Month: October 2014

Civilization: Beyond Earth, Alpha Centauri’s Successor?

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Released just last week, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth is the newest addition to the Civilization game series. For over two decades the series has brought us world domination realness in the form of turn-based gameplay that has evolved as much as we have throughout history. Now Beyond Earth (BE) presents us a vision of the future, like we’ve never seen it before. Kind of.

BE takes place in our future after an ominous tragedy, The Great Mistake, of ambiguous nature. Regardless of its causes or circumstances, the result is that humanity is reaching out through interstellar space to colonize a new home for humanity, and you get to choose your faction, your roots, your hopes, your plans for humanity’s future, and your ultimate method of victory.

The options are numerous upon start up, with each faction based on a different backstory and culture/nation/region/philosophy. You get to customize your game bonuses to suit your style, or in true pioneering fashion randomize the bonuses and deal with the randomness like a pro. From there, you choose your technologic research from a web which gives you flexibility in your path. Focus one direction and reap the benefits of advanced tech, but miss out on other benefits if you research more broadly. Research too broadly and you may miss out on technological wonders that provide bonuses to your factions.
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Engage in trade and espionage to reap more income and production bonuses for your colony, or steal research, techonology, or even sabotage with your spies. These additions were added via expansion to Civ 5, and I’m glad that they were added to the base game instead of being withheld.

As you play random events occur that are actually quests which give you choices that will affect you for the rest of the game. I really enjoyed this feature. Random events always provide a nice meta-challege to strategy games, and the choices you’re given really give you a chance to roleplay your faction or tweak your stats.

There are numerous paths to victory, some of them based on your “affinities” which are essentially philosophical paths you determine as you play. You don’t have to choose one, but you won’t get the best bonuses if you diversify too much (like with the tech web), and reaching a certain level with them opens up more victory conditions.

The game’s factions are pretty interesting as well, though many of their bonuses are left to the player upon startup. I enjoyed the international diversity they presented, but it wasn’t until late game that any motivations game to the forefront as each colony ventures farther into their affinities which can upset other faction leaders. For instance, in my game some were horrified at my attempt at harmony with the planet, and despite my eventual victory via transcendence, I can imagine watching my people evolve into some alien-human hybrid species was disturbing.

Lastly, the game’s environment was sufficiently alien and while I eventually “decoded” the tiles to see forests and deserts and plains, it retained its foreign-ness. On the other hand, the color palette was a bit too terrestrial and “pretty”.

Overall, there are so many options and configurations that replay value is tremendous, perhaps one of the best in the series.

Having said all that, it is time to acknowledge the elephant in the room: Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri is one of my favorite games. Ever.

In fact, every Civilization game since has let me down in some way, with Civ 4 and Civ 5 each getting close to the mark in different ways. Beyond Earth gets the closest, but there is something about SMAC that just hasn’t yet been reiterated in a superior way.

Here are some notes:

  • The factions are richer, more detailed, more motivated. It was easier to love and/or hate them.
  • Wonder movies! The FMVs that played upon completion of the secret projects were almost more rewarding than the gameplay bonuses provided. They were well produced and featured in game lore that really fleshed out the experience by exploring the philosophical depths that the factions were faced with while colonizing a new world and dictating our future.
  • Immersion, immersion, immersion. From the numerous data windows, graphs, faction leader profiles that always scrolled throughout the interfaces, to the interludes that narrated developments in the game world, SMAC really drew you in. Beyond Earth came close with its voiceovers and quests, but SMAC still takes the cake on this one.
  • Unit designer! I’m sure the Civ 5 engine Beyond Earth isn’t suited for this kind of thing, and upgrades are implemented cleanly if a bit too simply, but the ability to design almost every component of a unit from armor and chassis, to weapon and special ability was amazing. Customizing your troop to engage against alien lifeform units or breaking international law by equipping nerve gas pods hasn’t been matched in the Civ series by a long shot.
  • Planetary Council! While I appreciate the developers for integrating so many features into the base game, you know that an expansion is inevitable, and I can just see that being voted Supreme Leader of the council will be added in a future pack. The planetary council was an amazing asset to SMAC that has actually been added in other (inferior) ways in the Civ games. What was great about SMAC’s version wasn’t just the diplomacy, it was also being able to vote on world policy such as banning or allowing atrocities, or even melting polar ice caps! Such a dastardly thing to do if you manage to protect your bases with domes that repel the rising seas while everyone else in the world drowns. I hope this makes a triumphant return to Beyond Earth.
  • Numerous gameplay options such as Blind Research (don’t choose specific techs, just broad categories and deal with the future tech realness!), though the randomizing of Beyond Earth’s options does shake up things quite well.

Beyond Earth does feature virtues, similar to Civ 5’s trees of culture-based bonuses. These fleshed out the values of your culture and gave you bonuses, but nothing has ever come close to the give-and-take that was involved in SMAC’s social engineering. While you could customize your society to be a Cybernetic Democracy with Green economics, there were drawbacks with each option.

Playing with different combinations to get the right balance of bonuses and penalties was much more fun that choosing from straight up bonuses. While helpful to gameplay, the trees reminded me too much of an MMORPG, and just reinforced the depth present in SMAC that developers seem to have been shying away from for the past decade.

Overall, SMAC was a deeply engrossing experience with so much packed into it that it took me years to peel away the layers of complexity. An expansion was also released for that game which added a few new improvements and new factions, but overall SMAC stood on its own without the X Pac, but that was a time when expansions, though common, were never a promise. Now it is all but a given, with only the most terrible of games missing that opportunity. How times change.
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While SMAC remains a treasure in my heart that will likely never be replaced, Beyond Earth is one of the most promising efforts to live up to such a magnificent legacy. In these days of neverending expansion packs, I look forward to my adventures beyond earth to be enriched with more sci-fi strategy goodness, but until then I have one hell of a base game to play, and that is more that can be said for many top tier titles nowadays.

By the way, get Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri at Gog.com.

Rise Headless and Ride: A Book Review

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I picked up the Kindle version of this book last fall in a fit of autumnal yearning for American folklore. For growing up in the southern USA, I think I have a decent grasp of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. I’ve seen bits of the animated film, and I’ve even seen a couple of live theater performances of it. Fortunately, if you’re not as cultured as I (Ha!), the original short story is included with the novel if you need to catch up.

Rise and Headless and Ride, by Richard Gleaves, was released in 2013. It tells the story of a young man, Jason Crane, as he moves to Tarrytown, New York, or more famously Sleepy Hollow. There he explores the legend and its characters, and finds some startling truths about it, and about himself.

The plot surrounding Jason’s investigation of the Sleepy Hollow legend is interesting, especially if you’ve an interest in the tale already, but for me the true strength of the novel lies in its characters.

I’m always a fan of good characters and this novel offers that in abundance. The tight, effective plotting requires only a handful of characters, and the main ones especially are well motivated and realized.

My favorite is Liza, the main character’s grandmother. Her eager perspective on life despite her age actually reminds me of someone I knew, which made her really jump off the page. Even if she is a mere construct for the purpose of the plot, she seems like a plausible figure who is seamlessly stitched into the story.

The main antagonist for the story is a joy to dislike. He isn’t some apologetic, morally gray figure. No, he is unabashedly unethical, manipulative, and he knows it. It is completely within his power to be otherwise, but he chooses his path, and for the purpose of the plot, he is a conducive catalyst for dramatic conflict.

Also, there are a couple of gay characters in the book. As a gay person myself, it was refreshing to see. What was really great, however, is that these aren’t just token gay people who were injected to create an illusion of diversity. They had their own motives and drama that existed outside of the main character, and actually wound up enhancing the main conflict.

Even more, each of the gay characters provides a different perspective on what it’s like to be a gay teenager, without being stereotypical or satirizing. Being gay isn’t the overwhelming quality about them, but neither is it some superficial addition that the author made to garner extra points.

Overall, I get a positive impression from the book that reminds me of a really great pilot episode of a promising TV series. The comparison to television is not meant to be demeaning. Outside of novels, television in the past several years has provided some of the best writing of both story and characters.

There is a good degree of restraint applied to this story. Not everything is explained all at once. Elements are left to simmer and develop. The right moments are allowed to happen, while even more dramatic things grow in the background. The novel concludes intensely, and cleanly, but it beckons you for more.

At the novel’s start, we are introduced to a world that strongly resembles our own, but by the end we are escorted into new and surreal territory. This kind of transition is not often done so smoothly, with many authors being quite blunt about it.

One last thing that surprised me was that the novel is listed as Young Adult Horror. This isn’t a bad surprise. In fact, I didn’t really feel like I was reading a young adult novel. What I mean by this is, don’t let that category deter you. There is much to enjoy here.

Its sequel, Bridge of Bones, was also just released in October of 2014.  It’s exiting to see that there is more to come.

Image from Goodreads.

Music I Like: Scissor Sisters

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Of course I’m a fan of the band, but in this case I also mean their eponymously named debut album. While it wasn’t a huge success in my home country, the USA, it was a huge hit in the UK when it was released in 2004. The band, currently on hiatus (major sad face) released three more albums, but their first will always be special to me.

My first exposure to Scissor Sisters was in a brief spot during a commercial break on MTV. They were showcased as a “new band to watch” or some such and were compared to Elton John and glam rock acts from the 70s. These comparisons and a brief interview with the band members piqued my curiosity in a unique and discreet kind of a way.

I felt I could identify with them, as if they spoke in code and it was meant for people like me to decipher it.

Of course, what I mean is my sexuality. I was closeted at the time, nearly a year out of high school, and in the middle of a long string of years where I was trying to figure out what I wanted out of my life.  Without saying it directly, I knew that Scissor Sisters, in some way, represented gay culture, and I wanted in on it.

While most if not all of the band members have stated that they fall somewhere within the LGBT spectrum, back in 2004 this was still a touchy issue. Plus, they were a new musical act, and America is notoriously homophobic within show business for some odd reason, so they were probably advised to keep a low profile if they wanted to break into the music scene in a big way.

Regardless, it was with a wink and a nod that I came to a mutual understanding with the sisters of the scissors.

Their big hit at the time was “Take Your Mama”.  The video was campy and quirky. The lyrics on the other hand quite clearly conveyed the process of coming out to one’s mother, and letting her know that being gay can be pretty fabulous.

While I was still a long way from doing that myself, the message was still quite clear, and that it was wrapped up in an awesome song with infectious energy was confirmation that I was destined to love this band.

The only problem with the song?

I didn’t hear it nearly enough on the radio.

Sure there was the internet, but even in 2004 we still had dial-up at my house and I had yet to develop the habit of tracking down music files and internet videos like a bloodhound. Instead, I decided that I needed to buy the album.

So, of I went on my quest in search of the CD that would grant me endless repetitions of what were sure to be my new favorite songs, but, alas, East Tennessee proved to be a barren wasteland when it came to that kind of music.

There’s a desolate feeling that comes over you when you when you feel like you are the sole person in the market for gay music, alone, and in the closet. I cursed my home town for its poor taste. Even the independent disc exchanges, who still sold vinyl records before hipsters made that and chugging PBRs popular again, didn’t carry Scissor Sisters.

My response was to pop my cherry, and by that I mean that I made my first ever music purchase on the internet. I found the album on Amazon.com and waited while it shipped to my home. I think the CD may have even been delivered from the UK.

A few days later, I finally found my bliss in the eclectic assortment of musical goodness that only Scissor Sisters can provide. From the opening pounding of piano chords of “Laura” to the haunting harmonies of “Return to Oz”, I found more love in each track than Rihanna could find in a hopeless place.

What is so great about this album is that if the song isn’t just about having a fun time, being one’s fabulous self, then it’s about something else relating to what it’s like being gay.

“Filthy Gorgeous” illustrates what it’s like in the more debauched scenes, while “Lovers in the Back Seat” gives you a taste of the voyeuristic side of making love. Sometimes, when it’s hard to be yourself out in the open, then even your trysts have to be discreet. This is one of my favorite tracks.

But there are two tracks in particular that take the cake for me. The first is the anthemic “It Can’t Come Quickly Enough”.  It’s soaring synths are both uplifting and deep, and they provide a perfect background to the introspective lyrics.

The second is perhaps one of my favorite ever songs by the Scissor Sisters: “Mary”.  The song is actually dedicated to lead singer Jake Shears’ friend who passed away. But even without knowing that it’s easy to pick up on the intense and platonic, yet genuine love he felt for his friend.

This is something very true about gay people.  Just because we prefer real love with someone of the same gender doesn’t mean that we can’t ever connect with someone of the opposite. We all have a Mary in our lives with whom we share a connection deeper than sexual desire, something complex that isn’t complicated by physical attraction.

This song simply and effectively expresses those feelings.

Furthermore, the video released for this song features gorgeous animation by the famous Don Bluth. It’s hard to find, but it’s worth viewing.

As you can now see, the album is personally significant to me, and continues to resonate with me. Time has only layered more experience upon me to ensure that my thoughts regarding the music here are permanently imbedded into my soul. Ten years later, and it’s still I’ve of my ask time favorites.

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: Ex and the City

The season two finale!
(And my 100th post, by the way…)

Carrie is picking out flowers. While she is doing so, Miranda spots her ex, Steve, walking down the street. Miranda panics and runs. Charlotte is scandalized, of course.

Miranda muses about her inability to befriend an ex and says she pretends they don’t exist, while Samantha shares that men aren’t where she gets her friends, just her flings. Charlotte actively withholds friendship from any man who won’t love her.

Carrie is the only one who seems to have an issue with this, mostly because her ex is getting married and she doesn’t know how to let everything go with him, even if she can’t have everything with him. Then they bad mouth Natasha. That’s my girls.

Carrie’s article begs the question: can you be friends with an ex?

Miranda’s blissful ignorance is destroyed when Steve stakes her out at the apartment just to tell her she is shitty and that she hurt his feelings. Then she cries.

It sucks even you realise you’re a shitty person.

Then Steve defused the whole thing so that he can tell Miranda that she’s got boogers in her nose. He then suggests they try to be friends since their history with each other is hard to ignore.

Charlotte also has a hard time ignoring her past, but since she isn’t dating anyone, she reminisces about her days horseback riding that ended when her horse threw her.

And speaking of getting thrown by horses, Samantha encounters a stallion of a man in the street that she can’t wait to tame. I wish I could get guys to ask for my number just by walking past them on the street. Mr. Cocky gives her his number for a “friendly little fu- drink”.

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Carrie finally gets the nerve to confront her past, but when she calls Big’s place, Natasha answers. But Big has caller ID, so when she hangs up, she realizes she has to call back or look crazy.

When she does, Big answers, thankfully, but awkwardness still ensues. They awkwardly agree to meet for a drink to establish the rules for friendship.

Later, they meet for their lunch. It’s still awkward. Carrie nearly falls to her death on a sneaky stair. They’re both nervous, so having a sober lunch is out of the question.

Flash forward, and they are tipsy and Carrie complains about Big’s Blood Sweat and Tears music collection. She tries to listen to Big talk about Natasha, but realizes that unless they are really serious about a significant other, that she’d rather they not talk about their love lives.

But… Big is serious with Natasha. They’re engaged.

Well, this sends Carrie into shit storm mode. How can Big may a girl when he told Carrie he never wanted to be married again? She accuses him of stringing her along and she makes the most ridiculous scene. Then she almost knocks over her chair, and kills herself on the dangerous stair, and causes a waiter to drop a bunch of metal.

Typical Carrie.

The next day, Carrie attempts to support Charlotte while she mounts a horse. What she really wants to do is bitch about breaking in Big while another woman saddles him up, and smoke in inappropriate places. Charlotte backs out her horseback experience.

Samantha on the other hand, is just starting hers. But before they get hot and heavy, he stops to warn Samantha about something. Oh no…

Is he married.

Does he have an STD?

Is he gay?

Nope. Not only is he a stallion, apparently he is hung like one too. While Samantha celebrates hitting the penile jackpot (especially after the tiny dud that James was at the beginning of the season), Mr. (Huge) Cocky says that he is, in fact, really huge and that others have complained he is too big.

Samantha brushes that off. She’s practically a pro cock jockey, but reality sets in and she is speechless. And likely gagged.

She complains to Carrie, but expresses her determination to mount him any way. He may be too big but until Goldicocks finds one that is just right, she needs to break some sex records.

That night, Miranda and Steve have a nice friendly dinner. But friendly turns to frisky and they wind up sleeping together. So much for friendship.

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Also that night, Samantha takes a hit of pot and hopes she’s still limber from yoga so she can attempt to tackle Mr. Cocky’s tackle. What kind of yoga helps with that?

Seriously, let me know in the comments.

She thinks she’s making progress, but it really turns out to be too much. Just when she thinks she’s got the hang of mister hung, he asks if she’s, ahem… ready for more.

Nope, nope, nope, and she fends off Mr. Cocky and his meat. Sometimes too much is really too much. Been there, done that, honey… no shame in it.

On a positive note, Samantha attempts to make her first male friend.

We never see him again, so apparently that didn’t work out.

The next day, Charlotte is trying again to get to know a horse, too, and unlike Samantha, she manages to successfully mount and ride him.
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Across town, Big tries to call Carrie while she is screening, so he leaves a remorseful message. He laments hurting her, and as soon as he says as much Carrie picks up the phone. They clear the air between each other and realize that it’s time for them each to move on, friends or not, but hopefully as friends.

But then Carrie gets an engagement invitation in the mail. Crap.

The day of the engagement pretty, Carrie and the girls have some drinks. Then they begin gushing about “The Way We Were”.  As a total chick film, Samantha has never seen it, which allows the girls to explain to the audience the significance if the film and how it resembles Carrie and Big.

They begin to sing the closing song of the film which puts Samantha in an awkward spot. She likely ricochets between horror and embarrassment, but ultimately she cries. Not because of the other girls’ mediocre singing, but because she misses James. It turns out that her encounter with a monster penis made her realize that size isn’t everything, and that maybe she does want a man who truly loves her instead of hook ups the rest of her life.

And that’s where Carrie leaves them, and goes to mak peace with Big. She has just one question, “Why wasn’t it me?”

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Big says, very little, but it turns it that Natasha is a simple girl whereas Carrie is complex. She says, “Your girl is lovely, Hubble,” echoing that final scene. Carrie has a moment with a horse herself as she watches a man attempt to put a bridle on a rather spirited mare.

Perhaps that is what Carrie is.

And that’s how we end on season two. Miranda has slept with an ex. Samantha tried sleeping with a horse-hung man, but wound up missing an ex.  Carrie said goodbye to an ex, and Charlotte rode a horse.

Sex and the City Re-watch Recap: Twenty-Something Girls vs. Thirty-Something Women

We start with a Brady Bunch type montage. This group of people proves to be dysfunctional enough that they have time left over in their summer time share in the Hamptons. So they call Charlotte to offer her a great deal for the rest of the summer.

Charlotte pitches the opportunity to the girls, mentioning some rather foreshadowy consequences like one of them being married or having kids. This summer fling is the last they’ll be able to have just as a foursome, she argues.

They all give in. Summer party with the girls!

Samantha happens to have an employee who’s been spending some time at party house in the Hamptons herself. She’s kind of obnoxious, so when Samantha fires her, it’s a welcome sight.

This begins the girls’ vendetta against twenty-something girls. While she was waiting foe the rest, Charlotte met a young 26 year old. She’s off to a fun start.

When they arrive all they can do is bitch about being cynical and the musty odor permeating the house. The little boy Charlotte met comes by to invite them to a beach bonfire. Oh, and Charlotte is pretending she’s 27 so the guy won’t be scared of her “old” lady parts.

They get to the bonfire where everyone is getting drunk on kegs and flailing around to Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You”. Looks like a good time until chicks start puking. At least they hold each other’s hair.

Carrie, trying to leave, runs into her biggest fan. She’s so adoring it’s sickening. In the days prior to social media it was easier to avoid these people.

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Miranda, the next morning, takes step outside with her coffee to enjoy the beachy morning after having a bitchy night. She about steps in vomit. It’s Charlotte’s, it turns out, and she spent the night passed out drunk with her boy toy. He’s there too. Oh, kids in their twenties.

Back in the city during the week, Carrie reminisces about her own twenties. Great skin tone, innocence, men who don’t know how to have good sex, bad apartments, fashion mistakes… yep, sounds about right.

Later, she goes out to a book signing with her stalker. She tries to be mentor-ish, but winds up talking about sex and making the young one get them drinks. That sounds perfect.

Carrie runs into a doctor who is supposedly foxy. He’s not ugly, but I remember him playing one of the odd aliens in Galaxy Quest, so that’s all I can think of when I see him. By Grabthar’s hammer…

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Anyway, they exchange numbers and agree to meet in the Hamptons.

During a cloudy day at the beach, the women marinate in spf 45 sunscreen. The doctor tracks down Carrie. They chit chat, but while he takes a dip, Carrie laments that he is good on paper. Which means he’s likely bad in bed.

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Charlotte brings around her boy toy, which darkens the other girls’ day considerably. She suggests they make Long Island teas, which every kid in his or her twenties thinks is cool.

Carrie and the doctor walk on the beach for more chit chat. He seems really eager, which is a turn off for me, but Carrie has been single for a while so she gives him permission to bother her more.

Back at the house, Carrie discovers unwanted visitors. And Samantha gets invited to her former employee’s supposedly “big” blowout party, which threatens to upstage her professional P.R. image. Unwanted visitor #1 is Laurel, Carrie’s adoring fan. She’s hanging out in Carrie’s room. Unwanted visitor #2 turns out to be an infestation of crabs in Charlotte’s pubic area.

Welcome back to your twenties, dear, though I never caught anything in my twenties…

The infestation scares Carrie out of the house, and she takes refuge at the doctor’s abode. They only sleep despite his humorous attempts to portray sexiness. By Grabthar’s hammer…

The next night they attend Nina’s party. Samantha feels down since the party is so impressive. Charlotte confronts her boy toy about the crabs he gave her. He morally retorts by calling out the deceit of lying about her age. The whole argument is petty. Lesson learned: don’t sleep with douche-y  twenty something guys.

Behind the scenes, Samantha learns the party is out of control. Nothing pleases her more than using her experience to smooth out the party’s kinks, and furthermore she introduces Nina to Charlotte’s crabby boy toy. Ah, sweet revenge, and it’s itchy.

Carrie is tracked down by her fan, but by now she’s had enough and ditches her, only to see Mr. Big.

With a twenty-something girl.

They met in Paris while he was working there.

He’s been back in town for a week.

Her name’s Natasha.

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Talk about a “big” blowout party. The whole confrontation is enough to turns one’s stomach. Which it does, and Carrie runs out to the beach to vomit under the fireworks.  Miranda holds her hair.

Re-watch Reviews- Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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This film is one of the most maligned in the Star Trek franchise. Released in 1979, Star Trek: TMP was an attempt to revive the classic TV series that had gained a massive following through syndication since its cancellation in the 60’s. Through a turbulent development, it premiered as a bloated mess that fans had no choice but to try to love, and with the release of subsequent films has become a black sheep.

Gene Roddenberry had tried throughout the 70s to get his baby back on its feet. A stint as an animated series ensured that memory of the show didn’t wither away completely, and Star Trek was thus juggled between producers who wanted to make a movie or a new series.

1977’s Star Wars proved that sci fi films could make money, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind confirmed that sci fi could be something other than Star Wars and still succeed. So all plans made for a new series, Star Trek: Phase II, were scrapped and rolled into the new film, and some of those scraps eventually took root in Star Trek: The Next Generation (which at this point wasn’t even a preconceived notion yet).

Star Trek: TMP got a huge budget, and everything got a lush treatment, but unfortunately having so many egotistical cooks in the kitchen, as it were, led to so many paralyzing creative differences that the film’s focus was hamstrung and the result was an over-indulgent mess.

You can’t blame them, to an extent. At this point, Star Trek was dead, and having a chance to resurrect it was a rare gift. Why not go all out?

On a positive note, the film has some gorgeous special effects. The soundtrack is also sweeping in an old fashioned way (the opening fanfare was later used as Star Trek: TNG’s opening). The problem is that so much time is spent showcasing these assets that it becomes obvious that the plot is thin. Who wants to sit through an overture without even any credits to read, and those minutes and minutes of flybys of the Enterprise’s exterior?

Speaking of the plot, it’s not terrible. A strange cosmic invader that threatens Earth may seem cliche, but seeing the Enterprise crew using their wits to explore this thing and find a way to save humanity is essentially Star Trek. The main problem with the plot is its presentation. The story is convoluted and fragmented, and extended scenes of space travel and ironically boring “ooh ah” moments spoil the fun.

But there is some fun, occasionally. At the film’s start, we see a brand new iteration of Klingons, the ones we know to this day. Unfortunately, the concept was still coming together and these Klingons seemed excessively stupid, and the make up still needed work. You get the impression that these Klingons are inbred and suffer from congenital mental handicaps.

Another fun scene is when the bridge is invaded by a probe in the form of plasma. It meanders around while the petrified crew helplessly watches, except for Spock. He attempts to prevent the probe from gathering data, and even tries to save the bald Deltan beauty Illia from “assimilation”.

A failed transporter beam frighteningly shows that not all deaths in space are pretty.  This is a surprisingly dark scene in an otherwise celebratory film. This scene stuck with me throughout my childhood.

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Unfortunately, several other plot threads just fray the film’s focus. Kirk’s unfamiliarity with new technology, Riker-esque Commander Decker’s unrequited love for Illia, and McCoy’s distrust of Spock’s hyper-logical motives exhaustingly cannibalize screen time so that when the actually interesting twist that the invader is an Earth probe returning home is revealed, you just wish it was all over, already.

It must also be mentioned that the uniforms in the film are horribly awful. Whoever decided that no one should wear undies underneath their pajama-like uniforms certainly had issues. There’s more peen in this film than in a sci fi themed porn flick, and some of the characters look exceptionally sweaty in their scenes.

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There is nothing sleek or space worthy about this film. It is opulent, and crowded with “all the things” that people had been working on since the original series ended. It’s a shame that it was so poorly executed, because this movie does have some interesting elements.

Commonly this film is compared to Star Trek V, another miserable Star Trek film. The debate rages on as to which one is worse, but it’s safe to say that if you’re wanting a taste of Star Trek movie goodness, then skip this one and start with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

It’s interesting that the start of Star Trek’s film franchise echoes the beginning of the original series. Both had an initial installment, or pilot, that just didn’t please, but the second installment became a success. Perhaps something as grand as Star Trek needs a couple of tries to get things right.