Monday, May 11, 2009

[review] Star Trek

Too much of not enough

Okay, so let's get straight to the point. Time travel annoys the hell out of me in science fiction.

There's the traditional version in Butterfly Effect (title? a short story about dinosaur hunting & a squashed butterfly). Microscopic changes in the past produce macroscopic changes back in the present. This often assumes there is only 1 present.

There's the modified version in Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, where changes to the past might or might not be the cause of the present. Usually the inexorable pull of history theory - that you can't really change the past.

Then there's Star Trek, the new movie. WTF happened? I'm not even sure if I get it. And, the fact that this all revolves around Spock just pisses me off more. Why can't someone else in the universe have the brain power or amazing insight necessary at the critical time?

This version of time travel precludes originality. It's the science fiction equivalent of No Free Will. The predestination version of time in a loop. You'll invent some gizmo; someone from the future tells you about it, giving you the missing piece of information you needed to finish the project. Is it really yours? Is it hers? It might be an interesting philosophical discussion to have over great scotch. It totally blows as a plot device.

Sure, the movie needs to appeal (heavily) to the Trekkies. So, I expected a smattering of in-jokes or blatant jokes. "Dammit, I'm a doctor, not a physicist." The Kobyashi Maru exercise. Kirk as a ladies' man. However, there were simply too many of them; at some point I wondered if this was supposed to be a comedy or farce. There were points where I scratched my head desperately trying to recall information about characters whose names I recognized, but nothing else (e.g. Capt. Pike). I'm sure if I was an adherent of the Trek Faith, I probably would have noticed much earlier the divergence between TV and this movie.

The story - if I understood it - goes back to Kirk's entry to Starfleet & pushes the reset button on the Star Trek mythos. How in god's name does this mesh with the last 43 years of Trek creation?

I really, really wonder how the Star Trek Loyal took this? Does this make DS9, Voyager, TNG all into some alternate reality now?

The FX were pretty good. The space battle scenes were lightyears ahead of the last scenes I saw of Voyager. The major purpose of the movie was the (re)introduction of the crew of the Enterprise. These parts are interesting - how some of them met; seeing events which will provide deep driving character purpose in later years.

Top kudos go to the writers for Scotty and Spock. Given the complete overhaul of reality as the Federation knows it - the re-invention of Spock was really nice, in giving him more of a 3 dimensional personality regarding the struggles with his human nature. Scotty was just wonderful - an improved version of the original. Karl Urban is equally good as McCoy as a Russian mob hit man. I admit the casting director was amazing for just about all of the characters.

Major boos go to the writers for any reference at all to time travel. It's just so "I can't think of anything for this week's show, let's create havoc and then pretend it didn't happen".

I was highly amused at the costumes. Totally right out of the original show, especially the women's dresses. Pandering to sexism or simply trying to present the universe as it was when the show started?


see it on DVD if you're a trekkie
see it on DVD if someone else is paying, if you're not a trekkie


Steve said...

Not to argue since most time travel stories are pretty lame, but did you ever see Primer? That's a time travel movie worth watching.

Gopher MPH said...

Steve: I looked at Ebert's review. Wow - it sounds great. Admittedly, his opinion & mine often converge (hence reading his column). But, with time travel - at least this film's purpose is time travel, not just some tangential plot element to somehow achieve something without needing to work for my belief.

As soon as personal freedom is attained (i.e., after tomorrow @ 5 p.m.), watching movies is once again a pleasure without needing to be a guilty pleasure. Of course, I must be horribly guilty, after skipping out to watch Trek & yesterday seeing The Soloist (my treat for finishing my last project for that class on time).

Thanks for the tip. I'll definitely put Primer on my must-see list. Which is below at

Anonymous said...

I saw "Primer." It was interesting....

As for "Star Trek," I'm looking forward to seeing the new movie. Time travel elements have always been a part of the Trek universe with varying degrees of success. One extremely famous, and award-winning, episode in the original series involved Kirk and Spock ending up on earth pre-WW2 and they figured out that in order not to change the timeline, they had to let the woman Kirk had fallen for die. It was brilliant.

Another brilliant time travel episode was on TNG -- it was a battle episode with alternate Enterprises. I can't remember its title but it's another famous one....

I think the trick to time travel stories is to keep them simple rather than trying to explain too much or bring in too much stuff. But I have yet to see what I've always wanted to see, i.e. a "simultaneous time" story.....