Saturday, July 01, 2017

Star Trek Beyond And Humans

     I watched the most recent installment of the rebooted Star Trek franchise recently.  It was certainly good entertainment, with every character punched up to at least eleven.  For good and ill, it was  an updated episode of the original TV series, cast in the gothic mode,* happy ending and all.  I liked that.

     The scriptwriters had better be sending a big check to the estate of pulp writer Lester Dent: the film very closely follows his "Master Plot" (analyzed here) and includes the Dent-ian touch of having a supposed victim turn out to actually be on the wrong side.  Lester Dent was one of the best of the pulp writers and it should come as no surprise that the Star Trek movie humps right along--

     --From pulp trope to pulp trope to "uncharted outer space" and holes you can throw characters through.  Humorously-played aliens?  Check, and in an embarrassingly simplistic manner.  Convenient motorcycle?  Check, and after a century or more, it still works; ditto an entire starship, which seems to be stronger than rock.  Then we have a character who suddenly, and by no obvious means, changes species....  It's pulp, and the usual thing is to keep the action moving so quickly that you don't care about the bumps.  Lester Dent generally drafted fiction about as quickly as he could type, the bulk of it first and final draft all in one -- but I don't remember any holes quite this large in his Doc Savage work.  I don't mind aiming low; pulp writers migrated to TV work in droves and turned out honest entertainment, to which this film is a fond homage; just please, a little more craftsmanship! 

     It's a good movie.  Just don't think about it too much as it plays.

*   *   *

     On the other hand, the UK TV series Humans, about a near-future or parallel-world society in which humanlike robots are common and a very few have begun to become self-aware, is one of the best-hearted approaches to the subject matter.  This doesn't prevent exciting and occasionally violent action, but it does keep the androids from being either too noble for words or becoming a monolithic threat.  Instead, they're as varied as the humans.  The second season was released recently and a third has been approved.  There are no spaceship armadas or physics-defying hand-to-hand struggles, but I find it engrossing nonetheless.  Pulp?  Yes, probably; but good pulp.
* "The gothic mode:" there's good, there's evil, we know which is which and the good guys win. At one time, all SF was that way.


Jerry said...

Hi Roberta,

Where are you watching Star Trek?


Roberta X said...

Via Amazon Video, a streaming service. Popped up free for nothing and at that price, I'm off to the show!

John in Philly said...

I read Dent's work when I started reading the reissued Doc Savage novels in maybe the mid or late 60s. I didn't know about the Master Plot but even then I knew they were formulaic but none the less they were mostly a good light read.
There is some buzz about another Doc Savage movie, the last one was not very good.

Jerry said...

Yeah, the original Doc Savage was a bit too campy for the time.