Of Warp Drive and Alternate Worlds

I know that this is like a year late, but I just watched it again and I wasn’t blogging then.

I liked the new Star Trek movie. I liked it quite a bit. Was it a perfect movie? No, of course it wasn’t perfect. But I can tell you that it was thoroughy enjoyable and for this fan, I was distinctly happy to see a reboot of the series. It was clever how they did it without invalidating what I’d come to love before, while at the same time giving us the promise that with the reboot things could happen differently enough to make them interesting again or in some cases, interesting in the first place (read: Star Trek Voyager stinks).

I know some people are put off by the alternate worlds theory, but it’s an interesting plot tool for science fiction and so I say, let’s just accept it and buckle up for the ride. Why not? We get to see characters that we love, but just a little different. It’s like the first time you have “brinner” – I like dinner, and I like breakfast food. Why wouldn’t I combine the concepts to see what happens? (Conversely, I can assure you that dinner foods for breakfast – dreakfast – is not an equally good concept on execution).

Of course, it’s a strange concept to think of this alternate world as possible for characters you’ve come to know so well. But I’d say it’s strange only if you don’t allow yourself to realize that they’ve used the alternate worlds theory in Star Trek since the beginning.

Remember the Anti-Matter Universe? What about the Mirror universe, a concept so awesome that they revisited it several times in later shows? How about any one of about 6,782 times (roughly) that The Next Generation ran across some anomaly of the time-space continuum that led to an alternate reality or saw thousands of multiple versions of itself appear in one nexus? (That was a pretty freaking cool episode, actually, especially when you had Borg Universe Riker flip out and insist that now that they were out, they weren’t going back, only to have his ship explode in our reality.)

But this specific alternate world, since it’s the one in which we’ll be permanently operating from here on out (at least onscreen), opens up a whole host of interesting questions. Was Jim Kirk, as Spock Prime intoned, destined to be the captain of the Enterprise, regardless of the reality?

With the creation of the alternate reality all bets are off supposedly, and so Spock Prime is in fact not just tampering with history as he knows it but acting to alter a different reality to mold it to his concept of what should have been but has yet to be. My brain hurts.

Honestly, though, that’s a bit of a power trip, isn’t it? The first chance he gets, Spock Prime screws with the world he’s helped accidentally create to make it as much like the world he knows simply because he can’t accept that an alternate reality would unfold differently. That’s not destiny, that’s a God complex. They were doing just fine without you, Spock Prime. Well, actually, Spock (Beta?) was about to screw up royal, but maybe in that newly created timeline that’s how it was supposed to happen. For one who espouses destiny, you’d think he’d sit back and not screw with things. Am I right?

Of course, I don’t mind because I don’t want to know an Enterprise without Jim Kirk as captain, either. Where would the fun be in that?

I do think that the divergences with Kirk’s character is interesting, because the film postulates that even though he’s rougher around the edges he’s still the Jim Kirk we all know and love at his core. Eager to go charge in “where Angels fear to tread” as Kirk once said of himself in Star Trek VI in the future that won’t result from this past. The difference is that this Kirk didn’t have a father this “time” around to teach him boundaries early on, and so he had to learn his boundaries later. But he still made the same basic choices – even before Spock Prime’s influence – that took him down the same general path that he walked in “our” more familiar reality.

In more particular details, the lens flares did get a little out of hand, but I get what they were trying to achieve – a sort of realism that imperfect camera work would imply. That’s pretty clever, even if they did overuse it. I also liked the redesign of the ship’s interior a whole lot because it evoked the feeling that Star Trek itself is supposed to symbolize — a bright, shining hope about humanity’s future. (The engineering section design was a little bit lacking, but no one is perfect. Now that Scotty’s on duty I expect it to change. And the Dharma Initiative hallway with 20th Century push door was maybe a little…well, out of place.)

Special mention goes to Karl Urban for positively nailing the character of Bones McCoy. Best job on the cast, in my humble opinion, and I hope he gets more screen time the next time out.

As an overall reboot, it was successful and a darn sight better than at least four of the previous ten Star Trek movies (read: all of the TNG movies stink, even First Contact). That’s a winner in my book and I’m looking forward to what they come up with next.

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5 thoughts on “Of Warp Drive and Alternate Worlds

  1. The only other Trek movies that were better than “Star Trek” were “Wrath of Khan” and “The Undiscovered Country.” Pretty much all of the other Trek movies sucked.

    That said, the Star Trek reboot was extremely well done. They pretty much satisfied any discrepancies in the new time line with the back story they provided in this first movie. There are many possibilities down the road. After contracts expire with these actors, the producers could continue the series with rebooted “Next Generation” characters as well. I have always thought the Jean Luc Picard character was in desperate need of a makeover anyway.

    I do think they could have done little better with the casting of Kirk, but overall the casting in that movie was superb.

    1. I thought Pine did a good job of playing a guy I believe could become just like the Kirk we all know and love. He wasn’t there yet, but wasn’t supposed to be, if that makes sense.

      The one character bit I regretted was that Spock’s character arc – built methodically over decades’ worth of work – was blunted into a 2 hour experience. Spock had too much resolution about himself when the most intriguing thing about him was his constant lack of it.

  2. That kind of makes sense about Pine as Kirk, and I am not saying he did a bad job, but I still think the movie would have been better served with a better actor (like Matt Damon) who could exhibit a bit more personality. Pine was a little homogeneous and looked like he fell of the set of 90210. Again, I am not saying he was a terrible choice, he just would not have been my first choice. Maybe he will continue to develop into a better Kirk as you said.

    Also, I forgot about “Nemesis.” That was another good Trek movie, although not as good as “Star Trek.”

    1. Nemesis was good, but it suffered from the same thing that affected the other TNG movies: you had to be a fan in order really to give a darn about what was happening. Also, the editing was a bit off — there were scenes that would have worked far better earlier in the film than they chose to show them.

      I’m not so in love with Matt Damon. He picks his roles well, but I don’t think he would have been good in this role. Also, going with someone who’s such an established ‘star’ takes me out of the movie, because I’m always conscious that it’s ‘Matt Damon as Kirk’ and not just Kirk. I don’t know Chris Pine from Adam, and so long as the rest of the film does its job right I think of him only as Kirk.

      Pine also did a very cool thing at the end. When he took the captain’s chair in the last shot on the bridge, he sat in it ‘just right’ — he looked like Shatner in the old show in the way he sat.

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