Tag Archives: star trek

"Star Trek: Restoration" Episode 2 — Driving the wedge

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for our second Star Trek session, which I hosted in Waltham, Mass., during Byron V.O.’s visit on Saturday, 28 June 2014:

“Space, the final frontier. Our starship’s mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Almost four decades after the Enterprise-E fought the Borg and Remans [Nemesis], among others, the United Federation of Planets (U.F.P.) and other interstellar states in the Alpha Quadrant are slowly recovering from wars and ecological disasters. A refitted vessel takes a new crew on its first missions of defense, diplomacy, and exploration….

Player Characters for Gene D.’s “Star Trek: Restoration” space opera scenario, using D20 Prime DirectiveFATE 3e Starblazer Adventures, Mindjammer 2e, Bulldogs, and house rules, summer 2014:

  • “Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Kyerak” [Bruce K.]-half-Vulcan with a temper, in the U.S.S. Rotha’s command division
  • “Lt. Orzzek Kalifa” [Byron V.O.]-male Andorian (blue-skinned humanoid with white hair and antennae), assertive science officer
  • “Froot” [Rich C.G.]-male Ferengi (short, large-eared extraterrestrial) merchant and negotiator, DaiMon and owner of the trade vessel Love’s Latinum Lost
  • “Kimbal Tegan” [Beruk A.]-male Trill (long-lived symbiont), operations specialist aboard the Love’s Latinum Lost
  • “Lt. Jarric Jameson” [Dexter V.H./absent]-male genetically modified human colonist (former Maquis) communications and wilderness survival expert aboard the Rotha
  • “Lt. Mari Killu” [Sara F./absent]-female Caitian (felinoid) security/tactical officer
  • “Lt. Boran’ Gorir” [Josh C./absent]-male Jem’Hadar (bio-engineered Dominion soldier), aggressive envoy/engineer

Previously, in “Star Trek: Restoration,” the U.S.S. Rotha was assigned to bring representatives of the Klingon Empire home through the Neutral Zone. However, several crew members were murdered, and junior officers were forced to subdue a Gorn and an Orion. In addition, the junior officers uncovered an Undine disguised with a holo-emitter.

“Stardate 95248.01 (2 April 2418):” Two Valdore -class Romulan warbirds decloak, and Capt. Andelina Nobatu brings the U.S.S.Rotha to yellow alert. Lt. Kyerak and Lt. Orzzek Kalifa race to the bridge. The Vulcan takes the helm from En. Brandon Marks, and the Andorian sits at an auxiliary science station to process scan results for Edosian Lt. K’dex.

The rest of the Rotha ‘s 900 Starfleet personnel ready for battle. Lt. Jarrick Jameson and Lt. Mari Killu prepare to repel potential boarders, and Lt. Boran’ Gorir diverts energy to shields. Tensions are high as Subcommander Vurik of the Varguille demands that Capt. Nobatu hand over the Klingon emissaries, the Orion D’naar and the Gorn “Hands of Giblets.”

The Terran human captain successfully asks for some time and has a quick conference with her bridge crew. Kyerak recommends patience, impressing first officer Cmdr. Nasami Wahid.

Kalifa notes that Romulan cloaking technology has continued to advance in reaction to Federation sensors, but he believes he can compensate when acquiring targets for photon torpedoes.

The meeting is interrupted when another vessel drops out of warp. A small Ferengi trader hails the assembled ships. DaiMon Froot quickly assesses the standoff and offers the Love’s Latinum Lost as a neutral meeting place for negotiations.

Despite the Ferengi’s insulting tone, Capt. Nobatu and Subcommander Vurik agree to send representatives. On the way to a transporter room, Lt. Kyerak stops by the “Starlight Lounge” to pick up some Andorian ale from Bolian bartender Mr. Vallcin. Lt. Kalifa asks holographic chief medical officer “Dr. Jones” for autopsy results on the Undine.

DaiMon Froot offers beetle snuff to Kyerak upon his arrival and introduces his colleague, Kimbal Tegan, a laid-back Trill. Kalifa is skeptical of the newcomers’ claim that they just happened to be passing through the Neutral Zone.

Subcommander Miral Gaius and Lt. Koval Solius beam over from the Romulan warbirds. They claim that the U.F.P. has been working with Klingon spies to further undermine the Rihannsu Empire.

Froot notes that according to the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, “Peace is good for business, but war is even better.” Still, he manages to keep the Starfleet and Romulan delegates from coming to blows.

Mr. Kyerak manages to shrug off Lt. Solius’ insults about his half-Vulcan heritage and explains that the Rotha was indeed bringing passengers to Q’onos, but an incident with a would-be assassin led to the Orion and Gorn being wounded and placed in protective custody.

Subcommander Gaius offers to escort the Federation starship through the Neutral Zone. Confident Lt. Kalifa begins devising a plan to distract and outmaneuver the grim Romulans. Tegan notes that traveling together presents opportunities for all.

Capt. Nobatu and Subcommander Vurik cautiously concur, and the four ships head toward Klingon space. Froot gives Kyerak and Kalifa a Tribble, and Tegan celebrates and irritates by hacking into subspace channels and broadcasting old Earth music.

Back on the Rotha, Lt. Kalifa gives the Tribble to Lt. K’dex to put into stasis. Lt. Kyerak asks Cmdr. Wahid and chief of security Pierre McDonnough for permission to interrogate the prisoners, but they warn him to avoid unnecessary force.

Kyerak brings Lt. Artemis Borellis, a Betazed counselor, to the brig. He and Orzzek question green-skinned D’naar and reptilian Hands of Giblets separately. The Orion pirate claims ignorance and is not intimidated by the Starfleet officers.

The Gorn, however, admits that the Klingons and Romulans have been working together on a stealth weapon, possibly the Undine itself. Lt. Borellis observes that it’s possible the delegation included the Undine as a spy without the full awareness of even the Klingons.

The officers report to the captain, who agrees that driving a wedge between the two Federation foes is better than allowing them to collaborate with the Undine. Lt. Kalifa asks Froot if it would be possible for the Love’s Latinum Lost to broadcast an Undine bio signal to the Klingons and say that the Romulans have somehow lost control of their mission.

There is an awkward moment when Cmdr. Wahid recognizes fellow Trill Tegan from a past life. After some discussion, the Ferengi trader and Starfleet crew devise another plan. As they and the Romulans approach Camp Khitomer, Vor’cha-class battle cruisers decloak.

Capt. Nobatu tells Cmdr. Korral that a routine scan detected the Undine, who was then killed. She tells the Klingon commander that D’naar and Hands of Giblets had sent a message to unknown recipients before they were incarcerated.

DaiMon Froot jumps in to say that the Love’s Latinum Lost intercepted a message between the Romulans and the Cardassian Union. Already incensed over the failure of the diplomatic mission, Korral berates Subcommander Vurik for the perceived betrayal.

The Klingon cruisers begin firing on the Romulan ships, and theRotha takes advantage of the skirmish to make evasive maneuvers and head back toward Federation space. It takes only light damage. Engineer Lt.Cmdr. Akira Gorou extends the refitted Ambassador-class Rotha’s warp bubble and shields to bring theLove’s Latinum Lost along.

At Starbase 24, Capt. Nobatu recommends the Love’s Latinum Lostfor upgrades. Froot thanks the captain, who he says “is not bad for a hooman female.” Kimbal avoids Nasami, and Orzzek makes sure that the Orion and Gorn prisoners are safely transferred.

Cmdr. Wahid meets privately with Lt. Kyerak. She offers him a covert mission to a lost Federation colony. The planet has devolved technologically, and according to the Prime Directive, its inhabitants must be left alone until proper First Contact is made.

However, Nasami says, other interstellar states have no such reluctance about exploiting more primitive worlds. She asks Kyerak to take a small squad undercover to find and “eliminate” any outside interference. The executive officer gives him a day to consider.

In the Rotha’s Starlight Lounge, Kyerak asks Kalifa, Froot, and Kimbal to join him. Kalifa agrees with the necessity of the mission but is uncomfortable with the idea of terminating any opposition and not talking with the captain.

Froot readily agrees to help bring the team to the nonaligned system as an itinerant merchant. Kimbal, who recalls a past life as a Starfleet officer, is surprised at the covert and potentially lethal nature of the mission. He agrees to come along to keep an eye on rogue Federation factions.

Kyerak tells Cmdr. Wahid that he accepts and that he hopes for a promotion. The U.F.P. agents and neutral traders begin preparing aliases and gear….

I hope that those of you who role-played in this scenario enjoyed it as much as I did hosting and running it! Thanks again to all who participated in this and the “Vanished Lands: Vistel’s Expedition” session, as well as dinner at Fiorella’s for Byron’s visit.

This year’s Creation Star Trek convention in Boston was indeed inspirational. I look forward to continuing the voyages of the crew of the U.S.S. Rotha sometime, and live long and prosper….

"Star Trek: Restoration" Episode 1 — Old and new foes

Fellow role-players, here are my notes for our Star Trek telecom scenario of this past weekend:

“Space, the final frontier. Our starship’s mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life forms and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

Almost four decades after the Enterprise-E fought the Borg and Remans [see Nemesis], among others, the United Federation of Planets and other interstellar states in the Alpha Quadrant are slowly recovering from wars and ecological disasters. A refitted vessel takes a new crew on its first missions of defense, diplomacy, and exploration….

Player Characters for Gene D.’s “Star Trek: Restoration” space opera one-shot, using D20/FATE house rules, Friday, 21 March 2014:

  • “Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Kyerak” [Bruce K.]-half-Vulcan with a temper, in the U.S.S. Rotha’s command division
  • “Lt. Jarric Jameson” [Dexter V.H.]-male genetically modified human colonist (former Maquis) communications and wilderness survival expert
  • “Lt. Orzzek Kalifa” [Byron V.O.]-male Andorian (blue-skinned humanoid with white hair and antennae), assertive science officer
  • “Lt. Mari Killu” [Sara F.]-female Caitian (felinoid) security/tactical officer
  • “Lt. Boran’ Gorir” [Josh C.]-male Jem’Hadar (Dominion soldier), aggressive envoy/engineer

“Stardate 95248 (1 April 2418):” The U.S.S. RothaNCC 1993-C, a refitted Ambassador-class ship, picks up three passengers from the U.S.S. Tempest. Capt. Andelina Nobatu is ordered to take them into the Neutral Zone to be relayed to Qo’nos, the Klingon homeworld.

Alternate ambassador

The U.S.S. "Rotha" NCC 1993-C

Capt. Nobatu later convenes a meeting of her command crew, as well as supporting junior officers [the P.C.s]. The Terran human asks the science division to check for star systems and planets in case the ship needs to hide or resupply en route.

Engineers are tasked with improving efficiency, while tactical officers prepare for the inevitable engagement with ships that ignore diplomatic protocols. After reporting to their superiors, the junior officers meet in the “Starlight Lounge.”

They compare notes as Bolian bartender Mr. Vallcin brings drinks. Lt. Jarric Jameson asked Betazed communications head Lt. Artemis Borellis for permission to work with the engineers on a cloak or other countermeasures to Klingon and Romulan technology. Lt. Kyerak and security chief Pierre McDonough assigned guards to watch the guest quarters.

Lt. Orzzek Kalifa and Lt. Boran’ Gorir checked Starfleet records for solar systems between Earth and Qo’nos. The scientist and engineer identify Acamar (Theta Eridani), which had been affected during a Borg incursion, and Khitomer, site of past negotiations between the U.F.P. and the Klingon Empire.

Lt. Gorir and genetically enhanced Lt. Jameson also worked with chief engineer Lt.Cmdr. Akira Gorou to optimize the Rotha’s systems. Dr. Jones, the holographic chief medical officer, prepared sickbay, and Trill first officer Cmdr. Nasami Wahid oversaw crew readiness.

Chief McDonough assigned Lt. Mari Killu to work with other crew members to ensure that the passenger handoff goes smoothly. Lt. K’dex, the three-armed, three-legged Edosian science officer, scanned for possibly cloaked enemy craft.

The junior officers’ discussion is cut short when Chief McDonnough contacts Lt. Killu to tell her to investigate the guest cabins. Apparently, the guards aren’t responding. Cmdr. Wahid orders Lt. Kyerak to accompany her.

The Caitian and half-Vulcan find En. Thompson regaining consciousness. He tells them that the Orion, Gorn, and a hooded guest emerged from their quarters and refused to wait. En. Jonas ran after them.

Lt. Kyerak and Lt. Killu draw their Type 2 phasers and ask the ship’s computer where the aliens have gone. It responds that they are on Holodeck 3. Instead of an Orion harem or a Gorn environment, the Starfleet personnel find a room full of humming machinery.

D’naar, a green-skinned Orion trader, claims that he just wanted to demonstrate water-purification equipment he had learned about in his travels to “Hand of Giblets,” the reptilian Gorn representative of the Klingon Empire.

En. Jones appears with a rumpled uniform. Kyerak subtly uses telepathy to communicate with Mari, who also senses that something is wrong. From the bridge, Lt. Kalifa and Lt. Gorir can tell that the gear in the holodeck has overridden security controls and is drawing extra power.

The Andorian and Jem’Hadar try to tell Kyerak, but their signals are jammed. Orzzek informs Capt. Nobatu of the situation, and Boran’ grabs his short sword and heads to the holodeck.

Chief McDonnough and Lt. Jameson try to shut down the unauthorized energy drain, and they find that the ship’s shields are fluctuating in a patter, presumably to broadcast a signal. The captain orders a full stop.

In Holodeck 3, Hands of Giblets [Byron/Non-Player Character] leaps toward Lt. Killu. D’naar [Josh/N.P.C.] disintegrates En. Thompson. En. Jonas hides among the machinery. Kyerak stuns the Orion pirate, and Mari shoots at the Gorn emissary.

Lt. Gorir arrives, and he runs after En. Jones. Lt. Kalifa asks Lt. Borellis for help restoring communications. Lt. Kyerak eventually stuns Hands of Giblets, and Lt. Killu restrains the Orion and Gorn before going to aid Lt. Gorir. Other tactical and medical teams arrive and secure the perimeter.

Boran’ recognizes some of the machinery and implements the LaForge Protocol. He and Orzzek manage to shut it down, but the signal has been sent as the Rotha entered the Neutral Zone.

Mari shoots at En. Jonas, destroying a personal holo-emitter and revealing that he is in fact an Undine (formerly known as Species 8472; the medical team later finds the actual ensign, who has been killed).

The Undine hits Lt. Gorir again, and Lt. Kyerak and Lt. Killu shoot at it. Mari stuns the gray-skinned alien, and Boran’ beheads it. Kyerak berates the Jem’Hadar for giving in to his bloodlust, but Lt. Jameson notes that D’naar and Hands of Giblets are in custody and can still be questioned.

From the bridge, helmsman En. Brandon Marks reports to Capt. Nobatu that a Valdore-class Romulan warbird has just de-cloaked off the U.S.S. Rotha’s port bow….

Valdore-class warbird

The Varguille

Beruk and Geoff, we missed you this past weekend, but I hope that everyone else enjoyed this “episode!” I’m sure we’ll return to this at some point, so please post your characters to the “Vortex” site on Obsidian Portal, where I’ll also post my background notes. Let me know if you have any questions. Live long and prosper, -Gene (“Capt. Tzu Tien Lung”)

Captains courageous

Funny, I would have thought Picard…

Your results:
You are James T. Kirk (Captain)

James T. Kirk (Captain)
60%
Will Riker
60%
Geordi LaForge
60%
Worf
55%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
55%
Deanna Troi
55%
Jean-Luc Picard
55%
Chekov
50%
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
45%
Mr. Sulu
40%
Uhura
40%
Mr. Scott
40%
Spock
39%
Beverly Crusher
30%
Data
29%
You are often exaggerated and over-the-top
in your speech and expressions.
You are a romantic at heart and a natural leader.

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character am I?" quiz…

Capt. Tzu Tien Lung

One to beam up!

Creation Star Trek Boston 2013 convention report

On Saturday, 8 June 2013, I met former co-worker and fellow blogger Ken G. at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston for the Creation Star Trek show. While I've been to several genre entertainment events in the past few years, this was the first purely Trek gathering in some time.

There were relatively few vendors at the con, partly because the space opera franchise hasn't had many new installments lately, the Star Trek: Into Darkness reboot sequel notwithstanding. Most of the fans we met preferred the original continuity, from the short-lived 1960s television series through Star Trek: Nemesis and Enterprise.

We went to lunch at Café Jaffa, from where we could watch people gathering for Boston's Pride Parade, for which Star Trek: the Next Generation alumna Denise Crosby (Lt. Tasha Yar) was the marshal. I may have been in a Deep Space Nine/First Contact uniform, but I felt underdressed amid the colorful costumes.

Back at the con, Ken and I sat in on writer Morgan Gendel's panel on the Next Generation episode "The Inner Light," which I appreciated more after learning how the show won a Hugo Award. As I've noted before, The Next Generation is still my favorite TV Trek because of its professional but idealistic crew that became a surrogate family. "The Inner Light" was a good example of the strength of allegorical and episodic storytelling, compared with today's arc-dominated dramas.

We also attended the costume contest, where numerous Trekkies or Trekkers showed off their creativity in representing various series. I cheered the cosplayer dressed as an Andorian, but I have to admit that the fan dressed as Capt. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott was a ringer for the late James Doohan.

After that, Michael Dorn and Suzie Plakson regaled the audience with stories from their time playing ill-fated Klingon lovers Worf and K'Ehleyr. They also politely but firmly declined to return to those roles, saying that too much time has passed.

We hung out for a short time during the auction, and then enjoyed seeing George Takei, a.k.a. Capt. Hikaru Sulu. He responded to a question about his favorite movie featuring the original series cast with Star Trek VI: the Undiscovered Country, in which Sulu got to be in the opening and closing scenes as captain of the Excelsior. Takei also noted that John Cho did a fine job in J.J. Abrams' recent films.

In addition, Takei acknowledged that he has help with his popular Facebook posts, which cover sci-fi, humor, and politics. As an Asian-American and a speculative fiction fan, I appreciate Takei's activism and roles. Trek continues to have a fan base that's wonderfully diverse in terms of age, gender, and ethnicity, and I hope that the movies can become more heroic and restore the franchise's popularity.

Brent Spiner and Gates McFadden then took the stage to talk about their time as android Data and Dr. Beverly Crusher on Star Trek: the Next Generation and various theatrical roles. I had seen most of the actors at this con before, but never so many in person together.

Ken and I grabbed dinner at Tossed in the Shops at Prudential Center. Back at the con, we had photo ops with Mr. Takei and LeVar Burton, a.k.a. Geordi LaForge. I didn't get autographs this time around, but the photo ops were personalized souvenirs.

With Geordi LaForge

Ken, LeVar, and Gene

I was glad that we were able to get tickets to the headline event of the con, a reunion of much of the Next Generation cast, with William Shatner serving as moderator! Apparently, Patrick Stewart (Capt. Jean-Luc Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Capt. Will T. Riker), and Wil Wheaton (En. Wesley Crusher) weren't available, but I'd seen two out of the three before anyway.

Shatner may have a big ego, but he has aged surprisingly gracefully and has been a good interviewer. His charisma and sense of humor helped the unruly crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701D and E in conversation. Everyone made fun of Sir Patrick's initial pretensions as a Shakespearean actor.

Crosby, McFadden, and Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi) talked about their struggles with sexism in the first season of the show in 1987. Despite creator Gene Roddenberry's humanism, The Next Generation had a less-than-auspicious start, leading to McFadden and Crosby's departures. McFadden eventually returned, and Crosby made some memorable cameos.

Snarky Spiner and deep-voiced Dorn demonstrated how they and Frakes would joke around with their costars on the set, leading to several frustrated directors. With prompting from Shatner and Sirtis, who vied for control, earnest Burton and Dorn recounted how the "Code of Honor" episode was terribly racist, but they stuck with the show, which gradually improved. All of the actors said they liked fond spoof Galaxy Quest.

Ken returned to the convention the next day to get more autographs. Also in attendance were Nichelle Nichols, the original Lt. Nyota Uhura, and Deep Space Nine's Rene Auberjonois (Odo) and Nana Visitor (Maj. Kira Nerys). The only living members of the core casts of the original series and Next Gen whom I haven't yet met are Leonard "I'm not Spock" Nimoy and Wheaton.

The convention might have been pricey, but I enjoyed it more than Into Darkness and was pleased to learn that Creation plans on holding it again next year. In the meantime, live long and prosper!

Star Trek: Into Darkness review

On Saturday, 18 May 2013, Janice and I went with houseguest Byron V.O. to the Apple Cinema/Entertainment Cinemas Fresh Pond in Cambridge, Mass., There, we met Beruk A., Bruce K., Rich C.G., Rich's friend Darryl, and Thomas K.Y. & Kai-Yin H. for Star Trek: Into Darkness. We all enjoyed the sequel to the reboot of the long-running space opera franchise.

Into Darkness wallpaper

J.J. Abrams' latest space opera prequel/sequel

Story: The movie opens with the starship Enterprise saving the inhabitants of the planet Nibiru from a volcano that's about to erupt. This violates Starfleet's Prime Directive, which requires noninterference with societies that have yet to develop Warp (faster-than-light) capability.

Adm. Christopher Pike tells Capt. James T. Kirk that he's relieved of duty, but terrorist attacks on Earth call the intrepid crew of the Enterprise back into action (the trailers have mostly focused on these, in an echo of 9/11 and even the recent Boston Marathon bombings). Kirk, his first officer Mr. Spock, Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, and friends must overcome physical and personal challenges to save the United Federation of Planets from an internal threat.

Director J.J. Abrams and company created a parallel universe in 2009's Star Trek to be more accessible to a generation of moviegoers not familiar with the 1960s television show and its numerous spinoffs. However, viewers who are "Trekkies" or "Trekkers" and know the rich history of Gene Roddenberry's fictional universe will recognize many elements of Into Darkness, including Klingons, Tribbles, and references to characters such as Harry Mudd and Christine Chapel.

I had worried, based on early reviews, that Abrams and Paramount had "gone back to the well" once too often by rehashing familiar plot points, but the acting, pacing, and twists mostly made up for this, and the ending of the movie — don't worry, I'll avoid "spoilers" here, but be aware that the links in this review lead to some — leaves the fictional future wide open for more adventures.

Acting: I have fond memories of watching reruns of the original Star Trek TV series back in college, and the actors who first took on those roles have become pop culture icons. Still, I think that the returning cast of the new version has been well-chosen, from Chris Pine as the cocky but good-natured Kirk, Zach Quinto as the (mostly) logical Vulcan Spock, and Karl Urban as the irascible Dr. McCoy. They continue to be worthy successors to William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the late De Forrest Kelley, respectively.

Just as in the original series and the first half-dozen Trek films, the supporting cast is smart and fun. Zoe Saldana is back as strong-willed communications officer (and Spock's girlfriend) Lt. Nyota Uhura, comedian Simon Pegg is a hoot as engineer Lt.Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, and Anton Yelchin is Russian wunderkind Ensign Pavel Chekov.

Helmsman Lt. Hikaru Sulu, as played by John Cho, doesn't quite ooze charisma the way George Takei does, but he does get a key scene in the captain's chair. Bruce Greenwood is back as Adm. Pike, lending gravitas and fatherly guidance to impetuous Kirk and repressed Spock.

The latest additions to this iteration of Star Trek are just as good. The comely Alice Eve plays science officer Carol Wallace, and RoboCop and Buckaroo Banzai's Peter Weller is Adm. Alexander Marcus, who tasks the Enterprise with taking on mysterious torpedoes. There's also a cameo that actually helps the story along.

As expected, Benedict Cumberbatch (the lead of the BBC/PBS Sherlock and Smaug and the Necromancer in Peter Jackson's Hobbit adaptations) is formidable as John Harrison, the terrorist scientist of this movie. He's both strong and clever as a foil to both Kirk and Spock and is a better villain than Romulan miner Nero in its predecessor flick.

Script: The dialogue is fast, witty, and filled with catchphrases from the '60s series. I suspect that casual viewers or those who aren't science fiction fans won't find the banter as entertaining as we did, but this is a sequel that doesn't talk down to its viewers. There is some dodgy physics, such as a "cold fusion" bomb, odd rates of acceleration and descent, and sound in space, but Trek is part of a long tradition of science in service to character-based stories rather than a lesson in realism.

While I'd prefer that a Star Trek film occasionally focus on exploration and diplomacy rather than military space opera, at least the script mentioned those concerns.

Direction: Abrams keeps up a brisk pace and gets emotive performances from the cast of Star Trek: Into Darkness. I might disagree with his addiction to lens flares and the choreography of a few fight scenes, but Abrams has injected vitality into the franchise, and I hope that Disney's recently acquired Star Wars universe is in good hands.

Visual effects: Other than the science quibbles above, Into Darkness is spectacular, as its crew faces off against hovering aircraft, hostile Klingon vessels, and a monstrous Dreadnaught-class starship. I liked seeing more of Earth in the 23rd century, and the sleek interior of the Enterprise seems larger than any of the other renditions of the famous starship, including the NCC 1701-E of First Contact onward.

Soundtrack: The classical score, while still not as memorable as that of earlier movies, continues the themes from the '09 Trek. My favorite part is closing credits of Into Darkness, with its peppy recap of the music from the 1960s show, despite the movie's grim title and premise.

Ratings: At an early dinner at Bertucci's, the consensus was about an 8 out of 10, with Rich being the most critical at a 7 and Bruce being most generous with a 10. I'd give Star Trek: Into Darkness, which is rated PG-13 for violence and unnecessary language, 8.5, a B+/A-, or four out of five stars.

As usual, there are mixed to negative reviews out there, but I'd recommend that potential fans keep their expectations in check and go in with an open mind. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Into Darkness, for all its modernizations and minor inconsistencies, still felt like classic Trek. I'd like to see Star Trek return to television, where it can focus more on idealistic social commentary rather than villain-driven fisticuffs.

Of the trailers we saw, I'm still most interested in Neil Blomkamp's dystopian Elysium and least interested in Jerry Bruckheimer's campy Lone Ranger. Man of Steel is the next big summer movie I'm looking forward to. In the meantime, live long and prosper!