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Old July 30 2012, 03:07 PM   #328
Christopher
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Re: TP: Raise the Dawn by DRGIII Review Thread (Spoilers!)

Paper Moon wrote: View Post
Still, are there particular scenes that you would cite as having such subtexts or performances? The closest thing I can think of is their scene together in Spock's cabin (heh, I guess that setting itself could count), and I just don't see it there.
Don't ask me, I haven't seen the film in years. But some would say that any scene Kim Cattrall plays is going to have sexual subtext.


I see your point; you've moved the goal posts slightly, but I digress.
No, I'm clarifying where my goalposts were set all along, which is different from where yours were. We were talking past each other a bit, so I made it clearer how I'm defining the problem. As a writer, I tend to think about stories more in terms of the creators' decision processes than the characters'. I can't blame characters for what I consider to be the writers' or directors' bad decisions. I blame Nicholas Meyer and the people working with him for choosing to put in that mind-meld scene and play it in that particular way. I think they were making the character of Spock do something that I don't believe Spock would do, just as I think they made Kirk exhibit racism that I (and Shatner) don't believe he would feel, and made Uhura and McCoy far more incompetent when it came to Klingon language and medicine, respectively, than I believe they would be.


I think the writers made a good thematic point, though: even Spock, one of the architects of this great peace, had to make a sacrifice. In his case, it was a bit of his moral integrity. That scene, as awful and disquieting as it is, is a key dramatic point in the course of the film.
And if I thought that was how the scene was actually directed, I'd agree. But it didn't feel like that to me. There was no sense that Spock regretted what he did or that any other character in the scene perceived it as a moral compromise. It can be retconned in that way, as Cast No Shadow did, but Meyer's own choices in directing that scene don't convey the impression that he thought of it in those terms.


That all said, going back to the original point, I think that Spock's actions clearly affected him (look at his face as he says, "She does not know.") sufficiently enough that he would not ever do such a thing again, even under orders.
I grant that that's a valid way of interpreting the scene, but I don't feel it was the original intent. I read his dismay as simply being "Oh no, we still don't know where the peace conference is so we can't stop the bad guys."

Except that immediately afterward they contact Excelsior so Sulu can give them the coordinates, which means they could've done that in the first damn place and the whole invasive mind meld was completely unnecessary! I just now realized that.


But there you are. Kirk has had such one-on-one interactions. Not only was there Mara, but we saw him getting along decently enough with the Klingons at the end of the previous movie.

Besides, he's not "people," he's James T. Kirk, a man of great intelligence, thoughtfulness, and principle. Yes, of course some people do react that way, but I don't find it credible that he would be one of them. It just doesn't track with what we know of him. Hell, Shatner himself felt it was out of character and didn't want to play the scene that way at all. Who would know better than he?
True, but those interactions were about 30 years and 6 years ago, respectively. Plenty of time for them to be eclipsed emotionally.
But David's death was 7 years earlier. So that sounds like a contradictory position to me.

Besides, we haven't seen every event in Kirk's life. If he had those interactions with the Klingons, it's likely he had others. Since we're in the Trek Literature forum, presumably we accept that at least a percentage of the novels and comics "really" happened, and a lot of those have Kirk interacting with Klingons. And the usual way Kirk has been portrayed in fiction is as a tolerant man who opposes the Klingons' military actions but does not feel bigotry or hate toward them, because that's just not the kind of person he is. There have been multiple novels and comics, at least before TUC and sometimes afterward, that have shown him as willing to work with Klingons and strive for peace with them when he had the opportunity.


And I'm not as convinced of Kirk's infallibility as you are.
Oh, Kirk is very fallible. TOS gave us abundant evidence of that. But that's just it. I'm assessing who Kirk is as a character based on all the evidence that TOS gave us. And TUC is a data point that doesn't fit with the rest of the evidence. It's an outlier. It's not consistent with the way James T. Kirk was portrayed in TOS or any of the tie-ins. Yes, Kirk is fallible, but not in that particular way. Kirk can be arrogant, Kirk can be impulsive, Kirk can sometimes let his immediate outrage at an atrocity drive him to overly aggressive responses -- but even despite that, he still has enough innate compassion and enough commitment to peace that, when given an opportunity, he won't hesitate to set his anger aside and look for a better way. "Arena" shows that. "The Devil in the Dark" shows that. "Day of the Dove" shows that. Kirk abhors violence and cruelty, but he doesn't believe the way to respond to them is with more violence and hate. He's a soldier, so he'll use force to defend the innocent if he must, but he believes and understands that the best way to respond to violence and the suffering it causes is to stop the violence, not to contribute to it.

I think people today don't realize just what a huge retcon it was when TUC came along and suddenly painted Kirk as this virulent racist. He'd never, ever been interpreted that way before, not in over a quarter of a century. (Okay, there was his "You Klingon bastard" line in TSFS, but that doesn't prove a pattern.) The movies have a disproportionate influence on people's perception of TOS and Kirk in particular. The simple fact is, TUC changed his character for the convenience of its glasnost allegory. They added this big abiding hatred toward Klingons that had never been part of his character before, so that he'd need to overcome that hatred and thereby have an arc through the story that would symbolize the topical message of letting go of past enmities. And yet everyone since then has forgotten what a massive retcon it was and accepted this single work, this exception to the rule, as the authoritative word on Kirk's feelings toward Klingons. And that's just weird, to embrace the outlier and ignore the otherwise consistent pattern.


Picard, who is of equal intelligence, thoughtfulness and principle, allowed his feelings to affect his command judgements regarding the Borg on multiple occasions. (As did his feelings about children in Greater Than The Sum.) Why is it so implausible that Kirk makes the same mistake regarding what may be the most traumatic incident of his life?
Because it's not the same mistake. It's a specific type of mistake that just doesn't fit the pattern of how James T. Kirk thinks and what kinds of mistakes he's prone to. And the idea that he's been nursing this hatred for seven years doesn't fit either, because Kirk is a relentlessly self-critical individual who's always questioning his motivations and drives. Even if he felt hatred toward the Klingons as a race because of what one of them did to David, he would recognize that for the character flaw that it was and be wary of giving into it.

This is not about hagiography. This is about me, as a professional writer whose job is to understand characters and their motivations, considering everything I know about how a given character behaves and thinks and whether a given action is in character for him or not. That has nothing to do with whether he's flawed or not; flaws are part of what make any character interesting, so as a writer I want them to be fallible and make mistakes. The things I've written about Kirk have tended to focus on his mistakes and poor decisions, because it's his fallibility that makes him interesting. But I only want characters to make mistakes that arise logically from their established character flaws. And my judgment as a lifelong observer of James Tiberius Kirk -- including 17 years of getting to know him before TUC came out -- tells me that TUC had him behave in a way that wasn't consistent with his characterization. It gave him a flaw that isn't the kind of flaw he would have.


It surprised me, though, that, while Dillard provided a further explanation for Kirk's hatred, she did not do so for the other crew of the Enterprise; in fact, if anything, she intensified their bigotry (with the exception of Uhura). Chekov was particularly bad, as I recall. I didn't like that at all. Not that they're perfect in the film, but still.
I don't think that came from her. My understanding is that the original script showed the whole crew reacting with stronger bigotry, but the actors pushed for it to be toned down. Since novelizations are generally not based on the final draft of the script or the final edit of the film, her source material wouldn't have reflected those changes made on the set.
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