Didn’t Think I’d Like It (But I did!) #3: The Expendables (film series)

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From the moment I saw the first preview for The Expendables (2010), I knew that this was going to be one of those series I either loved or hated.  The idea behind this film (and its sequels) is that all the great action stars of the last 30 years are brought together in one big unit of “expendables” (i.e. mercenaries that take jobs most would consider suicide missions, but they live for the thrill).

This crew (at various times) includes:

Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth (second film only), Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, and oh yea Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford have shown up as well (not to mention Chuck Norris himself). And Mickey Rourke as well. These films are about as loaded as they come in terms of action star power. And these are just the “good guys”

The BAD guys have included: Eric Roberts (first film), Jean-Claude Van Damme (second film), Mel Gibson (third film, and he pulls it off very well), and also Steve Austin (first film).

So, like I said before, LOADS of star power. And yet, I was certain that I would most likely NOT like these films because the previews gave the impression they were ALL shooting and fighting, not a whole lot of plot. And while I was correct on the first point (oh boy was I ever correct), I was dead wrong on the latter point. Because there is plot to be had, lots of plot, GOOD plot. With some variations in each telling, the plot generally runs thus: there’s a dangerous guy that needs to be taken out using less-than-conventional needs. The Expendables agree to take the job, there’s a plot twist that makes it imperative this guy is taken out (i.e. killed brutally) and it’s a crazy action fest interspersed with male bonding, funny quips and the questionable morality of what they’re doing (I’m sure that’s an oversimplification though).

I’d gotten curious about these films after seeing that The Expendables 3 was on Hulu, so I began to look up clips of the other films, to get an idea of what this was all about. I was hooked almost straight away. I have this thing for ensemble casts and seeing all these stars together in the same place *gleeful shudder* I just LOVE it!! My favorite character by far is Lee Christmas, played by Jason Statham. Would you believe this is the first Statham movie I’ve EVER seen? If he’s this good in all his other films, I have some serious catching up to do!

The only film I’ve seen in full is The Expendables 3 and I loved it! Without giving too much away, a lot of the film’s conflict is between the original Expendables team and a group of “youngsters” (relatively speaking) recruited by Barney Ross (Stallone’s character) to pull a very dangerous job.

I was so pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this film. The action was more than a little bloody in places, but it was still good.

Final verdict: if you need to spend a couple hours watching a whole lot of action violence, The Expendables has three films to choose from (with a fourth on the way)

See also:

Didn’t Think I’d Like it (but I did!) #1 : The LEGO Movie (2014)

Didn’t Think I’d Like it (But I did!) #2: Steven Universe (2013-present)

 

The Lion King “Under the Stars” (1994)

The time has almost come to bring The Lion King to a close. After today I’ll share the final scene of the film and that will be the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at one of the most popular films of the Disney Renaissance.

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“Under the Stars” is one of my favorite instrumental themes from the film. This is the part of the story where Simba is convinced he needs to return to Pride Rock to confront Scar. A now-grown Nala (who snuck away from the desolate Pride Lands in search of help) has already tried to convince Simba to return, but the guilt-ridden Simba (who still believes Mufasa’s death is his fault) refuses, and won’t tell her why either. He storms off in anger and finally vents his frustrations to the night sky (where Mufasa once told him the great kings of the past watch over them)

You said you’d always be there for me! But you’re not…that’s because of me. It’s my fault…it’s MY fault!”

The Lion King: Rafiki’s Song/Asante Sana (1994)

And just in the nick of time, Rafiki shows up! Simba doesn’t remember him of course, but he was the mandrill who presented Simba to the kingdom as the future king. Rafiki is singing a crazy song to himself, it goes like this:

“Asante sana, squash banana, wewe nugu mimi hapana”

And when Simba demands to know what the heck all that means, Rafiki explains that it means (in part at least) “You are a baboon, and I’m not!” When Simba tells Rafiki he must be confused, the mandrill reminds Simba that he (Simba) doesn’t even know who HE is, but he (Rafiki) does, he’s “Mufasa’s boy!”

The Lion King: Simba meets Rafiki/Mufasa’s Ghost (1994)

Of course hearing his father’s name brings Simba running after Rafiki for more information, especially when Rafiki insists that Mufasa is still alive and that he can show his father to him, but only if he follows him deep into the jungle. Simba does follow, and I love the music that comes while he’s creeping and running after Rafiki. It’s a very primal song, full of African drum beats and chanting. Sometimes when I just listen to the soundtrack, I imagine a tribal dance going on (as I’m almost positive that’s what this piece was modeled after).

After chasing Rafiki for quite a while, Simba is led to a distant lake where, Rafiki tells him, he will see his father. But when a nervous Simba peers over the edge, he is disappointed.

“That’s not my father…it’s only my reflection.”

“But you see…” Rafiki tells him “He lives in YOU.”

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And suddenly the reflection changes to that of Mufasa and out of nowhere there’s a ghostly voice coming from the sky (five year old me was freaking out right about now). I absolutely love this animation: Mufasa starts as a ghostly silhouette coming out of the clouds, and as the scene continues, Mufasa’s body takes shape, until at last, we see Mufasa completely as he appeared in life:

“Simba…” (Mufasa says) “You have forgotten me..you have forgotten who you are and so you have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are MORE than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. Remember who you are, you are my son, and the one true king!”

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And just as quickly as he comes, Mufasa is gone again. Rafiki (who presumably watched the whole thing) comes back to see if Simba has finally learned his lesson. Simba does understand now, but he’s still a bit scared about his past….time for one more lesson then.

Without warning, Rafiki bashes Simba over the head with his staff. And the following exchange has become almost a mantra for me in getting over the bad things that have happened to me in my life:

“OUCH! Geez, what was that for?

“It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!’

“Yeah, but it still hurts.”

Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or, learn from it (tries to hit Simba again but Simba ducks), AHA!! You see! So what are you going to do?”

“First…I’m going to take your stick!! (pause) “I’m going back!!!”

Yes, while Simba is sad that he only got to see his father again for a brief moment, he knows now what he must do: head back to Pride Rock and confront Scar once and for all!

For more of The Lion King, see also:

The Lion King “The Circle of Life” (1994)

The Lion King “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” (1994)

The Lion King “Be Prepared” (1994)

The Lion King “To Die For” (1994)

The Lion King “Hakuna Matata” (1994)

The Lion King “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” (1994)

The Lion King “King of Pride Rock” Part 1 (1994)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook🙂

Have a good day, see ya’ll tomorrow🙂 -Becky

 

Keep Watching the Skies Blogathon: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

*This post is part of the Keep Watching the Skies Blogathon hosted by The Cinematic Frontier

When I think of “classic” science fiction cinema, I inevitably think of two films: Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), though regarding the latter, it took me a long time to remember what the film was called. It kept turning out that every time the film was on Turner Classic Movies, I would end up catching it in the middle. So for a while it would be “that movie with Gort in it.” Of course now I know that The Day the Earth Stood Still is so MUCH more than that.

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Released in 1951, The Day the Earth Stood Still is set during a time when the Cold War against the Soviet Union (and a fear of Communism in general) is gaining momentum. The score for this film was composed and conducted by the legendary Bernard Herrmann and featured extensive use of the theremin in the opening title. In fact, the score for this film is what inspired Danny Elfman to be interested in film composing.

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Main Title (1951)

A strange flying saucer enters Earth’s atmosphere and lands in Washington D.C., where it is quickly surrounded by the Army.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu Arrives (1951)

An alien, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), appears and announces he comes in peace. Unfortunately, when he reveals a strange device, one of the soldiers panics and shoots Klaatu in the shoulder, prompting the large robot Gort to emerge from the spacecraft. Surveying the situation, Gort begins to vaporize the weapons with a beam from his “eyes” when Klaatu commands him to stop.

The Day the Earth Stood Still – Gort (1951)

Klaatu is taken to the hospital, but it turns out he is more than capable of healing himself (leaving the poor doctor ready to retire after learning his patient is actually 78 and only in what he considers middle age for his species). Mr. Harley, the secretary to the President arrives, and asks Klaatu why he has come. The mission is simple: Klaatu has an urgent message that must be shared with ALL the governments of the world at the same time. Mr. Harley protests that this will be impossible, and when the authorities prove less than helpful, Klaatu decides to escape and spend some time among the populace, to see if he can learn why the human race is so suspicious.

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Assuming the identity of “Mr. Carpenter”, Klaatu takes a room in a boarding house where he meets and befriends Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a widow, who lives with her young son Bobby. The next day, Klaatu lets Bobby show him around the city, where he is visibly disturbed to learn that so many people have been killed due to war. He is also impressed by the Lincoln Memorial (“Those are great words…”) Knowing that his message must still be shared, Klaatu asks Bobby who the smartest man in the world is. Bobby figures that it must be Professor Barnhardt, who happens to live in the city. Finding the professor out, Klaatu leaves a “calling card” by adding in a vital part of an equation (that an ordinary person would not know), knowing that he’ll be contacted as soon as the professor sees it.

Sure enough, the professor and Klaatu end up meeting and the alien shares a small part of his message: If the governments of the world do not listen to him, Earth is at risk of annihilation. This statement terrifies the professor:

“Such power exists?” he asks breathlessly

“I assure you” Klaatu answers “Such power exists.”

Professor Barnhardt promises to assemble as many world scientists at the spaceship as he can, but in the meantime, he thinks it would help if Klaatu were to give a “minor demonstration” of what might happen, but asks also that no one be killed as a result of this “demonstration.” Amused by the challenge, Klaatu sneaks back to the spaceship to prepare for the event, but doesn’t realize Bobby is following him and sees him communicating with Gort.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Power Loss (1951)

The “demonstration” turns out to be a total loss of power all over the world (be it motive, electrical, etc.) for precisely thirty minutes (excluding planes in the air or the power necessary to run hospitals). To create a musical sense of the chaos that was happening, Herrmann created a series of tonal clusters (a large series of notes grouped very closely together) and held them out for long periods of time, to create that feeling of static helplessness that almost everyone feels during this period (except for Professor Barnhardt, he revels in the chaos, knowing its source).

Just as the power outage begins, Helen confronts Klaatu about what Bobby told her and while they are trapped in a hospital together, Klaatu confesses everything and asks for her help. Helen promises to do what she can, but there’s a wrinkle, Helen’s boyfriend Tom already believes that “Mr. Carpenter” is the alien and is doing his best to turn Klaatu in to the authorites, believing that this will make him a “big hero.” A disgusted Helen breaks up with him, and the authorities begin to close in on Klaatu’s location.

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu Barada Nikto (1951)

En route to the gathering of scientists, Klaatu tells Helen that should ANYTHING happen to him, she must go to Gort and tell him “Klaatu barada nikto.” This is because there is “no limit” to what Gort could do, “he could incinerate the Earth.” Before they can reach the spaceship, the Army cuts the pair off. Klaatu runs for it, but is gunned down in the street, prompting Helen to run for the spaceship. And back at that same spaceship, Gort has begun to awaken, sensing Klaatu’s death. When two Army sentries approach, Gort promptly vaporizes THEM (not just their weapons like before). Helen approaches, but is terrified by the huge robot. However, she manages to get the words out just before Gort can vaporize her and Gort responds by taking her to the ship before leaving to retrieve Klaatu’s body.

Back in the spaceship, Helen watches awestruck as Gort begins manipulating a series of dials that begin to heal and revive Klaatu’s body! The alien ultimately returns to life, but it’s not permanent. Even they, as advanced as they are, do not possess “the power of life and death”, as that is reserved for the “Almighty Spirit.”

(On a side note, Michael Rennie absolutely HATED that reference to the Almighty Spirit (it was added by the studio at the last minute, as they felt they were making these aliens out to be gods) as he felt it didn’t fit everything we’d learned about Klaatu and his culture up to that point)

The Day the Earth Stood Still- Klaatu’s Speech (1951)

Meanwhile, the crowd of scientists has gathered outside, but the Army is urging them to leave, as they have no idea where Gort is. Just as Professor Barnhardt agrees that they should disperse for their own safety, the spaceship opens up one last time, revealing Helen, Klaatu and Gort. Helen leaves the ship, while Klaatu stands at the entrance to finally deliver his message:

I am leaving soon, and you will forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day, and the threat of aggression by any group, anywhere, can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no one is secure. Now, this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen, we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression, we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first sign of violence, they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more… profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer. The decision rests with you.

The film ends with Klaatu and Gort leaving in their spaceship, a giant question mark hanging over the fate of the human race: will we join this peaceful group of planets, or will we destroy ourselves?

Of course no answer is given, and that frustrated me for years, because I wanted to know how the story was going to end! Except there isn’t meant to be an ending, not like that anyways. The end of Klaatu’s speech was intended as a direct message to the world in 1951: if we don’t stop fighting each other, we’re going to destroy ourselves.

Though it is now over sixty years old, the film is considered a classic and its message is just as relevant today as it was when the film came out. If you haven’t seen this film before, I highly recommend it (and whatever you do, do NOT watch the remake with Keanu Reeves!!!)

Thanks to The Cinematic Frontier for running this great blogathon! -Becky

 

The Underappreciated Music of STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK

Note: This is published on behalf of Carl Wonders, who doesn’t have a blog of his own but wanted to contribute to the blogathon🙂

When thinking about a topic for The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central, I eventually decided on a score that, much like the film itself, seems to have fallen in the proverbial crack between the excellent STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN and the immensely entertaining STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME (although the score to the latter film is certainly polarizing). But in addition to it being somewhat overlooked, this particular soundtrack holds a special place for me.

STAR TREK III introduced me to the world of film scoring.

No, really. Of course, I had been aware of movie theme songs for a long time (my childhood was marinated in all things STAR WARS), but in terms of underscore, this was the film that made me sit up and notice.

The moment comes about halfway through the movie. The Klingons have landed on the Genesis planet and are tracking an away team of Saavik, David Marcus, and a rejuvenated Spock. Suddenly, and without warning, the sun begins to set on the rapidly aging planet. As both Kruge and David watch, there is this emotional swelling of fluttering strings playing over the scene. It only lasts for about 30 seconds, but I had never consciously noticed a moment so brought to life by the underscore quite like that. Ever since then, I was hooked.

David Marcus
(amazingly, this cue, “Sunset on Genesis” was not included in the original release of the score).

The Score

Of course, this isn’t the only part worth mentioning in the soundtrack. Overall, I think ST:III gets overlooked by those who simply think of it as James Horner doing a rehash of his score to the previous movie. While many of the themes are no doubt similar, I think this is a very superficial and unfair critique. Its popularity was certainly not helped by the rather abysmal first CD release, which is missing a lot of quality music yet found room for an embarrassing disco version of the theme song. Ugh.

The score, like the film itself, is much more emotional and personal than it’s predecessor, and the orchestration suits that very well. In many ways, it’s a more mature score than ST:II, and is one that is more suited to sitting down and listening to rather than something to have on in the background. There is a subtlety here that isn’t really present in ST:II, especially in the lower registers, and if you’re not paying attention you might miss it.

Of course, the Kirk and Enterprise themes are both there from the previous film, and while I absolutely love the Jerry Goldsmith theme, these two from Horner might be my favorite character themes from the films (I’ve always thought of the Goldsmith theme representing Star Trek itself rather than any particular character). Horner also makes the best use of the original Alexander Courage fanfare of any of the composers, particularly in a moment that I will get to later, typically rotating the theme across multiple sections (primarily the horns and trumpets).

I could spend several thousand words walking through every track on the CD, but in the interest of space (and the attention of the readers), I’m going to focus on a few key, standout sections, in addition to the sunset scene I mentioned above.

Stealing the Enterprise

This sequence is easily the best in the film and the score, and with the possible exception of “The Enterprise” from STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, this may be my favorite cue in the entire series. If you want just the highlights of what Star Trek music is, this is James Horner’s Star Trek distilled into a fantastic 8:42. The entirety is a wonderful romp that perfectly fits the action on screen, as Admiral Kirk and his party, well, steal the Enterprise.

Some highlights:

There’s an interesting theme that Horner brings in with the horns right when the team beams over to the Enterprise. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember hearing it anytime before or after this scene. In addition, nowhere in the series is the Alexander Courage fanfare better used than in the moment right as the Enterprise is set to pull away from space dock. The music builds as Courage’s theme moves through the orchestra until the order for “one-quarter impulse power” is given, and the ship slowly starts to move.

“Gentlemen. May the wind be at our backs. Stations please.””Gentlemen. May the wind be at our backs. Stations please.”
The U.S.S. Excelsior, and particularly Captain Stiles, receives a piano/mallet percussion-based melody that I can only really call the “pompous-ass” motif. It makes an appearance pretty much any time the Excelsior crew is on screen, such as the moment when Stiles is interrupted while filing his nails (!!). I also refer to it as the “pompous-ass” motif because it underscores the scene with Mr. Adventure, right before Uhura locks him in the closet. It’s also worth noting that James Horner would later adapt this into a secondary theme for Timothy Dalton’s character, Neville Sinclair, in THE ROCKETEER.

“This isn’t reality. This is fantasy.””This isn’t reality. This is fantasy.”
The final 2:30 of the cue is a perfect example of building and releasing tension. The Enterprise is heading towards the giant space doors, but it’s unclear whether they are going to open. Then, at the last minute, Scotty works another miracle, and the Kirk theme is reprised in triumph as the Enterprise exits and turns towards space. For a moment, a lyrical rendition of the Enterprise theme plays once, but is interrupted by the approaching Excelsior. After some back-and-forth between Stiles and Kirk, the Enterprise warps away. As the shiny-new Excelsior begins to power up its fabled transwarp drive, Horner supplies some gloriously over-the-top “revving up” music until, just like in the movie…nothing happens.

“Kirk…if you do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.””Kirk…if you do this, you’ll never sit in the captain’s chair again.”
Other Highlights

“Bird of Prey Decloaks” is another back-and-forth cue that plays the Kirk theme off of Horner’s Klingon theme. The latter theme is another polarizing bit among Trek music fans. I happen to think it’s fine; Goldsmith’s is so good it’s not really fair to compare them. My favorite moment is when it looks like Kirk has won the battle, and there is a tremendous trumpet counterpoint playing over Kirk’s theme. Then, the crew slowly realizes that they’ve overtaxed the jury-rigged Enterprise, and the tone takes a turn for the worse…

“I dinna expect to take us into combat, you know!””I dinna expect to take us into combat, you know!”
I also have to mention the next scene, where Kruge orders the death of one of the landing party (which ends up being David), and we see Kirk’s reaction to the news that the son that he just was reunited with is dead. In addition to being some of Shatner’s best acting in the series, it’s particularly striking that the entire sequence is (appropriately) unscored.

“Klingon bastard, you’ve killed my son…””Klingon bastard, you’ve killed my son…”
Another glaring omission from the original CD, “A Fighting Chance to Live” chronicles the final moments of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Slightly dissonant strings play over a mournful version of the Enterprise theme as Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov set the auto-destruct sequence and beam away just as the Klingon boarding party arrives. Interestingly, there is a percussion underscore for the actual destruction of the ship, which I never realized was there until I heard it on CD (and is perhaps the first and only appearance of the “thunder sheet” in Star Trek music).

“Destruct Sequence 1. Code: 1-1-A””Destruct Sequence 1. Code: 1-1-A”
“Genesis Destroyed” contains another favorite moment of mine, where Kirk , climbs to the top of cliff, having just defeated Kruge, and looks out over the doomed landscape of Genesis. While I go back and forth on the merits of the actual Genesis “theme” (it’s really a take on Holst’s Uranus: The Magician), it works well here. This is particularly true when contrasted with the Spock theme and then the classic early Horner trumpet flourishes as the bird of prey warps away from the exploding planet.

The Final Dawn on GenesisThe Final Dawn on Genesis
Finally, ”The Katra Ritual” is another evocative piece of music, starting quietly with rumbling percussion that slowly builds, adding strings, gong, and orchestra as the Fal-Tor-Pan is performed. This sequence, along with the sunset moment I mentioned at the beginning, were really what got me into film music to begin with; a journey that started more than 30 years ago…

“Sometimes the needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the many.””Sometimes the needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the many.”
…and the Adventure continues…

The Music of Star Trek Blogathon Day Three

Hey everyone! I’m finally back home, I’d hoped to update more regularly but there just wasn’t wifi where I was at until I got back home. And looking over what’s been posted, WOW! I’m blown away by all of these amazing posts🙂 Thanks to everyone who has participated🙂

Here are today’s entries

MovieRob: Star Trek: Voyager “Caretaker”

MovieRob: Star Trek: Enterprise “Broken Bow”

Rhyme and Reason: Star Trek: Voyager Musical Highlights

Riley on Film: Theme from ‘Star Trek’ (1966-1969)

The Temp Track: Musical Spock

Meg nog List Blog: Star Trek Nemesis and Blue Skies

The Music of Star Trek Blogathon, Day Two

Wow, so yesterday was a great day for the blogathon! There have been some great posts already and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for day 2. One quick reminder, I’m going to be away from my computer for a good chunk of today so the recap will be organized early this evening🙂 Thanks again to everyone who is participating in the blogathon🙂 -Becky

Update: hey everyone, I’m afraid the day 2 recap will have to be posted tomorrow. Due to circumstances beyond my control (I.e lack of a good internet connection) I can’t connect to the blog on my laptop right now. I know MovieRob posted about the premiere of Deep Space Nine and The Temp Track posted another article today as well. If I’ve missed any I’ll update it tomorrow. Thanks again for joining the blogathon🙂

MovieRob: Star Trek Deep Space Nine “The Emissary” 

The Temp Track: The Temp Track: Star Trek (2009): The First Sixty Seconds

 

The Music of Star Trek: The Best of Both Worlds (1990)

This post is part of The Music of Star Trek Blogathon hosted by Film Music Central (me!!!)

You don’t often think of television episodes having great musical scores, but such is the case with “The Best of Both Worlds”, a two-parter that consists of the season 3 finale and the season 4 premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The events of these episodes form the basis of Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and had huge ramifications for the Star Trek universe. Given the massive size of this story, I am actually going to focus on Part 1 for this blogathon (I’ll cover the conclusion at a later date)

3x26_the_best_of_both_worlds_title_card

At the start, the Enterprise is dispatched to a Federation colony that had reported they were under attack. The Enterprise arrives only to find that the entire colony has been wiped off the face of the planet (leaving only a huge crater in the ground). Everyone immediately suspects the Borg, an alien species first encountered in the season 2 episode “Q Who?” The Borg could easily be considered the most dangerous foe ever encountered by the Federation. Unlike other alien species, that might give up after a show of resistance, the Borg never stop. They will come on relentlessly until they reach their goal of assimilating any and all cultures they come into contact with into their “collective.” That’s the other thing about the Borg, they  function as a group mind. There is no individuality, no freedom of expression, nothing. There isn’t even the concept of “I”. If the Borg were to ever reach Earth, it would be disastrous, so the Enterprise is dispatched to engage and stop them.

uss_enterprise-d_makes_contact_with_borg_cube

“We have engaged the Borg”

Now I mentioned that this two-parter has a great musical score and it really comes into play once the Enterprise locates the Borg ship (a massive cube structure). The music here has an almost cinematic quality to it (a rare thing in television these days). Composer Ron Jones gave an ominous theme to the Borg (mostly consisting of synthesized choral voices), to emphasize the fact that the Enterprise is up against a very dangerous opponent.

“We Have Engaged the Borg”

How dangerous? Well, after an initial attack leaves the Enterprise locked in a tractor beam (that they barely manage to break away from), the ship spends several hours hiding in a nearby nebula, as a ploy to distract the Borg from going after anyone else. See, the weird thing is, the Borg are demanding Captain Picard be handed over to them, which is weird (even for them) because hitherto the Borg haven’t shown any interest in individual beings. And despite best efforts, the Borg have this way of getting whatever it is they want. Case in point: Picard’s kidnapping scene. The Borg chase the Enterprise out of the nebula and manage to knock their shields back down.

borg_kidnap_picard

No sooner does this happen then several Borg begin beaming over to the bridge of the Enterprise. Note the music when this happens, it becomes very mechanical and rigid (and somewhat repetitive). This is symbolic of the unrelenting nature of the Borg. Despite the fact that they are cyborgs (part human/machine), they firmly reject the parts of themselves that were once human.

Picard is kidnapped by the Borg

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “resistance is futile” THIS is where that comes from. Actually, to hear the Borg tell it, anything other than immediate acquiesence to their demands is futile. Even DEATH is irrelevant (which is kind of a scary thought when you think about it). Picard is determined to resist his captors anyway, but he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter. This is the last we see of Picard until the end of the episode (more on that after while).

“Strength is irrelevant, resistance is futile”

The Enterprise has a really big problem on their hands (even bigger than Picard being kidnapped): the Borg cube has set a direct course for Earth (also known as Sector 001, the Terran System). Under no circumstances can that cube reach Earth, so while the Federation fleet gathers at Wolf 359 (which is a real star by the way), the Enterprise sets about delaying the Borg ship at any cost, not just to give the fleet more time to prepare, but also so they can try to rescue Captain Picard (before they’re forced to try and destroy the Borg ship).

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Inside the Borg ship

Beaming aboard, the away team encounters no resistance at first (the Borg typically ignore lifeforms if they don’t think they’re a threat), but when Dr. Crusher hits on the idea to take out an increasing number of power stations (to force the ship to slow down and repair itself), the Borg take action. Borg begin attacking from every direction, and they have a distinct advantage. There’s one more detail about this species I forgot to mention: they have the ability to analyze and adapt themselves against any attack. What does that mean? Well, in Star Trek you generally attack with phasers, right? With the Borg’s adaptability, you MIGHT get off two or three shots before the Borg (collectively) learn how to shield themselves from the blast. In other words, if you can’t destroy them before they adapt, you’re screwed. The away team has reached the point where all the Borg are adapting, meaning they need to leave ASAP, but then Dr. Crusher sees someone familiar…it’s Captain Picard…or is it?

“Captain Borg” (Soundtrack only, reveal of Picard as Borg)

The “Captain Borg” cue (link above) is the reason why I chose this episode to share with you. The pivotal moment when Picard faces the camera to reveal the Borg implants on his face is haunting, shocking and remains one of the pivotal moments in all of Star Trek history!!! The part I really want you to hear begins at 0:54. First you hear the synthesized ominous Borg theme, followed by a twisted rendition of the Enterprise theme (in the full scene “Part 1 Cliffhanger”, this comes right after Worf yells “Captain!” and is approx. 1:15 in the soundtrack version). The message couldn’t be more clear: Captain Picard has been “corrupted” by the Borg (hence the mutated Enterprise theme). The crew is unable to rescue Picard at this time because he’s surrounded by a force field and they are subsequently forced to withdraw.

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“I am Locutus of Borg”

“Part 1 Cliffhanger”

The shocked team returns to inform Commander Riker that Picard himself is now a Borg. At the same time, a report comes in that a new weapon capable of destroying the Borg cube is ready to fire. Doing so would kill Picard, but at the same time save the Earth before the Borg cube is able to resume the journey to the Solar System. Arguments are made as to why they should or should NOT use the weapon, but just as Riker makes up his mind, the Borg ship hails the Enterprise with a message….and so begins one of the most enduring, iconic scenes in all of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Borg Picard steps forward and addresses his own crew:

“I Am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is Futile. Your life, as it has been, is OVER. From this time forward, you will service US.”

Cue shocked faces from everyone on the bridge!!!!!!

The music here is practically exploding with tension, but it’s about to get worse. As the camera turns to zoom in on Riker’s face, the music rapidly builds to a fever pitch as he utters the command: “Mr. Worf, fire.”

And what happens next??? Oh, I can’t tell you that, the cliffhanger does a much better job (so make sure to watch “Part 1 Cliffhanger”, it had me screaming at the TV by the end).

It almost goes without saying that THIS was the episode that finally got Star Trek: The Next Generation over with the original Trekkies. Before this, Star Trek: TNG was still considered something of a red-headed step-child, it was alright, but it could never live up to the original series. And then THIS episode happened, and “all hell broke loose.” Fans everywhere were hooked, begging to know what would happen next. The funny thing is, even the writers didn’t know at this point, as they’d literally written themselves into a corner and had no idea how to get out of it.

In part 2 (which will come out sometime in the remainder of this month), I’ll explain exactly how they resolved this tense situation.

Hope you enjoyed this look at my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (the full episode is readily available on Hulu and Netflix). Have a good weekend! -Becky