The First Contact Scale of AwesomenessPosted: March 12, 2012
The other day I was thinking about things that are awesome; in particular, the movie Star Trek: First Contact. It is without a doubt the greatest Star Trek film ever made and certainly one of the best films ever to grace the silver screen. It had everything: Klingons, Borg, Patrick Stewart, James Cromwell, Jonathan Frakes, etcetera.
Plato’s theory of Forms tells us that it is the idea of a thing that is more truly real than the thing itself. An example that is often used in describing the theory is the Form or idea of a chair: some chairs have three legs, some have four (some probably have more). Some are tall, some are short, some are soft, some are hard. They’re all chairs, but they’re all chairs in different ways. The Form of a chair would be, in essence, the most real of these things. Each object is just a shadow of the real form, a photocopy of sorts.
First Contact, I would argue, is the Form of awesome, and everything else is just a copy or a shadow. To help demonstrate this, I will be using the First Contact Scale of Awesomeness, illustrated below:
This scale can be used to evaluate anything on whether or not it is awesome. The closer something is to the left (Voyager), the more awful it is. Something incredibly awful can be placed to the left of Janeway herself, such as Deep Space Nine or The Phantom Menace.
So, without further ado, here we go:
The Walking Dead
Honestly, I don’t know how it happened. There was a brief period in time where Hollywood was consistently popping out incredible zombie movies. There were books and movies flying off the shelves; it was nuts. Absolutely nuts. Zombiewalks, for some reason, surged in popularity and it seemed like everyone was obsessed with zombies.
And somehow, the producers and writers and actors and well, everyone involved with The Walking Dead have somehow found a way to totally screw it all up. There are some good characters, of course, who we kind of care about. There’s Glenn and Daryl and Dale and a few others who are either a) interesting or b) not boring.
I get it, don’t get me wrong: even in an apocalyptic zombie wasteland, people are still people and with that comes all sorts of wacky personality conflicts. But for some reason the show feels the need to spend 85-95% of every episode halfassedly addressing some question of morality or trying to resolve some kind of dispute. Every single episode drags on and on and on and you find yourself hoping for some zombie to come out of nowhere and start causing a scene… but even when they do, and the scene is amazing (which happens less often than not), it doesn’t make up for the preceding forty minutes of boredom.
One of the key differences between Voyager and First Contact (and The Next Generation in general) is precicley how the “human” interactions are handled. Picard is a diplomat and a man’s man who doesn’t often resort to violence (but when he does, it’s awesome). He settles things with words and it’s usually well done. The human drama that occurs on Picard’s Enterprise is interesting, and is often bookended with awesome action sequences. Voyager mirrored that formula but due to the incompetence of the actors involved, it just didn’t work.
And that’s kind of what happened with The Walking Dead. What could have been an awesome show (and what I’m assured is an awesome graphic novel series) ended up going the Voyager route instead of The Next Generation route. It’s disappointing.
Moby-Dick, written by Herman Melville, is by all accounts a long book that mostly smart people read and reference when they’re trying to sound even smarter. It’s a story about a dude who spears a whale. The movie version stars Patrick Stewart, who you may recall is awesome (an even older movie version stars Gregory Peck, also an awesome human ). For those reasons, both the movie and the book make their way to the far right of the First Contact Scale of Awesomeness.
Big Trouble in Little China
My favourite actor/director combo of all time is that of writer/director John Carpenter and handsomeman Kurt Russell. They’ve blasted out some of the greatest sci-fi/horror films of all time, including The Thing, Escape from New York, Escape from L.A., and Big Trouble in Little China. Big Trouble in Little China follows Jack Burton, a trucker who finds himself int he middle of a gang war in San Fransisco’s Chinatown. Trying to rescue the beloved of his friend Wang, Burton finds himself face-to-face with David Lo-Pan, a local mogul surrounded in controversy who just so happens to be a sorcerer who 2,000 years ago was cursed to roam the world as a ghost until he marries and sacrifices a girl with emerald-green eyes. A girl like Wang’s wife-to-be…
The film is awesome. The special effects are off-the-chain, the dialogue is snappy and funny, and the action sequences are pretty killer. Russell’s portrayal of Burton is especially well-done, managing to come off as a blustering big mouth without a problem. His character manages to be both likable and astoundingly incompetent. Too often such a portrayal results in a “stacked” character; someone who is witty and smart and a good dancer and a great fighter and a magician and all sorts of crazy stuff. Russell manages to avoid that here.
Archer is a cartoon series made by Adam Reed (Frisky Dingo, Sealab 2021, both hilarious shows) on the FX network. It’s an anachronistic spy show, kind of a James Bond meets Mad Men feel. Most of the characters look like they’re straight out of the 1960’s, and a lot of the technology itself is really ancient. None of these anachronisms are ever an issue, of course; the spies use sophisticated spy gear and everyone has shiny cell phones, but at the same time they’re all using ancient computers.
Sterling “Dutchess” Archer (H. Jon Benjamin of Home Movies and Jon Benjamin Has a Van) is a womanizing alcoholic and ostensibly the best spy of ISIS (the International Secret Intelligence Service), headed up by his mom Mallory Archer (Jessica Walter of Arrested Development). Most episodes focus on a particular mission, usually involving his various co-workers who range from those on the administrative side of things to his co-spies. The show is well written with a precise attention to language itself; as an example, characters frequently make the distinction between “figuratively” and “literally” (ie, “this will literally… no, figuratively, kill me”). There are dozens of references an episode, ranging from Bartleby the Scrivner to The Danger Zone. All in all it’s a well written show full of intrigue, action, meta-references, and family drama. Exciting.
The Big Bang Theory
The Big Bang Theory sucks.
I hope the First Contact Scale of Awesomeness has helped clarify things here. Be sure to apply it to everyday life!