Nostalgia and Newspapers, part 1

1982
The Wrath of Khan (1982)

I’m not much of a hoarder (except when it comes to books, obviously) and I’ve never kept a diary, but I have in my youth been known to compile obsessive episode lists for Star Trek:The Next Generation or detailed records of my Doctor Who collection.  And, during the 1980s, I went through a phase of keeping newspaper cuttings from my favourite obsessions. Which were, as ever, Doctor Who, Star Trek and a side order of Star Wars.

These are all from the local news rag, the Hull Daily Mail, but they may as well be from anywhere.

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Return of the Jedi (1983)

They’re also not in very good condition, having been callously Pritt Stick-ed into a scrapbook, and being yellowed and foxed by the passage of time. That I still have them at all is something of a minor miracle given my various spates of Chucking Things Out over the years.   For a long while nostalgia for my childhood was antipathy to me. I just didn’t have the urge to hang onto things.  (Fortunately my parents are not so callous).

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The Search for Spock (1984)

These days, more ‘mature’ and sentimental as I am, I’m happy to have a few reminders, and these mini-posters positively glow with nostalgia. I think the tattiness and discolouration only makes them more evocative.

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A Triple Trek (1984)

I’m particularly thrilled to find “A triple Trek to the Stars”, a marathon of the first three Star Trek movies to promote Star Trek III.  These movie marathons used to be a staple of my childhood. Do they still do things like this?  I never seem to see them advertised.  In my time I’ve not only done three Trek films in a row, I’ve also done five (count ’em) Star Trek Movies in a row.  Then there was the marathon of 3 Mad Max movies and two Alien movies.  Or was it Evil Dead?  I definitely saw three Evil Dead movies at one of these.  Movie marathons always seem like such a good idea going in, and then by film #4 your eyelids are drooping and only teeth-gritting stubbornness is keeping you going.  I particularly remember watching the three Trek movies in one sitting because the third one had the extra “Captain’s log” bit at the start where Kirk pointlessly recapped the movie we’d just finished watching.

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Aliens (1987)

Seeing Aliens at the cinema is another strong memory.  Along with Cronenberg’s The Fly this was one of the first two 18-rated films I watched at the cinema.  I remember an almost palpable sense of dread at what I might witness on that 18-rated movie screen.  (When I was much younger my friend had us over to his house to – transgressively – watch the original Alien which his family had video-taped the night before.  Sadly — or, perhaps, fortunately for my tender brain — the tape ran out halfway through so I never got to the really gruesome bits.  The age of video.  See, kids nowadays don’t know about this stuff…)

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The Final Frontier (1989)
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The Voyage Home (1987)

In contrast, I have no memory whatsoever of seeing Treks IV and V at the cinema, although the (in reality quite bland) poster art for The Final Frontier is hugely redolent of that time period for me.  I remember excitedly staying up late to watch an American programme called “Cinemattractions” on ITV where they would run down the US movie box office chart, and I could glimpse a clip from the upcoming movie.  (The silly Turbolift scene, as I recall.)

Next time… clippings from when Doctor Who went on an 18 month hiatus.  Unthinkable…

Star Trek Juvenalia

And just as a follow-on to my appreciation of the movie USS Enterprise, here’s an old bit of fan art of Star Trek Movies II to IV that I did way back in 1989 at the tender age of 19. How time flies. Not that my viewing habits have significantly changed…

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It’s a weird shape because it follows a roughly cinematic film ratio across the middle, then blossoms out at the sides. I think it still looks okay, but I’d hope to do a much better job of it these days. The eagle-eyed reader may notice that Lt. Saavik is drawn in a very different style from everyone else, which is because I did the bulk of the drawing many months earlier, and even by the time I went back to it I was in a different mood artistically.

The USS Enterprise and me

If I said that the sight of the Starship Enterprise calms me down you’d think I was bonkers, right?

tmphd1122.jpgNot any USS Enterprise, you understand. Certainly not the version from the recent JJ Abrams movies with its squashed toothpaste-tube proportions1. Not the eccentric Next Generation version, though I am fond of it. Not even the original 1960s design classic. The one that I love is the refit design from the first six Star Trek movies, from The Motion Picture through to The Undiscovered Country. The very sight of it is food for my soul: its grace, its curves, its balance. Its rightness.

tmphd0729.jpgThere are very few designs that can do this to me, and they all share deep roots in my childhood and adolescence. Another is Doctor Who’s Tardis (about which I’ll eulogise another time). Maybe the Dalek too. Iconography embedded in my psyche at a tender age from endless VHS videotape viewings, cinema magazines, spin-off novels. I look at these things and sometimes I can’t even tell any more if they have an intrinsic merit or if it’s just my childhood speaking to me across the decades.

Since I’m Really Old, I first encountered this spaceship (AKA nicely-lit fibreglass model) at the cinema in 1979 when I saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture on its original release. If ever a film fetishised a piece of hardware it’s that one, all lingering pans over structural curves, somewhere between asexual porn and a 2 hour car commercial. But this was also the dawn of movie merchandising as we now (shudder to) experience it, and so I probably didn’t first encounter the design at the cinema at all. Instead I probably inhaled it through magazines like Starlog, and trading cards, and promotions on the back of weetabix packets, and white chocolate bars with weird multi-coloured bits in them. Given that my main memory of the film is coming home afterwards and drawing Klingon spaceships going ‘pew pew’ I think that the content of the film (such as it was) was always secondary to the spaceships in my ten year old brain. And in that supporting merchandise the spaceship has a mythic beauty that even the film’s Male Gaze For Spaceships doesn’t quite capture.

Take this old, scanned promotional photo for example, which not only emphasises the ship’s graceful proportions but a pearlescent, self-illuminated, polychromatic quality that the film only glimpses (and later movies largely dispensed with):

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Blinded as I am by the hardwiring of my brain, I do think that as a spacecraft design it has few equals. The original sixties version is all rectangles and cylinders. In fact it’s easy to forget just how odd that design is, like a Forbidden Planet flying saucer mated with something much more functional and Naval in character. Even so it has a certain sense of balance and proportion, particularly when shot from a nice angle. The movie version keeps only the basic morphology of saucer, secondary hull and engine nacelles joined by struts, but it pushes and pulls each of those elements into something rounded, tapered and elegant. From the swell of the secondary hull to the angles and fins and neon stripes of the engines, it creates the sense of a unified whole rather than parts bolted inelegantly together. In many ways it looks completely different from the original, and yet you could never mistake it for anything else.

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Ageing Spaceship baffles engineers with this one weird trick

In the subsequent movies the design remains the same (it is after all the same model even when technically a different ship) but the iridescent paint job that would catch the light in interesting ways is replaced with a matt chalky white finish, and it’s lit more brightly with less reliance on the ship’s own running lights. The quality of the effects and cinematography varies hugely too. But it’s hard to completely screw up a design this beautiful. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan2, a film I’ve probably seen even more often than the original Star Wars, it’s treated like a classic tall ship in a Hornblower movie: trading ponderous broadsides with its sister ship in a Naval game of cat and mouse. Its a big, majestic vessel not nippy a little X-wing fighter or a barrel-rolling Millennium Falcon, and that’s reflected in its shape and size. Slow to turn, crewed to the nines, wind in its sails.

When I catch one of the original Trek films on repeat, or actually moreso when I stumble across images of it on the web, it’s like looking at a great landscape painting or a classic Lake District view, perfect in every proportion. It fills me with inner peace.

Bonkers, I know.

1 If you didn’t even know there was a difference this is maybe not the post for you…
2 Out on Blu-ray in its Director’s Edition soon. And its Director (and script doctor) Nicholas Meyer is working on the new Star Trek TV Show. What goes around comes around.

In a world…

Nothing new to report on the Bump front, so here’s some nice eye candy that distracted me last night.

Here’s a really impressive trailer for a film that was completely off my radar, Daybreakers. Stars Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe, and set in a world in which Vampires are the majority and humans the hunted underclass. Pushes all my buttons, really.

The surprisingly good, even mature looking (I know, I know), trailer for Torchwood’s Children of Earth mini-series (running in five parts Mon to Fri in a single week.)

I’m intrigued by the Johnny Depp / Christian Bale / Michael Mann gangster flick Public Enemies, even if the trailer is just an abridged version of the entire film as far as I can tell. Although he can be quirky and mannered as an actor, Depp is such a chameleon sometimes.

And BIG ‘SPLODY THINGS. Roland Emmerich destroying the world again in 2012. Unlike Transformers, the astonishing spectacle of this one may actually lure me to the cinema against my better judgement.

Finally, and on a slight tangent, I’m a complete nerd sometimes but this CGI image from a forthcoming Trek calendar is just stunningly beautiful. In a nerdy way. (From the blog of Doug Drexler, an FX guy from Trek / BSG.)

Crazy mixed-up world

Dollhouse has been renewed for a second season. Warner Bros are making a big budget movie of Primeval. And Star Trek is a smash box office hit. It’s like the world’s been turned on its head.

Still, this plus Niall’s admittedly lukewarm defence of the show may finally prompt me to give Dollhouse a try.

EDIT: And as if that isn’t enough craziness, they’ve greenlit a remake of alien-lizard invasion series V which stars Alan Tudyk (Wash) as a human and Morena Baccarin (Inara) as an alien. There’s a spoilery review of the pilot, which I haven’t read, here.

EDIT to the EDIT: Comment from Joss Whedon confirming the Dollhouse renewal.

Trailers

Unexpectedly, the latest trailers (Trailer 3 in both cases) for Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation are not just good but *so* good they’ve more or less sold me on the films. I wasn’t sure either of them would amount to more than superfluous cash-ins on their respective franchises, but the Star Trek one in particular reached me on a gut level in a way that previous promos for the film missed by a mile. Maybe it’s just been so long since Trek had some genuine spectacle, drama and energy on its side.

If streaming video doesn’t float your boat, both trailers can be downloaded directly here