Live long & prosper, revisioned Star Trek

by Susan Getgood on May 17, 2009 · 1 comment

in Science Fiction

“These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise…”

“I’m giving her all she’s got Captain”

“I’m a doctor not a (fill in the blank.)”

“Live long and prosper.”

These were words to live by for a Star Trek fan in the late 60s. My earliest memories of television involve the original Star Trek, and I can honestly say that I have seen every episode of the original at least twice, some maybe more (calling Dr. Corby). Plus all the original franchise movies. Good (Khan), okay (whales) and not so good (that one with the bald chick). I’ve also watched the various follow-on series, but never with the same fervor as the original. Nothing beat the trio of Kirk-Spock-McCoy for me.

Until this reboot. Just as good as the original. True to the personalities of the characters we know and love without being mimicry. Just sublime casting. There’s even a red shirt. Yet all new in so many wonderful ways.

Now, I will admit to being a Trekkie, or Trekker if you prefer. I was a fan long before Trekkie became a somewhat dirty word, but haven’t been obsessed with the series since I was about 12. I also enjoy fan fiction from time to time. So any “historical” inaccuracies in the new film versus old canon don’t bother me in the slightest. The only thing that slightly bums me out is what happens to Spock’s mother, but so it goes….

What I want is a good story, and the new Star Trek film delivers.

<< SPOILER ALERT >>
Nothing that hasn’t been in the mainstream press already, but if you are avoiding spoilers, come back after you’ve seen the movie.

The basic premise of the new film, an alternate reality, is a common device in fan fiction, so one way to look at the revisioned film is as a fan’s homage to the franchise. Old canon exists alongside the new canon being created.

Here are just some of the reasons I loved the film.

Double dose of Spock. Spock has always been my favorite character. Having both Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto interpret this character in the same film, in ways both like and yet not like, was a Spock fan’s dream come true. Nimoy’s appearance also blesses the storyline. How could we not believe the alternate universe premise? Spock said it.

The actors interpreted the characters, not the original actors portraying the characters. It would have been so easy to fall into that trap, and they didn’t. Instead, they captured the camaraderie and relationships among the principal characters brilliantly, staying true to their “original canon” personalities while fleshing them out just a bit more, making them more human, less archetypal (or stereotypical depending on your point of view).

The relationship between Spock and Kirk was developed brilliantly. Initially grounded in antipathy, it grows to mutual respect during the film, and we can see the seeds of an equally strong friendship in the new reality.

Uhura. I was thrilled that they expanded her role, and while I know some hard-core fans did not like the Uhura-Spock relationship, I thought it worked perfectly in this new universe. The actors had great chemistry and I loved it that Spock got the girl. I could never understand why the woman of the week always fell for Kirk in the original series, when Spock was so much more interesting. You just knew that under that calm demeanor lurked some serious passion. It would just be, you know, better.

I know I am not the only female fan who felt this way — Leonard Nimoy often said he was amazed that Spock became a sex symbol — hence the decision to explore Spock’s sensual side. In the original (and in the 2009 version too), we often see Spock’s passion expressed as anger. Nice to see it as love as well.

The film stands on its own as a great tale, even if you never saw an original episode or movie. We can appreciate the nods to the fans, which include the use of the well-known lines with which I opened this post, yet these same nods didn’t come off cartoony at all. If you weren’t an original fan, and didn’t know that in just about EVERY episode, Scotty had to give her all she’s got, the line still made sense in context. As I noted above, there was also a red shirt. Watch carefully or you may miss it.

Parallels. Kirk recognizing the lightening storm as the same one that led to his father’s death, giving us appreciation for his unorthodox methods as more than cheating. Spock rejecting the Vulcan hierarchy for Starfleet, setting up the situation where his Starfleet service saves the hierarchy from certain death. That both lost a parent to the villain, setting up a common personal antipathy as well as a desire to do their duty.

Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk (Chris Pine)

Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk (Chris Pine)

Three moments worth the price of admission

  • Spock and Uhura’s farewell in the transporter room before our heroes beam off to save the day. Yeah, the farewell is pretty hot (but nothing to embarrass your kids or your grandmother), but it’s the reactions of the witnesses that make the scene a nice relief amid the tension.
  • The final verbal confrontation with the bad guy, whose ship is about to be sucked into a black hole. There’s one moment where Spock’s reaction to something really surprises Kirk. Moments like these between William Shatner and Nimoy were a hallmark of the original and key to the relationship between the characters. Chris Pine and Quinto are able successors. [Pine even has his own slightly over the top style like Shatner did. I used to think it was just really bad acting, but I have since come to the conclusion that it was necessary to the Kirk character. He has to be over the top, most of the time, and Spock buttoned down, most of the time, or they aren’t good foils for each other.]
  • Spock and Spock. No more detail. See the movie.

What didn’t I like?
Nothing. David and Douglas liked it too. We’ll be buying the DVD when it comes out.

Sequel?
Damn, I hope so. And I hope they resist the temptation to revisit original series storylines too much. Bring back fun characters like Roger Mudd, and even the tribbles, but do it in a new story that shares elements with the original, but stands on its own.

Just like this film did.

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