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The Star Trek Movie 
11th-May-2009 09:07 am
At Vicki's
I am a fully credentialed Trekker from all the way back: Old Trek in syndication, Next Gen, DS9, Voyager, everything but Enterprise, which I thought started strong but lost momentum and then got tedious. Unlike many, I really loved DS9. I once pitched two Next Gen stories to Ron Moore over the phone, and was told that were the series not in its final season he would have passed one of them the line--the most painful near-miss of my life in SF! I've seen all the movies, and agree with those who think the even-numbered ones outclass the odd-numbered ones by a mile (favorites: The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home). There's no way a Trek movie could be made and I wouldn't drive 45 miles to see it if necessary (which it was).

So I did that last Friday, and I came away feeling disturbed. I'll put the cut here, so if you haven't seen it yet you needn't have your first impressions interfered with by mine.

Watching the movie, I was pretty happy. I liked it that the focus remained pretty tight on the characters without ceding too much ground to special effects. I thought the casting of the young Kirk, Spock, Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura was good to excellent and the Scotty character acceptable; the only real miss, I felt, was the young McCoy, who didn't look right at all and didn't even have a southern accent. Nobody but Mark Lenard can ever cut it as Sarek for me, but the actor who played him did a decent job; the fault I find is with the writers, who make Spock's father much too supportive in the film. I stayed pretty engrossed in the story while still in the theater; the only thing that threw me out was finding that Spock and Uhura were now an item. Keep in mind that I bring an enormous amount of baggage to any Star Trek screening and never care as much about the story line as I do about how the characters interact in dealing with whatever they're given to deal with.

Driving the 45 miles home, though, I realized that I felt sad. At first I thought this was just the sadness of nostalgia, of being brought back in contact with something that had played such an important part in my life for such a long time, and realizing how much had changed since that had been true. It wasn't till about twelve hours later, in the middle of the night, that I abruptly understood why my mind had keep brooding over the movie all evening. You've probably figured this out already: the very premise of the movie (oversimplified)--that vengeful Romulans had traveled back in time to emerge at the moment of Kirk's birth and change the time line--had annihilated the entire Trek universe we know and love. These young whippersnapper movie writers had decided to wipe the slate clean and start over: same characters, same Starfleet Academy, same Earth, brand new game.

Me, I don't want a brand new game. I want a new look at the same old game. I know why they eliminated the story we know, I see what good sense that makes in terms of Hollywood and box office and the demographic, but I'm talking here about what I want, and this wasn't it.
11th-May-2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
I'm liking to think of it as an alternate timeline, rather than a NEW one. Sort of like, if you've got your comic book geek cred, the difference between the regular Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Marvel Universe. Similar stories, different universe... neither one invalidating the other.
11th-May-2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
I do see the sense in that, but I'm way too involved in the timeline we know to be able to do it. It would feel to me like starting back at the Shire with Frodo and Sam, Merry and Pippin, Gandalf and the dwarves,and giving them a completely different problem (oh, and by the way, Mirkwood Forest has burned in a wildfire). The collective construct of the Trek universe is just too MEANINGFUL to treat like a Marvel Comic. Or so says this curmudgeon.
12th-May-2009 01:54 am (UTC)
Well, the other thing to remember is the original timeline HAD to exist, since Spock lived through it. It's just parallel.
12th-May-2009 02:54 am (UTC)
I take your point. More than once in the various series and films there were plot developments in which some sort of temporal accident changed the timeline and stranded the characters, as Spock is stranded here. Each time they all worked feverishly to get the "real" timeline restored and get their own world back. Each time, that was felt as the desirable result; each time the result was achievable. This time, not. But I do see that the situation is the same.

I never liked the mirror universe in the otherwise admirable DS9, either. A visceral objection to messing around with the established characters, for whatever reason personal to me. Elderly Ambassador Spock, at the end of a long lifetime full of certain events, speaks to a young Vulcan who is almost, but not quite, himself, and who will not live that life, but who does seem to be making it with Uhura... No no no. Give me the grizzled veteran.
12th-May-2009 03:01 am (UTC)
Don't get me wrong... there is a certain churning in my gut along these very lines that I'm somewhat willfully pushing down. I'm about as much of a grizzled Trek veteran as one can be for 36 years old. One of my earliest memories is seeing City on the Edge of Forever on the small TV in the house my parents moved out of before I was four.

That said, I have to admit, I take a certain glee in seeing for once, after so many such episodes where characters pushed the reset button to change time back to where it "should" be, to have a story where the past was changed, and clearly changed to "wrong"... but they couldn't fix it. They have to live with it, and live on from there.

12th-May-2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
I understand that glee, at least theoretically. That I'm not able to share it doesn't mean I don't respect it.

My own gut would churn less if I could believe that the original timeline were still spinning out, independent of this new one. But the presence of Spock in the new one raises doubts and conundrums. It feels to me like the old line ended when he punched through into the new one. This may be bad physics but it does feel like that.

Of course Ambassador Spock is incredibly old, and all the characters we care about have long since passed to their reward, but somehow...

(The effect of "City on the Edge of Forever" on an impressionable toddler does boggle the mind a bit!)
12th-May-2009 01:47 pm (UTC)
I know they said years (at least, what year the movie took place in, and how many years from the future Spock had come), but at the time I wasn't doing the math in my head-- so I'm not sure what year Spock had come from.

That said, the Trek novels have taken the story to 2381 (six years after DS9, four years after Voyager, and two years after Star Trek: Nemesis), and continue to press on strongly in that timeline... and the novel people have all plans to keep going forward, including rather sizable plans hinted at for the books for 2010.

As for the effects on my young brain, all I can confirm is I rarely have trouble understanding even the most convoluted of time travel plots.
12th-May-2009 04:58 pm (UTC)

I guess we have to wait and see what the novel writers do with Spock when they catch up to whatever year it was that Romulus was destroyed. Meanwhile, maybe somebody who hasn't seen the movie yet, or is seeing it again, could make a point of writing down that date. Only it'll probably be a stardate.
12th-May-2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
According to memory-alpha.org, Spock came from 2387, which gives the novel people six years to play in, let alone if they decide there's no reason not to keep going beyond that.
12th-May-2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
Thanks! So, six years, not just to decide whether to keep going or start over with baby Spock, baby Kirk, etc., but also to come up with a rationalization for how keeping going is even possible...
11th-May-2009 11:21 pm (UTC) - Haven't seen the movie yet ...
... and I'm not nearly as invested in Trek as you clearly are (hell, I'm not even that emotionally invested in Doctor Who!), but — if I recall the cannon correctly — neither World War Three nor the invention of the warp drive happened during the 1990s. If I'm right in guessing that that was the main change the new movie provides (am I correct?), than the revision was kind of necessary, if we want to enjoy the idea that the Trek universe is in fact our own future.
12th-May-2009 01:59 am (UTC) - Re: Haven't seen the movie yet ...
Not sure I follow your line of thought. Canonically speaking, WWIII is 2053-54 and the warp drive is 2063. The new timeline diverges from the old one in 2233. Nothing about the 1990s, and no need I can see to revise the story so we can go on thinking of the Trek world as our future--though I personally never really thought of it as continuous with OUR time.
12th-May-2009 02:05 am (UTC) - Re: Haven't seen the movie yet ...
I stand corrected then. But I would have sworn one of the movies (post Star Trek IV) had Kirk et al going back to the 1990s and meeting the warp-drive inventor (I want to say Nehemiah Scudder, but I know that's wrong), during WWIII. Which just goes to show I haven't been paying attention for a very long time.
12th-May-2009 02:27 am (UTC) - Re: Haven't seen the movie yet ...
The warp-drive inventor is Zephram Cochrane, and you must have missed the Next Gen movie First Contact (one of the good ones!).
12th-May-2009 12:53 pm (UTC) - Re: Haven't seen the movie yet ...
Make that Zefram.
12th-May-2009 03:02 am (UTC) - Re: Haven't seen the movie yet ...
Khan and the Eugenics Wars were supposed to have been in the 1990s. I remember there was a small fan outcry when Voyager went back in time to the 1990s, and it was our actual 1990s instead of the Eugenics Wars...
12th-May-2009 12:46 pm (UTC) - Re: Haven't seen the movie yet ...
Copied from Wikipedia entry "Eugenics Wars":

In "Space Seed," Mr. Spock refers to the Eugenics Wars being Earth's third world war. It should be noted that Spock stated the Eugenics Wars as "the era of your last so-called world war." This could be interpreted that some optimistic contemporaries of the conflict thought it would be the last global war. Of course, if that were the case, Spock should have said "your so-called last world war" instead of "your last so-called global war." This statement has been quietly ignored, however, and in the Star Trek universe, World War III is said to have taken place in the mid 21st century, ending in 2053.

So that's where the 1990s ref comes from. I'd forgotten about that. In any case, the new movie doesn't deal with this.
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