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The Best Line Ever Written In All Of Star Trek

3 Dec

December 3, 2018

Back in 2015 I introduced you to The Worst Line Ever Written In All Of Star Wars (“space diapers.”)

Today I’d like to introduce you to The Best Line Ever Written In All Of Star Trek. And appropriately, it comes from The Best Film Ever Made In All Of Star Trek, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

(I’ll skip the spoiler warning as I’ll assume that you already know that Spock dies at the end. )

During the climactic battle with Khan, The Enterprise’s engines have been disabled and warp drive is offline. Khan, in his final act of defiance (“From hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee”) has activated the Genesis device, which will wipe out anything it’s energy touches.

There’s some terrific writing in this scene, as the sense of impending doom is palpable. The Enterprise, flying as fast as it can, is swiftly being overtaken by the detonation and it is only a matter of minutes before everyone on the ship dies. This is driven home by Mr. Sulu, who was always  one of the more positive members of the crew. “We’re not going to make it, are we?”

Sulu looks at Captain Kirk, heroic and unstoppable, who during the course of the film discussed the many ways he’s beaten the unbeatable. Kirk, completely uncharacteristically, is sitting with his arms tightly folded across his chest, and simply looks at his son, David, a scientist behind the Genesis device.

David quietly shakes his head no.

There is doom, there is dread, and there is Mr. Scott, to whom Kirk had earlier said “Scotty, I need warp speed in three minutes or we’re all dead.”

It is a perfect Star Trek line, one we’ve heard dozens of times in the TV series. Scotty is a miracle worker. He’ll get the engines back online. He’s done exactly that in situations as bad as these many times over. It’s almost a joke. So when Captain Kirk tells Scotty he needs warp speed in three minutes, he’s pretty sure he’ll have them back in two.

But he won’t. And we know he won’t, because down in engineering Scotty is barely conscious and being treated by Dr. McCoy. We know but Kirk doesn’t. But Spock does. It is Spock who saves the ship, who sacrifices his own life. (“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”)

But Jim Kirk doesn’t know it. So when the engines come online, the ship goes to warp speed and everyone escapes certain doom, Kirk says the best line written in all of Star Trek:

“Bless you Scotty.”

Because we know it wasn’t Scotty. We know it was Spock. We know he’s dying, probably already dead. We see his empty chair on the bridge but Kirk hasn’t seen it yet. In the moment Kirk is blessing his miracle working engineer, we the fans are already mourning his best friend’s death. The line, delivered so thankfully by Kirk, is actually painful to us watching the film.

Alfred Hitchcock defines suspense as, in a nutshell, the audience knowing something bad that the characters do not. It is us seeing the bomb under the table while the couple slowly drinks their morning coffee, oblivious to the countdown. It is good writing. And it is also good writing with us knowing Spock has died while Kirk is praising the wrong man for saving the ship.

But Kirk soon finds out, and it’s when he calls engineering to congratulate Scotty, only to hear Dr. McCoy grimly say, in what is the second best line written in all of Star Trek, “Jim… I think you better get down here.” Followed by “Better hurry.” Kirk looks at Spock’s empty chair, and he knows.

The whole ending of the film, leading up to Spock’s death, is dark and portentous. It is heavy and funerary in a way Star Trek has never gone before. This one film is full of fantastically quotable lines, from the campy “Khaaaaaan!” to the subtle “how we face death is at least as important as how we face life. ” Star Trek II is well-written in the same way every single Star Trek film since 2009 has not been

“Bless you Scotty.” The best line in all of Star Trek. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, written by Jack B. Sowards and Nicholas Meyer.


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My Review of Shaft, by Ernest Tidyman

10 Nov

November 10, 2018

Shaft is a deep book. Oh, not in the sense that it touches on deep issues and ponders difficult sociopolitical questions, but in the sense that it puts you in Shaft’s head and he thinks deep thoughts about everything.

Every freakin’ thing.

Reading this book I wonder if Shaft has ever had a happy day in his life. The book can be a ponderous read at times because Shaft ponders everything. Nothing is just surface, everything is fodder for Shaft’s dark and dolorous musings. There’s a dark cloud behind every beam of sunlight in Shaft’s world. There are bad intents behind every person Shaft sees in the street, and in every glance Shaft sees the bad behind the good. To be fair, Shaft comes by that worldview honestly, and it serves him well in his job, but even when the case is wrapped and Shaft is playing a board game with a child, he’s deep in brooding. And what is he brooding about? How the child beat him in the game, and Shaft will get better and beat him next time, then have to let the kid win after that because, after all, he’s an adult playing a kid in a kid’s game. Even downtime with a young child brings out the rain clouds.

Does Shaft ever smile?

Despite all that, I liked the book. It feels like a slice of the seventies and this is a book that could only have been written in that era. On the other hand, it deals extensively in stereotypes. Every black person is a militant or a drug dealer. Every Italian is connected to the Mafia. Every white girl wants to sleep with a black man and every white man is afraid of the black man. I would stop short of saying there is anything truly racist about this book, but I can see the arguments. However, Shaft does have some clearly anti-Semitic thoughts about the Jews, making the title of the next book, Shaft Among The Jews, more intriguing.

I read the book because I always like reading the source material behind classic films, and the movie Shaft is an undisputed classic. The big question is, of course, is the book better than the movie? I have to say no. I enjoyed the movie much more. Even if I was listening to Isaac Hayes’ soundtrack as I read the book I couldn’t help but feel like Shaft is not a character I’m in a hurry to revisit, at least in literary form.

 

 

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