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Arthur Meiselman

Two for the Road

Recently, in the churn-cum-peace of music, reading, inhaling the sunset, sipping Courvoisier and... writing, I turned away to the ingratiating slouch of the tube through which I experienced "Star Trek Discovery" and "The Vietnam War."

As you might know, I'm an aficionado of the years of Star Trek, an admirer of the vision and sensibility of Gene Roddenberry and much of his heir, Rick Berman.

This latest incarnation of the Star Trek franchise is disinherited from all that, a kiss&run online-dating mate of the latest Star Trek films.

It may be unfair to judge Discovery on only the early episodes. If you followed the ill-fated "Star Trek Enterprise", you know that it suffered from its earliest, ungainly segments but by mid-season and into the second season it found its rhythm and purpose and its inheritance. So I'll tread lightly without any final tsk-tsks. (After 5 episodes, the patient is still in intensive care!)

At less than 45-minutes each, the first Discovery episodes are completely J.J. Abrams-ized, Marvel-Comics-ized, Lucas-ized. It should be called: "Star Wars Trek Discovery". The production values burn money, the characters are under-developed and monolithic, the writing (both stories and dialogue) is flatlined, dumbed-down, pre-pubescent, and smacks of product from a committee of video gamers. As I say, I'll give it its first season as CBS certainly will, looking for blockbuster dollars. If... I can bear the plethora of blank-face closeups as ‘new wave’ substitutes for acting.

"The Vietnam War" is a different entree. Over 20 hours of fine filmmaking in 10 episodes with the reassuring narration voice of Peter Coyote (reminiscent of the great Will Lyman), and solid production values, rarely bland writing, brilliant editing in some places, and the faithful, sensible clarity of Ken Burns. It is the zenith of what so-called reality television should be about.

I learned some new things, the most startling of which was the fact that Nixon sent a secret envoy to Saigon three days before the 1968 U.S. election to prevent Thieu from attending the Paris peace talks—which they did. A primary seed for seven more years of the war. Stunning!

Through five presidencies with their own self-serving agendas, nearly 20 years of the Americans politically weaponizing Vietnam that resulted in the murdering of 3 million Vietnamese people and another 2 million Cambodian people as the war opened the door for the horrific Khmer Rouge. It's that fact which draws my only serious criticism of the film. Though Burns repeatedly refers to the 3/2 million murder victims, he spends an inordinate amount of time and footage on the suffering of American soldiers and their families, some of whom before the end and most of whom after the end realized that the war was a fraud, a tragic waste of life and lives. I feel compassion for their suffering but I do not weep for them. They had no business being there, no moral justification for the murder they committed.

No one has ever been held accountable or responsible. That fact deserved an Epilogue to the film, a reckoning of the insanity, a tribute to the murder victims.

What did we learn from that catastrophe? Nothing. The Iraq/Afghanistan war is a testament to that. And now today, with the ludicrous D. Trump and K. Un?

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Arthur Meiselman is a writer and the Editor of Scene4. His latest books include The Lyriana Nocturnes and Of Modigliani in Midnight Mourning. He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms.
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©2017 Arthur Meiselman
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October 2017

Volume 18 Issue 5

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