“Action” in Star Trek

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by Vger23, Mar 9, 2021.

  1. Vger23

    Vger23 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Another recent post got me thinking about the controversy that always surrounds the topic of “action” in Star Trek. I’ve never been one to believe that Star Trek is a quiet, intellectual exercise of philosophy and deep contemplation. I grew up with Kirk getting into ridiculous fisticuffs every other episode, so that idea of Star Trek as a “thinking person’s show” always makes me roll my eyes.

    That said, I think Trek has attempted various kinds of “action” through the years with varying degrees of success, at least by my tastes. I find there are, by my reckoning, two types of “good action” and two types of “shitty action” in Star Trek

    “Good” Action:
    TYPE ONE: Fun, energetic set pieces...played for fun and excitement primarily
    Examples:
    Almost any Kirk fistfight in TOS
    Breaking McCoy out of jail in TSFS
    Stealing the Enterprise in TSFS
    Nimbus 3 rescue in TFF
    Shuttle crash sequence in TFF
    Certain DS9 fleet engagement sequences
    Skydiving sequence in 2009 Kelvinverse film
    Anything featuring Michelle Yeoh kicking people in DSC

    TYPE TWO: Tense, involved, deliberately paced sequences...more about tension than the actual action
    Examples
    Space battles in TWOK
    Kirk fights Kruge in TSFS
    Assassination scene in TUC
    Saucer crash sequence in GEN
    Final battle in NEM
    The battle in “Elaan of Troyus”
    Deflector dish/spacewalk in FC
    Defiant vs Lakota in “Paradise Lost”
    USS Kelvin vs Narada in “Star Trek (2009)”

    “Bad” Action
    TYPE ONE: Slow, stilted, poorly choreographed sequences
    Examples
    Almost any physical action in TNG
    Borg walking slowly through corridors and getting shot in their shields in FC or “Best of Both Worlds”
    Every single action sequence in INS
    The space battle in INS
    The larger brawls that occur in “The Savage Curtain” TOS

    TYPE TWO: Over-produced, over kinetic mind-numbing Michael Bay action sequences (gratuitous)
    Examples
    The space pod sequence in “Brothers” DSC
    Enterprise gets boarded in BEY
    Dune buggy sequence in INS
    The video game-like battle on Kronos in STID
    Spock runs and jumps and punches and smashes Khan for 45 min straight in STID
    Parts of the final battle in “Sweet Sorrow pt 2” DSC
    Certain other DS9 fleet engagement sequences
    Most of the VOY and ENT “space battle of the week” boredom


    What do you think about action in Star Trek? When is it good? When does it suck?
     
  2. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    This is very much, "the old action is good but that modern stuff is awful!" :lol: those 1980's movie and early 90's scenes are great for their time, but they're dated now.

    I personally loved every single one of those "gratuitous", "over produced" action scenes you listed. I loved the older stuff too, but it really doesn't compare.
     
  3. at Quark's

    at Quark's Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    As for the quality of the action sequence themselves, I don' t feel qualified to judge, as I'm not particularly sensitive to things like pacing and visuals. I'm more into the general ideas of the stories.

    From that viewpoint, I have no problem with action in Star Trek. but it must fit within the story, and fit the characters. So, while I can enjoy good battle sequences, these Kirk fistfights (for example) never did anything for me, because how often would you expect the captain of a starship to get involved in hand-to-hand combat - (even though I agree it does fit Kirk's character of getting things done, if need be the unconventional way). Similarly with Picard in that dune buggy. There's no reason for it, when a few beamdowns would have been more efficient.

    A separate note on the Borg. Them simply advancing and not even trying to evade any shots is (in my view) pretty much part of the entire point of the Borg. They're so powerful, and so alien that they don't feel the need to resort to self-defense (or any form of tactics for that matter) against those they want to assimilate. The Federation is simply raw materials to them. You don't need to defend against raw materials, you just advance and grab those. Giving them 'battle smartness' would make them less terrifying to me because then they're more like an ordinary enemy.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2021
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  4. ED-209

    ED-209 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    The idea that Star Trek is somehow highbrow always makes me LMAO too, it's amazing how many people believe that.
     
  5. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I only ask the same of Trek that I do any other movie or TV show...make me care about the situation the characters are in, otherwise the action can be quite tedious.
     
  6. Sarxus

    Sarxus Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    I agree that action sequences are actually a vital part of any ST, and they have been ever since. That's why I find it annoying when people claim that with ENT, the franchise became too focused on action (and I read this quite often). I mean, sure, maybe in ENT you find a higher amount of space battles or phaser fights (although the weapons used in ENT are actually Phase Pistols, the precedessor of the Phaser ;) ) than in, say, TOS or TNG. But those shows clearly also featured action elements, and not only on a side note. There are calm non-action-episodes, very true, but already the first season of TNG has quite an amount of episode where at least one or two action sequences were featured quite prominently (for instance: "The Last Outpost", "The Arsenal of Freedom" and of course "Conspiracy", but there are still more). And how often does Kirk in TOS get into fist fights? It must be like every second episode or something.

    The thing is, from what I read, Gene Roddenberry actually did not want action sequences in ST in the first place. "Where No Man Has Gone Before", the original pilot movie, was at first written without that quite long fist fight at the end, but the channel wanted a fist fight to happen in order to include some action. So that could be seen as the birth of a tradition Roddenberry himself maybe wasn't all too happy with, but still a tradition that would hold up through all ST shows and movies.

    Still, this doesn't take away the philosophical, moral and ethic aspects and questions ST is definitely built around. So I think that people who claim ST to be "a quiet, intellectual exercise of philosophy and deep contemplation", as it was expressed in the first posting, aren't that wrong at all. This just doesn't mean however that there is no action included as an important part. I always enjoyed those quiet and thoughtful aspects of ST and I love a lot of those episodes without any action sequences, but I also always felt that action belongs into ST, also regarding the "old" shows and movies.

    What has definitely changed in my opinion is the presentation of the action. This might also be due to more financial and technical possibilities, but when you look at the action for example in DSC: The show still has some really decent, smaller action sequences. But sometimes it becomes really huge and very cinematic and spectacular. I'm not gonna say I don't enjoy huge action sequences like big space battles etc., but as for DSC, sometimes it feels a bit out of the place when you view it in the context of Star Trek. There is for example a sequence in season 2 where Burnham is shooting with two Phasers at the same time, one in each hand - seriously, this might be a thing in any modern Sci-Fi-action-show, but for ST, which, as I said, had always its action sequences but was also always rather modest on that, it's way over the top in my opinion.

    That's right, although I always enjoyed the Kirk fist fights. After finishing TOS I watched ENT and you see also Archer quite often in fist fights. So when I started watching TNG, I expected it to be the same way with Picard, but I think you can count the Picard fist fights throughout the entire show on one hand :D But yeah, this makes definitely more sense in regards of story. Unlike Kirk or Archer, Picard accompanies his crew quite rarely on missions, which should be as a captain does. I think there even was a dialogue in TNG at some point where it was said that it's actually not common for the captain to go on missions personally.
     
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  7. ThrorII

    ThrorII Lieutenant Red Shirt

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    The thing to keep in mind is that the idea of 'Star Trek' is NOT an 'action movie' or 'action show'. The idea of 'Star Trek' is a morality play that may use action to emphasize a point or create tension.
     
  8. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Star Trek is both. It was billed as action/adventure to the studio but used the SF framing for social commentary. So, I welcome both. Action is fine by me. So is quiet contemplation.
     
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  9. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Pretty sure the original pitch reads:

    ACTION - ADVENTURE - SCIENCE FICTION
     
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  10. MrPicard

    MrPicard Jean-Luc's Loving Husband Premium Member

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    I’m good with just about anything - action, court room, discussions, alien encounters... as long as Jean-Luc is there. ;)
     
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  11. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Archer did the same thing.
     
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  12. F. King Daniel

    F. King Daniel Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Picard did the same thing in Nemesis.
    Pretty sure Janeway did the same thing in Voyager.
    Seven did the same thing in Picard.
     
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  13. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Not true at all. The TOS Writer's Guide written by The Divine Hand of Gene Himself states "Star Trek is an action show." Roddenberry didn't start treating Star Trek like it was intellectual work for thinking men until TMP, which lead to him being removed from authority over the movies. He eventually got his way with TNG, but even then, it's the action episodes like Yesterday's Enterprise or TBOBW that tend to top the lists of fan favourite episodes from that series.
     
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  14. Sarxus

    Sarxus Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    Ok, I don't remember that, I've seen most of the ENT episodes only once so far.

    Thanks for the explanation. I wrote intentionally "from what I read" since I wasn't so sure myself if it really was like that. I just read it some time when I searched for information about the developing of early ST and thought it might be an interesting aspect to bring into the discussion about the action aspect. But that's surely one of the internet's downsides, everyone can write whatever he/she wants, regardless if it's really valid information or not.
     
  15. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    If you really want to dig in to original Star Trek Shatner's Star Trek Memories and Nimoy's "I Am Spock" are educational in that regards.
     
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  16. Qonundrum

    Qonundrum Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    And the action is still built upon a robust backstory with tense build-up, selling the threat. TBOBW set up beautifully the ol' chestnut trope of "unbeatable enemy". "Yesterday's Enterprise" actually manages to make concern for a true altered future; something difficult to do whenever time travel is involved and in Trek's history it's only worked three times (TOS+movies: 2, TNG+movies: 1) and both TOS and TNG used the well of time travel more times than that...

    The ideal "bad example" of action-without-a-cause is the movie STFC, with its pew pew nonsense at the start. Never mind hokey time travel. Loaded with cod jokes about going to hell with some orders, there is little or no plot build-up, much less "emotional investment" - just a bunch of hipster one-liners that don't begin to withstand plot coherence enough to remain entertaining. Never mind what transpires after the first six minutes. Much less established continuity where the Borg don't even "adapt" enough to send two cubes and be done with those pesky humans.

    "The Cage" was proto-TNG in that it did have some intellectual flair. The suits poohpoohed it as being "too cerebral", so that's when the wagon train in space format really took off - and to be fair they had a good point. "Cage" was ahead of its time and not every week could be that "dry" either. Shatner's Kirk revamp hits the spot perfectly as there are morsels of intellectualism enveloped with action/adventure that would attract wider audiences. There's plenty of action, but usually behind stories that make the actual action engaging. Stories or enough material to make up for some of the treknobabble...
     
  17. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Bearing in mind that "too cerebral" also meant that they were concerned that the audience would not be able to connect with the characters on an emotional level and would be less likely to tune in.
     
  18. Lord Garth

    Lord Garth Vice Admiral Admiral

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    TOS Fistfights & Brawls --> Love
    TOS Battles --> Tense without Special Effects
    TOS Movie Battles --> Great

    Ricky B --> 80% of it is Zzzzzz.........

    For the other 20% under his regime:
    DS9 Space Battles from Season 4 onwards --> Good
    DS9 Combat --> Good, except when it's too much of the weird Volleyball punch. It's hard to describe.
    Anything with Worf, especially on DS9 --> Pretty Good

    Kelvin Movies --> Ohmygodsofastandsohyperyperfast! I'monasugarrushI'monasugarrushI'monasugarrush! BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM!!!!!!! Where's the Ritalin?

    DSC & PIC Ship Battles --> They've got a good balance for the first time in a long time.
    DSC & PIC Physical Combat --> Once again, they've finally got it right again.
     
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  19. fireproof78

    fireproof78 Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    [​IMG]
     
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  20. johnjm22

    johnjm22 Captain Captain

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    I think a lot of the action in TNG was bad because it wasn't befitting of the cast. I don't think Rodenberry conceived it as an action heavy show.

    Trying to turn Picard into an action hero in the movies was cringe. He's a tea drinking, flute playing, equestrian French intellectual who likes plays and classical music. His family owns a winery. Not exactly exactly the traits you would associate with an action bad ass.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2021
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