Documentary Review: For the Love of Spock (2016)

Release Date: April 16th, 2016 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Adam Nimoy
Music by: Nicholas Pike
Cast: Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy (archive footage), Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Chris Pine, William Shatner, Mayim Bialik, Jim Parsons, Simon Pegg, Zachary Quinto, J.J. Abrams, Jason Alexander, Catherine Hicks, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nicholas Meyer, Julie Nimoy

455 Films, For The Love Of Spock Productions, 111 Minutes

Review:

“The review that Variety gave us when we first went on the air in September of 1966: “Star Trek won’t work.” [grins]” – Leonard Nimoy

This had been in my queue for quite awhile. I’m not sure why I hadn’t watched it until now but I’m glad that I finally did, as Leonard Nimoy is an actor that had a pretty profound effect on me, as a kid, and because he’s someone I greatly admire, as an adult.

This documentary went into production while Nimoy was still alive but he died early on in the process of making it. Because of that, this evolved into being about the man and his most famous character, Spock from Star Trek.

For the Love of Spock is also a passionate letter from a loving son to his father, which also involves a lot of the talented people that worked with Nimoy over decades.

I like that this spent a lot of time on Nimoy, the man, as well as the Spock character. It delves into his personal life, his history in showbiz and how he was instrumental in shaping not just his character but the mythos of Star Trek, as a whole.

This was well shot, superbly edited and it was nice seeing all of his living colleagues and friends talk about his life, work and contributions to one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all-time.

This documentary is nearly two hours but it flew by like a breeze. I was actually surprised when it started to wrap up, as I hadn’t realized how much time had passed.

All in all, this is a pretty solid film on a pretty solid and supremely talented man.

Rating: 7.5/10

TV Review: StarTalk (2015- )

Original Run: April 20th, 2015 – current
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: StarTalk podcast by Neil deGrasse Tyson
Music by: various
Cast: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye, various

Curved Light Productions, National Geographic Studios, 60 Episodes (so far), 60 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Last night I watched the series debut of StarTalk, a TV version of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast of the same name.

For those who know me, you know I am a big fan of Neil deGrasse Tyson and have read all his books, watched just about all of his television specials and listen to his StarTalk podcast regularly. I have to admit, I still haven’t watched his version of Cosmos because I still find Carl Sagan’s original version to be perfection – even if it is now outdated.

Nat Geo decided to take Tyson’s podcast and make it into what they describe as a “late night talk show”. Having now watched it, I don’t really think it fits that category and it is bad marketing on their part. Sure, Tyson does interviews with celebrity guests but based off of the first episode, the interviews are prerecorded and shown in clips throughout the show as he and a few panelists discuss the interview. It’s not really a late night talk show format and is more of an interview recap show. Going forward, StarTalk would benefit from having guests actually appear on the set for a sit down interview à la The Tonight Show.

The content of the first episode was a bit weak. George Takei of Star Trek was the first celebrity guest for this inaugural episode and while it was a good interview, the show itself expanded into talking about the science of Star Trek and what is plausible and what isn’t with the knowledge we have today. While an interesting topic to some degree, it has already been done to death on multiple science shows across multiple networks. Additionally, there are countless books on the subject. I feel that for this show’s first outing, the subject matter should have wowed the audience. Give us your best foot forward and not a rehash of something that has already been debated more times than I care to count.

On the positive side, Tyson is a charismatic individual and the perfect successor to Carl Sagan’s throne of being the face and voice of astrophysics. He can explain complex things simply and has a knack for solid communication and a great sense of humor.

Neil deGrasse Tyson truly is the “star” in StarTalk. Without him however, the show would just be an average science show that would probably fail to engage audiences in the long run. Hopefully it is going to improve with time.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Neil deGrasse Tyson shows and TV specials.