Unpopular Opinion: To Boldly Go
So fellow trekkies, I feel I’ve been hanging around in the fandom long enough now to try to address this issue that’s been plaguing the fandom ever since the Star Trek Reboot got released. And that issue is: does the reboot somehow wreck the integrity of the original series? And did Abrams and his team miss the point entirely?
Or Abrams’verse vs the Original.
Short answer: No.
If you happen to disagree with that statement, or it angers you, or you just aren’t interested in my reasons, feel free to stop reading now. If not, please click for more.
Also Spoiler Warning For Star Trek Movies Of All Kinds Under Cut
If you’re still with me, I can only assume you are interested in how I’ve managed to come up with that answer. Or at least angry enough to want to argue to prove me wrong. Well, before we get to the anger, let me quantify my response first.
How I Got Into This Fandom:
Confession time- The reboot was the first Star Trek I really watched. After avoiding it for so many years of hearing bad reviews, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the movie. It was not without its problems, but I enjoyed it enough to give the rest of the Star Trek franchise a try. My first real exposure to Star Trek was through my mom, who loves the original series. She used to watch it at lunch time back when I was still in grade school, so I was at least familiar with the crew of the Enterprise (So much so that I was actually kind of excited when my grade 10 math teacher told us he met George Takei on a trip to Stratford. I may have yelled out “you met Hikaru Sulu?!’ in front of my whole class.) Since seeing both the reboot movies and watching the Original series and most of the original movies as well (I may have skipped TWOK because SPPPOOOOOCCCKKKKKKKKK!!!!!! *tears* I’m not ashamed because my mom still hasn’t seen it for that exact reason) I feel I’m in an interesting place to compare the two.
So Why Like The New Movies?:
I hear a lot of fans complain that the reboot ‘misses the point of Star Trek’. And until STID came out, I would have agreed with you. BUT: something we all need to remember is that Star Trek has always explored the problems and anxieties of the particular time it’s being produced in. That means over 47 years the Star Trek franchise has tackled many different issues in different ways. The difference here is that they’ve never rebooted a cast of beloved characters to do so, and that’s part of what makes people so uncomfortable. In the 60s people were concerned we would never be able to get along as a species, that we would destroy each other and our planet. Star Trek gave them a vision of the future in which we got past our prejudices, accepted each other and moved forward. The new movies aim to tackle the problems of our generation: The ones who lived through 9/11 and its aftermath. The generation living through the war on terror. If STID reminded you of 9/11 before you saw that dedication at the end, that’s because it was supposed to. It was a very deliberate move.
Terrorism and it’s Military Response:
At the end of 2009 Spock Prime tells his younger self he has inheirted a broken world. He isn’t incorrect. The terrorist Nero has just wiped out a planet something which was previously thought impossible by the inhabitants of the Federation because the idea is psychotic. But one man, leading one group of people, had this insane idea that the Federation had to pay for crimes it hadn’t committed, but was still being held responsible for. This horrific act had consequences- the full breadth we begin to understand when STID rolls around. That certain individuals no longer see war as a far off concern, but as the only answer. The Abrams’verse has become a place of trauma. How do you carry on in the face of tragedy like this? How does Starfleet stay a peaceful humanitarian exploratory organization in the face of madmen with ships that can cause such destruction? In the face of the Vulcan Tragedy the world of Star Trek has lost faith in the ideal that we can all get along. But STID does end on a high note- Kirk says he wants to move past this, to keep trying to be good people. To boldly go where no one has gone before. It’s a powerful message in this day and age. One that has me hoping that the rumored 2016 movie will deal with healing trauma rather than chucking this plot arc. In that sense, Star Trek has remained true to its original calling.
So Why All The Anger? :
JJ Abrams is not a Star Trek fan. I get that. I get why that’s concerning. HOWEVER THAT DOES NOT MEAN HE DOES NOT RESPECT THE SOURCE MATERIAL. You don’t have to be a fan of something to respect it. Lens flares aside, the have the reboots ever outright disrespected Star Trek? Has Abrams ever disrespected the fans, other than with his usual marketing bullshit? Because that’s part everything JJ Abrams makes and is not Star Trek specific. (Khan is another issue, I’ll get to later). The movies have some problems, some of them glaring, but they are still pretty decent films as far as Star Trek goes. The travesty that was the Original Motion Picture comes to mind.
So Let’s Talk About Alternate Universes:
Abrams’verse Trek gets tagged Alternate Original Series for a reason. It’s because these movies are an Alternate Universe, which despite that being stated pretty clearly still seems to go over some people’s heads. I like the old crew. I like the new crew. I respect their differences. Maybe it’s because I’m a fanfiction writer but I’m fairly familiar with the AU trope. AUs always start out with the question: what would happen if this event was different/never occurred/shifted time etc. It takes familiar characters and settings and builds them around a whole new set of questions and events. So really, the AOS just feels like decently written fanfiction to me. Kirk and his crew have been updated with adjusted backstories, which have skewed the personalities of their characters a bit. The original crew was made up of stable, functioning adults, who had this very military-like outlook on life. AOS is full of just-graduated kids, who are just starting out, and haven’t had time to grow into their jobs. They’re young. Very young, untried and traumatized. And it shows. That’s part of the reason they react very viscerally to situations that their original counterparts would have chilled through. They don’t have the same experience and self-confidence, which makes them react differently and to me at least, sometimes more interestingly than the TOS crew would.
But There Are Problems:
Now’s the fun part. Despite all my cheerleading for the reboots, I admit, they have some problems. Even large problems. Problems that are even more apparent in STID. Problems like this guy:
I think Benedict Cumberbatch is a good actor. I love him in Sherlock. And if he had been playing Cmdr. John Harrison, my two big concerns would not exist.
1. Khan Noonien Singh is a South Asian Character. Despite Ben’s wonderful performance here, and even if Abrams’ first two choices turned him down, casting a white actor in this role is still whitewashing. There’s been a lot of words written around this topic so I won’t expand on it here.
2. Khan really didn’t need to be in this movie. At all. For story reasons.
The writers kind of dropped the ball on this one. Having small shout outs to various Star Trek lore is great, even encouraged. Trying to retread Wrath of Khan was a bad move. And not just because they appeared to have missed the point of that movie entirely.
TWOK is the beginning of a 3 movie story arc that the original series did fairly well because they understood the story they were trying to tell. Putting it in here just seems weird. Khan was a continuation of an established storyline. Not so much here. Khan is a desperate plot twist, and a poorly used one at that.
Honestly? John Harrison should have stayed John Harrison. He could have still been a super-soldier, still could have had all the same motivations, the movie honest to god would not have needed to change except Quinto wouldn’t have got to pull his best Shatner impression at the end there. I could have easily accepted Harrison as the leader of a completely differently group of super-soldiers banished from earth because Star Trek already established that could happen. It’s plausible that there is more than one ship floating around out there. They might have had to adjust Leonard Nimoy’s cameo a bit, but the outcome could have been entirely the same. And they wouldn’t have had the frankly deserved bad publicity that comes with whitewashing.
Problem 2: Women.
The Lovely Ladies of the Enterprise Nyota Uhura and Carol Marcus.
On the one hand: Kudos to the writers for managing to get another woman into the Enterprise crew without it feeling forced.
One the other hand: Is there a particular reason Janice Rand and Christine Chapel haven’t made an appearance? Both of them were portrayed as incredibly competent in the original, why don;t they at least get bits parts here?
Nyota and Carol get a mixed reaction from me. In Uhura’s case, its mostly pleased. She didn’t get very much to do in the original series, and I feel the writers have actually given her more of a chance to shine in the reboot. On the other hand, did she need a romantic relationship with Spock for that? She stands well enough on her own two feet and I’m not sure dating Spock adds anything to her character that couldn’t be accomplished with some more clever writing.
Carol shares the same problem. On the one hand she gets to be incredibly competent in her field and can stand on her own. On the other hand, really? We needed the underwear scene? I get that she’s being set up as a possible love interest for Kirk but come on writers, you’ve already proved to me you are clever, why did you regress to this juvenile bullshit?
Problem 3. The Spock/Uhura Relationship
MY PROBLEM WITH THIS IS NOT SHIPPING RELATED!
Now that’s out of the way.
This relationship is kind of weird. Because I’m not sure it adds anything to the story. It’s just kind of there, like they needed to prove Spock was capable of caring about someone romantically for some weird reason. It doesn’t really add anything to Uhura’s role, except now we get the typical girl-hate for canonical relationship to a male character we like to ship with another male character, and the sly accusations she’s only on the Enterprise because she’s sleeping with Spock.
And its weird for Spock too, because it messes with his dynamics with Kirk and Bones. If the writers ever intended to develop it so that Nyota and Spock had conversations that helped them grow as characters and helped their relationship along, I’d be okay, but that will NEVER HAPPEN because they understand the fan base really well even if they apparently missed the memo that explained Kirk, Spock and Bones are 3 parts of a person and that’s why they work. That’s why those 3 get all the best dialogue and scenes in the original series. It because they’re really who we want to see.
This relationship feels very forced. Not bad. Not unwelcome. Forced. And maybe not used to its best advantage.
It all comes down to STORYCRAFT and how well the writers understand it.
As movies, the Trek reboot is not bad. As Star Trek movies, they are also aren’t bad. Maybe not great. Maybe not the best (because that title belongs to the one with the whales). But still pretty good as movies.
They do deserve to be judged on their own merits and failures. They aren’t just retreads of an old beloved series. The reboots try to make Star Trek available for a new generation without alienating existing fans. And that’s a tough job for any franchise, let alone one with such a dedicated fan base.
My predictions for the 2016 movie are as follows:
-The movie actually deals with the fallout of Vulcan on a larger scale.
– It takes place after the 5-year mission
-We get to see the affects of the two previous movies of an older, more adult crew
This is assuming the writers intend to follow the three act model they’ve been following up until this point.and don’t attempt to remake Search for Spock when they’ve already negated all the possible avenues for that one.
Let’s see some original story lines guys. Let’s boldly go where no one’s gone before.
PS: Does anyone else thinks it’s cool that Leonard Nimoy’s gotten to play the same character for 47 years? Because the Harry Potter Cast may have grown up being their characters but Leonard Nimoy’s grown old with Spock.
-imported from my tumblr