Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek Movie (Star Trek XI)

This is not your Grandfather's Star Trek (TOS) (Or you Grandmother's). It's not your father's Star Trek (TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise). Nope. This is your Grandfather's Star Wars with Trek characters.

Doubt it? Check this out:

Any similarity with the Physics of the real universe or the Star Trek universe is purely coincidental. May the force be with you, Captain James T. Skywalker. Oh, and I guess those star ships came from the Babylon 5 set.

The best thing about the film was the casting. It was really, really good. Having a real Russian, Anton Yelchin play Pavel Chekov made that character bloom. If they had let him have a real Russian accent, though, it would have been an improvement. The actor himself, however, apparently had no problem doing the fake accent even though he is Moscow born and speaks Russian fluently. In fact, I believe he switched to real Russian at one point in the movie. Having Chris Pine, a real WASP, play Kirk didn't hurt, either. Shatner's Kirk combined midwestern bravado with the broad physical gestures of Yiddish theater, (think early silent movies), while Pine's Kirk is far more refined, and easier to believe. Nor can I say having a Brit, comic Simon Pegg, play Scotty, who is supposed to be a Brit, is a problem. Quinto and Pine are both fine actors, and they showed it here. I wonder if Quinto's pay scale may rise above the charts for future Trek's though. Sulu? John Cho? Harold and Kumar go to Vulcan...? OK, that didn't turn out to be bad, either. After all, if Kumar can work for Barack Obama, who is himself accused of being a Vulcan, (Tuvok?) why can't Harold?

I did not need Uhura to be channeling Nurse Chapel... but I could get used to that. It didn't violate the laws of Physics. It worked for me. It explained why she was the only female crew member who never got into bed with Kirk. Speaking of the laws of Physics, the cartoonish treatment of them and human physiology left Dr. McCoy with nothing to do in this movie. Karl Urban had little to work with, but did a wonderful imitation of DeForrest Kelly, the only original show cast member not cast against type. Having a green Rigelian Animal woman be a Star Fleet Student was nothing short of brilliant.

The flick was fun, but I'd have preferred it be an alternative universe, not an alternative timeline. The Superman Cannon reinvents itself about every 20 or 25 years, but it adds a new alternative earth and alternative universes (and we don't have Supes, we're on Earth Naught... Earth Prime has the Superman of the 1960s, Earth 2 the World War II Superman, Earth 3 has the 1980s Superman. At some point it will become formal that Smallville's Superman is on Earth 4. Alternative universes deal with such ongoing franchise issues as changes in the understanding of science, and actually reaching the years in which a future story is set.

This works way better for me than an alternate timeline that wipes out the entire history of the franchise, except Enterprise, which so far appears to be what they did here. Also, an alternate universe has the benefit of not being stuck with such old timeline problems like the Clone Wars of the 1990s... which didn't happen in OUR universe. Perhaps we will find out, in a future film, it didn't happen in the Chris Pine Kirk/Zachary Quinto Spock universe, either.

I'm a science fiction geek/fanatic, but I'm picky about my fantasy. Science fiction is a discussion in the form of fiction of real scientific issues, ideally looking at how it would effect human interactions and society, while good fantasy fiction looks at how people would act in fantasy situations. Star Trek has traditionally been science fiction, while Star Wars was fantasy. For an unrelated example, the idea of emergent intelligence in machines is a real issue being discussed in the Scientific community (e.g. "The Ghost in the Machine."... nonfiction). However unlikely the stories in I, Robot or Terminator may be, (or TNG's episode, "Emergence") they are science fiction. On the other hand, however amusing Buffy the Vampire Slayer may be, it's fantasy. The current TV show on Fox, Lie to Me, which uses the emerging science of microexpressions is also science fiction (no real connection between reading microexpressions and being able to tell truth from lies has yet been established).

So, understanding that I value Star Trek Television shows for their Science Fiction nature, I would have chosen more realistic fight scenes, a better explanation of the creation of black holes, (punching a time space hole into a universe which has not yet experienced it's big bang would do it, 'red matter' does not) ... The fact that Scotty went through an ordeal that should have left him physically shattered without so much as a bruise was very Star Wars (or even Roger Rabbit or Road Runner) and, for me, the most unacceptable part of the movie. It also made Dr. McCoy unnecessary. The red beast chasing Kirk and leaving him without a scratch wasn't much better. Star Trek(TOS) might have been cheaply made, and it's 'rule of parallel development' might have been a weak excuse to use old movie and TV sets, but it was never a cartoon. This Star Trek movie was a cartoon.

The Red Matter thing aside, if you tried to drill a hole into earth, the planet is molten, and the hole just wouldn't happen. Vulcan, likewise, is volcanic (DUH). What more, if a tiny black hole did suddenly appear at the center of a planet, the planet would collapse much more slowly than in the new Trek movie, and it would spin faster and faster. From the outside, the event would take many years, even many centuries, not minutes. If the black hole were big, it would happen faster, but it also would capture that nearby small planet on which Nimoy Spock and Pine Kirk were sitting. Due to the time warp factor (yes, traditionally, Trek used real science constructs) the collapse of the planet Vulcan would appear to happen much faster if you were ON the planet than if you were outside. However, even there, the event would take much longer.

And even today we would be able to forecast a star going supernova centuries in advance, there's no way a little debate in the Vulcan High Council 375 years from now could slow Spock down enough to stop him from saving Romulus. Not that putting a black hole in the middle of the star would stop it from going Supernova. Some Supernovas actually end in black holes... they CREATE black holes.

So, this is why I say that Star Trek XI is really Star Wars disguised by better character development. After all, what made Star Wars great? Beautiful special effects. Lots of fight scenes and explosions. Good guys and bad guys. No science issues, no hard human issues, no nontrivial interpersonal issues. I liked Star Trek XI a lot more than Star Wars. I wouldn't take my money back if it meant I had to erase the experience from my mind. But, as a fan of Star Trek as real Science Fiction, I was disappointed.

Just an addition, there are fan websites producing their own shows. I've seen is this: : and enjoyed it a lot. I'll be doing blogs on each website and reviewing what they have to offer. The production here is not in sequence, and watching the shows in chronological order by the story is much better than watching them in the order they were produced.
Late Next Gen/Voyager Timeline (Scottish Trekkies) :

I'm going to check these out, and review them in the future:
TOS Timeline: (Texas USA Trekkies)
TOS Timeline: (Washington, DC USA Trekkies)
TNG Timeline:
(Southern California USA Trekkies)
TOS, continued with the same crew and characters, different actors
: (Upstate New York USA Trekkies)
Post-TNG: It's a joint SeattleUSA/London, UK production:
Late Next Gen/Voyager Timeline: (Nothing completed yet, same Seattle/UK venture as above)
Late Next Gen/Voyager Timeline:: (Detroit, Mich. USA Trekkies)
Late TOS/pre TNG(Audio and Novel only):

Video reviews: I just had to add this treasure:


  1. I agree with most of your analysis, however I'd like to comment on your problems with the new movie being unrealistic. The problems you mention with the new movie (like red matter, for example) are no more abhorrent than the moving stars or explosions in space frequently featured in TOS.

    I think that the erroneous science feature in both TOS and the new movie are in the same capacity kind of endearing. Or, to be fair (since I'm a huge fan of Star Trek and find most things endearing about it, particularly Spock's cocked eyebrow), they're both at least not real science.

    Also, I wanted to note that the red matter could have been referencing the Large Hadron Collider, which may/may not have the ability to create black holes in the center of our planet.

  2. ljk, I want to thank you for your comment. I confess that although I watched TOS first run as a child, I'm not a big fan. I'm more fan of NextGen seasons 3 through 7, and Voyager.

    I can't see that an explosion in space, which might be based on a non-oxygen reaction, or one which does not require an atmosphere, is the same as a red paint-like substance creating a black hole. Nor do I think it belongs in a catagory with a small black hole preventing a star from exploding.

  3. Another thought about explosions in space. Supernovas are explosions in space of entire stars. If antimatter touched matter it could explode in space. Gunpowder could not explode in space, but plenty of stuff could explode in space.

  4. Ok, well you have to admit that MOVING STARS are a pretty huge science faux-pas. I just think that you have to be realistic when analyzing either the new movie or the old series. In either one there are scientific problems.

  5. I'm not enough of a Trekkie to remember when they moved stars. Was it in a movie, TOS, when? I remember only them moving THROUGH stars.

    The same artists who do science film, video, and museum exhibits used to work on Trek. I've hung with them. Dr. Stephen Hawkings was consulting for TNG and appeared as a hologram of himself in one episode. Trek tried to make the science a projection, not a complete fantasy. Quantum transport for more than a few atoms is a long way off. I grant you that.