Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Death of Star Trek

OK, I admit it, I like Star Trek. I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode of every series and all the movies(except for the weird animated series..who really counts that?). Suffice it to say, I am an informed Star Trek watcher. Does this truth embarrass me? A little, but I'm already over it.

As one would imagine, based on my aforementioned Trekdentials, I went to see the brand new Star Trek movie this past week. It's clearly not possible for me to keep my opinion to myself.

As an action movie, I thought it worked about as well as an action movie can ever work. If you were to catalogue the various elements of Star Trek, you'd find a garden-variety action/super-hero/origin story. All the obligatory parts are there: explosions, blood, a chase, a kiss, insurmountable odds, and a thrilling conclusion. It won't win any major, non-technical awards, but at least it does what it was made to do: pump up an audience.

For the more astute observer, though(or at least for those who are more Star Trek universe-savvy), the real news is J.J. Abrams' message to the franchise: so long, and thanks for all the fish. I haven't decided yet how I should interpret this death blow to a 40-year old story arc. Is Abrams shooting Star Trek in the head with a put-you-out-of-your-misery sort of attitude? Like a cinematic Dr. Kevorkian? Or is it more gentle? Perhaps Star Trek is like an elaborate funeral pyre set ablaze to send the Trek world peacefully into oblivion.

Whatever the motivation, it's clear that the Star Trek world as we know it is now dead. I didn't get it at first. When Spock's planet is obliterated in massive explosion, the movie tells us that there are only a handful of Vulcans left. Furthermore, the Vulcans that are left are not the overly-logical, stone-faced stoics that we've come to know and love. I thought to myself, "What? They can't do that! How will they possibly be able to connect this movie and the rest of the story line? They'll never be able to....Oh..." And then it hit me: they don't have any intention of integrating this story into the rest.

Thus the death of Star Trek. The main purpose of the movie was to wipe the slate clean and sever all ties to the canon of Trek lore. It's over. Not even the Vulcans are the same. Sarek tells Spock to allow his feelings to guide his choices. For Star Trek fanatics, this is a development of gargantuan proportions.

After some internal deliberation, I've decided that I think this is great. Star Trek needed an enema at the very least. What it got instead was death and resurrection. The beauty of Star Trek is the exploration of humanity: What does it mean to be human? What is our nature? Can we make ourselves better? What is better? It is these questions, and not the endless techno-babble, alien masks and Klingon intrigue, that made Star Trek the brilliant experience that it was. If it's possible, then, to keep asking those questions with this fresh start, then I'm definitely on board(pardon the pun).

From the first Captain Kirk on the warlike tendencies of humanity:
"Alright, it’s instinctive, but the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands. But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers, but we’re not going to kill today. That’s all it takes, knowing that we’re not going to kill today."

1 comment:

  1. What I thought was great was the originality of the movie. :D

    Seriously though, I think you're right on. It was a great movie with enough "inside stuff" (red shirts dying, key catch phrases, etc) to keep the trekkies happy while messing with their canon.