Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Date: 2253.04

I saw Star Trek last night. Great movie! It has lots of action and aesthetically pleasing blood, which are two of my main priorities for this type of film.

Why am I interrupting the Spider-Man posts to talk about Star Trek? Well, dammit, Jim! This is important, man! It seemed like a good idea to go over a couple medical points that stood out. They were remarkable enough for me to try and take a couple notes in a dark theater, but shouldn't interfere with your enjoyment of the movie, in the least. Minor spoilers (for the extremely sensitive) follow.

Boy Spock: This is not the shot in discussion. I couldn't find that one on the IMDB

There is so much that is good about this movie, I don't want you to think I didn't enjoy it. The baby delivery scene is a hoot! But I did notice something that seemed like a bit of an oversight in a later shot that could have been corrected easily(1).

What was the problem? Boy Spock's ears. We see young Spock (Jacob Kogan), his lip split from a fight and oozing green blood, as he sits in front of a window, providing a flattering, glowing back light. He is impish and cute and has the look of an emotionless Vulcan school boy who knows he's been bad. The light from the window gently enfolds him and gives his little pointy ears a glowing pink tint.

This is where the record scratch sound that implies, "What the f---!" would come in. Don't get me wrong, the ear-glow is good. They make the prosthetic pointy ear (I assume it's a prosthetic) match its glow to Kogan's real ear, creating a seamless piece. But ears glow pink when light shines through them because of the red blood in the capillary beds of the ears.

I'm okay with green blood oozing from cute Vulcan red lips, this is art after all, but they missed an opportunity for a little finesse when they didn't make those ears glow green. The shot only lasts a few seconds. How hard can that be?

I just wanted to point out the scene where McCoy (Carl Urban) gives Kirk (Chris Pine) a vaccine so that Kirk will develop symptoms of illness and be taken on the Enterprise. He develops flu-like symptoms such as headache, nausea, fatigue, fever, etc. This is true of many vaccines for many diseases. They also added some colorful symptoms like blindness in the left eye. This sequence is not too far off base, but extremely sped up to keep the plot moving. An injection may be able to get into your bloodstream in seconds, but it is still going to take your body hours or days to react to the pathogens in the vaccine(2).

Kirk has an allergic reaction to the shot. This is a Type I hypersensitivity reaction. His hands and tongue swell. He's lucky he can still breathe. People who get swollen tongues often get swollen lips, and not like they've had a bit too much collagen injected there, either. Think of having a child's football attached to your face. This doesn't happen to Kirk, only his hands are disfigured by swelling, and he can't talk. It may be the severest reaction McCoy has seen to the vaccine, but Kirk is lucky nonetheless.

McCoy orders something that sounds like "cortisone" to be given to Kirk. Epinephrine-like drugs will probably still be the drug of choice in the future over a cortisone-like drug. Epi-pens are used for these types of emergencies, currently. But what do I know, I'm not a pharmacologist by any stretch of the imagination. That stuff is hard.

Vulcan nerve pinch: note the third and fourth finger placement over the area of the right brachial plexus as it emerges from the scalenes.

This Vulcan nerve pinch thing cracks me up. As a massage therapist I can put people into exquisite pain by squeezing the upper trapezius or anterior and middle scalene muscles, but I have yet to be able to render a patient unconscious. Lord knows I've tried.

Anatomically speaking, the only bundle of nerves in the area is the brachial plexus, which is composed of nerves leaving the vertebrae of the neck. They pass between the two scalenes mentioned above, and then form a number of nerves that innervate the arm and hand.

Squeezing the brachial plexus with the Vulcan nerve pinch won't effect the brain, but could cause someone to develop a bad case of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, or in extreme cases paralysis of the upper extremity.

This being said, I assume the nerve pinch is only doable by Vulcans because it involves some sort of telepathy, or mind-meldy thing to make it work.

One last thing: Spock (Zachary Quinto) tries to strangle Kirk. When Spock releases him, Kirk has ruddy finger marks on his neck. Nice touch!

Next time we continue our discussion of fibroblasts and Spider-Man's biological web spinning abilities... I swear it!

1. If you have an extra million dollars lying around for things like this.
2. For more on flu-like symptoms, go to the first Spider-Man post.

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