Gravity continues into its second weekend of box office domination and as the inevitable backlash winds up, Matt and Matt take a few trips around the planet in their space suits to talk about god, the lack of same, and how we ascribe meaning to our big screen counterparts by way of great filmmaking.
“Impudence is pretending to be Fek’lhr of Klingon!”
Is this the last episode from the treasure trove of (usually terrible) unproduced Star Trek Phase II scripts used on Star Trek: The Next Generation? I think so. I have a weird relationship with “Devil’s Due,” in that I’ve never particularly thought it was very good, but it’s so peculiar and memorable that it ends up in my head a lot when I think back on Next Gen in general and the fourth season in particular. Appropriately, it’s a highly “Old Star Trek” idea, with a premise that straddles science fiction and historical mythology (and courtroom drama). And one can’t help but wonder if Ardra – the Ventaxian devil figure who returns to trouble a superstitious people, and the Enterprise – and the poser “God” that Captain Kirk and company discovered at the centre of the galaxy back in Star Trek V ever get together to play cards.Read more
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear — that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.”
“The Mintakans are beginning to believe in a god – and the one they’ve chosen is you.”
This Prime Directive morality play and anti-religious fable doesn’t play as strongly as I remember, although the pieces are all here. Picard and the gang accidentally reveal a camouflaged Federation observation post to a group of “proto-Vulcan humanoids at the Bronze age level” and in so doing, set Picard up as a god figure. The pieces are staged nicely enough (and Star Trek: The Next Generation’s first location visit to the Vasquez Rocks, used frequently on the original series, is nice) but all the characters come off more annoying than I recalled. The generally excellent Ray Wise, particularly, seems a downright lunatic as the Picard-obsessed Liko, though Karthryn Leigh Scott’s turn as village leader Nuria is more nuanced. It was a bit of a pleasant shock to realize that Liko’s daughter Oji, quite the Renfaire hottie in her Mintakan dress, is played by Pamela Adlon – Marcie fucking Runkle!Read more
“What a perfectly vicious little circle.”
“Pen Pals” has its heart in the right place but is a fairly boring affair; both of its plotlines are competent but uninteresting. In the A-plot, Data makes contact with a little girl on a dying planet, and drags the Enterprise into a debate about the Prime Directive when trying to determine whether they should intervene to save her. In the B-plot, Wesley is given his first taste of command, leading a team that is studying the geological instability of Sarjenka’s world. I should, at least, eat the B-plot up like candy, but it’s weakly done, and gets dropped halfway through the episode anyway. And meanwhile – there’s no point denying it – Sarjenka just creeps me out. She’s one of the less successful makeup designs on the show (bright orange, with overlong fingers and sunken, skull-like eyes), and one does well not to think too deeply about the modern-day equivalent of adult Data trolling the universe for little girls to cyber-chat with. That dog don’t hunt.Read more
Milford - Did we crank the Hobbit score, tracks 22 to 27, when driving a winding mountain road through wet forests in fog so thick you couldn’t see the tops of the mountains? Damn right we did. Day trip to Milford Sound today, which took us out of “regular New Zealand” and into “crazy Jurassic Park New Zealand” so fast that, had our station wagon been harried by a flock of pterodactyls, none of us would have raised an eyebrow. In Milford we took a long, leisurely boat cruise around the sound, past towering mountains garlanded with permanent waterfalls and rainwater spouts; past fur seals who roll in the water to aid their digestion; and - at one notable point - straight into a freshwater fall, whose power and intensity I might have SLIGHTLY underestimated. In this regard, my TELUS jacket, surprisingly waterproof, became the second reason that going back to my job there remains the best decision I’ve made in the past five years.
On our way back from Milford Sound we stopped to hike to Key Summit, beginning in a thick pea soup fog and adventuring into a wilderland of myths and symbols so dense that emerging, four hours later, was uncannily like waking from a dream or crossing into an alternative reality - and I’m not entirely convinced I’m not still there.
The deathwater - emboldened by my earlier experiences and carrying nowhere near enough water for the hike, I filled my bottle from a rainwater spout, which Dave and Demetre were convinced would lead to my death; they may have been right, but I don’t particularly want to live in a world where one cannot trust a spring as beautiful as that.
The throne of blood - after slogging uphill through spongy rainforest for over an hour we popped over the crest of the trees into a wide, dry scrubland, deathly quiet, raked by ghostly mist.
The wood between the worlds - upon reaching the summit Demetre found that the path lead even further on, away from the last of the other hikers and into a forest of strange shapes and preternatural stillness, ringed by small mirror-bright pools of water. I followed the path as far as sense dictated before giving up and turning around; this will haunt me for the rest of my life. When we emerged from the forest again, I could not be entirely sure I’d come back to the same world.
The Godzilla mountain - tantalizingly glimpsed through the pearlescent cloud which clung to the top of the mountain was a huge, huge, UNBELIEVABLY HUGE mountain behind the one we had climbed; although we saw it only in hints and fragments it looked like the grey, scaly back of some large, horrible beast, all the more frightening for the degree to which it could not be fully made out.
The God mountain - and then the cloud was blown clear of our perch, and a mountain so enormous that it dwarfed anything any of us had seen so far stared down at us from the opposite side of the peak, ringed by tiny fluffy clouds, and crowned by the platinum stare of the afternoon sun. The entire valley opened out below us, fading from saturated viridian to cobalt blue through a dozen shades of turquoise in between… and there, ever dominant, the mountain.
Normally when you hike a track where you have to take the same path down that you took up, it’s a disappointment, but the world of our climb and the world of our descent - one a dripping rainforest wrapped in a white blanket; the other a glittering forest at play in the sun - were as apart from one another as a dream is to waking.
Meat pie count, trip thus far: 5
Gfellers Pizza Parlour - open late.
Ho ho ho, and welcome back to the month a year where I’m the worst atheist alive. Well no, not really: I’m certainly not swanning about celebrating the birth of Christ, at least not directly. I’m swanning about, fetishizing the stuff.
This is what Ebert calls “touching the bases.” I touch them all, and hope to become a better person. Once a year, a random collection of oddments across all media - the musical, the sculptural, the edible, the literary, the cinematical, the biological - has the ability to de-Grinchify my cantankerous heart and send me spiraling backwards to an imagined 1840s London driven dark by furious black and white and poorly-preserved film stock. (Scrooge, the best of the filmed adaptations of A Christmas Carol, plays at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on December 20. This is Base #1. Though I admit, the notion of seeing the film on anything other than a 4x3 television set disturbs me down to my marrow bones.) Base #2 is Dickens’ novella itself, which I do not read every year, but nearly every year. It doesn’t take long - you can crank through it while you’re waiting for the house to go quiet on the 24th, which inevitably takes less time than you think, but no matter; you can stay up a bit past the descent of silence, just to get to Stave Five, a.k.a. the Stave That Totally Owns.Read more