'brings new life' into the series, when it isn't part of that series? It is in fact quite possibly the death and the end of that series, in terms of any possibility of its continuation (since we obviously know it still all exists on DVD, but may never continue from where it was when it all ended). 

Tim Burton's Remake of PLANET OF THE APES was actually a success on opening night. It actually made a lot of money. They never did a sequel to it. People didn't like it. Critics hated it. There never was a follow up. It has nothing to do with any Planet of the Apes movies which came before it, nor the TV series. The RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES has nothing to do with Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes Remake, but it does intend to be a prequel of sorts to the old series, AND it attempted to contain the same themes and philosophy of the original, and neither erase, replace nor assume nor insert a contradictory message to the originals. Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes has no category now, other than 'bad remake that has nothing to do with any of the other movies.' This is what J.J. Abrams remake of Star Trek is, it is a really bad remake that eventually will live as nothing but an anomaly. Nothing in the future of Star Trek should ever attempt to reference it, tie it in creatively like ENTERPRISE did with the Klingons foreheads, and the Augments, and it should not make any attempt to make any acknowledgment of it whatsoever. While a new Star Trek series following J.J.Abrams deviation may update more technology, or add new characters, planets or species, in no way should it make itself a continuation of Abrams' Trek. It should however reference, and be a continuation of all that we have seen before it. J.J. Abrams had his way with the series, he produced his remakes, some people liked them, he made his millions, now be done with it because it didn't 'damage' continuity, it ignored it all entirely, and had no intention of being any part of it.  

As Star Trek fans, it is time to look ahead, realize that whatever details from earlier shows may have been inconsistent, at least it was all in fact related to the Star Trek that started it all, and each Star Trek series which preceded another, without becoming an entirely different kind of Star Trek and entirely different kind of movie. They didn't remake the series over and over again. Each one honored the one before it. One can most certainly update, modify and re-introduce and continue a series without going to the lengths which J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek, and what he did shows us what happens when companies make really low attempts to control not just where a product goes, but how we perceive the products it is a copy of.   The  J.J. Abrams films were not any kind of continuation, they were a cheap copy, refashioned like Michael Bay films, they tried to 'fuse' the idea of a remake and prequel, and ultimately, as far as history will see, it worked out monetarily for him, but it didn't work out too well when it comes to being worth anything to society as art or entertainment that has any real value. It is about as intelligent as Catwoman, and Transformers, and it came from a product which was nowhere near anything like that, and gave so much more to people than thrills. The continuation of STAR TREK is not dependent upon whether it can be sold as some billion dollar blockbuster, the continuation depends on whether anyone thinks its worth making. The problem is not whether fans will accept it, or whether you need to alienate those kinds of fans because they draw negative attention to your 'product,' the problem is that these companies feel they need to make billions and billions more each time they make a new movie, not merely make what would be considered a 'profit,' but a profit that it bigger than the last profit they made. The escalation of these profit-games has gotten completely out of control, so much so that they can't simply spend 50 million dollars on a Star Trek movie anymore, they can't even spend 50 million any more on ANY movie, unless it makes 350 million. They will spend 200 million and basically demand that it makes billions, or else not make another one again, or at least this is what they say to us.

...And yet the remakes keep coming...

Friday, May 31, 2013

Levar Burton Reminds Us What Star Trek Is

Levar Burton stands up to J.J. Abrams on behalf of Star Trek. Yes, that's right, and he should get his own statue for it. What am I talking about? What is he talking about? Here's the quickly dismissed quote from an interview he did with the Toronto Sun:

"...I'm a little disquieted by things I hear coming out of his camp, things like he would like to be remembered as the only Trek—which would discount everything before he got there."

"There's 'breaking the canon,' which he did (by re-inventing Star Trek's timeline). But there's also honouring the canon. And to pretend to be the only one is really egocentric and immature."

"I just came from a conference in San Francisco with Advanced Micro Devices, and they're working on technology towards building a holodeck. That was Next Generation. And that's part of what Star Trek has brought to the culture. So when JJ Abrams says, There should be no Star Trek except the one I make,' I call bulls---, J.J."

So what is he talking about you ask? Why is this important? Is there any truth to this? Why yes there is ladies and gentlemen...

Part of J.J. Abrams goals with his new Star Trek Franchise reboot was to 'do away with,' have 'erased' in the public's mind the icons of the original Star Trek, starting with merchandise featuring the original icons like William Shatner.

An explanation coming from The Atlantic Wire regarding Abram's issues with the old series:
"You see, whereas Paramount owns the movie rights to Star Trek, CBS owns the rights to the television series (and any future shows in the works). That meant that CBS could and still did create merchandise based on the cast members of the original series. Since people were apparently getting William Shatner's Kirk confused with Chris Pine's Kirk, Bad Robot—Abrams' production company—asked CBS to stop making such products. CBS said no, so Bad Robot "scaled back its ambitions to have Star Trek's storylines play out with television shows, spin-off films and online components, something Abrams had been eager to accomplish." --The Atlantic Wire

What is obviously part of Abrams marketing strategy, coinciding with his "This is Not Your Father's Star Trek" was to create not a reboot of a sense but an entirely new "Star Trek," one which would not be either a continuation nor any kind of 'reinvention,' but a replacement. He wanted this new Star Trek to do away with old icons, old ideas, obviously starting with merchandising, so that the film rights-holders could have their own "Iconic Star Trek" to cash in on, and so they could ignore the old one since they don't have rights to that. What part of this is all about is Abrams desire to 'devalue' the television Star Trek, to make his the absolute publicly acknowledged Star Trek. He most certainly has no concern for the old Star Treks, and Levar Burton most likely had heard this was the case.

What initially appears to be some kind of rights-dipute has wider implications. His job was to make a Star Trek more widely accepted of course, for profiting purposes, but to essentially erase a generation of pop culture which regardless of his attempts is still admired to this day. Somebody needs to explain to J.J. Abrams that you can't really try to erase pop culture like that, with some marketing scheme. You can't, for instance, try to destroy the public's love of Sean Connery James Bond because you want a new iconic Bond. You can't just manufacture pop culture like that. Abrams marketing scheme assumes it can re-fashion not just a look or appearance of a product, but public perception of that product, not to mention the reality of what that original iconic pop-culture element did and how it influenced people and society. Abrams has money in mind here, but it would seem he also wants to control the public perception of Star Trek, channel it, distort it to his own ends, and this blog decrees Levar Burton its honorary Star Trek Hero for his courage to stand up and speak about this--because it is...bullshit.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Trouble with Transporters: Star Trek Into Darkness

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (or The Transporter is One More Reason You're Not Supposed to Be Making Action Movies Out of Star Trek)

I got some news for Damon Lindelof and J.J. Abrams. You know that transporter thing in Star Trek that you can't figure out what to do with? You know, that thing in Star Trek: Into Darkness that you keep having problems with. This is a two hour movie, where most of the dialogue is about explaining why the transporter doesn't work in this scene, because you want to do an action scene, or it would be too easy to just beam someone out of trouble. There's a reason for all this. There's a reason why hacks like Lindelof can't figure out how to get around it.

Let me explain to you why it exists in the first place. No, it's not because somebody like Gene Roddenberry thought it would be cool to have a teleporter on board, but because they were making a television show which focused on a story, and they had neither the money nor the time to show people getting in and out of little shuttles all the time. It helped them get on with their story. It wasn't about action battles in spaceships. The transporter beam helps you get your characters where you want them to be quicker, so you can move forward with your "plot." Do you guys know what a plot is? 

You see, you keep having this problem with having to make shit up and explain to the audience all the time why you don't want to use the transporter all the time because you have no plot, you have no story, everything is focused on space battles, action, people shooting and blowing shit up. They didn't have transporters in Star Wars, there was no need for them.  In Star Trek, it was in fact invented as a convenience, but it worked so well that people now just assume that one day we'll invent such a thing... 

You have characters doing shit all the time in Star Trek movies that they probably shouldn't be doing in a Star Trek movie, and since you have nothing to say, you have no plot, you have no story to tell, you end up with this severe issue around the transporter beam. You're simply not thinking straight because not only do you not understand "Star Trek" and how it works, you make it look even dumber when you come up with more bad excuses throughout the movie of just why they can't use the transporter at that particular moment, you waste screen time with characters having to explain it, and you make yourselves look stupid because you're thinking only about action and stupid shit that YOU want to see in a Star Trek movie. If you had simply come up with a great story, you wouldn't have this problem. There are so many instances in this stupid movie that require you to have to explain to the audience who you obviously KNOW are going to be wondering what the fuck--why don't they just use the transporter--because they're smart, and yet you treat them like they're dumb, and they're not going to notice that you have to fucking explain it every five minutes to them why you can't use the transporter in this scene. You're idiots. You did it to yourselves.

When I think back of the clever uses of the transporter in the movies, I have to say, those people knew what they were doing with Star Trek, it would seem the more you deviate from what Star Trek is, the catch is, the more you have to waste time trying to explain stupid shit to the audience as to why stupid shit is happening in your movie. That's a waste. It shows you don't know what the fuck you're doing. By continuing to point out to the audience all the time why you can't use the transporter also shows how insecure you are in your writing, you could have just invented one simple excuse at the beginning of your movie, and all your problems would be solved, but you're not that clever, and you might have to use that transporter at some point because in fact you're lazy, and you don't want to have a space-battle action scene at that point. You're dumb. 

The transporter beam works in Star Trek because while it may seem that an actual story is boring to you, in fact, it's not, while it seems to be operating slowly, it really isn't, it progresses faster than your action heavy garbage because not only is it going somewhere, it's engaging the audience in their minds, in their emotions, it doesn't have to work as hard. It uses the transporter because in fact its moving so fast, it doesn't have time for space-battle action scenes and fist fights every five minutes. It has a direction, it knows where it's going, and has a point to make. You have nothing to say, you have no point to make. 

The Transporter Beam Problem is indicative of how poorly written your movie is, think back, how many other Star Trek movies can you think of, or even episodes which had this problem? When you look at it, you can start backwards and see that the movies starting with Into Darkness, "2009", Nemesis, etc, go from bad to good, and get better, the further back you go. Which means these movies keep getting worse and worse, and the worse they get the more you see this babble-shit to explain why stupid shit is happening on screen like transporter problems. The further you get away from real Star Trek, you start having these issues. They didn't have this problem back in the day.  This last movie here is the worst of all of them, I don't think I've seen such a stupid Star Trek movie in my life. You continue to wonder why the hell it's such a problem, this 'transporter' thing, and yet it is so simple.