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Star Trek: Into Darkness

I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness yesterday and as I mentioned in my last article about the subject last week I did promise that I would do a review of it when I saw it. So I saw the movie and to sum up my experience in the words of Spock it was “fascinating.”

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Now the “Prime Directive” of writing a movie review of a recently released film is not to give away spoilers and I will not violate the Prime Directive.

I saw the film in its 3D format in a nice theater. I have come to enjoy the 3D experience as the technology continues to improve. Director JJ Abrams has put together one of the best Star Trek films of all time. I have been watching the Star Trek franchise since the very beginning of the original series when I was a kid and continued watching TOS in the early days of syndication before the first film Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in December 1979 when I was a sophomore in college.

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Needless to say I am a big fan of the franchise as a whole and having seen every movie, every episode of TOS, TNG, DS9, most of Voyager I have to consider that I am a Trekkie, Trekker or whatever label that you want to give me. The only series that I have not seen except for a few episodes was Enterprise because I was deployed or traveling on various other military duties around the world through much of its run. The times I was home it was hard to find because the local television stations didn’t carry it.

When I was a teen ager I read most of the TOS novels that came out in paperback and when TNG came out I read quite a few of those as well. Each one kind of expanded my Trek experience, and at one time I think I had most if not all of the TOS and TNG Technical Manuals.

My preferences in the Star Trek franchise have been the TOS, TNG and DS9 series, the last of which I am currently watching in order. I watched every TNG episode in order between the end of the 2012 World Series and Opening Day 2013 before beginning DS9 which I am now into Season 5. I figure that I will get Voyager when I finish DS9. I missed a lot of Voyager episodes due to deployment or working nights in civilian hospitals.

As far as the previous movies they have been a hit or miss affair for me. Of the Original Series films I was not a big fan either of Star Trek the Motion Picture or Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was okay for me but the three films that I can watch almost any day of the week are Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to which the new film has some interesting connections, as well as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. However my favorite of these has to be The Wrath of Khan and the TOS episode that is sprung from Space Seed. As for the films associated with Star Trek the Next Generation I found First Contact and Nemesis to be the best, but overall found the television series much better than the films.

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All that being said I have said almost nothing about the new film as of yet. I loved the first film in the reboot of the series, Star Trek which came out in 2009. I liked the casting, the story line which broke the old time line and paradigm which allowed the new series to take on a life of its own even which keeping connection to other parts of the series. Because to this the possibilities that Abrams and his team have opened up are very “Roddenberry” and the new film has the feel of what I think Gene Roddenberry might have imagined for the future of the series.

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The fact is that Roddenberry was not afraid to break the molds of his own creation. He killed Spock, destroyed the Enterprise and took the story with a different cast to a different century. As the creator of the series he was not afraid to take risks and to take the series to places that many fans could not have imagined. I can only imagine that after 10 feature films involving two separate series and 703 television episodes in one timeline spanning 5 separate series that Roddenberry would approve of the new life that Abrams and his team have give to the series.

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I found that the cast is really beginning to gel as the crew of the Enterprise. Even though they are different actors each has captured the spirit of characters of the Original Series. Chris Pine as Captain Kirk is younger but believable as Kirk. We see the defiant and independent nature of Kirk in his performance. Zachary Quinto as Spock is as close to perfect as to how I imagine Spock could be in the new timeline. The appearances of Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime and his interactions with Quinto’s Spock are priceless. My favorites in the other characters brought over from the Original Series are Bones McCoy played by Karl Urban and Scotty played by Simon Pegg. Sulu played by John Cho, Uhura played by Zoe Saldana and Chekov played by Anton Yelchin are all good in their parts but because the characters are only seen briefly in each of the films they are harder to get to know, unlike the cast members of either TOS or TNG who were known to fans through their respective series before they appeared in any of the films.

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As far as the villain of the film, initially known as John Harrison played by Benedict Cumberbatch is as good of villain as you can get in Star Trek, but then he too is reprised from the TOS series, better known as…. No won’t say it, it would violate the Prime Directive, even though you can look it up somewhere else like the the Internet Movie Data Base at www.imdb.com Because of what Abrams does with this part of the story line a whole new set of possibilities remains open regarding this villain in future episodes and Cumberbatch was an excellent villain that I would not mind seeing again should they decide to reprise his role.

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The story line is excellent, especially in light of 12 years of war following the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001. I think one think that transcends the terrific action and special effects of the movie is how it is possible for those defending the ideal of freedom to cross the line into tyranny when they believe freedom might be threatened. It really is a fascinating metaphor that is important, because the darkness referred to in the title is not really the outside threats to freedom, but the threat harbored in each of us when we give in to the temptation to not ask the hard questions about the morality of our own actions that we take in the defense of our freedoms.

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Abrams dedicates the film to the post 9-11 veterans and that is something that I appreciate because he backs that up by working with the charity The Mission Continues. Abrams had 6 veterans form the honor guard folding the flag at the somber memorial service scene at the end of the movie, something that most of us who have served over the past 12 years have seen or participated in too many. For me that was especially touching.

Anyway, I don’t think that any fan of Star Trek can go wrong in seeing this film and it may help bring new fans into the fold by sending them back to watch the series that helped begin everything in the Star Trek universe.

Live Long and Prosper,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Pinning on the Gold Bars: 28 Years Later

On June 19th 1983 I was sworn in as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army at the University of California Los Angeles.  I was a history major in college and had actually completed my degree the year prior and played around with Masters level classes as I took my last year of ROTC. I was commissioned into the Medical Service Corps and would report for active duty 22 days later at Fort Sam Houston Texas where I would complete the Army Medical Department Officer Basic Course for Medical Service Corps officers, go on to Fort Know Kentucky for the Junior Officer’s Maintenance Course and then in January 1984 head to Germany where I was assigned to the 557th Medical Company Ambulance in a little Kasserne on the Nahe River called Neubrücke.  The rest is history.

Looking back at what the world was like in 1983 is rather interesting. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States and George Herbert Walker Bush his Vice President. Thomas “Tip” O’Neill was Speaker of the House.  The internet and the TCP/IP was beginning to take flight as a program of the Department of Defense, Sally Ride had just become the first female Astronaut and the United States sent the Marines into Lebanon as part as a peacekeeping force.  The Soviets were deeply embroiled in Afghanistan while Jedi returned, destroyed the new Death Star, killed the Emperor and Darth Vader while redeeming Anakin Skywalker.

The Cold War was reaching its zenith as the United States using its great economic power built up its military and developed technologies that the Soviets went broke trying to keep up with.

We still wore Olive Green fatigues; the BDUs were just being introduced and the Army still worn Greens sans jaunty Black Beret.

The Billboard Top Singles were led by Michael Jackson who released Billie Jean http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBIfLxi5dLo, Culture Club with Karma Chameleon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmcA9LIIXWw, Irene Cara joined in with Flashdance What a Feeling http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILWSp0m9G2U, David Bowie came out with Let’s Dance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyVjdQXNs9sand the Police had Every Breath You Take http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMOGaugKpzs.

The Baltimore Orioles won the 1983 World Series taking down the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games, Rick Dempsey was the MVP hitting .385 in the series and having a .923 slugging percentage. Dempsey who played across 4 decades as a catcher only hit .233 for his career.  Cal Ripken Jr. made the final putout of the series which was the last that the Orioles have won since then.  In the NFL the Washington Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. Larry Nelson edged out Tom Watson in the PGA U.S. Open while Jimmy Conners won the U.S Open Men’s Singles championship.

Terrorism, nuclear crises, political scandals and Tsunami in Japan were all part in the news.  AIDS was rearing its ugly head and by 1987 I was working with AIDS patients and dealing with personnel policy for HIV infected Soldiers.

Since that day I can only quote Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead that my life and career has been “a long strange trip.” I continue to serve in the military only having switched services to the Navy and going from being in the Medical Service Corps where I was a platoon leader, company XO and company commander as well as Brigade Adjutant to being a Chaplain.

Back in 1983 I had no intention of going into the ministry but somehow the Deity somehow worked that out much to my surprise.

Finally a mere six days after being commissioned I would marry the love of my life Judy Keiser and well somehow she has put up with me 28 years and hasn’t killed me yet, not that she didn’t want to a few times. Now we deal with a geographic separation due to my assignment after missing far more wedding anniversaries and birthdays than we have been together in our 28 year marriage.

Anyway, the future is still to be written and this long strange trip promises to go on. As Captain Kirk said in Star Trek VI “People think the future means the end of history, well, we haven’t run out of history just yet.” I don’t think that I have either.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, film, Military, movies, music

Starfleet Gets a Communications Upgrade: The Tale of the Blackberry

Note: My inspiration for this story is my recent experience with a Blackberry Curve and its replacement provided by Verizon Wireless.  I have no complaints about the Verizon staff that have attempted without success to fix this problem as it is a fault with the blasted Blackberry. As I waited patiently for a very polite Verizon store staff to work with technician to solve the problems I was having I began to think about what it would be like if in the Star Trek Original Series if Starfleet had provided Blackberries to the Enterprise on a critical mission. I figure that I at least need to be able to laugh about this. Hopefully I tomorrow when I take my third Blackberry into the Verizon store in the space of three weeks I will get to experience the joy of a working communications device.

Peace, Padre Steve+


On the border of the Federation-Romulan Neutral Zone.

“Good morning Captain, we have reached Cheron and established orbit. There are no Romulan ships within sensor range.”

“Thank you Spock, must you always be so cheerful in the morning?” replied a grinning Kirk. “So what is our status?”

“Sir the away team is ready for the mission. Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Sulu and Mr. Scott will beam down with you and the security team.”

“Good, so Spock I do hope that we can get out of here after checking the planet before the Romulans discover that we are here.”

“Patently sir, in light of the Romulan defeat here during the First Romulan War it would be inadvisable to remain here too long.” Spock’s crisp and matter of fact delivery underscored the potential threats to the Enterprise and the away team as they looked to determine if the Romulans had attempted to establish a new outpost on the planet.

“Captain” Lieutenant Uhura rose from her console on the starboard side of the bridge.

“Yes Lieutenant, is there something that I need to know?”

“Why yes Captain,” the pretty communications officer replied. “There has been a change in the standard communication equipment for away teams.”

“What, why wasn’t I informed of this?”

“Well sir, it is a Starfleet wide upgrade. We received the equipment on our last visit to Starbase 234 before our departure for this mission.” Uhara paused “It is a major improvement.  According to Starfleet the device is called a Blackberry and it will replace the communicator and many of the functions now performed by our Tricorders.”

“But why wasn’t I told?”

“Sir, it was an oversight, it won’t happen again.”

“Make sure it doesn’t Lieutenant, otherwise” Kirk paused appearing to search for his next words “otherwise there won’t be any chubby sex for you.”

“Captain, I don’t think that is appropriate” protested Uhura.

“Appropriate?”

“Captain, Starfleet regulations do say that the use of sexual terms with subordinates of the opposite sex is a violation of the Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment policies established by the Federation Commission on Equal Opportunity and ratified by the Federation Senate for all Federation government offices including Starfleet.”

“Okay Spock I get it, it was just the Mad Cow.”

“Mad cow Captain?” Spock replied raising an eyebrow.

“Never mind, just a quote from one of my favorite 21st Century television characters, Denny Crane.”

“I have never heard of him.”

“The show is called Boston Legal, I have all of the DVD’s.  Come by my stateroom and we’ll watch them from season one through five.” Kirk winked as Spock looked on with a hint of disapproval on his Vulcan face.

“So Lieutenant, that was out of line and I apologize. It won’t happen again.”

“Until the next time” whispered McCoy to Scott.

“Anyway, Lieutenant Uhura, before I was so correctly corrected by my First Officer, please tell me about these Blackberry devices.”

“This is one here.” Uhura pulled out a small device which had a tiny keyboard as well as a view screen.

“My I look at it?”

“Please Captain, you’ll find it quite handy.  You will be able to communicate with the ship, away team members, check your e-mail, messages and have the universe at your fingertips.”

“So I can surf the web and access my Face Space account while on an away team?”

“Well yes, Captain.”

“Good.  We’ll start using them on this mission; make sure everyone on the away team has one.” Kirk looked at Spock. “Spock did you hear that I can surf the web and access my Face Space account on this thing even on away missions? Why didn’t anyone think of this sooner?”

Uhura interrupted. “Captain, I would prefer that we wait until the next mission.”

“No.  We take them on this mission.” Kirk paused. “After all what could go wrong?  Starfleet has tested them out right?”

“Well, yes sir, but the contractor says that we should wait.”

“Contractor?”

“Yes Captain, to save money Starfleet has contracted the Blackberry service to Verizon Universal.” Uhura sounded almost apologetic. “But we do have a contracting service representative dedicated to us and I can contact him anytime.”

“So let’s see, I have a device that replaces communicators and Tricorders that I can surf the web and check my Face Space on, which has been tested by Starfleet and that we have a designated technician dedicated to us and you’re saying that I should wait?”

“Well, maybe it’s just me Captain…”

“Lieutenant Uhura, if I recall I am the Captain, correct?”

“Well….” Uhura hesitated for a moment and continued “Yes Captain.”

“So if I am the Captain of the Enterprise; which indeed by Starfleet order I am; that means that I do get the final say on my ship?  Mr. Spock, do you concur?”

“Yes Captain, I concur.  However, I do not think that the Lieutenant is questioning your ability to command the Enterprise but rather her belief that we should test the devices on a mission that is not so close to the Neutral Zone.”

“But Spock, the best of Starfleet have certified these devices and Verizon Universal has over nearly 300 years of experience in wireless communications.” Kirk paused. “Wouldn’t you agree that this isn’t rocket science, Spock? This is communications, not the Warp drive. What could go wrong?”

“Captain I was merely posing as the Devil’s advocate. You are the Captain and the decision is yours.”

“Devil’s advocate, you have the ears for it Spock,” quipped Doctor McCoy eliciting a chuckle from Ensign Chekov at the helm and a raised eyebrow from Spock.

“Well if that’s the case Lieutenant, I want to have these on the away mission. I’ll let Scotty carry a communicator and Bones can carry a Tricorder,  but the rest of us will have these.”

“But Captain, one more thing….” Uhura paused and then continued: “Starfleet says that we might have intermittent problems with the old systems as we make the switch. The Tricroders are scheduled to receive new software when it is pushed by Starfleet. It was supposed to happen this morning. Starfleet technical says that it will be later, but they don’t know when.”

“I don’t see a problem Lieutenant, and I’m the Captain, James Tiberius Kirk. Don’t forget it.” Kirk chuckled as he looked at the Blackberry. “I can check my Face Space on this? what will Starfleet think of next?  Maybe they can give me the ability to book a trip on Priceline while on an away mission.”

Spock shook his head and McCoy grinned as Kirk started playing with the touch screen on the device. Kirk looked up at his staff and said “Scotty, Bones, Sulu, meet me in transporter room with a security team in half an hour. We have to get to the planet, see what is going on and get out of here before a bunch of Romulan Birds of Prey show up.  Spock you have the Enterprise and Uhura, make sure that nothing goes wrong with these devices while I am checking my Face Space…I mean when we’re on the planet surface.”

“Aye Captain” replied Scotty, his distinctive Scottish brogue echoed by McCoy and Sulu. Spock, Uhura and McCoy nodded their agreement as Kirk continued “Well what are you waiting for?  Let’s get going.”

A half hour later, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu and the 3 members of the security team met in the transporter room where Lieutenant Kyle the Transporter Chief awaited them. As the doors swished open and closed, Kirk approached Kyle.

“Mr. Kyle we are going to beam down to the surface. I need you to make sure that you keep a good lock on us in case the Romulans show up.”

“Captain, I will do the best that I can but the transporter lock application is not loaded on your Blackberry. I can, however maintain the lock on Mr. Scott’s communicator as long as that device is functioning correctly.”

“Scotty, why wasn’t I told about this?”

“Sir, I dinna really think that you would want to go to the surface depending on some newfangled contraption, so I didn’t say anything.  Besides Captain, when you started talking about your Face Space account, I knew that there was no convincing you.”

“Correct, that is why I asked you Mr. Scott.  Remember the name is James Tiberius Kirk.  I beat the Kobayashi Maru test. Besides, even if this doesn’t work right I AM James Tiberius Kirk and I will win. Besides, we booked this trip on Priceline and it’s not refundable.”

The away team muttered in agreement and Kirk continued: “Gentlemen, we will beam down to the planet and find out what is going on before the Romulans figure out that we are here.” Kirk paused for a moment. “Mr. Kyle,  tell Lieutenant Uhura that I expect that even if you cannot keep a lock on these Blackberries, that I DO expect to be able to check my Face Space account while on the planet surface.”

“Your Face Space account sir?” asked a confused transporter chief.

“You heard me Lieutenant. My Face Space account, and if you expect to get far in Starfleet you’d better get one too.”

“Yes sir” replied the transport chief as he looked at Mr. Scott who simply nodded his head.

“Well gentlemen, what are we waiting for?”  Kirk paused again, “it’s not Mad Cow or am I forgetting something?”

“What?…your Mad Cow?” asked McCoy.

“Bones, I know that I’m forgetting something and I can’t remember what.” Kirk paused again and continued “I remember now… where is Yeoman Rand right now?  She is supposed to be on the away team.”

“Jim you didn’t include her on the away team” replied McCoy.

“I didn’t include include her?  Bones, what was I thinking? Mr. Kyle, call for Yeoman Rand to meet us here.  We’ll wait for her before we beam down.”

Scotty interrupted. “But Captain, shouldn’t we get down now to be finished before the Romulans arrive?”

“Mr. Scott. I AM the Captain and Yeoman Rand is essential personnel on any away mission that I am on.  Besides, someone has to record my every thought for history sake, because after the mission I’m going to consume a few pints of Romulan ale and won’t remember a damned thing.”

“Well, that makes sense.” Replied McCoy.

“Well she is a girl, but even I can understand in some ways” added Sulu.

“Don’t forget Sulu, I am a real man, not gay like you…not that there is anything wrong with that, even if you are still in the closet. I mean, it’s not that you are in the closet or even out of it…but it’s none of my business or anyone else’s business or anything like that. You know, don’t ask don’t tell like Starfleet regulations tell us.”

Sulu glared at Kirk, while the others in the transport room maintained silence. Sulu looked at McCoy and said: “This will go in my autobiography.”  As the away team waited and Scotty and Kyle talked technical specifications, Yeoman Janice Rand entered the transporter room.  The doors swished open and closed as the pretty blond yeoman with stacked hair, clad in the Starfleet regulation red mini-dress female uniform and black high rise boots approached Kirk.

“Yeoman Rand reporting as ordered sir.”

“Yeoman Rand, I’m sorry for the late notice, but your presence is required on this mission.”

“Thank you sir, I will do what I can to help the mission succeed” replied the young woman.

Kirk looked at McCoy, who was looking at the deck and putting his hand on his shoulder whispered “it’s good to be the Captain, Bones; it’s good to be the Captain.” Kirk then looked about the room and continued “Gentlemen and Miss Rand, let’s get going, what are we waiting for?”

With that, the team stepped aboard the transporter platform and Kirk patted Rand on the behind as he said to Kyle “Mr. Kyle, energize.”

Kyle pushed the transporter lever into the transport mode and the team dematerialized from the pad.

Seconds later the team rematerialized on the planet’s surface.  Though a class M planet, Cheron’s surface was devoid of any meaningful foliage and very rocky and mountainous; much like areas just outside of Los Angeles or a sound stage at NBC studios in Burbank. Kirk looked around and as the team began to make equipment checks and their initial scans of the area.

“Captain, I’m picking up subspace transmissions from that hill,” interjected McCoy pointing the Tricorder toward the hill that rose about 500 meters from the team.

“Subspace transmissions, Bones?”

“Yes sir Captain, from that hill. I think they may be Romulan.”

Kirk looked at Scotty and Sulu. Yeoman Rand moved closer to Kirk and the three security team members fanned out around the team leaders, their phasers at the ready.

Kirk looked at his team; “I think that we have our smoking gun. The Romulans either have been here or are here right now. We need to establish that as fact, recover the evidence and get it out of here before the Romulans know that we’re here. We’ll move toward the hill. Sulu, you and crewman Jones take the left; Scotty and crewman Evans take the right. Bones, you Yeoman Rand and Ensign Smith come with me.  I’ll contact the ship.”

Kirk pulled out his Blackberry and punched the Enterprise icon on the touch screen. “Kirk to Enterprise, away team on planet surface, subspace emissions detected, moving to investigate.” The Blackberry remained silent. Kirk tired again. “Kirk to Enterprise, Uhura, Spock do you read me?” There was no response. “Bones, Scotty, Sulu, try to contact the ship on your Blackberries.”

The three officers each tried their Blackberries. Scotty looked up at Kirk and said “Captain, something has drained the batteries.  My Blackberry has almost no power left, and it registers a 1 X and not a 3G network.”

“What do you mean Scotty? 1 X, 3G what the hell does that mean?”

“Captain, I mean that you won’t be able to access the Enterprise or your Face Space account on this piece of junk.”

“You mean I can’t access my Face Space account?”

“Not that or anything else. Like I’ve said before, the more complicated they are the easier they are to break.”

“Can you contact them on your communicator Scotty?”

“I can try sir, it is a good thing that Uhura and Spock recommended that we have them.”

“Mr. Scott, if you will recall, it was I that said that you would carry a communicator, not Uhura” interjected an obviously irritated Kirk.

“Sulu, you take crewman Jones and Evans and find out what is creating that subspace emission and get back here within the hour. We cannot communicate so it is imperative that you find what is going on and at least one of you get back with the information. Hopefully we will be able to contact the Enterprise by the time you return.”

“Yes Captain” replied Sulu. “Evans, Jones, follow me.” Sulu set off at a jog toward the hill followed by the two security officers.

“Bones, can you figure out what is going on with these Blackberries?”

“Captain, I’m a doctor not a service technician,” replied a sarcastic sounding McCoy.

“Captain, I have contact with the Enterprise,” said Scotty.

“Give me that communicator Scotty!” interrupted Kirk, grabbing the device from his Chief Engineer’s hands.

“Uhura, Spock, can you read me? This is Kirk.”

“Captain, I read you but not well. Can you tell me your situation?” replied the Communications officer.

“Uhura, what is going on? These Blackerries are rotten! Nothing works! I can’t access my Face Space like you told me that I would!” Kirk’s voice was excited and sounded perturbed. Spock noted this as he listened in on the conversation. “Captain, I would say that it would be wise to end the mission, return to the ship and worry about your Face Space later.”

“But Spock, IT IS IN THE CONTRACT! Besides I just sent Sulu with crewmen Evans and Jones to check the source of the subspace emissions.”

“Subspace emissions, Captain?” asked Spock.

“Yes Spock, subspace emissions.”

Spock turned from the communications officer station and said to Ensign Chekov and Lieutenant O’Reilly “Gentlemen we may have company. Scan for any subspace emissions of evidence of a cloaked ship, raise shields and go to Red Alert.”

“Aye Mr. Spock” replied Chekov as the Red Alert alarm was sounded.

“Captain, I have just set Red Alert and raised the shields. When you are ready to beam back to the ship, signal me.”

“Good work, Spock. I will contact you shortly but get me Uhura.”

“Lieutenant Uhura, stand by to answer the Captain’s questions.”

“Yes Mr. Spock” replied the Communications Officer. “Captain Kirk, what is your question?”

“Uhura, can you contact the Verizon Universal technician and let him know what is going on?”

“Sir, I did as soon as Mr. Scott contacted us on his communicator. The tech rep, Bob, told me that there is a known software problem and that the company would be providing a software push to all subscribers within the week and that when we arrive at Starbase 234 that the defective units will be replaced free of charge.”

“But Lieutenant Uhura… I am on a planet with a small away team.  There is a real possibly that Romulans are nearby, AND you’re telling me that my Blackberry won’t work and I can’t access my Face Space much less communicate with anyone?”

“Yes sir, that is basically what I am telling you.” Replied Uhura who was looking at Spock with an exasperated expression.

“Thank you Lieutenant. You tell Bob or whoever you are in contact with that I EXPECT this to be corrected as soon as it can be corrected.  I mean, it needs to be corrected….” Kirk paused” I think that this is ridiculous. If Verizon Universal doesn’t fix it now tell Rob or whatever his name is, that I will contact Admiral Shirley Schmidt at Starfleet Legal and have them to start proceedings against them. I understand that Commander Alan Shore is quite a litigator and will rip them a new one.”

“I will relay the message Captain.”

“Good” said Kirk “and I will contact you as soon as I can to get off of this planet. Kirk out.”

Aboard the Enterprise the bridge crew began to scan and look for any signs of a cloaked Romulan ship as Kirk and the away team continued the mission.  On the planet Kirk was talking with McCoy and Scott with Yeoman Rand beside him looking on while transcribing the conversation on her I-Pad 2265.  It was then that phaser fire was heard in the distance coming from the hill where Sulu and the security officers had gone to seek out the source of the subspace emissions.

“Take cover” ordered Kirk and the team sought cover behind the rocks surrounding their position. “Scotty, contact the Enterprise, Bones prepare to receive casualties, Ensign Smith move right and cover Mr. Sulu’s team as they return. Yeoman Rand stay close to me.” Rand moved close to Kirk’s side and Kirk put his arm around her reaching toward her buttocks. “I’ll protect you Yeoman.” Rand edged closer.

As the team took cover Sulu and one of the security officers could be seen maneuvering to get back to the rest of the team. Ensign Smith and Mr. Scott began to provide covering fire with their phasers at what appeared to be Romulan disruptor fire coming from the hill. As Sulu and the security officer got back to the site the security officer turned to return fire and was hit by a disrupter burst crumpling to the ground near McCoy.

“Bones, see if he’s okay! Sulu, what happened?” shouted Kirk.

Aboard the Enterprise the situation was tense. Mr. Scott’s message about the phaser and disruptor fire had been received and Spock paced the bridge.

“Mr. Chekov, any sign of the Romulans?”

“Sir, I am reading a distortion in space at 149 mark 916 distance 33,000 kilometers. I think it is a cloaked ship.”

“Lieutenant Kyle.”

“Kyle here sir” replied the transporter chief.

“Mr. Kyle, prepare to beam up the team.  Lock onto Mr. Scott’s communicator and beam at my command.”

“Aye Captain.” Kyle’s voice displayed no lack of confidence in his abilities.

On the planet the Enterprise away team returned fire as McCoy checked the fallen security officer. Sulu moved to Kirk to report the situation.

“Captain, we got to the hill and found a Romulan away team setting up what appears to be a sensor array. They took us under fire and crewman Evans was killed in the exchange. Jones and I returned fire and moved back to your position.”

“How many Romulans Mr. Sulu?” asked Kirk.

“Sir, there were at least a dozen, some armed with disruptor rifles. We downed several with our phasers, but I expect that there are more in the vicinity moving our direction.” Sulu wiped his brow but appeared calm even as he made the report.

“Thank you Lieutenant, take position over there and protect our flank.”

“Aye sir.”

“Bones, how is crewman Jones?”

“Jim, he’s dead.” As McCoy gave the report on Jones a burst of disruptor fire blasted the rock in front of Lieutenant Smith who took cover and cried “Captain I’m hit!”

“Spock, get us out of here.”

“Aye, Captain.” Spock continued, “Mr. Kyle are we prepared to beam the away team to the Enterprise?”

“Ready Mr. Spock” replied the Transporter Chief, his Australian accent showing.

“Mr. O’Reilly drop shield and raise them after the transport is complete.” Spock’s order was devoid of emotion even as he ordered Kyle to beam the team up. “Mr. Kyle beam the team up now.”

“Energizing, Mr. Spock” replied the transporter Chief. Within seconds the team materialized on the transporter pad. McCoy called for corpsmen to report to tend to the wounded Lieutenant Smith. Kirk approached Kyle.

“Excellent job, Mr. Kyle.”

“Thank you sir, my pleasure.”

Kirk began to bark out orders, “Scotty, Sulu come with me, Bones take care of Lieutenant Smith. Yeoman Rand report to the bridge with me.”

As Kirk, Sulu, Scott and Yeoman Rand entered the bridge from the turbo-lift, Spock yielded the command chair to Kirk.

“Mr. Spock, thank you for your timely intervention. What is going on?”

“Captain, we believe that a Romulan Bird of Prey is cloaked. I recommend since the Romulans attacked our team on the planet that we fire a burst of photon torpedoes at the location in violation of the peace treaty.”

“Mr. O’Reilly, fire a spread of Photon Torpedoes at the location.”

“Aye Captain,” replied the young Irishman as he pressed the firing key on his operations console. A second after he did this a number of Photon Torpedo bursts exploded in the distance.  A Bird of Prey appeared was seen listing heavily to Port as its cloaking device went offline. No fire was returned by the obviously heavily damaged Romulan ship.

“Uhura, hail the Romulan.  Onscreen.”

The communications console beeped as Uhura sent a message to the Romulan. On the Enterprise Bridge view screen the Romulan ship disappeared as a Romulan officer appeared. Behind him fires burned and Romulan crew members could be seen attempting repairs.

“Federation ship, I am Praetor Taev, you have attacked my ship. I cannot return fire or communicate with my away team.”

“Praetor, we stand by to assist you.”

“Your assistance is not needed or desired. We would not be in this situation if it were not for a communications failure between us and our away team.”

“It seems that we encountered a similar situation on the planet surface” replied Kirk.

“Some advice Federation Captain, if your fleet communications bureau attempts to replace your communicators with something called Blackberries have a backup plan. Our away team was trying to rig a mobile communication array on the planet, their Blackberries would not work.”

“We will Praetor, thank you for your advice. Who is your provider, Praetor?”

“Verizon Universal, the largest wireless corporation in the known universe with almost 300 years of experience. They even had a technician dedicated to this mission, but we have executed him. His funny looking black plastic eyeglasses are being returned to his family.”

“You have my sympathies, Praetor. Since it seems that this encounter is a misunderstanding, we will allow you to make repairs and proceed on our way. You are a worthy opponent. Kirk out.”

“You as well, Captain…. in another place and time we might have been friends.” The screen went blank and an explosion was witnessed. The Bird of Prey had blown up, the fireball extended out and the explosion was felt aboard the Enterprise which trembled slightly as the shockwave from the blast reached it.

“Mr. Spock, what happened?”

“Captain it appears that the Romulan ship is destroyed. I am not sure, but they may have scuttled her because they would have been disgraced for allowing themselves to be taken by surprise. The Romulans have a keen sense of honor and would rather suffer death than return home in disgrace.”

“Pity, Spock.  The Romulan was doing what we were doing and was a victim of the same Romulan Navy and Verizon Universal communications problem that we experienced.”

“Lieutenant Uhura, make sure that this situation is corrected. Mr. Spock you have the Bridge. I am going to my cabin to watch Boston Legal and book a trip on Priceline when we get back to Earth. Yeoman Rand, meet me later to take report. I’ll Face Space you with the time and place.”

“Yes, Captain” the attractive blond blushed and smiled as Kirk winked at her and exited the Bridge.

McCoy, Scott and Spock looked at each other saying nothing. Chekov, Sulu and O’Reilly smiled in amusement while Uhura shook her head. Sulu relieved Chekov at the helm.

“Mr. Sulu, set course for Starbase 234, warp factor 3.

“Aye Mr. Spock” as Sulu punched the coordinates into the helm music began to play and the Enterprise burst into warp leaving Cheron behind.

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Filed under Just for fun, Loose thoughts and musings, star trek

Benjamin Sisko, Star Trek Deep Space Nine and the Less than Sexy Command of Military Bases

Note: I write this after Judy and I did something that we never normally do…no not that, whatever that is in your dirty minds.  For us this was to watch a movie in a theater a second time.  We did this tonight.  We went and saw the Star Trek movie again and enjoyed it as much as the first time.  As I thought about us seeing it this afternoon I was writing on another topic, but it was much too involved for my brain at this moment in time.  So I saved it and went back to Star Trek.  This is the first in a series about Star Trek Captains and deals with the only Captain on a Star Trek series who is not Captain of a Star Ship, but rather a Star Base. In this case, Captain Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine.  In some ways I dedicate this to those fine officers who do not get the commands at sea, or if they are in the Army or Marines those who command bases or garrisons rather than maneuver units.  I dedicate this particular post to Colonel Tom Allmon, US Army Retired who I served with at Fort Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania and who later commanded Fort Meyer Virginia.  This will be a first of a series that will appear periodically dealing with characters from the various Star Trek series and films and work them into what commanders and staff officers in the U.S. Military deal with on a daily basis.

“There is more to baseball than physical strength. It’s, uh… it’s about courage; and it’s also about faith; and it is also about heart. And if there’s one thing our Vulcan friends lack, it’s heart.” Captain Benjamin Sisko

Odo_ejecting_SiskoSisko being thrown from the game against the Vulcan Logicians

Star Trek Commanding Officers are interesting to compare and contrast and usually have a lot to do with how each Star Trek series was received.  I know a lot of people who like Captain Kirk over Captain Picard or Picard over Kirk.  There are those who prefer Kathryn Janeway to any of the men.  Of course all of these were the Captains of Federation starships.  Like any naval service it is the Captains of warships that have the “sexy” jobs.  Commanding officers of service vessels, auxiliaries or bases tend not to be the commanders who are being groomed for Flag rank.  The newer and more powerful the vessel is, the more likely that the skipper is being groomed for a higher level command.    This is true in any Navy and is certainly true in the world of Star Trek.  Thus we have the unusual situation for a us to deal with and perhaps the reason that some people do not care for Deep Space Nine as much as for the series involving Starships as the setting for the show.  Captain Benjamin Sisko of Deep Space Nine doesn’t command a ship. In fact he is the survivor of the USS Saratoga, a ship lost when the Federation fleet was decimated by the Borg at Wolf 359 in which his wife is killed in action.

Having served at sea and ashore I can say that the divide between commanders of warships and those of bases is deep.  This is not a pejorative statement at all, but a recognition that the services tend to weigh command of a warship higher than that of a base.  Both situations require men and women of certain temperament and ability.  Good commanders can function and adapt anywhere but may because of the needs of the service find themselves in assignments that are less glamorous and maybe even less desirable from a career point of view.  Such is the case with Benjamin Sisko.  He is sent to an important but remote base with a small Federation staff off the planet Bejor which recently gained its independence from the Cardassian Empire.  The space station had previously been a Cardassian station.

Sisko’s assignment like that of any overseas base commander is an interesting weave of station commander, quasi-ambassador to the Bejoran government, small town mayor and overseer of security in the sector which becomes much more important with the discovery of a “worm hole” in space nearby.  In the process he must deal with the ever present Cardassians who through Gul Dukat the former station commander continually attempt to re-assert their dominance and authority over both the station a Bajor.  As the series moves along he is forced more onto a war footing as a race from a sector of the galaxy connected through the worm hole attempts to invade the sector which Deep Space Nine serves as the outpost and tripwire.

All through this Sisco must deal with a multiplicity of problems, not unlike commanders of US Naval bases in sensitive and potentially volatile regions do on a daily basis today.  Sisko must deal with the unique history, culture and religion of the Bajorans.  Likewise he has to deal with the divides between moderate and fundamentalists in the Bajoran religion. He also must deal with tensions between the religious Bajorans and Bejoran secularists all the while trying to heal the scars of the Cardassian occupation, physical, physiological and spiritual to the people of Bajor.

As if this were not enough he has a host of potential problems on his station.  The station has a strong presence of people who in today’s parlance would be called Third Country Nationals, or TCNs.  These individuals and their families run shops, bars and restaurants on the station, sometimes within not quite within the margins of legality, in particular the Bartender Quark and tailor Garak.  Captain Sisko deals with all of this in addition to normal issues that any commander would face dealing with his own personnel, operations and logistics functions.  While he is the base commander he has a Bajoran as his deputy and Bajoran personnel throughout the station who have to work with Starfleet personnel.

It would similar situation to that faced by US commanders of bases in the Middle East who have to deal with very similar issues today.  That is what makes Sisko for me such an interesting character.  His job is not the wide ranging, high visibility “sexy” star ship Captain assignment.  This as well as the more dark underlying tone of the show makes it more of a mystery.  Sisko, who brings with him a love of Jazz, New Orleans cuisine and baseball is an interesting character, if nothing else from my perspective the subject of baseball.   He introduces baseball to the station, even forming a team which plays the Vulcans who are surprisingly good ballplayers.  It could be that baseball is a game that the analytical Vulcans would find an affinity.  Baseball is filled with intricate nuances and statistical probabilities that would numb the mind of a Klingon, who are most likely Football fans, but which are the delight of Vulcans.  If the Romulans were to take up the game they would probably play it with a harder edge and more emotion than the Vulcans but would appreciate the logic of the game.  Even still Benjamin Sisko and the ever present baseball on his desk are something that I appreciate.

The commanders of bases on the edge of empire that Sisko represents and the complexities of their commands are seldom recognized.  Their jobs are not sexy, and most do not get picked to be Flag or General Officers.  Those picks generally are reserved for those who command at sea or command maneuver units or if in the Air Force those who command Fighter or Bomber Wings.  The men and women who command bases both in the United States and overseas fill an important role. While not glamorous they are the people that tend to be the face of the United States military and government wherever they are stationed.  When they do their jobs well they go unnoticed, because what they do is not sexy.  At the same time if they screw up it can be damaging for the country if overseas, or for the services if in the United States.

God bless all the Tom Allmon’s and Benjamin Sisko’s who deal with complex situations often in obscurity who through their patience, diplomacy and people skills care for their people, accomplish the mission and balance all within the confines of dealing with local communities and political nuances that most people cannot fathom.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, philosophy, Religion, star trek