Monday, May 16, 2022

A Forever Question: Back to the Kennel?

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Do dogs ever work"?






Sunday, May 15, 2022

Poem: Whither Leafs? (What Happened Last Night)

Whither Leafs?
To where does a withered Leaf fall?

To the manicured green grasses below
of course....









___

2022
Simon St. Laurent


Friday, May 13, 2022

The TSO Performs The Best of John Williams



While travelling on the Toronto Transit Commission's subway system today, I sat across from an interesting poster. John Williams' film scores, the best of, apparently, are being performed at Roy Thomson Hall by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. As the poster says: May 10, 11 & 13. (Today's the 13th ― I'm late.)

I did hear something a few days ago about these performances, but never moved a muscle to do anything about attending. Music from Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and the rest, are here on Gilligan's Isle. (Trivia: "Johnny" Williams scored some episodes of Gilligan's Island... including the theme and underscore for the pilot show.)

The concerts are billed as "The Best of John Williams".  I realize, of course, that these advertised pieces are the kind that will get people in the door. ("What's The Reivers?") What kind of career would Mr Williams have had if he'd not associated with Messrs Spielberg and Lucas?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

What Else Would I Be Doing on a Lovely Afternoon?



Yes, on this beautifully sunny and warm day here in Toronto, I'm sitting in front of my telescreen watching some exciting Premier League football action.

At the time of this writing, Man City is up 3 to 1 over the Wolverhampton Wanderers.

This is why I love football. It presses my pause button....

Film and Television Composers of Note in a Picture


CD: Wingspan (McCartney)



Wingspan
- Paul McCartney -
Hits and History

Parlophone
EMI Records Ltd
2001

CD: Wings Greatest (Wings)



Wings Greatest
- The Paul McCartney Collection -

Parlophone
EMI Records Ltd
1993

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Adding Up Some Strange New Worlds

Last Friday I posted my Star Trek television habits: I noted my watch history on each Trek sequel series.

In recap....

Star Trek: The Next Generation
I watched most episodes from the first two seasons (it was okay, but very rarely sparkled)

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
I watched the first two episodes (I have absolutely no memory of them)

Star Trek: Voyager
First two episodes (which I liked, actually)

Enterprise
First two episodes (which were terrible)

Star Trek: Discovery
First episode (which was incomprehensible to me)

Star Trek: Picard
Nothing (starring a fine actor, but a boring character)


Last night I cleared some time to watch the latest Trekkian Spin-o-rama.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
The first episode (it was horrible; that's clearly enough; back to the real, non-CGI, world)



Monday, May 9, 2022

A Forever Question: A Fixture In These Parts

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. How does water know when to go to the bathroom?



Book: Führer-Ex (Hasselbach with Reiss)



Führer-Ex
- Memoirs of a Former Neo-Nazi -

by
Ingo Hasselbach
with
Tom Reiss

Random House
1996

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Film Production: Shooting Aliens in Their Lair



Yours truly, behind the Arriflex BL III 35 mm camera, shoots a scene of aliens doing their evil thing. Hyper-Reality is the name of the uncompleted film. I co-wrote (with the talented Tim A. Cook and Michelle Berry), directed, and designed the short ― of a planned 22-minute duration.

We shot these sequences in Studio 1 at the then 23FPS Studios here in Toronto. I was working at the time as an "optical camera/printer operator" (film compositor) at Film Opticals of Canada Ltd.

Friday, May 6, 2022

There's Been Subspace Chatter About It for Months: Here Come Some Strange New Worlds

I filed this Captain's Log on Monday, but forgot to input it into the memory bank:

Captain Pike and his Starship Enterprise and crew are about to come to a televiewer near you. The Trekkies are going subspace in their anticipation of the big day/evening. I checked out Twitter and realized then how excited they are. Comments like "six more sleeps!" makes me realize I'm out of the cosmic loop on such fandom. I absolutely loved the original show when I first caught it in stripped syndication: at five o'clock on weekday afternoons our Zenith colour television set was tuned to Toronto station CFTO.


Captain's Log, Friday, May the 6th:

When Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in September of 1987, two friends of mine visited with the express purpose of joining me for this promising new Star Trek series. (That opening episode, "Encounter at Farpoint", was horrible.)

I caught most of the first season's episodes, but was underwhelmed. Year two I anticipated, hoping it would be better ― it was not. "The Next Gen" eventually improved and found its own place in the cosmos, but by that time I had abandoned NCC-1701D and its two-dimensional crew.

I adopted a routine for any new Trek show....

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
I watched the first two episodes (I have absolutely no memory of them)

Star Trek: Voyager
First two episodes (which I liked, actually)

Enterprise
First two episodes (which were terrible)

Star Trek: Discovery
First episode (which was incomprehensible to me)

Star Trek: Picard
Nothing (starring a fine actor, but a boring character)

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Nothing yet.


So... for those of you who watched yesterday's grand premiere of yet another Trek show: What did you think?....


Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Star Wars: Admit One Repeat

The forty-fifth anniversary of the original release of Star Wars is coming on the 25th of this month, and for us older folks, the question sometimes comes up: "How many times did you see Star Wars when it first came out?"

The movie made a lot of money because it was what's called "a repeater". Young people, especially, went back to the movie theatres over and over to see what was then a new thing; a high-quality comic book on the big screen.

Perhaps due to my age at the time, sixteen, I saw Star Wars, enjoyed it, and did not rush back to see it again. Once was enough, there were other movies to see and I was interested in many other things.

In September of 1977 I became friends with a guy at my high school who was a huge fan of the film. He was a couple of years younger. It was through a school club that we first met. Two or three weeks later Star Wars reappeared in Barrie, Ontario, this time at one of the exciting Bayfield Mall's two screens, and my fan friend and I, with colourful umbrellas in hand, trotted off one rainy night to see again the silver screen's smash hit of '77.

I saw Star Wars two times that year: First, in July at the "Imperial 2" in beautiful downtown Barrie; then it was a tinny movie house in stunning uptown Barrie.

My favourite film in 1977 was Annie Hall. I saw it once.


The Star Wars

"... It's called Star Wars. One set alone cost twelve million dollars."

That is how I first heard of Star Wars. It was the spring of 1977. I had the Grundig stereo on in the living room and as I walked from the kitchen into the dining room I heard an on-air host from Toronto radio station CKFM say the magic words. My reaction to the announced set cost must have been one of awe -- I later learned that the movie cost about ten million dollars to make -- but it was the name of this mysterious new flick that really intrigued me....


It all started for me when I heard that radio piece. But everyone has a different story. And already I've read a few online.

In the pre-Internet age, it was a different game.

After learning of a new and anticipated movie going into production, one had to sometimes dig to learn more than what was readily available from the mainstream media outlets. For most pictures the wait was, more often than not, off our radars.

However, do not think for a moment that pre-release or pre-production hype used by the major film studios is a recently developed tool. Films from the 1970s were following an old model but with new tricks. Promotional featurettes, shot on 16mm film, were taken to a refined state during those years. Major studio productions like The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and King Kong were promoted heavily while they were still in production. In the case of Kong the casting of the new beauty was covered in local and national newscasts. I remember watching Buffalo television station WKBW late one evening and seeing newsfilm of Jessica Lange on stage holding a bouquet of flowers (it was a press conference).

Who could forget watching the excellent and dynamic promotional film showing the production crew of The Towering Inferno doing their magic? Irwin Allen directing over John Guillerman's head by using a megaphone was exciting and memorable. ("Mister Newman!") Accompanied by an authoritative but not staid voice over, bulldozers dug down into a sound stage floor in order to give the already voluminous space even more fly. These promotional shorts were nothing less than recruitment films. "I want to do that!"

By the time big pictures such as PoseidonInferno, Kong, Earthquake, and The Hindenburg hit the screens, an educated, of sorts, audience was awaiting. And I was a member of that audience, in all five examples.

There was none of that for Star Wars. It just snuck up on us....


Monday, May 2, 2022

A Forever Question: Or And

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Why is it "Orwellian" and never "Blairian"?



Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Postering Anti-F-35 in Toronto

 


On my way home from my noon-hour errands on Bloor Street, here in Toronto, I came across some folks who were just about to slap-up a poster of some kind. When I saw what the content was, I pulled out my handy Canon camera and went to work... after asking, of course, if the rebel crew didn't mind my taking some journalistic photos. They readily obliged. After I told them I think it's a big mistake for Canada to take the Lockheed Martin F-35 "Flying Brick" (my pet name for the Incredible Flying Folly Fighter Machine) the poster people gave me some lines about certain government "lobbying". Yes, I know all too well.

Enjoy the ridiculously expensive Eff Thirty-Five! ("Seats one, employs thousands." That's too funny.)

On a more pleasant note: I meant to put this picture up while it was hot off the circuitry, but I wanted to finish my sushi first. It was really good, by the way.

***

Postscript: the website for this group is www.nofighterjets.ca

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Me on Catmates

"Cats are not pets, but roommates."

Yeah, and they never pay rent... but we let it go.




Monday, April 25, 2022

A Forever Question: Oceans Apart

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Why is there a "South Pacific" but no "North Pacific"?



Sunday, April 24, 2022

Poem: Writers' Rights!

Writers write!
Any where
Any time
Any way

it comes naturally
sans inhibition
without limitation:

in a diary
on a script
a postcard
a napkin

Writers write!
All ways....


___

2022
Simon St. Laurent



Thursday, April 21, 2022

Book: In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl (Trezise)



In and Out of the Goldfish Bowl

by
Rachel Trezise

Parthian Books
2000

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

CD: Marquee Moon (Television)



Marquee Moon

Television

Elektra
1989

Athot for the Day: Invading Forces

I'm old enough to remember the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; and I'm old enough to remember the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, as I was living in West Germany at that time (my father was with the Canadian Armed Forces as part of NATO).

So, I'm horribly not surprised by some things....



Liverpool and Man United?

I'm working away at home here, when minutes ago I decided to see if there are any Premier League action matches that I can break to today.



Liverpool vs Manchester United is a must-not-miss match made just for me. Between now (12:30pm) and 3pm there is a lot of time to work and wait... and to figure out who I really support in this case.

Monday, April 18, 2022

A Forever Question: And Ones

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. When someone calls you a "zero", does that mean you're eligible for a fresh start?



Book: Script Doctor (Cartmel)



Script Doctor
- The Inside Story of Doctor Who 1986-1989 -

by
Andrew Cartmel

Miwk Publishing
2015
(this edition)

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Sunday Fun: Standby for Action! (Standing By....)

On Wednesday I scribbled a piece about a (then) upcoming special concert in Birmingham, England -- a concert I may have attended had there been more lead time. While there I could visit relatives, and see a heritage country I've not been to in years. To be honest, especially with myself, the Isles' Covid restrictions are so poor that I probably would not have made the trip.

Nostalgia may have won out, however.

It was a busy week for me, and as soon as I posted Barry Gray Tunes in Birmingham This Weekend, I forgot about the 'upcoming' performance. Well, Sunday morning comes, and time arrives to let me treat the subject further....


From the BBC's website, posted four days ago:

Live orchestra Thunderbirds concert held in Birmingham
By Phil Mackie
Midlands Correspondent

For the first time ever, fans of Thunderbirds and Stingray will get the chance to enjoy the music from classic series - played live by an orchestra.

The iconic puppets have been brought to Symphony Hall in Birmingham for a unique concert.

Attendees can look forward to hearing every piece of music composed for Gerry Anderson's shows, from the earliest - the Adventures of Twizzle - all the way through to Terrahawks.

The show takes place on Saturday.

Anderson and his wife Sylvia created some of the best-loved television series of the 1960s and 70s.

I love how Brits define "television" in terms of their own product. We can't do that here in Canada, for obvious reasons. Sylvia and Gerry Anderson definitely produced television programmes that were part of my childhood: Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and UFO were the big ones. Thank you, CKVR and CFTO (and CTV).


Some of the themes are regarded as classics - especially the Stingray theme and the Thunderbirds March. There were also songs, like the theme to Fireball XL5 which will be performed too.

Composer Barry Gray was a talent. His themes were not only "catchy", an almost prerequisite for telefantasy shows, certainly ones of that time, but the maestro's background scoring was often full of rocketship excitement: Witness the aural strains of brilliant brass played presto to a shot of a taxiing futuristic jetliner. And this was a childrens' programme. Unbelievable.

I'm guessing last night's concert went over well, and to the countdown of: "Five!... Four!...  Three!... Two!... One... Thunderbirds Are Go!"

Bloody brilliant!


Gerry Anderson and friends.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Barry Gray Tunes in Birmingham This Weekend

On BBC Radio 2, minutes ago: Show host Steve Wright played the title music to the old Supermarionation show, Thunderbirds. He explained why he was spinning International Rescue's theme tune....

"There's a special concert this weekend at the symphony hall in Birmingham. For the first time ever there will be an orchestra playing all the Gerry Anderson themes, such as Stingray and this Thunderbirds are go."

Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons were two favourite television programmes of mine when I was a child. As a matter of fact, I saw the feature film Thunderbird 6 on the big screen when it was released. Then UFO came along... to Canada's CTV network in September of 1970. As dark as it could be at times,  "U-Fo" was family viewing in our house.

Many Brits make fun of Birmingham. Perhaps they'll be there with "The Hood" this Saturday night.



Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Book: Young Filmmakers (Larson & Meade)



Young Filmmakers

Rodger Larson with Ellen Meade

Camelot / Avon Books
1971

Monday, April 11, 2022

Picturing: The Film Effects Crew, Toronto (1993)


L to R: Alan Peppiatt, Bob Yoshioka, Chris Ross, me, and George Furniotis.

(Missing: John Furniotis; Susan Furniotis; Brenda, the receptionist.)

Picturing: Toronto Harbourfront WaveDeck Walk

A Forever Question: Stems From

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Can one be a vegetarian if one eats a live plant?



Sunday, April 10, 2022

My Day Planned Via a Simple Snip (Premier League!)



I've a lot to do, accomplish, but football may be my agent. (I pity the poor 'sports heads' who lose to the mighty gods of: ice hockey; North American football; basketball; baseball; volleyball; cricket; rugby; billiards; darts....)

Friday, April 8, 2022

Poem: Whither Leafs? (The Buds Do Spring)

Whither Leafs?
To where does a withered Leaf fall?

To the manicured green grasses below
of course....









___

2022
Simon St. Laurent


Leaving a Message for a Special Day

Many years ago my roommate at the time and I decided to have some fun: we recorded a message for answering machine which could be best described as "daring".

Dave had a four-track audio recorder; it used cassette tape, the kind of tape used as the 'outgoing' message on my Panasonic answering machine. Inspiration hit the two of us fast and hard. We wrote the script quickly and prepared to record the message. In my music collection I have a CD titled "Hollywood's Greatest Hits Volume Two". On one track Dave and I laid down Elmer Bernstein's theme from the 1956 opus The Ten Commandments, specifically, the pastoral passage right after the bombast proper -- the background music we hear playing under the voice of God.

Next: Dave's recording of the voice of God. His voice was better than my nasally own for this important document. After we had the two tracks down it was a matter of giving the commanding orator some reverb. (A dry voice track would inspire no one, no matter how persuasive the text.)

We were very happy with our effort.

As the British would say, "the show went out".

The reaction was much greater than what we were expecting. Callers who got the outgoing message thought it was very funny, hilarious. What happened was the word quickly got around about our answering machine commandments. People would call just to hear the message, and since Dave and I were busy guys, chances were that callers would get the machine.

A mutual friend went into hysterics when we gave him a live playback, but after he regained his composure, he told us his concern that some folk might not find our commandments humorous.

After some time Dave and I pulled the work. Unfortunately it's gone; we know not where.

Here is a reasonable facsimile:

"Luuuke. I mean....Mosesss. Thou shalt leave a message at the tone. Leave thy name and numberrr... (at this point Dave's voice speeds into a 'Maxwell Smart') ... And when I get a chance, I'll call you back!"



Thursday, April 7, 2022

Book: Steven Spielberg (McBride)



Steven Spielberg
- A Biography -

by
Joseph McBride

University Press of Mississippi
(second edition)
2010

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Goodwin Sands of Time

In June of 2013 the Royal Air Force Museum London salvaged a Luftwaffe Dornier 17 aircraft from about 60 feet of water off the coast of Kent. After being shot down by RAF fighters, the WWII German 'level bomber' was left resting inverted on the "Goodwin Sands".

Goodwin Sands, located about four sea miles off the east coast of Kent, England, is a famous shipwreck park and it has held this status for centuries, tricking, often by snapping into high tide mode and disappearing below the water's surface, many a sailor to an unfortunate and premature death.

It has been estimated that over two-thousand ships have been decommissioned by navigating in error — or uncontrollably during a storm or strong wind — over this famous "ship swallower".

One famous incident, from November of 1954, happened when the South Goodwin light vessel broke from her anchor chain during a severe storm, travelled about six miles and ended up on her side in the sands. All seven of her crew perished.

In geographical terms the sands, broken only by a deep gully, called the Kellet Gut, measure about twelve miles north-south and more than two miles at their widest point. Always in flux, as though a pair of giant hands is kneading, they shape-shift constantly — more radically during big storms. All this moving about occasionally reveals a long lost shipwreck, perhaps a few pieces of wood, only to disappear again into the sands of time.

Years ago I read a quote from a letter written by a sailor who witnessed events during the terrible storm (which sent four ships of the line to the sands) of November 26-27, 1703...

"These ships fired their guns all night and day long, poor souls, for help, but the storm being too fierce and raging, could have none to save them. The ship called the Shrewsberry that we are in, broke two anchors, and did run mighty fierce backwards, within sixty or eighty yards of the sands, and as God Almighty would have it, we flung our sheet anchor down, which is the biggest, and so stopped.... To see Admiral Beaumont that was next to us, and all the rest of his men, how they climbed up the main mast, hundreds at a time crying out for help, and thinking to save their lives, and in a twinkling of an eye were drowned.... I have not had my clothes off, nor a wink of sleep these four nights...."


Goodwin Sands reveals its crests by rising one or two metres above sea level during low tide. As a matter of fact you can play a quick game of cricket — just make sure you wrap up the match before the beaches submerge again, or a cricket bat may mark the spot.

(I guess this precludes certain famous rivalries from partaking in any matches in this venue.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Jim Jarmusch on The Golden Rules of Filmmaking - 1

"There are no rules. There are as many ways to make a film as there are potential filmmakers. It’s an open form. Anyway, I would personally never presume to tell anyone else what to do or how to do anything. To me that’s like telling someone else what their religious beliefs should be. Fuck that. That’s against my personal philosophy — more of a code than a set of “rules.” Therefore, disregard the “rules” you are presently reading, and instead consider them to be merely notes to myself. One should make one’s own “notes” because there is no one way to do anything. If anyone tells you there is only one way, their way, get as far away from them as possible, both physically and philosophically."

I don't even let 'them' into my orbit; there's little to talk about.



Jim Jarmusch on The Golden Rules of Filmmaking - 2

"Don’t let the fuckers get ya. They can either help you, or not help you, but they can’t stop you. People who finance films, distribute films, promote films and exhibit films are not filmmakers. They are not interested in letting filmmakers define and dictate the way they do their business, so filmmakers should have no interest in allowing them to dictate the way a film is made. Carry a gun if necessary. Also, avoid sycophants at all costs. There are always people around who only want to be involved in filmmaking to get rich, get famous, or get laid. Generally, they know as much about filmmaking as George W. Bush knows about hand-to-hand combat."

I carry Phaser 2... if necessary.



Jim Jarmusch on The Golden Rules of Filmmaking - 3

"The production is there to serve the film. The film is not there to serve the production. Unfortunately, in the world of filmmaking this is almost universally backwards. The film is not being made to serve the budget, the schedule, or the resumes of those involved. Filmmakers who don’t understand this should be hung from their ankles and asked why the sky appears to be upside down."

They get a good view of those pink clouds.



Jim Jarmusch on The Golden Rules of Filmmaking - 4

"Filmmaking is a collaborative process. You get the chance to work with others whose minds and ideas may be stronger than your own. Make sure they remain focused on their own function and not someone else’s job, or you’ll have a big mess. But treat all collaborators as equals and with respect. A production assistant who is holding back traffic so the crew can get a shot is no less important than the actors in the scene, the director of photography, the production designer or the director. Hierarchy is for those whose egos are inflated or out of control, or for people in the military. Those with whom you choose to collaborate, if you make good choices, can elevate the quality and content of your film to a much higher plane than any one mind could imagine on its own. If you don’t want to work with other people, go paint a painting or write a book. (And if you want to be a fucking dictator, I guess these days you just have to go into politics…)."

It is a collaborative process.



Jim Jarmusch on The Golden Rules of Filmmaking - 5

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: 'It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.' "

Brilliant authenticity.




Monday, April 4, 2022

DVD: The Testament of Dr. Mabuse



The Testament of Dr. Mabuse

A Film by
Fritz Lang

The Criterion Collection
2004

A Forever Question: And No Shield?

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Why does one's toolbox not include an eraser?


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Three of My Favourite Treks

1. "THE CITY ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER" - So much has been said about this episode that I can only repeat where others have gone before: brilliant; moving; "gold" (as one film school mate of mine said).

"A question. Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

The Guardian of Forever is one of the most remarkable characters from the entire series, in addition to being a strong and unforgettable image ("the doughnut"). Actress Joan Collins is not reading lines for some tv show, she is Edith Keeler; sweet, noble, and strong. William Shatner, as Captain Kirk, proves he is an outstanding actor. He makes you believe that he has fallen for Keeler, and somehow, with a little help from the various production departments, does it all in much less than fifty-minutes. Kirk's pained expression at the story's end is a Master-Class Moment... he says not one word. (Screenplay students, take note.)

Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, who enjoyed many fine moments as a team throughout the series, have never been better together than they are here. The interplay is that of the kind expected between friends caught in a hole, but the dynamic of Commanding Officer and subordinate is never lost.

Director Joseph Pevney guides everything with an experienced sure hand (it does not hurt that the man started out as an actor). Composer Fred Steiner wrote an affecting score, at key moments weaving his own music with the old penny arcade song "Goodnight Sweetheart".

Special note: Harlan Ellison wrote the original script, and if you are aware of the seismic events of the behind-the-scenes story, you know that the feisty writer was upset that his work was rewritten (by several people). My take on the subject is that Ellison's teleplay was so good that it was almost impossible for someone to screw it up. It's a gem of a story. (Ellison's original script went on to win a Writers Guild of America award, and the filmed show went on to win a Hugo Award and to be regarded as possibly the fairest Trek of them all.)

Punchline: This episode is one of the greatest examples of hour-long dramatic television that I have ever seen. Period.

"Let's get the hell out of here."


2. "BALANCE OF TERROR" - We have a cool-looking and iconic alien spaceship (the Romulan "Bird of Prey"); three-dimensional 'baddies'; Enterprise crew-members we grow to like, and not so much, in a very short time; a great musical riff; affecting and dramatic space action (with spaceships firing at each other from positions thousands of miles apart, the way it should be); an absolutely superb script; and a moving denouement.

It all starts with a wedding....

Basically a retelling of The Enemy Below, a fine and exciting film from 1957 starring Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens, "Balance of Terror" throws, seamlessly, a love interest into the greater picture in addition to replacing a destroyer and a U-boat with two mighty starships ("The Praetor's finest and proudest flagship...").

At the risk of over-simplifying an arguable point I will say that only Star Trek could pull off a story like "Balance of Terror". Conjuring up space-battle-action on the script page is easy (and relatively cheap to render visually, today), but to fuse it so impeccably with a people-story that matters seems to be the great unsolvable equation for many a filmmaker; especially these days. Firing phasers and photon torpedoes mean nothing, except to the worst of the geeks, if you don't underlay science fiction-type artillery with a narrative of emotional weight -- otherwise, it just ends up a story of procedures and protocols.

The Romulans manning the great Bird of Prey are not given short shrift here. The anguish of doing the right thing for home and country, and the Praetor, while at the same time wondering what it all really means at the end of the day, injects the 'enemy' scenes with more than the typical shallow stock bad-guy shenanigans. The Romulans have emotions, too; a vital lesson in today's political climate of readily labelling any opponent as "scumbags".

The bookends to this technically and tactically oriented tale are basically that of love and loss. ("Spoiler Alert", all decks!) Captain Kirk has another job responsibility, outside of giving the expected orders necessary in running a ship-of-the-line; one of consoling a bride who lost her loved one in an aimless and unnecessary war ("It never makes any sense. We both have to know that there was a reason.").

I suppose the theme of "Balance of Terror" is loss: machine; pride; integrity; self; and humanity. A story for the ages.

"In a different reality, I could have called you 'friend'."


3. "MIRROR, MIRROR" - As my brother said to me a few years ago with rolling glee, after watching this episode earlier that day, "('Mirror, Mirror') has to be one of the most entertaining pieces of television ever made". Rarely has a television series' regular cast had such an obvious field-day playing, with great aplomb, a step or two outside of the usual sandbox.

Jerome Bixby's script is from teleplay-heaven. It should be studied in screenwriting classes. I'm serious. Every word of dialogue, every scene, every motivation, counts and drives the story forward. There's a plate-full of tasty dialogue ("Indeed, his act warrants death."); the 'other' Spock is delectably dark, but still Spock; there are memorable characters who are essentially just walk-ons ("Yes!, Sir!"; "Smart boy, switching to the top dog."); and as evil as this alternate world is, everyone, bad guys included, has a sense of humour -- even if they don't mean to be funny.

Fred Steiner's score is classic, full of memorable and standout themes for tension, romance, and horror. Cinematographer Jerry Finnerman turns the lights down a wee bit lower to enhance an off-kilter world featuring a ship-load of cutthroats. Series costume designer William Theiss clearly had fun developing less "conservative" Starfleet attire for the I.S.S. Enterprise crew.

My most personal admission for "Mirror, Mirror" is that it did not resonate for me, really, until my teens. I remember watching it one weekend afternoon when I was seventeen, and suddenly the episode exploded into 3-strip Technicolor. Sure, I loved it as a kid ("Spock with a beard"), of course, but a little life experience was needed to process and fully appreciate all its themes; and to 'see' its delicious humour.

This line, more than any other perhaps, in a script which is loaded to begin with, may illustrate the overall tone of the alternate universe Enterprise perfectly....

"And my Sickbay is a chamber of horrors. My assistants were betting on the tolerance of an injured man. How long it would take him to pass out from the pain."