“STAR TREK VOYAGER: ‘The Art of Adaptability’”

“STAR TREK VOYAGER: ‘THE ART OF ADAPTABILITY'”

Over two years ago, I had posted an article called “STAR TREK VOYAGER – ‘Unfit For Command?'” on this blog. I n it, I had expressed my displeasure over the portrayal of Security/Tactical Officer Tuvok in the “STAR TREK VOYAGER” Season Two episode, (2.25) “Resolutions”. After viewing the episode for the umpteenth time, yesterday, I decided to focus upon another member of the Voyager crew, Ensign Harry Kim.

In the article about Tuvok, I had pointed out that screenwriter Lisa Klink managed to regress and completely misinterpret the Vulcan’s character in order to have him clash with the crew over contacting the murderous Vidiians in order to find a cure for Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay. The latter had been left behind on a planet, infected with a contagious disease that could only be rendered harmless on said planet. Klink had portrayed Tuvok as a cold individual lacking in compassion and incapable of understanding the crew’s feelings over the missing Janeway and Chakotay. I had argued that this went against earlier portrayals of Tuvok, who had shown a capacity for compassion, instinct and open-mindedness in earlier episodes. Worse, Klink’s screenplay ended up endorsing Harry Kim’s behavior in this episode.

What was wrong about Kim’s behavior in “Resolutions”? For me, it was one of the most blatant displays of immaturity, temper and insubordination I have ever seen in a fictional character that happened to be a military officer. In fact, watching Kim’s attempt to coerce Tuvok into contact the Vidiians or start a mutiny against the Vulcan disgusted me, along with Klink’s willingness to endorse such a behavior. More importantly, it made me understand why Captain Janeway never promoted Harry Kim, during the U.S.S. Voyager’s journey throughout the Delta Quadrant. I could be making a mountain out of a molehill. After all, only two members of the crew had ever received a promotion – Tuvok in (4.05) “Revulsion” and Tom Paris in (6.26) “Unimatrix Zero, Part I”. In Paris’ case, he had merely regained his old rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade, after being demoted back in Season Five. Ironically, when Paris had received his old rank, Kim tried to convey a hint to Janeway that he would also like a promotion. The good captain wisely ignored him . . . as she should.

If I must be honest, I never got the impression that Harry Kim was very good at adapting to unusual situations – unless his life or the lives of others he cared about were on the line. His plotting against the Hirogen in (4.19) “The Killing Game, Part II” is an example of his potential for adaptation. But I never felt that he had truly learned to adapt to Voyager’s unusual situation in the Delta Quadrant. I believe that Harry was the type of person who was very comfortable with the status quo. With him stuck aboard Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, Janeway began to represent the status quo for him. If he had been serving aboard a Starfleet vessel in the Alpha Quadrant, I could see him rapidly climbing the command ladder. The Alpha Quadrant was familiar ground where he and his fellow officers could depend upon support from another star ship and where he could visit his family as often as possible. Being stuck in the Delta Quadrant aboard the only Starfleet vessel around was another matter for Kim. There was no way for him to communicate with his family, until the development of the Pathfinder project in Seasons Six and Seven. More importantly, Kim never really learned to adjust being so far from home. He was not the only crew member who had missed being away from family and friends for so many years. But he was the only crew member who constantly expressed a desire to be home or reacted in an excited or reckless manner when the opportunity to return home appeared.

One of the many constants about Harry Kim’s personality was that he had an extreme tendency to adhere to Starfleet policies or behavior aboard ship. Frankly, he possessed a conservative personality. He have never rocked the boat, unless his emotions drove him to that point. And in the case of his interactions with Tuvok in “Resolutions”, his inability to leave Janeway behind and adapt to a new ship’s commander eventually drove him to the point of insurrection. Quite simply, he missed the Captain and wanted his pseudo mommy back. And instead of giving Tuvok a chance to grow into command as the new captain, he wanted to risk allowing the Vidiians to board Voyager and harvest the crew’s organs Vidiians by contacting the latter. Mind you, the other members of the crew were just as guilty. But they seemed unwilling to do or say anything, until Kim openly confronted Tuvok about contacting the Vidiians and later, plotted behind his back. Frankly, it was sickening to watch his behavior unfold. What I found even more sickening was Klink’s decision to endorse Kim’s viewpoint when she had allowed Kes to convince Tuvok to contact the Vidiians.

In “Resolutions”, Tuvok had made it clear that he would remain silent about Kim’s insubordination. In other words, Kim got away with his immature bullshit, because the episode’s screenwriter wanted to portray the Vulcan in a slightly villainous light. But a part of me would like to think that either Janeway, Chakotay or both found out about Kim’s insubordination. That would easily explain why Janeway had ignored the young ensign’s hint about a promotion in “Unimatrix Zero” . . . or why he had never received a promotion during Voyager’s seven year journey through the Delta Quadrant. I could dream . . . right?

“ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE” (2007) Review

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“ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE” (2007) Review

Many people would be surprised to learn that not many of Agatha Christie’s novels featured another one of her famous literary sleuths, Miss Jane Marple. The latter served as the lead in at least twelve novels, in compare to the thirty-three novels that starred her other famous sleuth, Hercule Poirot. It is because of this limited number of novels that the producers of “AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MARPLE” featured adaptations of Christie novels in which she appeared in the television films, but not in the novels. One of them is “ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE”.

Based upon Christie’s 1958 novel, “ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE” opened with the murder of the Argyle family’s controlling matriarch, Rachel Argyle. Mrs. Argyle was a wealthy heiress who had adapted several children, due to her inability to have her own. She also proved to be a controlling – almost tyrannical – mother who managed to alienate her adoptive children and husband. It did not take the police very long to focus upon one suspect – the family’s black sheep, Jack “Jacko” Argyle. Apparently, the latter quarreled with the victim over money. Jacko claimed that he had been given a lift by a stranger, when Rachel was murdered. But said stranger never stepped up to give him an alibi and Jacko was hanged for the crime. Two years later found the Argyle family celebrating the family’s patriarch Leo Argyle to his secretary, Gwenda Vaughn. The latter had invited her former employer, Jane Marple, to attend the wedding. A day or two before wedding, a stranger named Dr. Arthur Calgary appeared at the family estate, claiming to be the stranger who had given Jacko a lift on the night of Rachel’s murder. Due to Dr. Calgary’s confession, the Argyle family and Gwenda found themselves under suspicion for murder.

As I have stated in other movie reviews, I never had a problem with changes in adaptations of novels and/or plays, as long as these changes worked. “ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE” featured a few changes. The biggest change featured in the inclusion of Jane Marple as the mystery’s main investigator. Arthur Calgary served in that role in the novel. The television film also featured the addition of a character that was not in the novel – Jacko’s fraternal twin Bobby Argyle. Another major change featured the film’s second murder victim. Screenwriter Stewart Harcourt switched the identity of the story’s second victim. And how did these changes work?

I have to be frank. The addition of Bobby Argyle to the story did not seemed to have much of an impact upon me. The character became the executor of his adopted mother’s will, which placed him in charge of her money and his siblings’ trust funds. The problem I had with his story arc is that audiences were left in the dark on whether he had lost their money when he committed fraud . . . or he simply lost his own money. As I had previously stated, Harcourt and director Moira Armstrong had switched the identity of the story’s second victim. I will not reveal the identities of both the old and new identities. But I must admit that the second victim’s death – at least in this television movie – added a rather sad and poignant touch to this adaptation. The last major change featured Jane Marple as the story’s major investigator. Arthur Calgary, the man who could have provided Jacko Argyle an alibi, was the main investigator in Christie’s novel. In this film, he was more or less regulated to the role of a secondary character. Ironically, this change did not diminish his role, for Calgary more or less served as Miss Marple’s eyes, ears and feet; while remained at the Argyle estate. And this meant several scenes that featured Calgary engaging in a good deal of investigations on Miss Marple’s behalf.

Despite these changes, “ORDEAL OF INNOCENCE” more or less retained the main narrative Christie’s story. More importantly, I thought both Harcourt’s screenplay and Armstrong’s direction did an excellent job in maintaining the story’s angst, poignancy and more importantly, irony. Thanks to the director and screenwriter, “ORDEAL BY INNOCENCE” conveyed how Rachel Argyle’s presence managed to cast a shadow upon her family. And how her absence lifted that shadow, until Dr. Calgary’s revelation about Jacko’s innocence. I was also impressed at how the television movie did an effective, yet subtle job in conveying the bigotry faced by the family’s only person of color – Christina “Tina” Argyle.

While watching “ORDEAL OF INNOCENCE”, it occurred to me that Christie’s tale would not have worked if it had not been for the cast’s exceptional performances. All of them, I believe, really knocked it out of the ballpark. Mind you, there were solid performances from supporting cast members like Reece Shearsmith, Andrea Lowe, Camille Coduri, Pippa Haywood, and James Hurran. But I must confess that I was really impressed by those who portrayed members of the Argyle household. Burn Gorman radiated a mixture of charm and slime as the doomed Jacko Argyle. Richard Armitage was equally memorable as the avaricious and bitter ex-R.A.F. pilot who had married into the Argyle family, Philip Durrant. Singer Lisa Stansfield gave a subtle performance as Philip’s emotional, yet reserved wife Mary Argyle Durant, blinded by intense love for her husband. I enjoyed Bryan Dick’s portrayal of the volatile Micky Argyle, but there were moments when he threatened to be over-the-top. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, on the other hand, gave a performance that matched Stansfield’s subtlety as the blunt Tina Argyle, who hid her resentment of the racism she faced behind a sardonic mask. Stephanie Leonidas gave an effectively tense performance as the family’s youngest member, Hester Argyle, struggling to face her past involvement with brother-in-law Philip. And the always reliable Tom Riley did an excellent job with his portrayal of morally questionable Bobby Argyle.

But the performances that really impressed me came from the cast’s more veteran performers. Geraldine McEwan was marvelous as always in conveying the quiet intelligence of Miss Jane Marple. Despite being on the screen for only a few minutes, Jane Seymour really knocked it out of the park and domineering and sharp-tongued Rachel Argyle. She made it easy to see how the character managed to cast a shadow over the Argyle family. Julian Rhind-Tutt struck me as both entertaining and effective as the scholarly Dr. Arthur Calgary, who gave Jacko Argyle his alibi two years too late. What I found impressive about Rhind-Tutt’s performance is that he managed to convey his character’s intelligence and strength behind the nebbish personality. Alison Steadman’s portrayal of the Argyle’s judgmental housekeeper struck me as both subtle and frightening – especially in her stubborn belief that Gwenda Vaughn was Rachel’s killer. Denis Lawson has my vote for the best performance in “ORDEAL OF INNOCENCE”. There . . . I said it. And I stand by this. Lawson did a brilliant job in conveying the weak and suggestible personality of Leo Argyle. There were moments when I could not decide whether I liked him or despised him. It is not every day one comes across a fictional character brimming with quiet charm and unreliability.

It has been years since I saw the 1984 television adaptation of Christie’s 1958 novel. So, I have no memories of it. And I have seen the recent 2018 television adaptation. But I must be honest. I really enjoyed this 2007 adaptation. Yes, it has a few flaws. But I really believe that it did a superb job in conveying the poignant and ironic aspects of the novel. And I have director Moira Armstrong, screenwriter Stewart Harcourt and a superb cast led by Geraldine McEwan to thank.

Five Favorite Episodes of “STAR TREK: DISCOVERY” Season Two (2019)

Below is a list of my favorite episodes from Season Two of the All Access CBS series, “STAR TREK: DISCOVERY”. Created by Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, the series stars Sonequa Martin-Green as Commander Michael Burnham:

FIVE FAVORITE EPISODES OF “STAR TREK DISCOVERY” SEASON TWO (2019)

1. (2.11) “Perpetual Infinity” – Commander Michael Burnham of the U.S.S. Discovery has a surprising reunion with someone she had believed to be long dead, during the crew’s investigation of the phenomenon, Red Angel. Section 31 operatives Philippa Georgiou and former Starfleet officer/Klingon warrior Ash Tyler aka Voq sense a disturbing change in their commander, Captain Leland.

2. (2.09) “Project Daedalus” – The Discovery crew infiltrates Section 31’s headquarters and realizes that the artificial intelligence entity known as “Control” has destroyed it and may have possibly infiltrated the ship as well.

3. (2.05) “Saints of Imperfection” – In a race to save Ensign Sylvia Tilly’s life; Burnham, Astromycologist Lieutenant-Commander Paul Stamets, and the crew investigate the mycelial network, an alien landscape accessed, thanks to the ship’s spore drive. A surprising discovery awaits them and especially Stamets.

4. (2.08) “If Memory Serves” – After saving her adoptive brother, the wanted Lieutenant Spock, from Section 31; Burnham escorts him to the banned homeworld of Talos IV in order to discover his connection to the Red Angel. Stamets attempts to reconnect with his previously dead partner, Dr. Hugh Culber, after the latter’s rescue from the mycelial network. And Tyler struggles to shed the suspicions of Discovery’s crew, due to his past as Voq and his earlier decision to stay on the Klingon homeworld.

5. (2.03) “Point of Light” – The lives of Tyler and Klingon leader L’Rell are threatened by a Klingon house leader named Kol-Sha on Qo’noS, when Georgiou appears with a plan to save their lives. Amanda Grayson arrives aboard the Discovery with news for Burnham that Spock is wanted by Section 31 for the murder of three psychiatrists.

“This Is a Mistake”

“THIS IS A MISTAKE”

I have heard that in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent protests against police brutality, Disney Parks have decided to change the theme of its Splash Mountain attraction in all of its theme parks. Instead of an attraction based on the 1949 animated film, “SONG OF THE SOUTH” and the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris, Disney Parks has decided to change the attraction’s theme to one based on the 2009 animated film, “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG”. And I believe this is a big mistake.

First of all, why can Disney Parks not consider the idea of maintaining the present theme of Splash Mountain and create a new one based on “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG”? What is the point of erasing the “SONG OF THE SOUTH” theme from its Splash Mountain attraction? “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” theme . . . with a mountain setting? That does not make any sense to me, considering the 2009 movie was set in late 1920s New Orleans and the swamps of Southern Louisiana. “SONG OF THE SOUTH” was set near the region of Stone Mountain, somewhere between Northern and Central Georgia.

If Disney thinks it is being politically correct in the wake of the Black Lives Matters movement, they are mistaken. The Brer Rabbit stories are basically AFRICAN-AMERICAN folklore,which served as a metaphor for the struggles of African-American slaves before and immediately after the Civil War. Three African-Americans on a Georgia plantation had told these stories to Joel Chandler Harris, a white teenager they had befriended during and after the Civil War. Harris had worked for their owner and later, employer. When he later became a journalist and a writer, Harris took those stories and had them published under the “Uncle Remus Tales” title between 1880 and 1907. The character of Uncle Remus served as a metaphor for those three slaves-turned-freedmen, whom Harris had befriended. What Disney Parks is doing is misguided lip service to the Black Lives Matter movement. If Disney Parks really want to pay tribute to the movement, it would maintain Splash Mountain’s original theme and create a new attraction based on “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG”.

Now that I think about it, what is really racist about “SONG OF THE SOUTH”? The Uncle Remus character? The fact that he is a former slave? Or that he was friendly with two white kids? Or that he still lived on a plantation after the Civil War? Uncle Remus was based on the three slaves that Joel Harris had befriended on a plantation. How else does anyone thinks Harris had found out about the Brer Rabbit stories? By eavesdropping on the plantation workers? Are people upset that Uncle Remus had served as a narrator, telling these stories to white kids? I also noticed two other aspects of this situation. The 1946 movie was set during the post-Civil War era. One of the film’s main protagonists, a young Georgian white boy named Johnny, who happened to be the son of an Atlanta newspaper journalist in post-Civil War Georgia. Aside from Uncle Remus, Johnny had befriended a poor white girl and the son of a black sharecropper during his family’s visit to his grandmother’s plantation. The movie has nothing to do with reinforcing the so-called “glories” of the pre-Civil War Old South. None of the live-action characters in “SONG OF THE SOUTH” – including Uncle Remus – or the film’s actual plantation setting is featured inside Splash Mountain. So again . . . why does Disney Parks feel it needs to change the attraction’s theme?

The Brer Rabbit stories are metaphors about how generations black Americans had SURVIVED the horrors of American slavery, after they and their ancestors had been dragged to North American and to different parts of the South and forced to work for nothing against their will. Do many people have a problem that comedy was an element in the stories? That is how the original stories were framed. At least “SONG OF THE SOUTH” is actually based on African-American culture or folklore. Despite having an African-American woman as its leading character, “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” is not. It is a movie based on “The Frog Princess”, a 2002 novel written by E.D. Baker, a white American woman. She had based her novel on who based her story on “The Frog Prince”, the 1812 novel written by the Brothers Grimm . . . two white European men.

By replacing the “SONG OF THE SOUTH” theme inside Splash Mountain attraction at the Disney theme parks with one from “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG”, Disney Parks is erasing one theme based on African-American culture and replacing it with one based on European culture. Replacing “THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG” lead character from a white European woman to an African-American woman does not change that fact.