The Only Thing I’ve Ever Wanted

As the days and hours march inexorably towards the launch of Yosemite and iOS 8 this fall, I find my thoughts turning more and more to the fabled and much-rumored iWatch. I’ve been trying to think of what Apple could possibly offer in such a wearable device that might get me to jump in and buy one if it will indeed exist. I don’t need a time piece, I haven’t actually worn a watch in years. I stopped wearing them around the time the iPhone came out, as I’m sure many people did. I’ve read the pitiful reviews of Samsung’s early efforts with smart watches and unsurprisingly was less than impressed. Even if the design of these devices was more elegant and sleek than they currently are, the feature sets just wouldn’t be enough for me to wear both a smart watch and carry around my trusty iPhone.

In order to be desirable, Apple’s iWatch has to fulfill a need that I currently don’t know I have. While this sounds like typical Apple fanboy BS, strangely enough it actually does make sense. Steve Jobs once famously said “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.” and I firmly believe this. One thing that Apple does, perhaps better than any other company on the planet, is to elicit desire in people for their products. They do this by identifying key customer needs, and then meticulously design a simple and elegant solution. One so beautiful and easy to use the public doesn’t understand why it hasn’t been there all along. I really think this will be the case with the iWatch. Some of these feature sets have been speculated since day one. Perhaps some kind of intelligent notification system, health monitor or location aware smart assistant are in the cards but again, I’m not sure any of these would make me crave it.

I am sure the iWatch will not replace a user’s iPhone. The margins on these devices just won’t be high enough for that kind of strategy. Logically, a wearable iDevice would extend the functions of your iPhone (or Mac) to give you more control over your digital life. I just sat down at my Mac, so don’t send that IM to my iPhone, iPad and Mac, just my iPhone. Wouldn’t that be great? Yeah it sure would but it could also be done by simply making your iPhone smarter. My phone goes everywhere I go, I don’t need something like an iRing for that.

Unfortunately that leads us back to square one and perhaps it’s for the best. Trying to outguess Tim Cook’s Apple may be a fun diversion for bloggers and tech mavens but personally I’d rather give the talented folks at Apple the benefit of the doubt. I’m confident that if and when the iWatch does arrive it be simple to use, beautiful to look at and most of all make perfect sense. As Futurama’s Philip J. Fry once said, “Whatever is in there, it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted!” You took the words right out of our mouths, Phillip.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘Dagger of the Mind’

While on a routine cargo drop to the Tantalus Penal Colony, the Enterprise takes on a stowaway, the violently insane Dr. Simon Van Gelder. The episode’s one perfect shot depicts Spock preparing for the series’ very first Vulcan mind-meld while Dr. McCoy looks on. This shot is quintessential original series Trek – the concerned look on McCoy’s face as Spock is hunched over in deep meditation speaks volumes about the two’s relationship with each other. They team up to perform a risky procedure in the hopes of uncovering what’s really happening at Doctor Tristan Adams’ institute of horrors, and manage to save Jim in the process. Dagger of the Mind is one of the very first episodes I remember loving and remains a personal favorite to this day.

Next time Kirk demonstrates to Spock poker’s advantages over chess in “The Corbomite Maneuver”.

Weird Al’s Word Crimes

Weird Al has a new album out this week and to celebrate he’s releasing a bunch of new videos, one a day for eight days. Today’s release, Word Crimes, is sheer brilliance. This educational ear worm gets added to my list of Weird Al songs that I actually like better than the originals. Other entries on that list include eBay, The Saga Begins and A Complicated Song. Word Crimes’ video features fun and fast-moving kinetic typography that I had to watch over and over to catch all the jokes. I bought Al’s album, Mandatory Fun earlier today on iTunes and it’s already one of my all-time Al favs. If you’re a Weird Al fan be sure to check it out!

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘Miri’

In the entire history of Star Trek, episodes that feature stories centered on children are some of the weaker installments, but season one’s ‘Miri‘ is the exception to the rule. After responding to a planetary distress call, the Enterprise landing party contracts a virulent disease that will quickly kill them unless a cure can be found. All of the adults, or “grups” as they are called have died leaving the children or “onlies” behind to fend for themselves. When the children enter puberty and start to become adults, they too contract the disease and eventually die a painful, violent death. The onlies distrust all grups and steal the landing party’s communicators, cutting off contact with the Enterprise along with any hope of finding an antidote. Kirk must convince one of the eldest onlies, a girl named Miri, to help him retrieve their communicators if they are to survive.

The episode’s one perfect shot is of the title character, Miri, as she spies on Kirk, Rand and the rest of the Enterprise grups desperately trying to isolate the disease that wiped out her entire planet. Miri is played wonderfully by actress Kim Darby who went onto star in a number of other TV and movie rolls including the original True Grit with John Wayne, Better Off Dead and Don’t Be Afriad of the Dark. I love this shot of Miri half-hidden behind a doorway as she tries to decide if the adults from another world have come to help or hurt her and her friends.

A sad production note: I learned while researching this episode that after filming was complete, at the friday-night after party for the cast, actress Grace Lee Whitney was sexually assaulted by a member of the show whom she only identifies as “The Executive” in her autobiography The Longest Trek: My Tour of the Galaxy. Horribly, she was fired from Star Trek soon afterwards and didn’t appear in the franchise again until the feature films. I shutter to think which Executive could have done this to her, but no matter who it was, it surely is one of the darkest footnotes in Star Trek’s long history.

Next time Spock prepares a historic first in the series – the Vulcan mind meld in ‘Dagger of the Mind‘!

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?’

The crew of the Enterprise goes in search of Roger Korby, a famous scientist missing for over five years and gets much more than they bargained for in season one’s ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?‘. Korby has chanced upon an extinct civilization that long ago learned how to transfer human consciousness into the body of androids. He intends to bring this technology to the galaxy, by hook or by crook, and tries to convince Captain Kirk and his former fiancée, Nurse Christine Chapel of the importance of his discoveries with a personal demonstration.

Our one perfect shot for ‘Little Girls…” takes place as Korby forcefully straps Kirk into the android duplication machine, a robotic blank on one side, the naked captain on the other. The device spins up to speed and when it winds back down an exact replica of the Captain appears before Christine, one so perfect even she can’t tell them apart! I love how the physical prop of the duplication machine bisects the screen for the camera and creates a mirror image. I’m sure its design made the process of optical composting easier for the special effects team, but beyond that it just looks plain cool. Shatner as Kirk is naked and more vulnerable that we’ve ever seen him in the series which gives the whole scene a tense, Twilight Zonish vibe.

While I was picking the shot for this episode I was once again struck with the amazing use of color from scene to scene. Taking a cue from the fine folks over at Dribbble.com, I’ve created a fun color palette based on the hues from the selected shot. It’s fascinating to see how the individual colors form a harmonious palette that makes up a typical frame from Trek. I won’t be doing this for every post but I think it would be fun to create them for key shots from time to time and get a better sense of the vibrant use of color in the original Star Trek.

Finally, I felt I just had to post at least one of the incredible re-mastered special effects shots from this episode. I’m taking all of my perfect shots from Netflix streaming and this works great because this is the re-mastered HD version of the series that Paramount released on blu ray a few years back. I’ll go into more detail about the fantastic improvements in special effects the team at CBS managed to achieve, but for now, just take a minute and click on this epic shot of the Enterprise. For a Star Trek fan like myself, it’s simply stunning.

Next time we visit another exact duplicate, but this time it’s an entire planet Earth in ‘Miri‘.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘Mudd’s Women’

Our one perfect shot for ‘Mudd’s Women‘ introduces us to Eve, Ruth and Magda, Harry Mudd’s traveling companions and “cargo” destined to become the wives of settlers on the planet Ophiuchus III. The bewitching trio are rescued from their damaged freighter and step off the transporter pad quickly ensnaring the male members of the Enterprise crew thanks to something called the Venus drug which creates illusory beauty. The episode is notable mainly for the introduction of the character of Harry Mudd himself who eventually returns to taunt the Enterprise crew in S2, Ep 12 ‘I, Mudd‘.

I have to admit, selecting this one was child’s play. It’s a great example of how the series’ production designers and directors portrayed many of the beautiful women who graced the small screen during the show’s three year run. Be they exotic, alien femme fatales or capable crew members of the Starship Enterprise, women on Star Trek always seemed to have perfect lighting, makeup, hair and framing. They were also typically shot using a soft-focus filter to highlight the femininity of the actresses, a technique often used in 60′s television but rarely seen today.

Tomorrow we find out just “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” and something tells me it won’t be sugar, spice and everything nice.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘The Enemy Within’

The Enemy Within is a dramatic examination of the human psyche and all the good and bad things that go along with it. When Kirk is split into two halves by a freak transporter accident, Jim quickly finds he can’t function as Captain without the aggressive, animalistic nature of his opposite self. The episode is interesting on a number of levels, most especially how the interplay between the “big three” – Kirk, Spock and McCoy changes as Jim’s assertive side wanders the ship in search of Saurian brandy.

As a kid, I always found episodes where the main characters behaved unusually the most difficult to watch and ‘Enemy’ falls squarely into this category. The normal, sure-footed Kirk is given to second-guessing every order as he slowly but surely turns into a mere shadow of his former self. Just as painful is the “evil” Captain who drinks, throws fits of uncontrollable anger and almost manages to rape Yeoman Janice Rand. To his credit, William Shatner does a remarkable job of making the two halves seem like completely different people. One smarmy and creepy, the other gentle and timid. Neither is our Captain however, and the quicker we get them back together, the better.

This episode’s perfect shot comes as Kirk and Spock descend into Engineering to try and safely capture Jim’s ‘dark’ self. I love how this shot is framed with the two characters conversing between the massive engines of the Starship Enterprise. There are many important duo’s in Star Trek, the most beloved of which is Kirk and Spock. Here we see the pair working together yet again to save not only the crew but Captain Kirk’s very existence. Trust me, it won’t be the last time.

Next we find out if beauty does indeed come in a pill, courtesy of “Mudd’s Women“.

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘The Naked Time’

You were expecting Sulu with his rapier perhaps? When fans think of season one’s ‘The Naked Time’, the image that most likely comes to mind is indeed George Takei as Sulu in full Errol Flynn mode. For myself however, the episode is much better represented by the shot above where Spock struggles with his inner self after contracting the Psi 2000 virus. The story gave Leonard Nimoy the first notable opportunity in the series’ run for viewers to get a glimpse of the emotional struggles Spock faces as a half-vulcan, half-human being.

Spock stumbles into the briefing room and futilely attempts to get control of his emotions. Overcome with waves of sadness and anger, he clutches the computer, desperate to hold onto his logical, analytical side, both literally and figuratively. The sickness overcomes Spock until he witnesses how it has effected his friend and Captain, Jim Kirk. The amount of character development that goes on in this short scene is amazing and therefore earns a spot in my One Perfect Shot roster.

Next on the slate, two halves of Captain Kirk don’t necessarily make a whole in ‘The Enemy Within‘.

One Perfect Shot: TOS ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’

Originally filmed as the historic second pilot to Star Trek, ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before‘ is yet another story of humans acquiring god-like abilities. The episode re-used much of the production design from the original pilot of ‘The Cage’ including sets, costumes and props. DeForrest Kelly and Nichelle Nichols had not yet been cast as Dr. McCoy and Lt. Uhura and the show didn’t have its familiar opening narration, the last line of which comes from the title of this episode. Roddenberry pitched several scripts to NBC as the second pilot including ‘The Omega Glory’ and ‘Mudd’s Women’. In the end it was ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ that caught the studio’s eye, probably due in-part to the knock-down fist fight between Kirk and Mitchell Gene specifically wrote to help sell the show as his “Wagon Train to the stars“.

Our perfect shot features Gary Lockwood as Lt. Cmdr. Gary Mitchell and Sally Kellerman as Dr. Elizabeth Dehner staring at their eerie reflections as they realize they’ve evolved beyond normal humans. The other-worldly effect of the glowing eyes was achieved by sandwiching wrinkled tinfoil between two scleral contact lenses which covered the entire eye of the actors. Lockwood quickly discovered how extremely uncomfortable the lenses were and found he could only see if he tilted his head back, allowing him to peer out the tiny eye slits in the foil. To his credit, the actor used this to enhance his performance and gave Mitchell an increasingly arrogant gaze as his mutation eventually overtook him. For a time, fans speculated that Mitchell’s character might be the villain in the second J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek feature film Star Trek Into Darkness, but we all know who that turned out to be instead. :-)

Next on the slate, then Enterprise crew gets freaky-deaky in ‘The Naked Time‘.

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘Charlie X’

Poor Charles Evans. Stranded on a planet of inter-dimensional aliens since the age of 3, Charlie had no one to teach him the finer social graces. The result is a self-centered teenager with the ability to bend the entire world to his will, kinda like Justin Bieber on psychic steroids. ‘Charlie X’ isn’t one of my favorite episodes of classic Star Trek, but I was surprised how difficult it was to select the one perfect shot. By this time in its production, Star Trek’s visual style had started to be defined. Blocking, lighting and pacing were starting to come together and the result makes ‘Charlie X’ more visually cohesive as a result.

I chose this single shot for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the gorgeous background that frames Charlie’s face, but also because it perfectly illustrates what the episode is all about. The lone teenager, flush with power and hormones, desperate for acceptance, daring Kirk to push him. Charlie gives off a creepy vibe throughout the story and this shot visualizes it to a tee.

Next time we go ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before‘.