Fanboy Interests & Conventions

Anything related to interests in Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Theatre, Doctor Who, Star Trek, etc. and any related events, such as the Star Trek Convention.

Colin Kaepernick & Captain America: Two Caps Fighting Their Own Civil Wars


Have you ever thought about the similarities between Colin Kaepernick and Captain America, who are both referred to as Cap (Kap)? Stay with me. I know it’s a stretch, but if you’ve seen Civil War, you know that Captain America defies popular public opinion, and defends a known criminal, openly defying Congress’s call to register all superheroes and “profile” America’s defenders. His opinion is not a popular one, and this once popular superhero becomes labeled a traitor and demonized by a large portion of America. However, he does have his commited defenders, and this is why the superheroes are split, and the reason the film and comic story arc is called “Civil War.” How appropriate. 

Colin Kaepernick was once a hero of the NFL, and he has decided to stand up to police brutality by taking a knee. He has had an overwhelming majority of negative press, and people calling him a traitor and un-American, but he also has a large group of supporters, not unlike Captain America.

Whatever you may think of Colin Kaepernick or Captain America, they both represent the best of America. It just depends on what you see when you look at our nation. Do you see it as a perfect and flawless nation that we should make great “again” or a great nation in need of improvement, and the ongoing effort to “form a more perfect union” — for every American?

I think they are both superheroes, and saying I support Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter does not mean I hate cops or don’t support “all lives” or “Blue Lives.” 151 years later, we are still fighting the Civil War.


Photo Credit: Drawing by Dave Rappoccio

How Star Trek Shaped Me As A Man & Can Shape Us As A People


Over the many years I’ve been on Facebook, I’ve gushed so much about how much I love Star Trek, and I know you’re probably sick of it by now. But today is the 50th Anniversary of the first episode, and I just wanted to share a few personal thoughts on why the show means so much to me.

I can’t tell you how much Star Trek has meant to me as a person. I first fell in love with the show watching The Original Series in reruns after school. By the late 1980s, I was addicted to its sequel, The Next Generation. And of course, I breathlessly watched all of the movies as they came out in the theatres. It played such an instrumental part in the formation of my values and morality as a young man watching that show. It meant so much to that young boy, and to the man I’ve become. It speaks to every fibre of my being.

Star Trek captures everything about the human condition, and about all that humanity IS capable of. As dark as it sometimes can get, Star Trek is a show driven by optimism, and the hopes and dreams of one tiny planet, amongst a sea of neighbors we may not even know yet. Admittedly, we’ve got a long ways to go on our own small planet, before we can truly hope to populate space with that kind of hope and goodwill, but it all starts with a dream.

You may say you hate Science-Fiction, but despite all the tecnobabble you may hear, Star Trek was never about gadgets and science. It is about people. People from all genders, races, religions, creeds, orientations, and yes…species…all trying to get along in the Universe, and trying to find peace and common ground. It is an allegory. In the mid-1960s, television shows simply could not talk about racism, classism, sexism, etc. Science Fiction was the perfect cover, and was used as a way to address social issues in a vaguely familiar way, but set in a distant future and in a far off place. It allowed the creator, Gene Roddenberry, to tackle the injustices he saw in the turbulent world around him. And spoiler alert: the same issues which are plaguing our world today. Star Trek has used analogous alien species and fictional conflicts to address real world problems, such as sexism, racism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Cold War, bioethics, Artificial Intelligence and sentience, capital punishment, religious intolerance, bigotry, class warfare, and even drug abuse, to name a few. Star Trek is not some action-packed adventure story with ray-guns and bad prosthetics (I mean, yeah, that’s all there)! Star Trek was the most cutting edge and provocative show of its generation, and STILL CAN BE! The job is not done. Star Trek still has a vital role to play in our society.

You see, Star Trek is not about space, but about the space in between. The space between you and me, and how we can close that gap, bridge that gulf that lies between us. It’s about an idea. An idea that humankind has a future in space, and can be ambassadors of peace and tolerance. But first, we must start with ourselves. That’s not Science-Fiction. But it could be Science-FACT. It’s already within us, we just need to have the courage to be able to find it before it’s too late.

My friend Bill Doughty expressed a few thoughts on Star Trek that I’ve shared below. He meaningfully articulates some points that I may have missed. His words, like mine, are love letters. Love letters to a show that has given generations of hopeful dreamers a place to hang their hats, and hold out hope for tomorrow. A chance to boldly go where no one has gone before…

Happy 50th Anniversary to Star Trek!!!  Live Long and Prosper.

From a post by Bill Doughty from Facebook (September 8, 2016):

“I’ve enjoyed reading people’s thoughts on Star Trek today. I’ve always loved Trek for the simple reason that no matter the series or format, it has always been about one thing: look at everything we could accomplish if we could only *get over ourselves.* But at the same time, it expresses that idea a million different ways across any sort of plot, genre, or storytelling medium you can imagine. Honestly, there’s at least one Star Trek story out there to speak to every man, woman, and child on earth, and if you say you’re the exception you’re wrong amd probably just trying to impress someone.

But whether it’s a TV show, movie, book, gamw, comic, or cartoon, and whether it’s tense, moody, silly, creepy, exciting, dark, thoughtful, or, yes, occasionally stupid, that same optimism is always there, hardwired into the DNA. Accept, tolerate, embrace, and explore, and there’s little we won’t be able to accomplish.

And we’ll also get teleporters and food replicators. You know you’d be down with that.”

Doctor Who Starts Strong!


I must say that although we are only three episodes in, I really like what I’ve seen of Doctor Who this season so far. The season began with a dynamic bang with that great moment when the Doctor is saving a little boy’s life and realizes halfway through that it is his future arch-nemesis, Davros, and his decision would impact the lives of billions of innocent beings and the futures of countless worlds. Nothing like starting with a good old fashioned moral dilemma to really get the intellectual juices flowing, and set the tone of the show and season. This paradox of essentially saving a young Hitler’s life is a compelling one, and I think it really set up a nice dialectic throughout the first two episodes. This theme of “mercy” which features so prominently in the second episode is one that most of my own work concerns itself with. The themes that I like to explore in my work is that of mercy, redemption, empathy, and forgiveness. These ideas were brilliantly explored and tested in a really well crafted and superbly written two person scene with Davros and the Doctor, where they go back and forth and round and round in a roller coaster ride of deep emotion and old wounds inflicted upon each other over many millennia. I think this episode really revealed the essence of the Doctor more than any other in Capaldi’s tenure…that of compassion. It is his virtue and his achilles heel, and that’s what we love about the Doctor. Despite his grump curmudgeonly disposition, the Doctor is really a big softy. He’s got too much heart. Two, in fact. I thought this scene was the finest work I’ve seen Capaldi do in the series so far.
Sometimes Doctor Who can rely heavily on special effects and bizarre CGI aliens, and often at the expense of thoughtful story. I like my Doctor Who closer to Star Trek than to Star Wars. These episodes set the bar high, and asked more of us in one episode than last season did in twelve. In a refreshing sign, episode three returned to the more sensational and spooky, but was a nice homage to the Alien/ Alien movies. The setting and plot were very familiar tropes — alien/ monster/ghost loose on a remote and claustrophobic ship with a trapped and terrorized crew, and a smart hero must save the day. The tropes were familiar, but still new and original takes on the themes. I think Ridley Scott would be proud. It was engaging and compelling, and I look forward to the sequel airing today.
Finally, it has become quite obvious that Clara Oswald is officially more important than the Doctor. She has long outgrown her supporting role status as a companion, and the Doctor has made her the center of his universe. He is literally willing to sacrifice anything or anyone to save her. She features prominently in every episode, and often sets the pace and the tone of the show. She often initiates the action, and the Doctor seems to hopelessly follow along. Clara Oswald has long outstayed her welcome, and no matter how improved the writing seems to be this season, it is still handicapped by having a character that is a soul sucking entity that devours everything in her path. She sucks the air out of the show, and sadly, everything must pass through the prism of Clara. I am far more interested in the complex and engaging Doctor, especially as played by the brilliant Peter Capaldi. She needs to go. The sadist in me wants to see her killed off, but being Doctor Who, I know the show is sentimental and precious with its companions, and very rarely kill off one. Very few beings die in Doctor Who in general, and the show shares this trait in common with Star Trek. Fundamentally family friendly and optimistic. But I still want to see Clara die. At the very least, she’s got to go. It’s time for a new companion. Maybe two. I also feel that we’ve been overloaded with female companions, and I understand the practicality and fairness of that, I would like to see a male companion again. One that perhaps challenges the Doctor, and offers traits that don’t come naturally to the Doctor. Perhaps a rugged and more violent companion. A fighter. That might be a nice Ying to the Doctor’s intellectual Yang. Either way, it’s time for a new companion.
So far, I am very impressed with what I have seen this season. The writing is strong, and the directing and acting are of a high caliber. I hope the season continues to be thoughtful and not just Sci-Fi CGI-sensational. I prefer to be wowed visually and intellectually. That’s what first drew me to Doctor Who, after all.

The Mirror Up to Nature: Sex & Nudity On Stage & Screen

As a director of both film and stage, I have directed several scenes involving nudity and simulated sex scenes. I find them completely justified, and would argue that they play a vital role in the art we produce and consume.

As Hamlet says:

“…the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the
first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the
mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure.

In other words, one of the primary purposes of art forms like television, film, and theatre, is to reflect nature as we artists see it, and as it really is. Some people — perhaps you — want their art as pure entertainment, and only require it to distract and entertain. These people want relatively mindless entertainment that doesn’t ask much of them, and is escapist enough that it doesn’t bear any resemblance to their own lives — or even any real lives on earth. This kind of entertainment is often considered wholesome and family friendly. Yet, some of this work transcends the mundane and blithe entertainment some families love, and actually educates and enlightens its audience. This brand of wholesomeness can be found in the work done by Pixar. It obviously has no nudity or swearing, and yet, it is smart and thought-provoking. Movies like Wall-E ask its audience to think about the earth, and how we treat it, and mildly condemn our sedentary consumerist lifestyle. What’s more, it does all of this without the use of very many words. Like the later Pixar film, Up, Wall-E allows the viewer to watch action unfold and tells its story wordlessly, trusting in the intelligence of the audience, and in its own ability to educate AND entertain. Movies like this don’t need to be encumbered by sex or violence to keep our attention, but still appeal to the unique feelings and emotions that make us human.

Those films are special, and although ostensibly being “children’s movies,” they have mass appeal to many adults. This is mostly because they can present kid friendly characters and scenarios in a way that is very adult, and can be fun and entertaining, while still be thoughtful and satisfying to older people.

However, sometimes it’s necessary for the subject matter to get more adult and portray mature themes only appropriate for people of a certain age. If the purpose of playing is to hold a mirror up to nature, that means that sometimes we must be unwavering in our depiction of humanity, and show our lives as they are, not as some Disney movie paints it. The reality is, sex and violence are two of the most enduring facets of human life. It seems that as long as humans roam the earth, they will inflict violence on one another, and they will have sex with one another. The very future of humanity depends upon the latter. As we know, money is the driving force behind the actions of many people, but sex has proven to be an even greater and more compelling motivator. It’s human nature, after all. We are all hardwired to procreate, and this is, and perhaps always will be, a determining factor in the choices we make in life. How could an art form pretend to portray real life, and hold a mirror up to nature, if it didn’t attempt to portray sex on screen or on stage?

When I direct a play, and it has nudity and a sex scene, I am extra vigilant about how I portray those moments on stage. If you consider how uncomfortable sex scenes on screen may make you feel, imagine live theatre, where two naked people could be simulating sex just a few feet away from you. In such a case, it is even more imperative that a director pay careful attention to how they are depicting such intimacy. Personally, I make sure that the nudity is never gratuitous, but is not afraid to show the actor fully and unflinchingly. When directing a sex scene, I pay careful attention to the power dynamic in the relationship. That doesn’t mean one character doesn’t dominate the other, but I try to get at why that is, and how that looks. I direct the scenes to be very realistic, while also artistic and with a slightly lyrical quality. The audience should be pulled into the action, but at the same time, have a vague awareness that they are watching art unfold. That they are watching a glorious illusion, and that these are artists making art in front of them. As a director, I enjoy that duality. It makes the experience meta, and the art can exist as a sort of reality AND like a painting in an art museum. You can be sucked into the painting, but will never totally forget that you’re in a gallery, and there are other paintings on the wall, all around you.

Some directors don’t want any fourth wall. They actually seek to demolish the device, and strive to create art that is so hyper-realistic, you actually think you are in the room, experiencing exactly what the characters are experiencing. The film directors Lars von Trier and Abbas Kiarostami are unflinching in what they show on screen. They believe that a film should be as close to real life as possible, and often eschew the trappings and tricks of filmmaking. Their films are truly examples of Cinéma vérité, a sort of documentary style cinema, where directors attempt to capture the darkness and grittiness of real life. In France, the spirit of the French New Wave, in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s was a revolt against the traditional old school Hollywood style that had come before. The classic Hollywood film was the embodiment of wholesome, symmetry, clean, neat, and orderly, and the stories weren’t messy and always ended happily and conveniently. These movies never had any nudity, of course, and the love and violence were G-rated. The French New Wave was an avant garde revolt against all things pleasant and orderly. The films were often hand held, and they were lovingly chaotic, messy, graphic, non-linear, and violent. These directors sought to rip down the fourth wall, and sucked the viewer right into the action. Not surprisingly, the films often contained graphic nudity and depicted simulated sex scenes. These directors wanted to show the vagaries of life, and refused to settle for some syrupy sweet and contrived story that bears little resemblance to actual life.

The primary reason why many writers and directors include nudity and sex in films, play, and tv shows is that it’s a part of real life. Why should we show fist fights, but shy away from murder and death? Why should we show love and attraction, but abstain from showing where those urges lead? Human beings have sex. A LOT of it, and most of it is not for the purpose of procreation. Why would we not depict something that consumes most of our minds, most of the time, and has driven men to murder, started wars, and ultimately led to each of us, from the lowliest born to the most royal King? Sex is what got us here, and it’s apparently what’s getting us through.

Finally, many people feel more invested in a story which they can relate to, and one which depicts a sort of avatar of themselves. Usually, we either see two people we want to be, OR we see two people who could be stand-ins for us. When people see nudity on screen, there are many different reactions. No offense, but some more prudish people have a reaction like you do, and are disgusted and repelled by what they see. They see such depictions of flesh as gratuitous, and can’t find any justification for why it would be included in any form of entertainment. Some are religious, some are moralistic, and some just aesthetically object to the practice. Many feel that sex scenes are off-story and tangential, and pollute an otherwise good story. When done poorly, I completely agree with this sentiment. All sex scenes — like violence — should be motivated by the character, and serve the overall story arc of the plot. Sex should never be gratuitous or salacious, just for the sake of shock value. It should have purpose. Realistically, the type of person likely to be offended is becoming more and more infrequent in society, as more of us have become desensitized to such cinematic and stage devices. Currently, many people demand such verisimilitude in their shows and films.

Without a doubt, for some, the inclusion of prurient material is sexually stimulating, and a draw to the work. These people seek out certain productions for the purpose of seeing sex and nudity. It may come as a surprise, but this group of people is small in number, and doesn’t adequately represent the average viewer.

For many of us, it’s rather something in between. I’m not interested in going to see some movie and being forced to endure some gratuitous sex scene with non-simulated penetration and graphic displays of flesh. To me, that’s not artistic. That’s porn. If I want to watch porn, I’ll simply go on the Internet. However, for the majority of people, the inclusion of nudity and sex adds to the art and reality of the experience. It makes the moment more realistic, and allows for the audience to be sucked in even more to the story. When we see two actors naked, they are vulnerable and reveal much more of themselves than we see when they are clothed. There is something unique and special about those moments, and it endears a character to us in a way unlike any other. When we see two actors engage in sex, we somehow buy into their characters more, and we feel more compelled to believe what we are seeing. People like to see people, flaws and all, and this moment of intimacy reveals a lot about people. Just like we often enjoy seeing actors improvise, or the camera to be placed in jarring documentary-style positions, we also enjoy seeing the story and actors laid bare. There is nothing more “behind-the-scenes” than human nudity and actors engaged in simulated sex.

Graphic sex and violence have no place in your children’s entertainment, and if you find it there, than something is seriously wrong. Children shouldn’t be treated as adults, not should they be treated as mindless drones. We should be mindful of their ages, and what is appropriate for them to see. Family entertainment is all a bit bland and mindless to me, but I see its worth. Personally, I prefer stuff like Pixar, which is family friendly AND thought provoking. It is entertainment that is both socially conscious and responsible. It manages to get my mind moving, and do so without the use of graphic sex and gratuitous violence. And that’s great. BUT there is a time and a place for more mature elements in modern entertainment. A show like Game of Thrones is excessively violent and depicts graphic nudity and sex. AND IT SHOULD. That is the kind of art it is. For us to buy into this world of Westeros, we need to see something we can relate to. Additionally, since it is an analog for the middle ages, it is necessarily as violent and filled with sex as that lurid time in our history. We shouldn’t have to watch some Disneyfied version of George R.R. Martin’s instant classic, and be subjected to G-rated tales of ribaldry and action. The show depends upon its graphic depictions of sex and violence. Earlier this season, many fans of the show were turned off to a scene which ended in one of the beloved characters being raped by a monster of a character. In this particular case, the door closed, and we didn’t actually see the encounter, but briefly hearing it was enough. Many people were outraged at the sexual brutality a male character inflicted on a weaker and powerless female character. Meanwhile, for years these same people had watched people naked, dismembered, burnt, tortured, and massacred, but this was apparently the straw that broke the camel’s back. None of this would have been possible had it not been for the graphic and unflinching nature of the show. Was it the right decision or not? Had the show gone too far? IT DOESN’T MATTER. It went there, and it generated a lot of discussion, and invariably raised awareness about rape and sexual assault. Like all good art, it generated a discussion, and that’s something a lot of other films and shows can’t do. And that was all about something we DIDN’T see. Seeing all the graphic stuff before made THAT moment even more traumatic. It wouldn’t have been half as impactful had we not seen such graphic sexual acts prior.

Nudity and sex have their place in society’s modern art. It is our right to see life depicted as it really is, not through some Disney lens or some antiquated story about a Prince saving some damsel in distress. We are born into this world naked, and we spend a good deal of time in such a state. We spend hours of our lives having sex, and the very idea consumes many of us, for much of our lives. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be seeing sex depicted on screen or on stage. Does it belong in your daughter’s saturday morning cartoon lineup? No, of course not. But that is family friendly programming meant for THEM, and all the other graphic sex and violence is meant for US. If you are somehow getting them confused, I would suggest you look into the monitors and control settings on your computers and television. Nowadays, there is plenty of software to filter out inappropriate content for children. Sex and nudity are inescapable parts of human life, and if we see it in the morning every morning, we certainly have the right to see it on screen and on stage every night. The mirror up to nature, indeed.

Having said all that, I think there is probably too much sex and nudity in film, television, and theatre today. And I say that because I recognize that a lot of the time, the sex is not justified, and is included solely for the purpose of titillating and attracting an audience. More recently, I have felt like Game of Thrones injects too much gratuitous sex, and does so in order to entice in an unmotivated and prurient way. This betrays self-indulgence, lack of restraint, and appeals to the lowest common denominator in its audience. As I said earlier, sex and nudity should be like lines of dialogue, and serve the overall arc of the story. They should ALWAYS feel absolutely justified, and motivated by the action in the script. Characters are not mere play things to get naked at will, but should do so for viable and demonstrable reasons that make sense to them. An actor should always be able to justify why they are taking off their clothes.

Near the end of the original Terminator film, we see a sex scene between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor, and I would argue that it is one of the most justified and motivated sex scenes ever included in a movie. We are seeing the culmination of love that had been building between these two characters, and it is the very embodiment of humanity, with all its organic hopes and dreams, in the face of this soulless machine that was pursuing them. It was so tender and loving, and it necessarily contrasted the mechanical menace that was hunting them, and the uncertain fate that awaited them. Sure, it was a rather cheesy ’80s sex scene montage with tasteful nudity and a synthesized score underneath, but it was also a much needed glimpse of humanity and vulnerability in a relentlessly violent and merciless story. Furthermore, it is the moment in which the imperative character John Connor is conceived, making it epic and vitally important for the future of the human race, and integral to the Terminator story arc. In many ways, it is rather an “Immaculate Conception.” In a movie full of termination, this is the very opposite…that of conception and rebirth. This is the perfect example of a film where the nudity and sex are completely motivated by the script, and help tell a more meaningful story. There are countless examples of television shows, plays, and movies that have similar moments of sex and nudity. It’s a part of life, and therefore, a part of art. That being said, we need to demand more from our artists, and keep them honest. Using sex and nudity recklessly demeans the art form, and reflects poorly on those of us who are trying to use it artfully.

The biggest complaint besides its excessive and gratuitous inclusion, is the way it is depicted. Since first appearing in film and on stage, sex and nudity has been predominantly represented by women, who have had to bear the weight of the act for far too long. The completely disproportionate number of women who get naked, versus men, is a direct result of the patriarchal nature of the movie business and our society, and sadly reflects how much men still control the production and consumption of entertainment. Women have been objectified for far too long, and as responsible artists, it is up to us to stand up for what is right, and bring more parity to the industry. If we expect our women to bare their bodies, we should have no compunctions about asking men to do the same thing. Next to its over-representation in art, sex and nudity need to be far more equal among the sexes. But to condemn it all as obscene and unnecessary is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It more than has a place in the art of today. We just need to be more responsible in how and when we use it.

To Boldly Go….Wrong: Why Many Trekkies Disown the Star Trek Reboots


In 2009, successful producer and director, JJ Abrams directed a much anticipated reboot of Star Trek. The cast was young and hot, and the design was sleek and reimagined. The film was full of non-stop action, and rarely stopped to breathe. There were extended fight sequences, explosions, and nifty and impressive CGI. The movie was breathtaking to behold, and quite honestly, one of the best action films of the last two decades. But that’s the problem…Star Trek isn’t actually an action franchise, although it has often had thrilling action sequences. In fact, Star Trek is a show about ideas and philosophy. It’s about moral dilemmas and finding new ways to communicate with alien species and those who ostensibly look different from us. It is about finding the love, and making the noble choice, however uneasy that may be. It means that violence is always the last resort, not the first. And that is what these films failed to realize. That is what JJ Abrams forgot…or perhaps never knew in the first place. That is why it is easy to recognize that these are well made films, and exciting action movies, but fundamentally lack the spirit and mission of every Star Trek show or film that came before. That is why so many of us can love the movies, but disown them as properly belonging to the canon.

The Choice of Director
I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Star Trek reboot was the vision of a man who openly admits that he was not a Trekkie. He had barely even seen the show, and seems to not have had a grasp of what it was all about.  I would point out that JJ Abrams is the heir apparent to Steven Spielberg himself. They have a remarkably similar trajectory, and Spielberg has been mentoring the younger Abrams for years. There is no denying the significant impact the elder director has had on Abrams. They share a similar directorial style, and are both masters of the popcorn blockbuster. Both can be thin on story and character development, and both filmmakers tend towards the melodramatic, high paced, meticulously scored, and frenetically edited films filled with action and adventure. These movies are edge of your seat thrilling, but take little time to pause for deeper and more meaningful reflection. With the exception of Spielberg’s more recent heavier work (Saving Private Ryan, Lincoln, Munich, Schindler’s List), his movies are perfect for the whole family, and are wholesome and able to keep even the smallest child’s attention. Abrams’ films are very similar. Although I tend to hold the opinion that Star Trek is better suited for TV, I don’t think that’s prohibitively true. Perhaps they’ll never be able to achieve the depth an episodic television show can do with well developed story arcs, but I think a film with a good script and the right director might create something meaningful.

Star Wars vs. Star Trek
I think the problem is, JJ Abrams wasn’t the right man for the job. Firstly, I think he is perfectly suited for Star Wars — a franchise he admits to being a longtime fan of. It’s no accident that Spielberg and Lucas are such good friends. They both have similar styles, and both influenced Abrams. Close your ears Star Wars fans, but I would argue that Star Wars is far more suited to the action-oriented director with larger than life mythic characters, and epic battles between good and evil. Like most of Abrams’ movies and television projects, there is very little subtlety in Star Wars. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but its themes and tropes and overall depth are not nearly as sophisticated as Star Trek. Star Wars is the perfect popcorn blockbuster film, and Abrams is perfectly suited to direct for that franchise! If you care to check out my expanded discussion comparing Star Trek to Star Wars check out: Jon Ferreira’s answer to Which is better and why: Star Wars or Star Trek?

An Alternate Alternate Reality
Imagine for a moment that Christopher Nolan had directed Star Trek, or Peter Jackson. Or perhaps Kathryn Bigelow, Ang Lee, David Fincher, or even crazier, Terry Gilliam. Imagine a darker universe, but one filled with the intrepid Enterprise, always trying to make friends in all the wrong places. Or perhaps it’s another ship, in another time, and in another part of the universe. Think about the level of complexity, nuance, and philosophical weight any of those directors would have brought to the franchise. The problem is, most big directors wouldn’t take a movie like that, because many see it as an exhausted franchise and just a cheap moneymaking extension of the shows. They would rightly feel hampered and stifled by the Star Trek aesthetic and strict guidelines dictated by the franchise. As history has shown us, the past directors of the studio films took few liberties and added little artistry. They were formulaic franchise films, and really any director could have been plugged in or out.

Ideally, if they are going to continue to make films, they need to be their own artistic entities…new stories, not rehashed ones, and perhaps darker and more reflective of our society today. Galactic terrorists or something. They need to stand alone, and not be regurgitations. They need to embody the spirit of Star Trek, but have permission to…ahem…boldly go where no one has gone before. And they need to have NO MORE DAMN LENS FLARES!!!

The Soul of Star Trek
Perhaps the soul of the show can be found directly in the guiding principle of the Federation and Starfleet Academy. It’s a moral code, by which the explorers live by. The Prime Directive, also known as Starfleet General Order 1 or the Non-Interference Directive, was the embodiment of one of Starfleet’s most important ethical principles: noninterference with other cultures and civilizations. At its core was the philosophical concept that covered personnel should refrain from interfering in the natural, unassisted, development of societies, even if such interference was well-intentioned. The Prime Directive was viewed as so fundamental to Starfleet that officers swore to uphold the Prime Directive, even at the cost of their own life or the lives of their crew. A premise such as this was profoundly unique to Star Trek, and revolutionary for the era. Roddenberry clearly had Native American genocide, African slavery and Civil Rights, and other Colonial interference and subjugations in mind when he crafted such a directive. Over the fifty years prior to the show, Colonial governments were being overthrown, and countries were gaining their independence and autonomy from various imperial states. The devastation left in the wake of colonial imperialism can still be deeply felt in nations across Africa, Asia, South America, and elsewhere. Roddenberry deeply believed in a future free of unnecessary meddling or interference.

A Mission of Peace
Furthermore, Gene Roddenberry created a society that had been devastated  by a third world war and a frightening war of eugenics, but had picked itself up and healed itself. Somehow, they had come out on the other side, and had learned to live peaceably together. Things like gender inequality, racism, and greed were seemingly stamped out over a few short generations. The crew of the Enterprise are explorers, and their fundamental mission is one of peace, “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man (one) has gone before.” Sometimes to my discontent, the characters on Star Trek generally seek to talk first, and shoot later. The show (and films, to some extent…) are first and foremost about ideas and finding ways to communicate with those ostensibly unlike us. Even in hostile situations, the Star Trek crews have sought the exchange of words before blows. The franchise has historically been a philosophical one, not overly concerned with gadgets (although at times, they lost site of this, and got mired in technobabble) or overt science fiction tropes and fantasies, but in exploring the human condition. The characters reflected the wide spectrum of colors and nationalities, and were a hopeful ideal on the part of the creator to inspire egalitarianism and end bigotry in his world. The characters may be from the future, but they are telling our story.

Sex & Violence Trump Ideas
I should say that I like these last two reboot films only as the action movies they are. I think they are mostly well-made movies, but they bear little resemblance to the world Gene Roddenberry created. They sacrifice everything the franchise stood for. And that doesn’t have to be oversimplified dated morality lessons, but honest dialogue and intellectual curiosity. The original series, and its offshoots concerned explorers, bound by a code of ethics, and ultimately resistant to violence, but always resolute when it needed to be used. These new films not only have characters whose first instinct is violence, but the films themselves are filled with explosions and bombastic action sequences. There’s also an inordinate amount of sexuality, and although there is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of it, these sequences seem exploitive and gratuitous (Alice Eve stripping down to her bra and panties for no apparent reason?). In general, the action sequences and sexuality seem forced and unmotivated. Although exciting, they don’t quite feel right for these characters. Violence was always the last resort for the crews of the television series, but it seems like the first instinct and natural default of the new Kirk and crew.

As I’ve argued, Abrams was perhaps not the right director for this franchise. He is a populist director, cut from the cloth of Spielberg, and he is always going for the sentimental, edge of your seat action film, with the unnecessary lens flares and the slick look and feel. His projects are rarely deep and thoughtful, and they’re not there to generate discourse or raise questions about our own humanity. They are simply there to thrill and entertain, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Unless, it goes under the name of Star Trek. He made this film very marketable, and full of all the sex and violence an audience craves and demands these days. Perhaps that is the only kind of movie you can have these days. I’d like to think not. I contend that Christopher Nolan makes dark and thoughtful movies, while still cramming them with sex and violence. It’s not that the reboots needed none of the action, but it needed a lot more of the thought. I could have lived with even the amount of action it did have, IF it had provided something intellectually stimulating as well.

In the movies, it’s like they have the names of Spock and Kirk, but they don’t have the gravitas of those men (or those actors). They don’t embody what those men stood for. I felt that adding the romance between Spock and Uhura was cheap and irrelevant. It changes the very nature of Spock. Whereas I could see Uhura having an onboard romance, Spock would never have compromised his duties and position on the bridge. Even the time on the show when he did kiss a girl (in This Side of Paradise), he was under the influence of an enchanted flower. The famous interracial kiss in Plato’s Stepchildren was originally supposed to be Spock and Uhura, but even then, the characters were being controlled like puppets, and not responsible for their actions. Spock was wed to his job, and in some ways to Kirk as well. Although Roddenberry didn’t intend for Kirk and Spock to be gay, there is a special quality to their friendship that runs deep and loyal. I see none of that chemistry between the characters in the recent films. I see people wearing costumes of the same color, general Starfleet insignias, some familiar props and set pieces, and many of the same names of gadgetry and technobabble. But what I see more of are characters that don’t fill the costumes they wear, saying things they wouldn’t say, and resorting to sex and violence without hesitation. I see movies filled with action, but short on substance. I see none of the probing questions and deep reflection on the human condition. I see none of the morality and characters wrestling with the consequences of breaking the Prime Directive. I see two really good action films, with some amazing direction and slick production design. Unfortunately, I don’t see Star Trek. I look at these films like I look at the Guy Ritchie/ Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films. They may be fun and exciting action films, but they lack the integrity and spirit of the original source material, and besmirch their good names. In my opinion, they should just stop making them, make them right, or just call them something else altogether!


The reboot Star Trek films are A LOT of fun. When I first saw them in the theatre, I was thrilled and excited. They are well-made, really solid efforts. Unfortunately, I just don’t recognize them as Star Trek. Sure, they have the same names and the color of the costumes are right, but they are not the Kirk and Spock I know. Not because they are different actors playing the role, but because they don’t carry the spirit of Star Trek in their hearts. They shoot or punch first, and talk later. This is not the Roddenberry Star Trek I grew up with. Perhaps if they had had another director, they would have been different. More introspective and thoughtful. As it is, I own both films, and I love to watch them for what they are. But what they aren’t is Star Trek!

Holmes Away From Holmes: How Downey’s Sherlock Is Not Doyle’s


There’s No Case Like Holmes

In full disclosure, I have been an obsessed Sherlock Holmes fan for over 30 years, and in addition to my many traditional and annotated editions of the stories, I also collect Sherlock Holmes memorabilia of all varieties, as well as a very large collection of over 75 Sherlock Holmes movies and television shows, all featuring dozens of different actors portraying Holmes. So it’s kinda my thing…

Past Holmes: Sherlock on Stage, Television, & Screen

Having said that, I think any fan of Sherlock Holmes will tell you that 95% of all portrayals on stage, television, and film over the last 128 years have been resounding failures! Having been depicted on screen 254 times, Guinness World Records announced that Sherlock Holmes had been awarded a world record for the most portrayed literary human character in film & TV. He even beat out Hamlet! Since his creation in 1887, Sherlock Holmes has been played by over 75 actors including Sir Christopher Lee, Charlton Heston, Peter O’Toole, Christopher Plummer, Peter Cook, Roger Moore, John Cleese, Benedict Cumberbatch and Robert Downey Jr. As it turns out, Sherlock Holmes is an elusive and confounding character to play. He’s so mercurial and frighteningly intelligent, most actors are either intimidated by him and fail or are brash and overconfident and fail. For most fans there are only three actors that are worthy of praise:

  1. Basil Rathbone — Starred in a series of 14 films released between 1939 and 1946. Although Rathbone could be aloof, he also had a strong sense of duty and was a consummate gentleman. He was probably the most spry and active Holmes, and undoubtedly the most conventionally nice.
  2. Jeremy Brett — Considered by most people to be the best portrayal of Sherlock Holmes ever. He is so devastatingly good, and so true to the stories. He looks like the Paget drawings from the Strand, and effortlessly embodied the great detective. Brett played the fictional detective in four Granada TV series from 1984 to 1994 in all 41 episodes.
  3. Benedict Cumberbatch — Stars on the hit BBC tv show, Sherlock, an updated series set in modern day London, with stories inspired by the books, but then twisted and updated. Still, the show is remarkably true to the spirit of the Doyle stories. Cumberbatch is brilliant as the misanthropic, Spectrum–Savant, and socially awkward Holmes.


Great Expectations: Holmes Is Where My Heart Is 

So….when Sherlock Holmes (2009) was announced, there was no Sherlock yet, nor was there Elementary. Needless to say, it had been a long dry spell without any Holmes, which no Holmes fan should have to endure. (careful what you wish for) The last Jeremy Brett show had aired 15 years prior. When I heard about the movie, I was legitimately excited. First, I had always enjoyed the movies of Guy Ritchie. I thought they were hip, edgy, postmodern, and gritty. I clearly didn’t really think this one through. In retrospect, they couldn’t have chosen a worse director than Ritchie. For some reason, I did not anticipate Ritchie’s obvious indifference to the source material and singular focus on unrelenting action. But more on that later. Secondly, I am a huge fan of Jude Law, and thought he might anchor the film nicely, with his quiet and sober presence. I considered that he might be a smart and clever companion, not the tired and dull-witted Watson we’ve seen so often. Finally, I was thrilled at the casting of Robert Downey Jr. Ever since I saw him in 1992’s Chaplin, I have been smitten with the actor, and closely followed his progress, through all his drug and legal problems. His Chaplin was staggeringly good. Incredible. I loved his work in numerous films since then, particularly Iron Man. What I liked about the choice, was Downey Jr. has range and the ability to escape into a role, like he did in Chaplin. He’s also a considerably intelligent man, and I thought this would help him connect with the genius of Holmes. Finally, I thought maybe their shared drug addiction history might bind the two together even more. Once again, I completely misread and failed to recognize the actor Downey Jr. has become, in recent years. He’s not so much disappearing into roles anymore, but the roles are disappearing into him. This was a grave miscalculation on my part.

Firstly, I want to say that as action films, the two Sherlock Holmes movies are really quite decent, and are easy to watch and be entertained. However, as a faithful portrayal of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and the film’s ability to capture the spirit of the books, the movies fail in nearly every conceivable way. Here’s why:

Lotta Action, Little Deduction

Downey Jr. played Holmes as a scrappy street fighter whose default reflex was to rely on his fists nearly more than his wits. In the canon, Holmes is described as sinewy and wiry, “an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman”, and there are several references in the canon to Holmes employing the first two of these skills. He is trained in Baritsu (Bartitsu), an eclectic martial art and self-defense method originally developed in England during the late Victorian Era. Keeping all this in mind, one of Holmes’ greatest strengths was his ability to outwit, outmaneuver, and anticipate his opponent’s moves, and typically avoid brawls altogether. In the few instances of physical violence, Holmes is swift and economical in delivery. Guy Ritchie’s stylized use of the camera to dissect Holmes’ foes for weak spots was viscerally thrilling, but in reality, it was a sensational modern gimmick that bore little resemblance to Conan Doyle’s creation. Violence is the last option, not the first. The movies are full of over-the-top action sequences and gratuitous explosions. There’s hardly any deduction going on amidst all the bombs and bullets flying. The original canon was NOTHING like that!


Downey’s Charm Trumps Sherlock’s Mind

Earlier I stated that I thought RDJ was an intelligent man, and I stand by that assertion, but for some reason, Downey Jr. decided to abandon his natural born intellect, and play Holmes as an intellectual lightweight, who relied very heavily on his wit, charm, and mischievous inquisitiveness, rather than probing deductive mind. In other words, RDJ fell back on his own personality strengths. You must have noticed by now that this is RDJ’s bag of tricks. In all his films over the last decade or so, Downey Jr. has used these sneaky traits brilliantly. As Tony Stark in the Iron Man and Avengers films, these personality traits worked perfectly for a tech genius smartass like Stark. If only he had brought Stark’s intellect with him to Holmes, and left the levity behind. That’s not to say Holmes is dour and humorless, but it’s certainly not his default. Downey’s Holmes was a very light and playful take on the character, and it was often difficult to take him seriously. He didn’t possess the gravitas and devastating intellect that a true genius possesses. He was simply not convincing as an unrivaled master of criminal deduction. At the end of the day, the Holmes of the stories may hold his own at fisticuffs, but with the exception of Moriarty, there is no other mind in London, and perhaps in the whole world, that rivals his powers of observation and native deductive reasoning. In short, Holmes may possess charm and wit when he needs it, but his locus and singular defining trait is inarguably his mind. Robert Downey Jr. barely convinced me he had one.

Although I almost always like Downey Jr’s acting in other films, he often relies too heavily on his charm and rascally wit. He is a rogue. Holmes is not. If Downey Jr. had properly prepared for the role, he would have immersed himself in the things that make Holmes tick: identifying 140 cigarette and cigar brands by their ash alone, disguises and deception, chemistry, regional soil samples, the use of dogs for tracking, mixing a seven percent solution of cocaine and heroin, and all the other forensic tools of the period. Holmes stored nothing in his mind that wasn’t useful for solving crimes. In fact, Watson discovered early on that Holmes had no idea the Earth revolved around the sun. It simply didn’t warrant his attention. Holmes without a case was always a delicate tinderbox. Downey Jr. needed to burn more with a singleminded determination to unravel riddles, almost at any cost. This instinct was rarely altruistic or moralistic, but always driven by a mind made for puzzles.

In essence, had he relied less on his innate Downey charm and more on cultivating an impregnable computational mind, he would have gone a long way towards depicting Sherlock as written.

Violating the Honor & Good Name of Irene Adler


I don’t feel like there’s even enough space on a page to devote to how viscerally angry I was at the inclusion and depiction of Irene Adler in these films. There was absolutely no reason to write her into the script. They could have left her simmering as “The Woman” now only a picture locked away in Holmes’ drawer. His taciturn and woeful longing stand vigil to her memory, and Adler is more powerful as an idea…a memory from Holmes’ past. She will always be the woman who duped and outsmarted him, and such a thing rarely happens, and from a woman no less! Whether it’s deep love or professional admiration, it doesn’t matter. We know that Irene Adler is off limits, and locked away from view. Apparently, Guy Ritchie and company didn’t read a single story, or worse, decided to egregiously violate the sanctity of the original books. No one in their right mind would have Adler as some sort of action star buddy with simmering sexual tension and practically a laugh track behind their oh-so-clever banter. We get it. She’s a firecracker, and a formidable frenemy for Holmes. Except she’s not. Firstly, I cannot stand Rachel McAdams as an actress, so that colored my first impression. Part of that opinion comes from the assessment that she sort of looks like a rat, and speaks in high and tedious little girl’s voice. In short, I couldn’t take her seriously selling makeup at Macy’s, much less as Holmes’ intellectual equal and capable sparring partner. She was mousy and ineffectual, and I am still livid that they called her Irene Adler. They could have just made up another character, but they didn’t. Instead, they desecrate a beloved character from the canon.

Strengths of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes Films

Although there isn’t much to like about these films if you’re a true Sherlock Holmes fan, there are a few things they do have going for them. As I have said before, the action sequences are very well choreographed and directed. The action is very engaging, and worth watching for.

Secondly, the relationship between Holmes and Watson is very strong. I would not be surprised to learn that Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law are quite close, because they have a very easy and comfortable chemistry on screen. They are very comfortable joking and teasing each other, and it is obvious these two actor, and by extension, characters, like each other. I don’t necessarily think Holmes would act as silly and mischievous with Watson as Downey Jr. does, but putting that aside, the two are very easy to watch. Given the fact that I did not enjoy RDJ’s portrayal of Holmes, I cannot help but wonder if Jude Law might have been a better choice for the role. He is such an excellent actor, and he has the intellect and more quiet and focused demeanor. It’s interesting to think about how things might have been.

Finally, the second movie, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is in many ways, superior to the first film. This is partly due to the fact that it has top-notch performances by three of my favorite actors. One fine performance was delivered by Stephen Fry, in the role of Mycroft Holmes. Fry not only looks the part, but was convincing as Holmes’ older and purportedly smarter brother. Of course, with a Holmes as dumbed down as Downey played him, even Kim Kardashian could have beat him at Chess The next great performance was by one of my favorites actresses today, Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, known for the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movies. Finally, as disappointed as most Sherlock Holmes fans probably were with the casting and performance of Downey Jr. as Holmes, they should have been delighted with the exquisite performance of the inimitable Jared Harris as Holmes’ iconic arch-nemesis, James Moriarty. I thought he delivered a tour-de-force performance, and really saved an otherwise disappointing film.


The Final Problem

In conclusion, as disappointed I was with his interpretation of Holmes, I’m not convinced Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t right for the role. He’s an incredibly gifted actor, and with the right discipline and guidance, he could have endowed the character with less action and jokes, and more cold calculating deduction. A little Downey goes a long way. If he could have dug deep, and pulled out the acting chops he used in Chaplin, he could have created a stunning Holmes. But I suspect no one has kicked Downey Jr’s ass in a long time, and he’s been allowed to skate by on his good looks and roguish charm. In this case, I lay the blame almost exclusively at the feet of director Guy Ritchie. He gave Downey Jr. free reign, and evidently didn’t have the vision or understanding of the source material to help RDJ shape the character more finely and faithfully. I cannot help but think the reason for this was he simply was not a devoted fan of Sherlock Holmes, and perhaps didn’t know what he wanted Holmes to be, other than in possession of Downey’s own irresistible charm. Ritchie was not the right choice to direct a period Victorian film about the beloved character of Sherlock Holmes. However, he was the right choice for an action-packed steam-punk movie about a wise-cracking amateur detective, his trusty sidekick, and a tough and sassy female love interest that was called anything but Sherlock Holmes. Where we could have used a director like Kenneth Brannagh, we instead got Michael Bay. Ugh.

Apocalypse of the Heart: How ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Finds Beauty in the Bosom of the Beast

**Contains Some Mild & Vague Spoilers**



In full disclosure, I should probably tell you upfront that I loved this film, unequivocally, and cannot sing its praises enough. However, rest assured that in this review, I will not blindly or vaguely worship at its altar, nor insist you see the film without a reasoned argument why. I had a very visceral and cerebral responses to this film, but not only did I enjoy the storytelling and artistry, I am just as thrilled about what kind of impact and importance a film like this can/will have on the Hollywood landscape. In general, I enthusiastically endorse this film and encourage you all to see it, and here’s why…

The Story

One of the most striking things about Mad Max: Fury Road is the simplicity of the story. Although, I should probably clarify that by saying, “…the deceptive simplicity of the story.” There’s actually a lot more going on than meets the eye. The story begins sometime following a nuclear war, where a good majority of earth’s population died in an instant, and since then, the world has become a desert wasteland and civilization has collapsed. Global warming or other contributing factors have left a dry planet, with little to no resources and fossil fuels left. Max (Tom Hardy), a survivor, is captured by the War Boys, led by the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and taken to Joe’s Citadel. Designated a universal blood donor, Max is imprisoned and used as a “blood bag” for the sick War Boy Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) drives her armoured war rig to collect gasoline. When Furiosa drives off-route, Joe realizes that his five wives—women selected for breeding—are gone. Joe leads his army in pursuit of Furiosa, calling on the aid of nearby Gas Town and the Bullet Farm.

Nux joins the army with Max strapped to his car to continue supplying blood. A battle ensues between the rig and Joe’s forces. Furiosa drives into a sand storm, evading her pursuers, except Nux, who attempts to sacrifice himself to destroy the rig. Max escapes and restrains Nux, but the car is destroyed. After the storm, Max sees Furiosa repairing her rig with the wives: Angharad, Capable, Cheedo, Toast, and the Dag. Max steals the rig, but its kill switch disables the truck. Max reluctantly agrees to let Furiosa and the wives accompany him and Nux returns to Joe.

I will essentially stop there, so as not to give anything else away, but it’s such a seemingly thin and predictable plot, it wouldn’t really matter anyway. Max accompanies Furiosa and the young wives through various biker gang territory, and at times, must contend with rogue gangs, and Joe and the War Boys, still in hot pursuit. Needlesstosay, this movie has few moments of contemplative down time. There is almost continuous action through the entire film. According to the film’s director, George Miller, the film’s storyboard was made even before the screenplay. The reason behind that was because Miller envisioned the film as a continuous chase, with little dialogue and focusing on the visuals. The storyboard was made with the collaboration of five artists and had about 3,500 panels. Anyway, Max and the women are continually fighting off marauders, in one of the most impressive chase scenes and multi-vehicle action sequences ever made. Perhaps one of the most impressive facts about the movie is that over 80% of the effects seen in the film are real practical effects, stunts, make-up and sets. CGI was used sparingly mainly to enhance the Namibian landscape, remove stunt rigging and for Charlize Theron’s left hand which in the film is a prosthetic arm.

What you should know is that Furiosa is not blindly driving into the desert, but heading for a special destination…the place she was born, and lived as a young child until she was kidnapped and brought to the Citadel. A daughter of Mary Jabassa, she is one of the Vuvalini of Many Mothers. Her initiating Mother was Katie (or K.T.) Concannon. Her clan was Swaddle Dog. She was kidnapped at least 7000 days (around 20 years) from The Green Place before meeting the Vuvalini again. Presumably she was attacked and kidnapped along with her mother by Immortan Joe. Her mother died three days after the abduction. Understandably, her memory is hazy and vague, but she has fond memories of the place she calls ‘The Green Place.’ You can imagine that in a barren wasteland, where everything is the dull color of sand, the sight of color and vegetation must be like spotting an oasis across the hot sand. You only hope it’s not a mirage. Once she, Max, and the brides arrive, she is happy to find the women of her clan again, but they have grave news. Furiosa is distraught to learn that the swampland they passed through earlier in the rig was actually the Green Place, now inhospitable. The group agrees to ride motorbikes across the immense salt flats in the hope of finding somewhere to live. Max chooses to stay behind, but after seeing visions of his dead daughter, he persuades them to return to the Citadel, which has ample water and greenery that Joe keeps for himself, and trap Joe and his army in the bikers’ canyon.

As I said, there is very little downtime, and after a brief stop in the valley she mistook for the Green Place, she and the crew depart, in the hopes they can defeat Joe, and take back the Citadel. Remember, I warned you: there is not much to this plot. They just came through a harrowing trip down “Fury Road” to find sanctuary, and now they are rebuffed, and must turn back again and face almost certain death. It’s important to remember that these people live deplorable lives as slaves, blood banks, and breeding incubators for producing more loyal and savage warriors. Max has lost his wife and child, several years before, and is only going through the motions of living, when really he is fundamentally dead inside. These people have nothing to lose, and so their rash and inadvisable decisions don’t seem quite as dire as they would if it was you and me making them. Perhaps I failed to mention, but by this time, the faithful War Boy Nux has become enchanted with one of Joe’s brides, and has slowly come over to their side.

The group begins the journey back to the Citadel. They are attacked by Joe and Furiosa is gravely wounded. Without going into detail, another whole chase sequence ensues, and there are many thrilling moments. The battle does not look good for Max and Furiosa, but luck turns their way, while people switch cars and trucks, and fights take place in and outside moving vehicles, Through a series of events, Max, Furiosa, and the wives are able to escape in Joe’s car. Max transfuses his blood to Furiosa to help her survive her injuries.

(WARNING: ENDING SPOILER) Back at the Citadel, Joe’s citizens are surprisingly overjoyed at the sight of Joe’s corpse. Furiosa and the wives are raised up on a lift by the child War Boys, and shortly thereafter, the water Joe had withheld from his poor and destitute castoffs was finally released down upon the overjoyed and thirsty masses. As she is symbolically raised up, Max stays behind and on the ground. He and Furiosa share a glance before Max disappears into the crowd.


Meaning Without Words

Although almost unanimously praised by critics and audiences alike, there have been criticisms of the movie’s ostensibly flimsy plot and stingy character development. People were troubled by watching two hours of nearly non-stop action, with little in the way of plot development to guide them along. As much as we tell ourselves we love action movies, we still want to see dialogue and familiar humans forming realistic relationships on screen. We love the action and CGI of The Avengers, but that movie wouldn’t be half as good without the squabbling and one-upsmanship between Tony Stark and Cap, or the budding romance between Bruce/ Hulk and Black Widow. One of the refreshing plot points in The Avengers: Age of Ultron was actually being introduced to Hawkeye’s wife and kids, and seeing how normal and domestic a life he had outside The Avengers. We want to see our characters talk, share jokes, rib each other, profess love, brag, and all the other things us humans do. It makes their heroic acts of bravery and feats of strength look even more impressive, knowing that their like you and me without the cape.

Mad Max: Fury Road was never going to be that kind of film, heavy with exposition and rich in florid narrative. But I would argue that the plot is deceptively simple. There is far more happening than meets the eye, and what comes out of the mouth. Tom Hardy’s nearly dead eyes are the mirror that reflect the ghosts of his dead wife and young child, the last casualties of this post-apocalyptic hell that he actually cared about. His face is a rough hewn stone, at first cold and war-weary, but throughout the course of the film, his countenance changes and becomes slowly more expressive and invested in those around him. The looks between him and Furiosa tell a thousand stories, all more interesting than the last. They speak volumes of text, that would fill a thousand pages in a script. They don’t need words. They have both lost so much, and their broken and calloused bodies speak for them. Think of the actors in this film as grizzled and sedated silent film stars, like Chaplin’s mournful Little Tramp. Except unlike those stars of a bygone era, Miller purposefully robbed these characters of their voices, perhaps left speechless in the face of near utter annihilation. Remember, over two-thirds of the planet was decimated and wiped out by nuclear war, some in an instant, and some unlucky enough to linger on and die a slow death. In the years since this tragedy, all these people have known is death and barbarism. What are they even living for anymore? Those that survived are merely empty shells, desensitized to their own grotesque savagery. This is no longer a society governed by etiquette, values, laws, religion, science, the written word, language or even speech. This is a world where brute force and animal savagery are the currency they swap. This is Darwinian Barbarism, and survival of the cruelist. The strongest live to fight another day and take their place atop the highest ground, and the weak are made corpses or made slaves, and there is no in between. There is no value for human life. This is the apocalypse, and whatever strides we once made as a civilization are now erased, and mankind has been shaken to its core, and undergone de-evolution, returning once again to our primitive natures. Language is an ornamentation in a world of brute force, and this story would have been disingenuous and broken its own rules of the world had it pursued verbosity and a more robust dialogue.

A Singular Vision

The brilliance of the world Miller creates is that this story had to be writ large, but not told by conventional means. He actually chose form over content, and the form and structure of the narrative are far more important than the words they use. He catered his delivery of the story to what this post-apocalyptic world called for. He was devastatingly precise and consistent with the rules of this world, and he rarely broke them. This is a story that doesn’t look like much on a page. Apparently, it didn’t look like much to some of the actors and crew, out in the Namibian desert, as they battled intense heat and tedious scene setups and carefully choreographed action sequences. In a Cannes press conference for the movie, Tom Hardy apologized to George Miller for the reportedly complicated relationship between the star and the director during filming. He stated: “There was no way, I mean, I have to apologize to you because I got frustrated. There was no way George could have explained what he could see in the sand when we were out there. Because of the due diligence that was required to make everything safe and so simple, what I saw was a relentless barrage of complexities, simplified for this fairly linear story. I knew he was brilliant, but I didn’t know how brilliant until I saw it. So, my first reaction was ‘Oh my god, I owe George an apology for being so myopic.'” The brilliant visionary director, George Miller, had all the pieces in his head, but the cast and crew could perhaps only catch glimpses of the big picture he was creating. Needless to say, this film is a piece of art, and could not have been told by conventional means.

Who’s Story Is It?

This is a tricky question to ask, because an argument can be made for both Furiosa and Max. Miller has created a reluctant anti-hero in Max, who we naturally assume is our protagonist, since he is the title character. It’s not any use to compare the amount of lines each character has. Furiosa has significantly more lines than Max. This isn’t Hamlet. We can’t identify the protagonist based on their verbiage. In evaluating a Protagonist, it’s important to look at a few key elements. What character initiates the first step towards moving the action of the story forward? They would be responsible for launching what’s called the inciting incident. We could look at the beginning of the film, and hastily say it is Max because he is the first person we see, and he is trying to escape from the War Boys. He clearly has an objective (to escape and not get caught) and he clearly kickstarts the action by trying to outrun them. The problem is, on closer inspection, this action doesn’t really hold up, because it doesn’t have a great objective and a thu-line that connects with each subsequent action in the film. His escape from the War Boys is not going to be the story we see over the next two hours. Sure, it’s a peripheral and tangential subplot, but this story is greater than that.

So we must turn our attention to Furiosa. Whereas Max’s purpose and direction in the beginning was cloudy and vague (escape! where?), hers was always single-mindedly to escape her prison, save the tyrannical Immortan Joe’s five wives from their grim fate of breeding new War Boys, and find her way back to the idyllic Green Place, from her childhood. This movie could be considered some kind of a Dantesque or Kafkaesque road trip, since the main action of the movie was driving that rig to the Green Place in pursuit of a better life. That IS a superobjective, and Furiosa (and crew) faced lethal obstacles along the way, just as any protagonist must, and her character used a variety of tactics to achieve her goal, from recruiting Max and Nux, to flirtation to bribery to trust to eliciting pity to every form of violence, cunning, and deception she could. Hers is a very traditional character arc, as she initiated the action (veering off course while driving the rig), hiding the wives (part of the superobjective: get them to safety), and pursue the goal relentlessly, at grave personal risk to herself. Her goal was to return to her birthplace, the mythic promised land of her youth. It might as well be the story of Moses and Exodus. She is on a mission, and every other subplot in the movie pale in comparison to her imperative. When she arrives at Green Place, she is understandably distraught, but she solicits help and listens to Max’s plan to return to the Citadel. This is insanity. They just came from there. THOSE ARE HIGH STAKES, in a movie already filled with deadly decisions. She has nothing to lose, and everything to gain. This is her Manifest Destiny. I can’t come to any other conclusion than to declare that Charlize Theron is the indisputable protagonist of this movie. Throughout the film, Max has made half-decisions, and been relatively rudderless. He resisted their feminine wiles at first, but he slowly was melted by time and their earnest thirst for freedom. He succumbs to their humanity, and decides he has some unwritten obligation to help them. In this regard, Max becomes a strong candidate for protagonist, because he has a very steep trajectory, from hardened widow and emotional zombie to risking his life and allowing himself to feel again — no matter how minor. But we can’t escape the fact that Max is mostly acted upon, and his decisions are offshoots of Furiosa’s. He becomes her de facto body guard and confidant, and they share an unspoken connection throughout. In that regard, Max actually plays the archetypal friend role, like Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, who goes so far as to fight and die in proxy for Romeo. Max makes Furiosa a better woman, and empowers her to achieve her ultimate objective: find HOME. Not only that, he literally saves her life, by giving her a blood transfusion, symbolically giving her his lifeblood, and ensuring she lives to transplant the idea of Green Place back to the Citadel, and bring new life where there hasn’t been for years. “Home” therefore, is wherever Furiosa brings it. Not accidentally, the very first thing she does when she returns to the Citadel, and goes up on the lift is to share the water, and a torrent of water pours down on the poor wretched souls beneath. This symbolic gesture of watering her garden and providing  lifeblood of her own is not lost on me, and it goes a long way towards hinting at what kind of leader she’ll be. In a movie of heat and intense flame, she baptizes the desperate with water, a metaphorical absolution and promise of good things to come. The plot may read as that simple on the page, but it’s what’s in between the lines, and all the compelling artistic choices Miller made elsewhere in the film, which gives it depth and meaning. This is more than a screenplay and well-ploted story, and it’s certainly not an examples of realism, this is a moving painting, a performance piece, a steam-punk/S&M/metal fashion and art design, breathtaking cinematography, incredibly believable real special effects and fight sequences, expressive make-up design, a commentary on global warming and our inclination towards self-destruction, and a character study in body language, non-verbal communication, and the broken signals we send when we ourselves are broken, and can barely speak for ourselves. It is a study of endurance, and having the courage to take one more breath, and fight another day in the face of unthinkable cruelty and savagery. In the final assessment, what is it that makes these people go on? That shred of humanity left inside each of them, and the ability to sometimes recognize it in others. That connection….the human condition….is what makes all of us get out of bed and face our own uncertain days.

Mad Max: Fury Road is such a visually sumptuous movie with a sophisticated concept and stunning artistry, and should remind us all that an action film can be both a high-octane thrill ride AND a smart and creative work of art. Furthermore, truly visionary films like this remind us that a blockbuster movie can come in the shape of art, and can earn money at the box office. As artists and film goers, we need to stand behind brave and daring films like this, and insist that this isn’t the exception, but can be the rule. This film deserves to be seen by everyone, and is accessible enough to satisfy both the pure action movie fan and those with more cerebral and sophisticated tastes. All films should aspire to such high standards. 


Which is better and why: Star Wars or Star Trek?

Answer by Jon Ferreira:

The Pros and Cons of Star Wars
Although I was exposed to Star Wars first, as I grew older and more discriminating, Star Trek offered me more substance and what I needed as a more mature adult. I agree with what many have said about Star Wars being very black and white, pitting good against evil, and filled with common archetypes. Lucas drew heavily on Japanese film and culture, and the mythology of Joseph Campbell. His movies are epic, and rightfully called space operas. They have a very overblown, deeply felt, dramatic tone to them, and are very operatic in style.

When all is said and done, I can’t help feeling that Star Wars really is a franchise aimed at young people, and the young at heart. The action is exciting, relatively easy to follow, and filled with all kinds of colorful costumes, freaky alien makeup, thrilling sound effects, and exquisitely detailed models and/or CGI. There are few deep philosophical questions, and Lucas doesn’t ask much of us. It’s thrilling, in the way that Stephen Spielberg movies are thrilling, and it’s not surprising that the two are friends and borrow liberally from each other. Just as Spielberg provides all the excitement of hunting a giant shark or being chased by a Velociraptor, Lucas provides us with captivating excitement, while spending less time filling in the deeper inner life of the characters. The emotional investment of the characters is bifurcated, with deep allegiances to good (the rebels/Republic) and bad (The Galactic Empire). Luke dresses in white at the beginning, and Darth Vader is in black. Every design choice in the films reinforce this dialectic, and make it abundantly clear who is who, so you never have to question who the bad guy is. The emotions soar in isolated scenes, but the feelings are relatively simple and unrefined. There is little philosophical musing or deep cerebral action happening throughout the franchise. There’s little nuance here. That’s not Star Wars. It’s exactly what it says it is, and you know exactly what you’re getting. I still love it, but more in a nostalgic way, summoning my boyhood infatuation with the films. When I want something more filling, I turn elsewhere.

The Virtue of Star Trek
Star Trek, on the other hand, started right out of the gate as something new and provocative. It didn’t take long to notice that this Sci-Fi series was going to be something drastically different than anything that had come before. This was no Lost in Space or Forbidden Planet.  In truth, Gene Roddenberry drafted a proposal for the science fiction series that he publicly marketed as a Western in outer space. He called it a so-called “Wagon Train to the Stars” — taking the name directly from the popular Western TV series. In that show, settlers explored the frontier in peace, but encountered hostility along the way. Their strong moral code allowed them to solve disagreements and meet new people and civilizations. Sound familiar? He privately told friends that he also was modeling it on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, intending each episode to act on two levels: as a suspenseful adventure story and as a morality tale.

Within the first few episodes, the show set itself apart from its peers, and offered a thoughtful reflection of 20th Century problems and unenlightened prejudices, while comfortably distancing itself in the future. Up until that point, much Science Fiction had been cheesy, shlocky, campy, and silly in its portrayal of the future. The genre had become waded in technology and ridiculous depictions of space gadgetry. Of course, Star Trek had its own technobabble and gadgets, but they were never ostentatious or showy. They were functional and utilitarian, and built on technology we already had. Or at least could envision. The show told deeply inquisitive stories, and offered a Universe like our own, except better. And all of this was already apparent by the fifth episode!

Although Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) isn’t my favorite series, it set the bar high. The first significant thing it had going for it was its multicultural cast, including three Jewish actors (Shatner, Nimoy, Koenig) playing bridge officers. Even though the show never acknowledged the ethnicity of its actors, the casting was a symbolic nod to what kind of show this would be. Secondly, there was an actor playing an accented Scotsman, an actor playing an accented Russian, a Japanese man, and a black female communications officer who spoke Swahili. This was one of the first instances of a black female in a lead role. This kind of diversity was almost unheard of in network television at the time, and all throughout the series, Roddenberry gave substantial roles to minorities.

This universe was set three hundred years in the future, after the third world war and the eugenics war. Humanity was peaceful, and had rid itself of greed, capitalism, the need for currency, and war. Starfleet Academy is where the future’s recruits to Starfleet’s officer corps will be trained. It was created in the year 2161, when the United Federation of Planets was founded. By the time Kirk is captaining the Enterprise, Starfleet and the Federation are roughly a hundred years old. Exploration is out of its infancy stage, but still wild and not totally regulated. Needless to say, Kirk and his crew have a LOT of latitude.

The Soul of Star Trek
Perhaps the soul of the show can be found directly in the guiding principle of the Federation and Starfleet Academy. It’s a moral code, by which the explorers live by. The Prime Directive, also known as Starfleet General Order 1 or the Non-Interference Directive, was the embodiment of one of Starfleet’s most important ethical principles: noninterference with other cultures and civilizations. At its core was the philosophical concept that covered personnel should refrain from interfering in the natural, unassisted, development of societies, even if such interference was well-intentioned. The Prime Directive was viewed as so fundamental to Starfleet that officers swore to uphold the Prime Directive, even at the cost of their own life or the lives of their crew. A premise such as this was profoundly unique to Star Trek, and revolutionary for the era. Roddenberry clearly had Native American genocide, African slavery and Civil Rights, and other Colonial interference and subjugations in mind when he crafted such a directive. Over the fifty years prior to the show, Colonial governments were being overthrown, and countries were gaining their independence and autonomy from various imperial states. The devastation left in the wake of colonial imperialism can still be deeply felt in nations across Africa, Asia, South America, and elsewhere. Roddenberry deeply believed in a future free of unnecessary meddling or interference.

Star Trek: The Original Series
There were just three short seasons before being cancelled, by my land, what a magnificent run. Granted, the production values were god awful, and the acting was almost as bad. By today’s standards, the show is often laughable, with flimsy sets and unimaginative multi-colored food morsels (they didn’t even have room in the budget for prop food). However, those three seasons produced some of the most iconic scripts, with some of the most profound and philosophical ideas ever put forth on television. Although sometimes the dialogue was laughable and contrived, the stories in those early years were really innovative, and simply good science fiction. The Enemy Within is a nice riff on Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, and asks us to examine the evil within us all. It explores where our assertive and aggressive sides come from, and acknowledges that we must invariably draw on our reptilian self-preservationist savage from time to time. It’s not pretty to look at that side of ourselves. Dagger of the Mind raises questions about crime and punishment and the ethics of certain methods of rehabilitation. It might be even more relevant today, with our bursting, eroding prisons. The Conscience of the King is a great premise, with a former tyrant and mass butcher hiding within a Shakespeare troupe as an actor. He might as well have been Eichman or Mengele. Return of the Archons is the inspiration for the recent Purge movies. One night a year, people go crazy and kill, for the sake of peace and calm in society the rest of the time. Yet, like today, the exploited and exploiters aligned with the have and have-nots, and it becomes clear who’s being purged. In Space Seed, we are introduced to the inimitable Khan, one of the greatest characters in the Trek universe. and introduced to a superhuman man and product of the Eugenics Wars, a shameful and destructive period in Earth’s late 20th Century. The genetically engineered Khan is a reminder of Hitler’s own obsession with breeding a master Aryan race. The episode City on the Edge of Forever, was artfully scribed by the famous Science Fiction writer, Harlan Ellison. This episode is so unlike the others, and has a special grace and elegance to it. We see Kirk genuinely fall for a woman, and ultimately have to let her die in order to not pollute the temporal timeline. This was really the first Trek to introduce the idea that our interference could change the course of time. This would later be known as the Temporal Prime Directive. This Gateway of Forever construct was used later in TNG, when Picard had to step through, and ended up on a Romulan ship. Although cancelled after just three short years, Star Trek set the tone for the rest of the series, and set the bar high for future generations. It was the face that launched a franchise, and is quite honestly, the series by which all others are measured.

I’m currently on my fourth viewing of all six series (including The Animated Series), and every time I go back to TOS, I’m a little skeptical, knowing it’s a bit cheesy, and hard to watch at times. However, there are at least TWO things that TOS got right. The first thing is the scripts. Those stories were strong enough to carry the show, no matter what happened. They were bona fide works of science fiction, and as good as anything in the genre. Secondly, the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones was so solid and so affectionate, you could tell those three men really liked each other. They had such a short hand, a familiarity, and lighthearted chemistry. You would have thought they’d been acting together for over 20 years. That trifecta relationship was really what the show rested on. Had Jeffery Hunter stayed with the show, I don’t think it would have been nearly as successful. Despite his absurd (but lovable) over-the-top and blustery acting, Shatner brought a charming energy, which permeated through the whole cast.

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Although the film franchise was launched in 1979 — roughly a decade after the first series went off the air — it took nearly 20 years for another Star Trek show to hit the airways. That show was the much beloved Star Trek: The Next Generation. Think of it. What big shoes to fill. In that 20 years, a revolution had formed — a groundswell of fiercely loyal fans devoted to what…three short seasons of a cheaply produced science fiction show from the late ’60s! By then, Star Trek Conventions were popping up all over the world, and the fan base was deep and committed. I myself attend Conventions every summer! We all know Star Trek was much more than a cheap science fiction show. It was a movement. It was the thinking man’s science fiction, and a font for how we approach the universe, ourselves, and each other. It was social commentary. It was brawn and brains. Action and exploration. TNG was great, and did a remarkable job filling those shoes. It was different and new enough to be fresh and above reproach, yet still recognizable as in the Trekkie universe, upholding all of the same ideals and asking us even more nuanced questions. The first couple seasons were rough (embarrassingly bad quality writing that was at best prosaic and contrived, and at worst, creepily sexist and racist), but it showed marked improvement after that. The major improvements upon the original were a significantly higher budget and convincing production values, and more importantly, an arguably better cast — acting wise. That’s not to say the iconic cast from TOS was horrible — because they weren’t — but they were generally a bit cheesy and overblown, allowing us to love them for the charm of their personalities over their innate acting ability. TNG had a legitimate stable of trained actors, led by the inimitable Shakespearean stage actor, Patrick Stewart. He set the tone for the whole show. His serious demeanor and commanding presence leant the show gravitas, and we instantly knew we were in capable hands. Probably the next best actor was Brent Spiner, in a remarkable turn as Data, the android who so desperately longs to be human. His earnest and inquisitive, while often unintentionally funny, demeanor stand as not only the levity of the show, but ironically its heart. The tin man provides the heart and soul of the ship and crew, nay, its very mission. The rest of the cast varies in talent (and in annoyance factor — I’m looking at you Deanna and Lwaxana Troi…Beverly and Wesley Crusher!) But for the most part, the cast was competent and effective. Sadly, my final assessment is that although it has some of the best episodes Star Trek has ever produced (Chain of Command, Ship in a Bottle, Darmok, The Measure of a Man, Relics, to name a few) and perhaps the two best characters — Picard and Data — the show’s writing was uneven and inconsistent, making it sometimes fall short of the mark. The show is excellent, but it would take one more incarnation to really master the formula.

Deep Space Nine Captures Lightening in a Bottle
As the various series matured,  Star Trek tackled more philosophical ideas, and challenged its viewers to think more deeply. In my humble opinion, Deep Space Nine (DS9) stands as the pinnacle in Star Trek accomplishment. I know many people disparage it because it takes place on a space station, and not a starship, thus defying the mission of the show. That’s bullshit. The show has by far, the most accomplished cast of actors, each playing really unique characters. including one Bajoran, a shapeshifter, a Ferengi, and later a Klingon. Add in two terrific Cardassians, and Lissipian barfly named Morn (an anagram spoof on Cheers‘ Norm) and you have the most talented cast of all. Sure, TNG had Picard and Data, but it also had Troi, Crusher and Yar. DS9 cast is terrific across the board. There simply is no offensively bad actor on the show.

In terms of scripts, I would venture to say that few science fiction scripts in the history of episodic television have rivaled DS9 at its best. The scripts are so well articulated, and so intricately plotted, that character arcs are well developed and extended perfectly over the course of the seven year run. Dialogue is elegant and intelligent, and the plots are interesting and engaging. DS9 at its best perfectly mastered the balance and elegance of a solid Star Trek episodes. The episode would be both cerebral and moral, ask questions the audience had to answer, and still provide plenty of action to keep you engaged.  TOS and TNG might have some stellar episodes throughout, but DS9 wins for most consistent quality. And most evenly and impressively acted by every cast member.

I only need name a few transformative DS9 episodes to make my point. Far Beyond the Stars envisions the events of Deep Space Nine as the creation of Benny Russell, a struggling science-fiction writer living in 1950s New York City who dreams of an escape from the racism and social tumult that surrounds him. He also looks exactly like Ben Sisko, giving the rest of the cast a chance to ditch their makeup and prosthetics to appear as his friends, co-workers and tormentors. This episode may be low on production costs, but it extraordinarily high on concept. In The Visitor it’s hard to escape a viewing without sobbing uncontrollably. This episode gets to the soul of what Star Trek is ultimately supposed to be about: the human condition. After the unexpected death of his father, Jake spends a lifetime figuring out how the boy that he was can be reunited with the dad that he so desperately needed. At its core, Star Trek is not about technobabble or sci-fi, and this episode perfectly captures that. It is a story about love, loss and self-sacrifice that is so powerful that it transcends the genre and devastates by its sheer beauty. In Duet a Cardassian man arrives on the station suffering from an illness that he could only have contracted at a Bajoran labor camp during the Occupation. While in custody, he boastfully claims to be the head of the labor camp, responsible for countless Bajoran deaths. Major Kira (a deeply bitter and resentful Bajoran) leads an investigation to determine whether he is actually a notorious war criminal. The show explores mercy, redemption, forgiveness, guilt, and the insidious effect of hatred and vengeance. It is one of the most powerful hours you’ll ever spend in front of a television.

Star Trek or Star Wars?
As much as I enjoy the Star Wars films, they are blockbuster candy. They’re exciting and thrilling, and are undeniably fun. At the same time, they are also really sweet and fill me up for a time, but they’re not high in nutrition. Whereas, Star Trek rejuvenates me each time I return to the well. I am inspired by its lofty ideals and Roddenberry’s hope for a better tomorrow. The movies and shows are intellectually engaging, morally inquisitive, and challenge me each time I watch. Star Trek pushes us to reexamine our world, and to go boldly go where no one has gone before. If Star Wars is my youthful idealism, Star Trek is my cautious optimism, tempered by time and experience. That sustains me.

Which is better and why: Star Wars or Star Trek?

If I wanted to teach my daughter about Star Trek where would I start?

Answer by Jon Ferreira:

When approaching your daughter about the virtues and joy of being a Star Trek viewer, I would start with explaining that despite being set in the future, it is a pointed reflection of our contemporary society, with all its injustices and social inequities. It addresses our prejudices, and all the work we still have left to do. But it’s projected through the lens of the future, replete with dazzling technology and a truly egalitarian society, free of greed, enmity, and exploitation. And yet, the show is not about gadgets and technobabble, but rather, the human condition. It is about us —  more evolved and enlightened — yet still facing the struggles of overcoming the corrosive and dangerous elements in ourselves, regardless of how accepting and magnanimous we’ve become. The future is about personal responsibility, and being responsible citizens of the galaxy. The characters on Star Trek are stewards of the universe, and their ongoing mission is one of exploration and making peaceful contact with new species. Roddenberry had a very touchy-feely idealism, but examined the human condition with great depth and philosophical rigor.

In order for your daughter to understand the spirit of Star Trek, she must first understand the guiding principle by which every Federation/ Starfleet character lives by. The Prime Directive, also known as Starfleet General Order 1 or the Non-Interference Directive was the embodiment of one of Starfleet’s most important ethical principles: noninterference with other cultures and civilizations. At its core was the philosophical concept that covered personnel should refrain from interfering in the natural, unassisted, development of societies, even if such interference was well-intentioned. The Prime Directive was viewed as so fundamental to Starfleet that officers swore to uphold the Prime Directive, even at the cost of their own life or the lives of their crew. Undoubtedly, Roddenberry was thinking of European’s treatment of Native Americans and subsequent genocide, African Americans path to slavery, the forced conversions of Amazonian tribes, and every other act of subjugation, even when governed by the best intentions. Gene wanted socially conscious explorers who didn’t ‘conquer’ space, but respected the aliens they came in contact with, and didn’t impose their technology, morality, or belief systems on those unlike us. It’s the very essence of tolerance and cultural communication and exchange. Star Trek embodies the good in each of us, and the simple commitment to empathize with others. You can point to the bitter and acrimonious culture wars and race riots ripping apart our country today. It’s found in the urban streets of Baltimore and the lofty halls of Congress. In the words of Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Roddenberry saw the same division and unrest out his window in 1960s America. An unpopular war was waged in some far-flung country we didn’t belong, and the streets were erupting in peaceful and violent Civil Rights protest. Star Trek was not some cold, distant, and alien fantasy, but an introspective work of art targeted at the very heart of our society.

The obvious first place to start is with the original series — Star Trek: TOS. Although the production qualities are abysmal, and the acting broad and overblown, the stories are some of the best Science Fiction has ever produced. Famous Sci-Fi writers wrote for the show, and often explored complex issues like race relations, intolerance, prison reform and rehabilitation, the darkness found in each of us, imposing their views on other species, ethnic cleansing, genocide, keeping peace and upholding justice without interfering or meddling in others’ affairs. You might have to directly address the fact that although the show is very progressive and enlightened, there is still rampant sexism on the show. Apparently, there is a limit to how far into the future you can see the evolution of your society. We are all products of our time. A good lesson, and undoubtedly, a teachable moment.

Once you’ve worked your way through the sadly brief three seasons of TOS, you should probably move on to the first six films. In many ways, these films add depth and credibility to the franchise, and counter the cheesy distractions of the poor production qualities of the original series.

From there, the other series vary in quality and efficacy. In my opinion, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is the most mature, profound, cerebral, consistently high quality, well written, and exquisitely acted. But there is much to love about Star Trek: The Next Generation as well. The other two series have great episodes and memorable characters, but aren’t always consistent in quality and delivering the signature Star Trek philosophy and world view.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to convey to your daughter is that Star Trek is so popular and has such a devoted fan base because it meets so many of our human needs. It is a nourishing and visceral combination of ideas, action, story, philosophy, morality, ethics, and social commentary, and it has the ability to inspire us to be the evolved and enlightened society we should all aspire to. It is thrilling and action packed, yet cerebral and thought-provoking. Star Trek dares us all to boldly go where no one has gone before. To be our better selves.

If I wanted to teach my daughter about Star Trek where would I start?