Battle of Britain

What follows below is the version of the page as it existed on January 6, 2003.  I have created these back-ups for the sake of historical accuracy, since my site and its pages will continue to evolve long after StarDestroyer.Net's attempted "attack on [my] credibility" is forgotten.


Star Trek: Nemesis

Comments on the new Star Trek film, with spoilers (be warned!)


General Overview

This is a wonderfully enjoyable Star Trek film, reminiscent of Wrath of Khan with several shades of The Undiscovered Country.   It is tightly written, fast-paced, visually excellent, and generally overcomes the "fear of commitment" to the story that has caused a few of the Trek films to fall flat.   The film was heavily, heavily chopped down, though . . . something like 45 minutes ended up on the cutting room floor.  Even the castrated version, though, isn't bad at all.

 Overall, an A-minus.

The Tech

Wow . . . they handled things well this time out . . . no technobabble or particle deus-ex-machinas suddenly saving the day.   Basically, there was just enough technobabble to allow for a doomsday weapon, and that was it.  Well done.

In no particular order:

1.   Thaleron is a biogenic weapon, somehow transitioning living material into a stone-like material of roughly similar density.  Dr. Crusher says:  "It has the ability to consume organic material at the subatomic level.  I can't overestimate the danger of thaleron radiation, Jean-Luc.  A microscopic amount could kill every living thing on this ship in a matter of seconds."   

Unfortunately, that sounds rather silly as stated (think "a microscopic amount of heat" or "light"), but in the case of thaleron radiation it could simply mean that a very few thaleron particles could do the deed.  One wonders whether the complete transition to stone would occur with just a few particles striking the body or whether it would simply affect part of a person, but this is not clear.  In any case, it takes very little to do a lot of bad things.)

Shinzon and company had constructed at least two devices which used thaleron radiation.  The first that was observed was a small hand-sized unit which slaughtered the entire Romulan Senate, and demonstrated that the effect was quite controllable.  Only the Senate chamber was affected . . . conspirators who had just departed the room were still alive later.  Throughout the rest of the film, they never really narrow down whether it's the particles that are the bad things, or some energy which comes from the particles, perhaps during a decay process.  But, the Senate scene's "green snow" suggests that it is probably the particles.  Also note that Geordi was able to get an electromagnetic scan of the Scimitar as she decloaked which suggested that they had thaleron particles aboard.   Logically, this could not have been the deadly thaleron radiation itself, or else one would expect the crew of the Scimitar to be dead.

The second example of the technology was aboard the Reman Warbird Scimitar and never used. 

As Geordi reports:  "It's called a 'Cascading Biogenic Pulse'.  The unique properties of thaleron radiation allow the energy beam to expand almost without limit.  Depending on its radiant intensity, it could encompass a ship, or a planet."    

Evidently, it could be fired from behind the cloaking device of the Scimitar, unless we are to assume that the ship would be a sitting duck for seven minutes while the thaleron particles were generated and the targeting arms deployed.  However, that assumption is not supported by the film . . . the idea is that Earth would be killed, nothing could stop it, and Starfleet would never be able to see the Scimitar. 

"Scimitar, it's weapon unfurled!"

It is not known for certain whether the shipboard weapon could affect a shielded target, though the inference is supported in the film by the phrasings used to describe the danger of the device.   On the other hand, some sort of shielding or something must be available to stop the thaleron radiation, or else merely generating thalerons would be suicide.   However, the nature of the thaleron containment system is unknown.  Based on what we see in the film, the process of generating thalerons may involve some sort of self-containment, with that double-helix thingy.

Whatever it is, it is rather unstable, since it can be very catastrophically destabilized by a hand phaser.  This apparently destroys the thalerons as well.

2.  The Scimitar is a massive vessel, easily dwarfing the Enterprise-E.  Backstage comparison drawings suggest a 685.8 meter long, 243 meter wide Enterprise-E . . . compare to the 890 meter long, 1,356 meter wide Scimitar.  (This puts the Scimitar up into standard D'Deridex Class Warbird territory, as seen here . . . note also that an Imperial Star Destroyer is about 1,600 meters long.)   The backstage info seems at least roughly accurate, if my memory of the relevant scenes is correct.

The ship is described by Picard as a predator . . . which is an understatement.   The ship sports 52 disruptor banks, 27 photon torpedo launchers, and both primary and secondary shielding systems.  All this is in addition to the Scimitar's main weapon, the thaleron-based "Cascading Biogenic Pulse" that can destroy all life on a planet.  Further, the ship's warp drive system seems to allow it to match the maximum warp speed of the Enterprise-E, given that the ship was trailing the Enterprise-E as they approached the Rift at maximum warp.   The vessel is an impressive achievement for the Empire, especially considering that it was built at a secret base (presumably with the support of the Romulan Imperial Fleet, or at least Shinzon's collaborators therein).  The only drawback of the vessel seems to be a hull which is not as strong as that of a Sovereign Class starship, in "nose-to-nose" comparison.

2a.  The Scimitar is highly maneuverable, as seen in its high-speed (~ 1 km/s, based on eyeball estimation and memory from the theatre) starboard turn that occurred in a radius of ~5-10 kilometers.   The vessel also sports pop-out reverse impulse units, which expel a great deal of hot gas (visible from behind, and showing the same sort of distortion effect one gets from a road surface on a hot day).

Scimitar cloaking

2b.  The Scimitar sports a cloaking device of a type never before seen.   The ship becomes invisible through a strange embossing effect, and Geordi describes the cloak as perfect, without any tachyon emissions or residual antiproton traces.  The cloaking technology allows the vessel to cloak parts of itself (as seen when a portion of the ship was decloaked as a ruse), and fire its many weapons through that cloaking field.   Further, the vessel appeared to be shielded even through the cloak.

2c.  The Scimitar also carries a large number of Scorpion Class attack flyers, presumably (at least by the name "flyer") intended for surface attack operations, though the only weapon seen on the vessels is on the dorsal surface.  These vessels are very small (perhaps up to 6 meters long and 3m wide), carry two persons, are highly maneuverable (judging by the hallway flight), and pretty quick in open space.  One known launching bay is in the forward end of the main hull, given that the Enterprise saucer personally smacks several of the fighters.  The Enterprise-E transporters are shown beaming a Scorpion aboard, and Picard is seen to fly it into the wall on more than one occasion creating showers of sparks.   Since no shield is observed in those impacts and cannot be inferred from the beaming incident, it is quite possible that the Scorpions have no shields.

3.  A new "midsize" Romulan ship is observed.   Whether it existed previously is not known with certainty, but it appears to be a new design, finally filling in the gulf between small Romulan scout ships and the huge D'Deridex Class Warbird.   The vessels are quite maneuverable and well-armed, but were no match for the Scimitar and did not seem to fare as well under fire as the Enterprise.

4.  Starfleet has upgraded the Enterprise-E with additional torpedo and phaser armaments.   A dual launcher unit (rear-firing) is installed atop one of the saucer's dorsal terraces, approximately on the third deck.   This is in addition to the quantum torpedo launcher on the ventral saucer, and the quad torpedo launcher (two forward, two aft) on the ventral surface of the engineering hull.  (Production drawings show yet another torpedo launcher just above the main shuttlebay at the rear of the engineering hull, but I don't remember seeing this one fire.)  Further, phaser emitters now exist on the nacelle pylons.  

(They also seem to have squeezed 3-5 new decks onto the ship, depending on who you listened to in First Contact.   See, Picard in ST:FC said there were 24 decks, but someone else in the film said there were 26.  Now in ST:N, the ship has 29, and this is referenced several times.  There may even be a classic "bottomless pit" below deck 29, though this is uncertain (and undesireable).)

4a.  In addition, the shuttlecraft Argo seems to have been recently included in the shuttlecraft line-up.  This shuttle's primary role seems to be the transport of a Starfleet dune buggy.  Presumably, this shuttle and vehicle are intended for use in environments which do not allow transporter function, and which may involve other interference effects (as judged by the Argo shuttle's kicking up of dust upon lowering to ten meters above the surface, suggesting the use of thrusters instead of antigrav units).  When in flight, the Argo puts out a significant amount of heat (possibly part of the thrust of the vessel in atmosphere), as judged by the atmospheric distortions observed in the scene of the vehicle below and the shuttle flying above.

The shuttlecraft may be piloted by remote, as Data demonstrated using a small hand-held device obtained from the dash of the dune buggy.  

The dune buggy itself is a peculiar design, lacking the usual design aesthetic of a Starfleet vehicle.   It's an open-cockpit vehicle which demonstrated speeds on the order of 100 km/h (60mph).   A deployable phaser pulse cannon is available in the rear of the vehicle, though the firepower of this weapon is not known at present.   It was making some nice big blasts, though, and one of these seemed to cause a rollover of one of the Kolaran vehicles.  I'd guesstimate perhaps .5 - 10 megajoules per shot, give or take. The open cockpit does have the advantage of allowing an uninterrupted field of fire by those onboard, as Data took advantage of.   However, it would also imply an uninterrupted hit ability for those not onboard.

4b.  I liked the forcefield around the warp core, even if it didn't last long enough to matter.  Also note that there was never any concern about the warp core's stability expressed in the film, despite the pounding the ship received (and gave), and the fact that the core was evidently damaged early on.

4c.  The Enterprise-E exhausted her entire photon torpedo complement against the Scimitar, and Romulan ships had fired upon it as well.   In spite of that, the Scimitar still had 70% shields.  I counted no less than 22 photon torpedoes fired (I think I missed some, too), and no less than 9 quantum torpedoes fired (though I can't recall if all quantums were reported expended as well) . . . this would not count any which were fired off-screen.

5.  Starfleet handheld equipment has also undergone changes.   Type-II phasers are smaller, more metallic, and more streamlined now, with a grip that has even more curvature than in previous models.  More on the new phasers available on this page of Phasers.net.  A new tricorder unit has also appeared and is used alongside the older flip-case versions (which are still seen in use by Geordi on the disassembled B-4 in the lab).    The new unit bears striking resemblance to a Starfleet padd or a modern-day PDA.  

One interesting bit of tricorder behavior occurred during the crew's first meeting with Shinzon.   Data's tricorder beeped audibly, apparently alerting him to the Reman in the nearby shadows.  

Starfleet holster technology seems to be less impressive than our own.  Even today, holsters exist that are capable of securely holding a particular gun, and the gun cannot be removed without a specific, precisely-ordered movement.  Although we see the phaser holsters holding the new weapons securely during running movements (in spite of the phaser being sideways and perpendicular to the ground), Picard still managed to lose his phaser from the holster during a fight.

Picard with phaser rifle and Type II in holster

6.  Starfleet seems to have stuck with the round-nosed phaser rifles instead of the square-nosed versions first seen in First Contact, including an interesting alteration to the light/targeting unit involving a red glowy thing.  Unfortunately, this only slightly offsets the aesthetic funk of the round-nosed device.  

A closer look at the rifle

Beyond the aesthetic goofiness of the decision to stick with the round-nose, it would seem that they picked the suckier of the two.   In First Contact, we saw phaser rifles being used to physically beat down Borg, and Worf used his rifle as a bat against Son'a drones in Insurrection.  The older TNG Type III phaser rifles have been used in DS9 to stop or deflect blows, swords, et cetera.  And yet, when Picard uses his rifle to club a Reman upside-the-head in Nemesis, the sorry thing's casing cracks wide open, exposing the innards.  Even if Remans are quite hard-headed, this seems rather ridiculous, and suggests a generally light construction for the new phaser rifles.  (This may be another reason for the continuing popularity of the TNG Type III rifle during the Dominion War, which also saw some models upgraded to include the First Contact rifle's light/targeting unit.)   The weapons fired small, quick pulses, and these seemed to have limited pyrotechnic effects while maintaining the killing blow.

(The cracking wide open, plus the silly moment of the hand phaser slipping out of the holster, were poorly-written ways to make Picard gun-less at a critical moment.)  

7. We finally get a good view of an ion storm . . .  a luminous, visually interesting cloud of white, gaseous material.  There was no concern expressed about the storm damaging the ship, though there was concern that it would strand the away team by making transporting unsafe.  Perhaps they learned their lesson from that whole "Mirror, Mirror" thing.

8.  The dilithium mines of Reman included open, vertical tubes with slender cylindrical structures inside of them.  Eyeballing it, I guesstimated the structure height to be no less than 200 meters.   The mines themselves could've run deeper, but this is not seen.

9.  The area around the Romulan Senate is quite beautiful, and had a number of flying vehicles (no less than three) passing nearby in the opening scene of the film.  These did not appear in later scenes, as I recall, which may suggest that the coup involved a military lock-down, at least in that area. 

10.  Reman hand weapons technology seems a bit less advanced than the Federation's, given the design and observed effects.   The rifles were seen to be readily switchable from bolts to beam (as seen when Picard sealed the door), but the Reman soldiers didn't seem to figure out this capability, firing bolt after bolt at the door instead of pulling a Picard and getting their melt on.   

11.  The Ramming

With no other options, and the realization that Shinzon would not expect such a move out of him, Picard decided to ram the Enterprise-E into the Scimitar.  Text-messaging Deanna (who had taken the helm), Picard ordered her to engage full impulse along a certain course when he gave the signal.

The impulse engines were brought back online (as per some off-camera voice), and Picard gave the order.   The presumably-damaged (or at least freshly re-enabled) engines accelerated the ship to a speed of between one-third and one-half her own length per second over the course of two or three seconds.   That works out to a speed of between 230 and 350 m/s, for an acceleration of between ~78 and 175 m/s2.  The vessel seemed to stop accelerating rather quickly, afterwards moving at a constant speed of roughly 700 m/s toward the Scimitar.  

When the ships collided, the Enterprise's bow section did take severe damage, but appeared to remain intact quite well in comparison to the Scimitar's bow.   This may suggest that the Scimitar had less-substantial armor compared to other starships, in favor of her dual shielding systems.   

The nature of the shielding systems is curious . . . the Enterprise seemed to plow right through them without impediment.  Some have claimed this as proof that shields don't stop physical impacts, or that the shield energy of the Scimitar could not have exceeded the KE of the Enterprise, but these are preposterous claims.   We saw the Enterprise-E shields deflecting large pieces of a Romulan cruiser earlier in the battle, knocking the debris away from the saucer and then the port nacelle.   In the case of the Scimitar, we either have a secondary shield system that cannot block physical impact (which would assume that the primaries could, and that they had failed at this point), or that technobabble was employed off-camera while we watched proceedings from Shinzon's point-of-view, or that his new cloaking system required oddly-configured shields.  In any case, I have no intention of throwing away the rest of the evidence for physical impact protection (including some from this very film) in favor of the claim that starships don't have KE shields.

Some have chided the filmmakers for showing Shinzon ordering a full reverse to separate the ships after impact, on the grounds that the Enterprise would've been pulled along (they're in space, there was nothing to hold the ship in place).   But, these critics bely their own stupidity by failing to note that an accelerating Scimitar would only accelerate the Enterprise so much before, logically, the wrecks would separate . . . and the Scimitar would continue to accelerate.  An observer who maintained position relative to the two ships would only observe the Scimitar pulling away, but not the forces and velocities involved.

Bigtime suck factor to the non-functional self-destruct system.   What's the good of a self-destruct system if you can't self-destruct?   And there's got to be a manual method (not that we wanted to see that, of course, but still) that can be accomplished in seven minutes.  You can't tell me there's no way to scuttle a ship in a very rude fashion that would've taken the Scimitar along for the ride that can't be done in seven minutes.

12.  Interesting warp effect in this one, when we were coming up on the huge area known as the Rift.  We could see the glow of the area even while at warp, which is (to my knowledge) the first time we've plainly seen any realspace object while at warp before.

13.  The time from the Scimitar's shooting out of the bridge hull until the forcefield activated was, assuming it occurred in realtime (I don't remember offhand, but seem to recall some slow-mo in there), 10 seconds.   Note that all the air should've been evacuated almost immediately, instead of the constant blow we saw.   This either suggests that the turbolift doors aren't airtight but held, or that the bridge atmosphere systems work hella-fast (which, actually, has been seen in other episodes, such as the 1 second smoke removal effect from TNG).

Other Notes:

1.  Picard has led 27 first contacts with alien races, which is probably a fair number compared to anyone but Janeway.  Off the top of my head, I can guess that among that list should be the Borg, of course.   As for others, it might depend on how you count it (formally or informally) . . . for instance, Picard was the first to talk to the Malcorians openly (in the episode "First Contact"[TNG]), but Riker and others had already been on the planet. (And besides, Riker definitely made "first contact" in another sense.) The same thing occurring with the Malcorians is true for the Mintakans, where Picard was the first person to actually have a conversation with one in an official capacity.  The xenophobic Paxans from "Clues"[TNG] would not be on the list . . . but, somewhat oddly, it's likely that the Ferengi are on that list.   Other possible or certain candidates would include the race of beings of which Gomtuu was the last, the contact (talking-wise) with the Crystalline Entity, contact (and destruction of) Armus, Nagilum, the Nanite civilization, the Aldeans, the Zalkonians, and the Q.  Not counting the Paxans but counting all possible others I can think of, I count 11, suggesting up to 16 first contacts either aboard the Stargazer or aboard the Stargazer and unseen contacts of the Enterprise-D and E.

2.  The Scimitar launch bay was 94 meters from a certain location aboard the ship.

3.  Few have noticed the overdub of Crusher as she explains Shinzon's life cycle.  When she mentions Shinzon's need of compatible DNA, you can see her lips say "RNA".

4.  Section 12, Paragraph 4 of some Starfleet code or regulation does not allow a captain to beam down.   This is a different system than used in Wrath of Khan, when General Order 15 was quoted as saying that "no flag officer shall beam into a hazardous area without armed escort."

5.  The belief that "all men . . . all races . . . can be united", while the Captain of the Federation starship Enterprise stands on the floor of the Romulan Senate.   Good stuff, Logan.

6.  Data declares that B-4 should be allowed self-determination, and the opportunity to explore his own potential.  Compare this to Imperial ethics regarding droids.

Gripes:

I do have two or three mostly-minor gripes with the film, though, and I get the feeling that these help account for some of the negative reviews that several reviewers have heaped upon it.   First, though some consider the Goldsmith touch to be as much an old familiar character as Picard, the music is actually more powerful a character because it is not seen, and oftentimes not even paid attention to when heard . . . the entire feel of the movie is intimately connected with the music.  The terribly silly music of The Voyage Home plays up the silliness of the movie just as it should . . . the sometimes-ominous, always-intriguing music of The Undiscovered Country sets that film apart from the rest and colors the movie in just the right way, in a manner similar to the other Meyer film's heroic James Horner score, in Wrath of Khan.  Even Generations enjoyed music which, if occasionally sounding a little TV-ish, oftentimes made up for it with exquisitely-achieved moods and a fantastic sense of wonder at just the right moments.

In the case of Nemesis, the opportunity existed at one point to get the composer from Gladiator, if I recall my rumors correctly.  The entire feel of the film could've been rendered far differently (and I must say, even if we just assume that the Gladiator guy had done a cut-and-paste of music from that film for Nemesis, it still would've been better).   But, with Goldsmith's unimaginative score, we get the feeling that we've been here before . . . which is precisely what some reviewers have complained about, even though the story of Nemesis is one of the grandest to come along in awhile.

The second major gripe I had with the film would be in regards to editing, and the effort to have the movie zip along.  First Contact seemed to start a trend about that . . . there could be no camera shot longer than about .037 seconds, before the scene absolutely had to change.   For that film, it worked out alright . . . the film was action from the get-go.  Unfortunately, they did the same basic thing in Insurrection, so that moments which ought to have been lovingly allowed to linger (such as Geordi's first view of a sunset with real eyes) were instead cut down to near-subliminal levels.

For Nemesis, one gets the feeling that the film is a bit rushed.  "Okay, guys, talk quickly, because this scene can only last 4.2 seconds total before we have to start blowing shit up again."    For instance, take the scene of Picard "waiting for the dawn" . . . the scene lasted on the order of ten seconds.   That hardly served to build anticipation.   And, in several other scenes where the deeper threads of the film (individuality, identity, and so on) could've been well-woven, we end up being a bit rushed.    Though, to be fair, we did have a luxurious moment seeing Picard standing on the floor of the Romulan Senate, so all was not lost.

Naturally, a bit of speed was required for Nemesis to move along.  Some have compared it to First Contact or Wrath of Khan and found it ranking, but lacking.   One of the major reasons is that those two films both had a pre-existing back-story.   For the purpose of getting on to the good stuff, this works out perfectly . . . just a few lines of exposition here and there, and you've got all the time you need to set up and resolve your own movie plot.   In the case of Nemesis, though, we had to explain Shinzon, reflect on his history, and introduce him to Picard . . . and it was only when all these were completed that the real action could begin.

Next, I can't stand the work of John Eaves, designer of all the various ships we see in the film.   What's with this guy?   Besides the fact that his Scimitar is a virtual copy of Dominion starship designs from DS9, one must consider the fact that almost all of his alien ship designs are ridiculously silly.   Take, for instance, the Son'a battlecruiser (or its backwards version, the Romulan Valdore) . . . big flat winged things with zillions of greeblies and ridges all over.    It's bad enough to design a ship that looks so spindly, and simultaneously give it such a ridiculous amount of surface area for the volume . . . but then, to add so many ridges, mesas, random platforms, and so on, so that the surface area problem is only increased!    And why the big stupid Valdore-type Romulan ships?   Probert's original TNG Warbird was a wonderful, terrifying sight . . . graceful in curve, predatory in appearance.   The ship class and its appearance could've been updated and made to appear larger with the appearance of more differences in the reflectivity of the hull plating (a la the new Enterprise model), more details, et cetera, and showing that big bohemoth dwarfed by the "Warbat" Scimitar would've been far more resonating than showing the Valdores trying to tag it.   Also, what's this deal with torpedo launchers?   Jaeger designed the Akira Class seen in First Contact with 15 photon torpedo launchers in mind, and now Eaves has added three additional launchers onto the Enterprise-E for Nemesis . . . this coming after additions were made for Insurrection!   There are now eight photon torpedo launchers aboard the Enterprise . . . and, in the silliest move, none of these new launchers seem to require more than a torpedo's-breadth of space (as made apparent with the main torpedo launcher, where the torpedoes must have to scrape the windshield of the captain's yacht just to slide out of the tube).   I want the old days of logical Probert and Sternbach designs . . . these overly pretentious fanboy designs annoy me.

And, actually, there's a bit of a fourth gripe . . . or a fourth and fifth depending on how you wish to view it, but I'm lumping all of these together under the "ultra-fanboyish" category.   Next . . . where the hell was Spock during all this, or Sela for that matter?   Not seeing him in the film I understand, but not even the slightest throwaway line by Janeway?  Come on.   I mean, for crying out loud, they put Janeway in there . . . a mere mention of Spock's reunification efforts would've been wise here.    As for Sela, it's not that I'm complaining about Dina Meyer (playing Donatra), who was very delicious even under all that make-up.  It just would've been a nice show of continuity.   Finally, there's the matter of the Romulans themselves . . . D.C. Fontana always felt that the Romulans were more interesting adversaries than the Klingons, and she was right.   And yet, here we are with the big Romulan movie, and it hardly has anything to do with the Romulans.  

And last, but not least . . . where was the order?    "What order?", you say.     THE order.   The order that would have cinched the scene and made the fanboys weep . . . where in the world is Picard saying, with a wry grin, "Ramming Speed!"?

Enjoyable Tidbits

1.  Deanna crashed the ship, again!

2.  Shinzon may be a clone of Picard, but Picard kept the huge sack all to himself.

2a.  The ramming scene in Nemesis is similar to a scene in one of the few Trek novels I've read.  The Enterprise-D is hidden within the cloak of a Romulan Warbird, and exits the cloaking field (staying quasi-cloaked for a few seconds) on course to ram another Warbird, neatly cutting it at the neck.  Interestingly, I think the scene was played a bit better in the book . . . it was certainly more entertaining.   Not only did Picard actually order "ramming speed!", but Worf's reaction was one of reverent worship.

  


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