First Impressions: Star Trek

First Impressions: Star Trek

Oh, yes, I know, I know, I haven’t been bothered to even watch “Planet of the Dead” yet, let along review it. I’m not all that keen on watching Tennant’s Doctor now that I know he’s leaving. Just get on with it, will you?

Still, I saw the new Star Trek film today, mostly because I knew that, if I didn’t, I would never ever want to see it because of the hype. Hype turns me off, you see. Even though everything I had read about the film (or seen in the trailers) made me want to vent my spleen all over the Internest, I figured I still owed the franchise a chance. I’ve been a Trekkie for a third of a century now, ever since I was 12. (I was that most scary of fen, the Teenage Trekkie™!) I was in the Star Trektennial Fan Club, the Leonard Nimoy Association of Fans, I watched endless repeats, read endless novels and tie-in books, and was all about the Original Series back when it was the Only Series. So… yeah. I have some Trek cred, I do. And even though I was convinced that the film would suck so hard it would create its own black hole, I plopped my $5.50 down and settled in for the 11:30 a.m. screening.

I am surprised to be able to report that it didn’t suck.

(But… what did I think of it? Carry on after the cut, plz.)

I have nothing against franchise reboots as a rule. Nine times out of ten it doesn’t work, but when it does, you get magic. (Look at the many reiterations of Batman… or Battlestar Galatica or Doctor Who.) From all the pre-press interviews with J.J. Abrams, though, I was firmly convinced that he was going to take the universe– a universe filled with hope, and nobility, and great friendships as well as philosophical conumdrums– and piddle on it. The trailers confirmed my opinion: it was going to be all explosions and beating (and/or sexing) people up, a big budget space blow-up that would have as much relationship to proper Trek as both Harvey Korman’s and Bea Arthur’s versions of Fawlty Towers had to the proper F.T.

Sure, the film started out with a really big bang (as it were), but it was well done and gave us character in the characters, as opposed to the characters just being there to push buttons and/or get blown up real good. I seriously thought we were seeing something in the future (i.e. Next Gen era or a little later) until First Officer Kirk got promoted to Captain.

The film took off from there. Each familiar character intro made it clear that, despite whatever changes the alt.universe had written on the characters, they were essentially still the same as in the real.universe. I particularly liked that both Uhura and Chekov had mad skillz and knew how to use them. (Both were way underused in TOS.)

I was really surprised not to be bothered by the story taking place in an alt.universe. Going into the screening, I was pretty darn sure that it was a bad move to make it an alt.universe and to include the proper Spock in addition to alt.Spock. But… it worked. It made the whole backstory shake-up more palatable. And… it officially lets me dump the film into its own pocket universe that I can happily ignore, just like I do most of the alt.universes in the novels, web episodes, and fanfic. (Really, I’ve never cared much about other Trek alt.universes– well, except for “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” The “Mirror, Mirror” universe in particular I find rather dull and just an excuse for the various actors to show off more skin.)

Things I particularly liked in the Star Trek film:

  • Spock getting the girl. Ha! Kirk denied! Serves him right for being such a randy bastard.
  • Seeing Leonard Nimoy in the ears again. (Wow, he was looking really old, though, and acting it, too. Hopefully he was exaggerating and isn’t really like that IRL, despite his advanced age. (He’s what, 78?)
  • The Nurse Chapel name check, even if she didn’t actually appear in the film.
  • The Admiral Archer (and the beagle) name check.
  • The tribble.
  • Not a Klingon in sight, from what I can tell. (Ooh, I bet we’ll see them in the sequel!)
  • I didn’t come up with “Hey, but what about….?” until after the film was over, always a good thing and in my mind a mark of a great Trek story.

Speaking of those “Hey, but what about…? moments….

  • They were building a spaceship on the ground in Iowa. Riiiiiiight. And it would escape Earth’s atmosphere without rattling apart because….?
  • Did it really have to be time travel again? They’re always doing time travel in the films. (Well, ok, at least three of them.) And in the various shows themselves.
  • And Kirk was being an arsehole about how he was cheating the system because….?
  • What the hell happened to Kirk’s mother? And his brother? (I suspect they wiped out the brother’s existence in the alt.universe.) You’d think that Mom would bash Kirk around at least once in person, if he’s supposed to be a hellion and all. Even a voice mail.
  • Nokia’s going to have the same default ring in 200 years. Riiiiiiight. Like they’re even going to exist in 200 years. (Ditto Annheiser-Bush.)
  • Real.Spock was totally the tin dog, wasn’t he?
  • And isn’t trashing Vulcan a bit too close to trashing Gallifrey?

All in all, I enjoyed the film, and am comfortable with both recommending it to people and accepting that some losers people have gone ape over it. I’m sure I will see the sequels, because you know there will be at least two. That’s how Hollywood works, after all.

I am also sure that I have no burning desire to see more tales of the alt.universe.

I thought about this sureity for some time. Comfortable with character handling? Yes. Comfortable with backstory manipulation? Yes. Comfortable with the whole alt.universe thing? Yes. So…. why don’t I care more? Me being a Trekkie and all.

Finally, I realised the reason: I haven’t really cared about Kirk, Spock, et. al. for several decades now. Oh, yeah, I grooved on the films (even STV: The Search For a Director) and would read the odd novel throughout the eighties…. but then along came The Next Generation and I abandonned the TOS ship.

I really prefer TNG over TOS, because I like the characters more and I love all the stories. Although I grooved on DS9, I loathed Voyager and didn’t really give a hoot about Enterprise (despite the yummy Scott Bakula starrinng). I adore Picard, worship Data, and enjoy the rest of the crew (well, except for Riker, but he’s good for making fun of). The Next Gen crew is the one I want to see in new stories, not TOS.

So, if this new film brings people to TOS or TNG or DS9, brilliant. And if it goes on its merry way getting fans to forget TOS or TNG or DS9, well, that happens, too. (Like, for example, to Winnie The Pooh and Mary Poppins.) I’m just happy to have seen a Trekoid film that didn’t suck. May the next one not suck, too.

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