Gene Expression

Star Trek, Here I Stand

I went and watched the new Star Trek movie this weekend. It was alright. Worth the money. But there’s one thing that’s been getting in my craw about criticisms about the film, so I thought I would air my dissent. Since it’s a spoiler, below the fold….

I liked the fact that the time travelers broke temporal continuity and that we’re now veering off into an alternative timeline. Time travel was cute when Harlan Ellison came up with it in the 1960s, but it’s done, overused and stale. In fact I began to feel years ago that it was a get-out-of-jail card whenever writers didn’t have any new ideas. It was lame. Some Trek-nerds are complaining that it shatters the whole canon. Who cares? To quote St. Ambrose, there is no shame in passing to better things. If the price of that is the expiration of the old canon, so be it.


  1. #1 Sigmund
    May 12, 2009

    The thing that’s always apparent in these sorts of future science fiction scenarios is the public role of religion in the story.
    Its always almost completely absent. It’s as if the general public inherently knows that it will all be gone by then. Not only do we not expect to see current religion in our science fiction but the very idea of including it just seems weird and wrong!
    Having a classic car 200 years in the future? Fine.
    Have the beastie boys playing? No problem.
    Have someone mention Jesus?

  2. #2 franz dibbler
    May 12, 2009

    I enjoyed the rebooting of storied franchise. I remember whining about the lack of Vulcans, the somewhat sissified Captain Picard, a female security officer, etc on TNG. After some time the characters grow into something to be appreciated for their own sake. Yeah, time-travel can fix and generate plot holes. I give those a pass considering we are *already* talking about FTL travel, alien hominid species, transporter technology. Maybe there will be another film that will “repair” the departure from Star Trek canon?

  3. #3 Kevin
    May 12, 2009

    It is a fictional universe with fictional characters. Yes, Time travel is a stale plot device, but I like the idea of them rebooting the star trek universe so they can keep the characters we know, but are able to rewrite the storyline of their lives.

  4. #4 Tom Bri
    May 12, 2009

    Harlan Ellison invented time travel? In the sixties? Joking with us again, eh Razib.

    I like SF, but agree with you that time travel stories are usually pretty lame. Too easy.

  5. #5 Roadtripper
    May 12, 2009

    …Ellison came up with it in the 1960s…

    Uh…there was this guy, H.G. Wells. And he wrote this book, The Time Machine. And it was like, 1895.

    mumble…kids today…grumble

  6. #6 bill r
    May 12, 2009

    “By his bootstraps” – Robert Heinlein, 1941
    “the time machine” – H.G.Wells, 1890’s
    “A sound of thunder” – ray Bradbury, 1950’s

  7. #7 diana
    May 12, 2009

    “Time travel was cute when Harlan Ellison came up with it in the 1960s”

    Didn’t HG Wells come up with it before Ellison?

    “Some Trek-nerds are complaining that it shatters the whole canon.”

    How so? They did a time-travel episode in the original series. Something about how they went back to NYC in the 1930s. The costumes were good.

  8. #8 razib
    May 12, 2009

    yes, i know that ellison didn’t invent time travel. but he was the writer who started the trend of using temporal anomalies as a plot devise in star trek.

  9. #9 megan
    May 12, 2009

    Seems only the people who like the movie and have always wanted the old canon redone post or write about it. It could’ve worked based as just a Trek Academy movie if young faces are needed and hipster bling for the youth and complete rewriting needed to be done, why use the original core characters to do it? I’ll wait for some other movie to be done by JJ Abrams to enjoy his action writer/directing prowess.

  10. #10 rpenner
    May 12, 2009

    I saw Star Trek twice, and I’m not sure why but I never really immersed myself into the film and score.

    But the mind meld scene offended my movie-physics/politics/economics common sense.

    * Which star exploded? It stands to reason that it was (one of?) the Romulus system star(s). The empire is Federation-level and wields mining starships which are self-sufficient for up to 25-years at a time. Why did they not notice that their star was going to explode in a more timely (say millions of years ago) timeframe? It must not have been a natural event. Who murdered Romulus?
    ** Given that we know the star, what was Spock’s original plan? Nuke the star and then evacuate the multiple inhabited planets of the system before they all freeze?
    * Why would the supernova threaten the universe?
    ** My answer to both: Someone with stealth technology steered two stealth neutron stars to collide in the stellar core. Candidates include the Romulans, the Klingons, the Dominion, more paranoid aspects of the Federation, Spock (trying cowboy diplomacy without the Kirk magic), the Dominion and possibly other parties. (Who couldn’t stealth a star after the end of the Dominion-Cardassian-Federation war?) But, it threatened the galaxy so it was going to be a mass-conversion event that would sterilize probably at least the Alpha quadrant. So we have the Dominion, the Unknown, and the Insane left as candidates. So the star death was detected but too late to evacuate the system or to wrap warp fields about the stars and tug them off course. Some bad intelligence must have been trusted unwisely because Spock accidentally arrived too late. But we know that the Romulans don’t subscribe to the StarDate system which keeps all the FTL clocks on Federation starships synchronized all over the galaxy, because Capt. Nemo needed to ask the time of day. So billions died due to a date/time conversion problem like the pounds/Newtons unit problem that crashed a Mars Probe.
    *** Who murdered Romulus? Pope Gregory and the calendar that bears his name.
    * Why would the Federation wait to build the ship before sending the relief mission? Is the Vulcan Science Academy stuck on a JIT supply system?
    * Why “red matter?” Is this because script writers think “dark matter” is black and play checkers alot?
    * Why so much red matter on one ship? In all instances of controlled use, roughly one millionth of the supply is used. Is it more stable in bulk?
    * How did one drop of red matter take out a supernova after the supernova exploded and wrecked at least one populated planet?
    * Where did the mass come from in the black holes that ate planets and starships?
    * Why are these black holes such neat eaters? What is empty space filled with in the Star Trek universe, and why does it exert pressure on matter only in the presence of a black hole?

  11. #11 razib
    May 12, 2009

    in regards to the previous comment above mine:

    NERD ALERT!!!!
    NERD ALERT!!!!
    NERD ALERT!!!!
    NERD ALERT!!!!
    NERD ALERT!!!!
    NERD ALERT!!!!
    NERD ALERT!!!!


  12. #12 Alan Kellogg
    May 13, 2009

    Star Trek is a sarcastic movie. Just look at the character of Ensign Chekov as an example. Multilevel snark at its best.

    Star Trek’s Chekov is at one and the same time an assault on the original Chekov’s thick Russian Accent, actor Walter Koenig’s inconsistent Russian Accent, and the character of Ensign Wesley Crusher as played by actor Wil Wheaton. There are tons of other bits like that.

    Star Trek is Abrams’ reinvention of the story cycle and could not be told any other way. Besides, who are you to tell a 13 year old Jimmie Kirk he can’t enjoy classical music?

  13. #13 rpenner
    May 13, 2009

    Well, at least I’m not posting it all over the Internet. :)

  14. #14 David Ross
    May 13, 2009

    Sigmund: I guess you didn’t watch any, and I mean *any* Deep Space Nine.

    Walk with the Prophets, my child…

  15. #15 Matt Springer
    May 18, 2009

    I wrote up a Trek piece at my site, and gave the time-travel a pass even though I generally seriously dislike it as a plot device in anything but one-shot stories. On the other hand “City of the Edge of Forever” used time travel, and I believe it’s legitimately considered to be one of the few times Trek achieved greatness. So given that time travel has been firmly written into Trek as a plot device since the original series there’s not much of a way for the writers to avoid it – especially since it gives them so much practical leeway in writing sequels. It would have been a good thing to say “BTW all these black holes made have now made time travel impossible”, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

    It’s also hard to contain my “not really a true Trek fan” glee at the screenwriters literally erasing every single previous series.

    Another thing I forgot to mention that I loved: the “KHAAAANN!!!” callback Nero yells at Spock as his plan is falling apart.

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