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Star trek… must blog…

May 7th, 2009 by Ari

I just came back from watching the new star trek movie, so like all other nerds, I must get on the internet and share my opinions about it immediately. It was awesome. I really have nothing bad to say about it.1 Simply a great movie. That’s really all I can say without getting into spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, skip the rest of this post.

—Spoiler Alert—- —-Spoiler Alert—– —-Spoiler Alert—– —-Spoiler Alert—–

I’ve spent a lot of time watching star trek in my life. A quick back of the envelope calculation shows that I’ve probably spent about 2000 hours on trek related activities. (703 episodes2, 11 movies, DVD extras, perhaps a costume or two…) At the risk of sounding like the onion come true, there was a problem with the movie and how it treated all the rest of the star trek timeline. This movie essentially trashed it. All those thousands of hours I’ve spent watching Riker, Picard, Data, Janeway, 7 of 9, Sisko, Dax, Worf and Bashir have all been for naught because J.J. Abrams just made them all vanish.

I know why Paramount decided to go the way they did. It’s because they realized the next generation characters weren’t getting any traction in the theaters, and Voyager and DS9 didn’t really lend themselves to followup movies. (They both ended with some finality). After all these years, the characters that resonated most deeply with the American people were still Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, even to the under 40 set that wasn’t alive when they were on TV. Their last attempt at a prequel failed (Star Trek Enterprise), in part because it was constrained by continuity. So they decided to basically hit the big red button and reset the whole series, sort of like when a Dr. Who dies and they bring in a new actor to play his next incarnation. Now they can continue with the established characters, new actors, and no continuity worries. The problem is that I feel that they didn’t have to do it that way. They had no need to go back in time again and made a prequel (hasn’t George Lucas’ example taught people anything?) Why couldn’t they have just continued forward in time? Enterprise bombed because it went back – so go forward! There’s no reason they couldn’t have copied the formula that worked in the next gen- new crew, a few generations later, with newer and cooler technology, facing new enemies. They could have even used Nero – he was a good villain, and his particular brand of stateless terrorism seems to fit the current age. Now I have to go to sleep tonight, knowing that I spent 2000 hours watching something that didn’t happen. Oh. Wait a second.3

1 – That, if you didn’t get it, was sarcasm. I’m a nerd, of course I complain about movies. One of the only reasons nerds watch movies is so that we have something to complain about later so that we can feel superior to the pleebs who don’t know enough to complain. How I pity them – they are so ignorant. And yet, so blissful. (I’d better stop now before I realize the error of my ways – being a nerd also requires that I see no fault in my own life choices).

2 – 703 episodes because I count the pilot episode of TOS as an episode, but don’t count The Animated Series. (Nitpicking – another nerd hobby that we enjoy. See footnote 1).

3 – Don’t worry, lack of self awareness is another nerd trait, I won’t actually take even a minute to pause and reflect on my life and its priorities.a

a -Except to note that when I was in college if I had spent all that time studying instead of watching Star Trek, I probably would have made honor roll a lot more often. Incidentally, a footnote on a footnote is called a superfootnote, and it’s the kind of thing only a nerd does.

7 Responses to “Star trek… must blog…”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I would argue that the new movie was never meant to be a straight-up prequel, but rather a reboot of the series. As you said, the characters from the original series resonate the most with fans and non-fans alike, so wiping the slate clean with an alternate timeline is a good way to introduce the series to potential fans who may have been intimidated by decades of continuity. It doesn’t diminish the time spent watching TNG or the other series, because those stories still have value. And if the new timeline allows some of those events and characters to reappear in a slightly different way, then you can enjoy them again without knowing exactly what will happen beforehand. The important thing is that the spirit of the characters and the story remains intact.

    Marvel Comics did something similar in 2000 to get attract new readers by launching the Ultimate universe. Rather than re-write several decades of continuity, the company created a separate universe (the “Ultimate” universe) that existed outside the main Marvel continuity (colloquially called the “616” universe). Origins of charcters were modernized but the personalities remained the same. The Ultimate universe was well-received both commercially and critically, and titles from both universes are published today.

  2. William Says:

    I just saw the movie, and while I think that, in many ways, it was a good movie, leaving alone the timeline problems (because the Enterprise and its schedule could have been changed as a result of the Romulan attack; Chekov could have been brought in early; Boyce was somehow never assigned as CMO – to say nothing about Number One) – is that one cannot build a starship on the ground. Every starship was built in an orbital facility – a vessel like NCC-1701 wouldn’t have been capable of supporting its own weight on Earth.

    And, because there was a change in the timeline, there are now parallel Trek universes (though without the opposites of “Mirror, Mirror”) – so the other possibilities still happened, but in a different reality (or, in this case, fictionality). A future installment could always figure out how to resurrect Vulcan from its singularity – after all, the Romulans controlled singularities and used them to power their warp drives…

    What I found strangest about the ship is that it seemed to be a cross between the Constitution, Mark I (TOS) and the Constitution, Mark II (movies). I know they wanted to make it look more futuristic than the Mark I does today – but I think they made it look a bit too much like the Mark II.

    May the Vulcans – and the rest of us – live long and prosper.

  3. Ari Says:

    Building the Enterprise on the ground was clearly done for movie effect only, and makes no sense from a rational standpoint. Then again, the same could be said about red matter. We know that by Picard’s time all the ships are built in space (for example the Utopia Planetia shipyards, and the shipyards that are occasionally seen in the Dominion wars).

    In response to the more important point you raise, that of the alternate timeline occurring now in a parallel universe, that is not how trek has done time travel. While it may be true in the physical universe we live in (we really have no idea if time travel is possible, and if so, how it would work), it is not the way in which trek writers have chosen to resolve the various time travel paradoxes that arrive. In every time travel episode we always see the “present” change to an alternate timeline the instant the time travel occurs. If the alternate universe theory were correct, then the “present” timeline would continue unabated and no one would really notice it. The characters who traveled to the past would in effect be creating a parallel timeline of events. The parallel timelines theory is a working scientific theory to resolve time travel paradoxes, but it is not the one in play in the Star Trek universe.

  4. William Says:

    In this case, however, the parallel timeline theory must be in play – because that is the only way to explain the older Spock, whose memories and experiences are from a much different timeline – one that, in the new reality, cannot be constructed. Who is to say if the new timeline could even give rise to the Nero who came back to try to destroy the Federation? So, for the first time, it is in play in Star Trek.

    Even before 2360 (Picard’s time), ships were built in space: the Enterprise’s refit was done in the space dock orbiting Earth; the new Enterprise and Excelsior were built in the same dock, and; the Ambassador-class Enterprise was built at McKinley Station (orbiting Earth).

  5. William Says:

    I just remembered something: there is an instance of the intersection of parallel timelines somewhere else in Star Trek: “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. When NCC-1701-C entered the time rift and failed to save the Klingons from the Romulans and created the alternate war timeline, Tasha Yar decided to return with the doomed Enterprise to 2344 – where she became the consort of a Romulan and had a daughter, Seela. That alternate timeline was needed to create Seela – so, because of her existence, those events must have taken place – and that timeline must, somehow, exist.

    Don’t you just love intersecting, parallel lines? (For those of you in a Euclidean world, take two aspirin and call me in the morning.)

  6. Ari Says:

    William – again a good theory, but in conflict with how ST has always handled time travel. In every time travel episode, characters that go back to the past carry their memories, even if they come from timelines that have been destroyed. This is probably best summed up when Janeway (VOY) encounters the timeship that had destroyed her in a previous timeline. After hailing the ship, she makes some comment to the effect that she hopes this encounter will be a little less hostile. The other captain gives her a funny look and says “I’m sorry, I haven’t experienced that timeline”. Janeway remembered an event which didn’t exist. (Which, when you think about how memories work, makes perfect sense. There’s no guarantee that any of our memories actually happened). You can also think about every other episode from the guardian of forever to trials and tribble-ations – the characters went into the past with memories of events which didn’t happen. Sisko even remembered learning about the Bell riots, even after Bell died prematurely.

    In Yesterday’s enteprise, the concept is the same, but the story is told backwards. If it were told normally, then we would have seen 1701-C fall into the time vortex, and the Federation would have gone to war with the Klingons, and Tasha lives. Eventually the ship would come out of the vortex, everything we saw in the episode would have happened, and then the ship would have gone back in time, altering the timeline to the non-warlike 23rd century, were Tasha is born again, and has a different life (and dies as we saw in season 1). Tasha remembers the war timeline, and still has a daughter (Seela).

    As they say in the gemarah, lo kashyah. (There is no difficulty here).

  7. chaim Says:

    Finally saw it Thursday night…

    The whole changed-timeline excuse is a cowardly cop-out. For my money, if they wanted to do a reboot, they should have just bitten the bullet and done it. The lazy reaching for an easy answer trivializes an already extremely trivial and hokey storyline.

    Similarly, I am sick of this whole “safe money” future history bullshit. It’s of a piece with tired remakes of classics with no other motivation/justification but the economic one. I agree that they should have just jumped another hundred years in the future if they felt like they needed a reset.