Not Your Mother’s Star Trek

May 16 09

Not Your Mother’s Star Trek

Paul Weinstein

TV’s Wil Wheaton has posted his review of the latest reincarnation of Star Trek into six simple words “It was awesome. I loved it” and notes that his review comes from “someone who was part of the first effort to make Star Trek relevant to the, uh, next generation of fans.”

Perhaps I’m just getting old and cranky, tho Wil has a couple more years on me, but I can’t say I agree. Consider this clip from the very first pilot episode of Star Trek featuring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike.

The plot is built on a strong, classic science fiction device, an investigation of what is real? Yet this version of Star Trek famously didn’t do it for television network executives looking for action and adventure. In Star Trek circles those executives are always viewed as simple-minded morons. Yet those same “morons” green-light a then unprecedented second, reworked pilot in which a recasted crew and writers not only go on an existential exploration but also get into a fist-fight or two. Somehow, when done right, it works.

Doubt me? Exhibit A: The Matrix, a successful action movie that just so happens to be built around science fiction’s exploration of human consequences in a fictional world similar to our own. In the case of the first Matix movie, that very same question, what is real?

Maybe not so simple-minded, those Hollywood execs? The most famous movie example of this form in the Star Trek universe would of course be the second movie, The Wrath of Kahn:

The problem here is that when this formula works, it works. When it doesn’t, well we get movies like The Final Frontier or Nemesis. It also means that without Gene Roddenberry we won’t see anything like The Voyage Home, which askews the action pacing for something a little more “down to earth” and still works.

And here in lies my criticism, this time-travel alternative universe action adventure is not just tired, it is threadbare. Once again the Enterprise goes into battle, once again the odds are against the ship and crew and yet, once again somehow they pull it off. The promise of this movie, how the crew is first brought together, how they learn to trust each other in life or death situations is never fully developed. Chris Pine‘s Kirk comes off as a jerk with a death wish instead of Shatner‘s calculating risk taker. Zachary Quinto just can’t seem to quite pull off Nimoy‘s self-searching Spock.

And don’t even get me started on the Nokia and Budweiser product placements…..

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