Monday, May 11, 2009

STAR TREK: same destiny, different universe =)

STAR TREK. A ton of fun, like a brilliant 20-year high school reunion with old friends, only, y'know, you WANT to go. A clever and welcome departure from the take-no-chances pseudo-continuity of the STAR TREK universe as we've known it for 40 some-odd years.

I'm not gonna hold back here, so beware that you're entering ***SPOILER*** territory...

Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman take a tired (but for my money, still enjoyable, when done well) TREK device, time travel, but this time, use it to CHANGE history, creating an alternate timeline. The source of this time anomaly is in the STAR TREK universe we've known for decades (aka TREK Prime), in whicn Ambassador Spock embarks on a mission to save the Romulan homeworld from destruction, racing to keep its sun from going supernova. Alas, he arrives too late to save Romulus, but attempts to contain the supernova using Red Matter, each drop of which can apparently spawn a black hole. Of course, this Red Matter, deployed into the expanding supernova, results in the creation of a singularity that sucks Spock's ship, along with a massive Romulan mining vessel, out of spacetime in the 24th(?) century, and deposits them in the 23rd. The Romulan ship is immediately confronted by a Federation Starship, the U.S.S. Kelvin, its first officer, one George Kirk (father's name, Tiberius =). The Romulan captain, Nero, blames Spock for the destruction of his homeworld, and seeks his ship. When Nero finds that the Kelvin has no knowledge of Spock's whereabouts, he orders its destruction. His Captain captured and presumed killed, First Officer Kirk takes command, orders everyone, including his pregnant wife, to abandon ship, and pilots the ship on a collision course into the heart of Nero's behemoth. He sacrifices himself to buy his crew time and safety, but not before he and his wife agree to name their newborn boy James.

Although I feel like some of the details surrounding this movie's choice of time jumping phenom are a bit clunky and/or thin, I hafta say that I love the way the movie, and the characters, come together to lay the groundwork for so much potential TREK goodness.

Looking forward...

This does NOT obliterate the stories and continuum that we all grew up with. Those stories have happened, and will continue to have happened, no matter what is written for the crew of the Enterprise that we meet in this movie. We've seen this before in TREK-dom. They are separate, parallel, timelines, in the way that the "Mirror, Mirror," aka evil goateed timeline and the WRATH OF KHAN (TREK Prime) timeline are.

There are at least two beautiful things that come out of this...

1. Destiny. In at least two timelines, this Enterprise crew, this particular bridge crew, is fated to be together, and under the leadership of James T. Kirk. In the TREK Prime timeline, Commander Spock served as Captain Pike's first officer on an Enterprise mission to a planet of beings who abducted the captain to study and test humanity. Years later, after the Kirk has taken the Captain's chair, Spock defies the chain of command to come to the aid of his former captain, paralyzed and ailing, confined to a space wheelchair that allows him to communicate only thru electric signals (see original series episodes "The Cage" and "The Menagerie," and maybe FUTURAMA =).

Anyhow, Kirk's Enterprise crew was NOT Pike's Enterprise crew. None of them step up to claim friendship, loyalty, or experience with the Captain. Which means to me that the crew that we know and love was assembled after Pike captained the Enterprise, before, or perhaps early on in, Kirk's five year mission.

Now, the event which spawns the divergent, alternate timeline of the movie is the encounter of the U.S.S. Kelvin with Nero's mining behemoth. This encounter ends badly for the Federation, with the loss of a starship and the death of two of its captains within a dozen minutes. The second, George Kirk, gives his life and his ship to buy time for the survival of his crew, fleeing in shuttles, including his wife, who gives birth to James during George's last seconds of life.

Enough drama for ya?

So, James is pre-emptively robbed of years of fathering. I'm a little fuzzy on the influence of Kirk's dad in the Prime timeline, but I could imagine it leading to his joining the Federation a few years earlier than he does in this movie. In the movie, he bums around Iowa, working at giving the local Academy trainees a hard time (which could be good or bad, depending on if you're female)... Something of a GOOD JAMES T. HUNTING punk.

When Pike, an old friend of George Kirk, challenges James to do something with his life and join Starfleet, he jumps on the last shuttle out. On board he meets cadets Bones McCoy and Uhura. What are the odds?

Three years and one overly cavalier performance in the Kobayashi Maru simulation later, on board the Enterprise, Jim and Bones meet Pike's bridge crew, including one Sulu, Chekhov, and Mr. Spock. When the communications officer proves deficient at xenolingusitics, short skirted Uhura is ordered to take his place.

That's almost everybody. What are the odds?

Later, after the destruction of Vulcan, Spock chooses a pretty harsh disciplinary measure to demonstrate his authority as acting Captain (Captain Pike having been abducted by the enemy), and launches Kirk in an escape pod to the frozen surface of a moon in the Vulcan system. The pod computer notifies Kirk that there is a Starfleet outpost nearby and he should await retrieval. Of course, he sets out on his own.

After a STAR WARS-y attack by two higher-ups in the local food chain, including a requisite sci-fi/horror vagina beasty, we learn that this is the same planetoid on which Romulan blue-collar baddie Nero deposited timeline-jumping Spock Prime, in an overly romantic execution of poetic justice.

Both Kirk and Spock Prime are deposited on the same frozen moon by two different individuals. AND, we soon discover, the moon is home to a Starfleet outpost currently manned by one Montgomery Scott, apparently exiled to this duty after some transgression or other at the academy. Also, the one man in the universe at that time who could assemble just the device/s necessary to get James Kirk back on board the Enterprise in mid-warp.

What are the odds?

Do you see what I, and the movie, are getting at here? It's a notion that you'll have seen many times in comic books and alternate history fiction. That certain individuals, and sometimes certain teams of individuals, are destined for unique roles, and greatness in those roles. Sure, our sample set is only two timelines out of infinity, but MAN, the odds that this new timeline stretches are pretty frickin astronomical. I've gotta believe that this crew of Starfleet officers and cadets is a must-have in 99 out of 100 timelines in the STAR TREK multiverse.

Kee-razy. Maybe you don't need to think about it that way. Cuz there's more than enough going on minute to minute in the movie to enjoy without this extra level of... I dunno... romance, I guess. But for my money, and my comic book incubated sensibilities, this level is a wonderful bonus payoff.

Frack. That simple notion took longer than I anticipated to spell out. I suppose I should be surprised, eh?

I'll hafta save point number two for a next post.

Keep on beepin on~


Ted Assur said...

I'm still getting over it. Enjoyable movie, but combining time travel with parallel universes goes against ST canon in my book. They've always been treated completely separate devices in my recollection. All the time travel stuff takes place in the same universe, going back and forth in the same time stream. This seems a bit contrived to me to change the rules to justify a new story line / franchise. And what will we call new items in this franchise ? Alt Trek?

Don't get me wrong. I loved the movie. Only Star Trek could say "ok, now we're going to jump tracks to an alternate universe so we can keep things interesting." It's the changing the rules of the Star Trek universe that i'm still chewing on.

Oh and remind your readers what the alt-line in Wrath was?

cabinboy said...

I consider WRATH to be the Prime timeline, which flows from the original series thru to VOYAGER. I honestly don't know if ENTERPRISE is part of that...?

Do fans count MOTION PICTURE as canon/Prime?

There was an ENTERPRISE timeline jump, with a "Mirror, Mirror" type universe that seemed to involve time travel as well. 22nd century goateed Earth got hold of a 23rd century Constellation class starship from an alternate timeline (Prime? I'm not sure), and Captain Quantum Leap stole it to set himself up as all-high muckymuck or something.

I think it might've been the for-fun two-parter that ended the series?

MAYbe the "Year In Hell" VOYAGER storyline? I can't remember exactly how that resolved itself.

And in the NG finale, Picard jumps forward to a Possible future. Wouldn't that be an Alternate future?

Eh. Regardless, I don't have a problem with applying both devices to crowbar out a fun reboot.

And the next point I want to ramble on is about how almost everything and everyone that the Enterprise encountered the "first" time is STILL OUT THERE! We can meet space Liberace again, those three energy beings, the Gorn, Ron Howard's brother, crazy gangster planet, and "Space Seed" Khan!

Hell, if Spock Prime were to go a little nuts, he could manipulate things to nip all kinds of things in the bud.

Point two-and-a-half would be about how Spock refers to himself as a member of an endangered species. I can see some fun to be had with that in a future movie or spinout...

Ted Assur said...

Yech. I'm still washing the stink off from watching this movie.

Let me get this straight, so Spock (the Prime) tries to save Romulus, but since he tried and failed, Nero goes in his **mining** ship to go kill him, they get sucked back in time, and Nero does welllll... not much for 25 years except kill Jim Kirk's dads ship waiting for Spock to show up.

I guess all that doing not much waiting to kill the guy who tried but failed to save your planet could drive a guy batty, because then he takes his massively armed **mining ship** and goes around hunting people down. I'm glad mining ships have all these precarious drops and fragmenting missiles on them. Otherwise poor Nero would have not much to do. I dunno, maybe he could go try to save his own planet? He's got 25 years and ship from the future!!

And where did Red Matter come from? Oh, yeah, it came from JJ's tv shows, where's he's obsessed with red spheres. Bleh.

There are so many recycled plot points in this one from previous Star Treks it's just plain stinky. It's like a 10 movie star trek mashup. Time travel? Check. Romulan bad guy? Check. Big super armored ship with precarious drops? Check. Bad guy with Super Weapon of planetary destruction? Check. San Francisco Bay? Check.

OK, and Kirk driving up on his motorcycle to the shipyards... Wasn't that scene from Top Gun?

Scotty going through tubes of reactor coolant? That was straight from Willy Wonka.

BLECH! The only way to enjoy this movie is to get a lobotomy first. Chemical or otherwise. It's great eye candy, just don't think. I think Gene's rolling in his grave.