Trekkie’s gripe: Stardate 9/14/10

I finally saw the new Star Trek film.

Actually, what I should say is this: I finally saw the 2009 Star Trek film. (Few movies are truly new by the time I clap eyes on them.) So the vitriol I’m about to spew here is outdated, but still, I can’t contain myself. Because that film was NOT Star Trek.

Yes, it had Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Scotty, and the rest of the gang. Yes, it had the Starship Enterprise, primary-hued uniforms and phasers set to stun. And it had bad guys and lots and lots of lovely explosions, but that’s where the similarities end, people. It was not Star Trek. It was more like being on a Star Trek-themed ride at Universal Studios.

And the thing was, I actually let down my guard for this film. And for a while, I enjoyed it.

This was me at the start of the film:

This was me after 30 minutes of Starfleet Academy, Planet Vulcan, Captain Pike and other assorted fan service:

And this was me maybe 20 minutes after that:

Why? Well, since there are spoilers in this rant, I will tell you why after the jump.

——————————————————-SPOILERS BELOW—————————————–

Let’s talk about substance. Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek was always backed by a progressive political agenda.  The original series examined civil rights, the cold war and the advance technology.  Next Generation explored culture sensitivity, affirmative action and sexuality. Deep Space Nine’s stationary setting allowed the show to touch on real-life conflicts, like the war in the Balkans and the ongoing battle between Israel and Palestine.

This movie did nothing to continue that tradition. Nothing! In fact, I even think it moved the Star Trek universe back a few paces. Take Uhura.  Uhura is a groundbreaking character. She was one of the first black characters on television; she’s been cited as an inspiration for entertainers and astronauts. She had the most prominent female role on the show. When I was a kid, I loved her, so I was looking forward to meeting a young Uhura in a recently-written film. The film seemed to promise that her character would be expanded: she was introduced to us as a capable, snarky, self-reliant and brilliant cadet.

And then, Kirk hits on her.

And then he gets in a fight over her, and she stands there yelling “stop it,” like every other woman in every other bar fight in film history.

And then, she strips down to her underwear for no reason.

And then, after negotiating a transfer to a Very Important Position on a Very Important Starship because she’s Very Brilliant and Driven, we find out she’s been having an affair with her teacher at the Academy: Spock. (Spock? Seriously? Did the screenwriters even read a Wikipedia entry about Star Trek before working on this script?)

And if that’s not enough for you, Uhura spends exactly no time doing her hard-won Very Important Job on the Enterprise. Instead, she chases Spock into the lift, into the transporter room, and promises to monitor his vitals while he’s beamed over to the enemy ship, which seems like the space-age equivalent of checking Facebook at work. So much for beefing up Uhura’s character.

And Spock. Really? Our logical Vulcan is involved in a passionate romance with a human, who happens to be his student, right off the bat? And he beats the snot out of Kirk in anger after about two minutes of provocation? Come on.

Oh yes, and film’s creators — probably fearing that the film wouldn’t be able to stand on its own feet without someone from the original series — slapped a pair of pointy ears back on Leonard Nimoy, who was back as Spock from the Future.

Add to that the fact that the writers created an alternate timeline at the beginning of the movie, so they can now do whatever they want to the universe, and my horror was complete. Why not reboot Next Gen? Or Voyager? How about Enterprise? Those actors are probably still looking for work.

Now I’ve seen the review which labels this Star Trek as a good action movie and a bad Trek film, and I do agree. And I’ve been told by other geeky types to calm the hell down, put down the phaser and stop complaining. But dammit, I’m a Trekkie. I’ve been a Trekkie since kindergarten, and this film hurt my feelings.

Yeah, it was pretty, and sprinkled with redshirts, Vulcan nerve pinches, and  little references that only hardcore nerds would get, but really, this film didn’t go anywhere that no film had gone before. In more ways than one, all it did was double back.

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8 thoughts on “Trekkie’s gripe: Stardate 9/14/10

  1. I think the overall problem is simple. They tried to make something new that would appeal to people who don’t know Star Trek. But they thought by branding it Star Trek, they’d get all the fans too. And it worked – I paid to watch it.

    But most of the fan references were lame. At first, one might think it cool to watch the Kobayashi Maru play out, having heard about it in Star Trek II. But actually, hearing about it was far better than seeing it. And making Spock into the test designer seemed to serve no purpose besides getting more of the main characters in the same room.

    Captain Pike in a wheelchair, I must admit was funny.

    The overall plot seemed to be “a bunch of coincidences happen, and the crew you know and love are back together again, like they were before, except not”. Yes, Star Trek episodes often start with some huge coincidences, but this movie took it too far.

    Kirk, (old) Spock and Scotty all being within walking distance of each other on some practically-uninhabited moon? Come on. (And what’s with the lame Star Wars-style huge life forms on the moon?)

    Also, I don’t think I’m the only fan who thought Vulcans were cool. Was it necessary to destroy their planet?

    Oh yeah, it’s the 23rd century… don’t they have steady-cam technology?

    As for Star Trek going downhill, one must point out that it was happening with the Next Generation movies. Picard’s character changed from accomplished diplomat to action hero overnight. And all the Next Generation movie plots seemed to simply be good guys vs. bad guys and little more.

    I think I’m done ranting, but that’s only because I’ve had sufficient time to have forgotten most of annoying movie details.

    • You know, I’m glad I’m not the only one who had an issue with this film. For a while, I thought I might just be over-reacting.
      Good point about the steady cam. I didn’t even think about that.

  2. You are pretty much right on the money with this, now that I think about it. But, perhaps shamingly so, I did like the new Star Trek. But I like any exciting action film. I’m not terribly picky.

    You also brought up an excellent point of the Star Trek seres’ agenda. I never even thought about that until right now, and I’m going to have to blame the fact that when I watched the bulk of the franchise, I was in single digits and just didn’t understand enough of the world to see the parallels. But that’s pretty damn cool. And now I want to go on a Trek marathon so I can watch it with fresh eyes.

    Your photo interpretations of your reactions are key, btw.

    Also, your blog updates make me want to start a blog so I can be as cool as you. I’ll just admit I have a little sister complex right here and now. XD

    Peace and love from the town of water!

    • Aww. I always wanted a little sister. : )

      Definitely check out Star Trek. I think the best series is Deep Space 9, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Next Gen.

  3. Heya.. I’ve been meaning to comment on this for a while.

    The gripe about it not being a comment on the issues of a day can’t be restricted to the new movie. There are tons of TNG episodes, Voyager and DS9 episodes that have either a very minor social commentary or none at all (the Borg, for example). You could say they are supposed to represent a total corporate or communist state but that’s kind of a stretch, and in any case there is more social commentary than that in the new movie.

    On Uhura: It’s good that she’s more than a secretary in this movie. As for her yelling “Stop it!”, what would you have done in that situation? And why would Kirk, who is well known as a horn dog, >not< hit on her?

    Her being in a relationship with Spock is a little too out there, but not because of the people involved. Spock has long been shown to have conflict with his human side, and if his father, a seasoned 100% Vulcan, can marry-for-love, it certainly is reasonable that a much younger Spock, who is only 50% Vulcan, can be in a romantic relationship.

    She strips to her underwear because she's in her room and changing!

    Spock's anger at Kirk is totally reasonable. Remember: Young + Half Human + Mother dead + Planet destroyed + Some punk giving him lip.

    I thought it was fun. Now they've established a baseline, I can't wait to see what they do for the next movie.

    • I totally disagree about the Borg. The Borg represents fascism – everyone is a part of the machine, there’s a strong authoritarian aspect, etc. But back to the movie. This was dumbed-down Star Trek. If this movie had more social commentary than episodes of DS9, where was it? And what was it? That boys without dads grow up to be punks? That Vulcans are racist? That if you don’t do your job properly, your home planet will get destroyed?

      I hold to my feeling that Spock should show more restraint, on all fronts. He’s half human, but as I remember it, he’s always tried to be twice the Vulcan that his father was. So his punching Kirk or dating Uhura is beyond what I’m willing to believe.

      As for Uhura changing, please. I’m a girl and I’ve had roommates at college. I can remember exactly no times when I came in from class, stripped right down to my undies and had a heart-to-heart with my roommate – who was in her best, lacy, matching lingerie. (If Virg or any other college girls are reading this, please correct me if I’m wrong.) I think it’s pretty obvious that being in Uhura’s room was an excuse for the filmmakers to show Zoe Saldana in her underwear.

      It was a fun movie, but nothing more than that.

  4. Still disagree about the Borg- Even if they are a fascist representation, it seems like an ‘excuse’ to have cool zombie cyborgs in Star Trek. The Borg were all about aesthetic.

    DS9 overall had a ton of commentary, but there were specific episodes that had no discernible message. Off the top of my head, the Tribbles episode, the episode where Quark has to dress like a woman, the one where O’Brien has to tell the story to the villagers.

    In Star Trek, we had Vulcans Under Extreme Pressure. 🙂 We had an exploration of how rocky beginnings can lead to great friendships and relationships.. We had Nero, who was seemingly an upstanding and honorable person driven to single minded revenge after suffering tragedy.

    The dormroom scene showed that Orion slave girls can be in Starfleet and not simply be sex objects. 😉 She was in lingerie because she was fooling around with Kirk. They hardly had a heart-to-heart, she was like, rushing around. She was probably rushing home from Springball and running out to class, or something. Maybe people in the future are more liberated than you and your roomies in college. 🙂

    I think you are discounting Spock’s age. He was not born out of the womb as a logical being (this is totally established in ST canon). Vulcan kids are bitches, as shown in the movie. Tuvok as a teenager in Voyager during flashbacks was a rebellious punk, and we are talking about full Vulcans here. Old Spock was the fully (mostly) logical Spock he always was. Young Spock may have some rough edges.

  5. Pingback: Prequels – when there’s nowhere to go but back. « The Garret

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