Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

“… ‘Tis Not Too Late to Seek a Newer World…”

Ulysses, Alfred Tennyson

I just saw the Star Trek film.  Not surprisingly, it received an avalanche of good reviews (I recommend Stephanie Zacharek’s in Salon).  Though it’s far from perfect, it captures and renews the essence of its source without servility or campiness.  It’s an alternative universe fanfiction, in the best sense.  I considered Jackson’s Lord of the Rings an unexpected gift, and didn’t think I’d receive another of this kind.  Star Trek doesn’t pass the Bechdel test but, as I fervently hoped, Uhura does much more than answer phones… and much better than smooch Kirk.


This is the first time that I find myself looking forward to more of a remake.  It’s fitting and deeply, viscerally satisfying that the show which made SF mainstream and which has always stood out because of its idealism and optimism bids fair to become a potent myth for yet another generation.

15 Responses to ““… ‘Tis Not Too Late to Seek a Newer World…””

  1. caliban says:

    We saw it this morning. In brief, we agree with your review. It was fun, the people behind it understood much of the optimism and bright spirit of the original, but found room to make some tweaks and twists. Like you, I was very happy in particular to see Uhuru get more fleshed out.
    One could quibble–for example, Star Trek originally eschewed violence as a solution, but this incarnation revels in it. Even young Spock prefers retribution. I understand that’s the standard ideology of American movies… which is a shame, as that was part of the mythology of the original series.
    Nonetheless, it is an excellent “reboot,” clever and satisfying without being accidentally self-parodying.

  2. Athena says:

    That was also one of my reservations: Star Trek generally opted for civility and diplomacy, but today’s Hollywood is firmly convinced that doesn’t work for the box office.

    My other quibbles (besides the usual bogus science) were that Bana’s villain was much too generic and monochromatic, which made him boring; that Spock Prime’s exposition of the conflict was a little too fast and pat; and that the mano-a-mano and swords fights looked out of place.

    There was a brief tableau in one of the trailers showing Spock’s parents with him as a newborn. I didn’t see it in the film itself — did I blink at the wrong moment, or did it end up on the cutting room floor?

  3. Walden2 says:

    The Final Frontier: The Science of Star Trek

    As the new movie warps into theaters this week, we ask physicist Lawrence Krauss, author of The Physics of Star Trek, how the sci-fi franchise keeps it real, and also how it bends–or breaks–a few laws of nature

    By Adam Hadhazy

    The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, has posted his take on the new Star Trek film from the point of analyzing its science content here:

  4. Caliban says:

    No, you didn’t blink; Spock’s birth was cut out. I don’t think the film suffered much from that loss. We’ll see it in the director’s cut. 🙂

  5. Athena says:

    Agreed, on both points! (*smiles*)

  6. Walden2 says:

    The more I think about this film, and the more I read about how bad the so-called science was in it, the unhappier I have become with this major detour to the Star Trek franchise.

    I am glad you brought up the fact that at the end of the film, the Fake Kirk and Spock could not wait to kill off the bad guy when he naturally refused their very token offer of assistance after being defeated.

    There may have been fights and battles in the original ST and its previous incarnations, but far more often than not they tried diplomacy first and last before resorting to photon torpedoes.

    I consider this and the entire film a sad reflection of today’s attitude towards dealing with others.

    The film was like junk food: I enjoyed it at first because it looked so good, but later on when I realized what I consumed and how bad it was for me, I felt terrible and cheated. But they have now hooked so many others into this mess.

    I *hope* the new ST franchise will improve (how can it get worse?), but I no longer have a lot of faith in that happening. The makers of this popcorn flick did not care about what made the original ST so great, so I don’t expect them to change that formula.

    Well, I can add J. J. Abrams to the list that Ronald D. Moore and George Lucas are already on of Hollywood SF people never to trust. And George Lucas.

  7. Athena says:

    I think most people were so relieved that it wasn’t a total disaster (and that they didn’t have to see the original actors get older and older) that they overlooked many things.

    I guess that this alternative timeline will be somewhere between the original ST and its mirror universe in terms of outlook. I also truly mourn the loss of Vulcan because it precludes the opportunity to explore that culture in depth. Both of these attributes will make the ST more generic, closer to a conventional action flick that its more cerebral incarnation before the reboot.

  8. Walden2 says:

    There was no real sense in destroying Vulcan except perhaps in the warped sensibilities of those who made this flick who thought it was a way to “cleanse” themselves from the old Star Trek versions.

    If that is the case, it just further proves how much I think Star Wars derailed and ruined what looked like such a promising future for science fiction cinema starting with 2001 and into the early 1970s.

    Will we ever recover? I don’t know, because even small films need lots of money and distributors with clout to be seen beyond the art houses.

  9. Athena says:

    Along your lines of thought, Larry, I think that destroying Vulcan was a way to make this Spock’s feelings be permanently closer to the surface. He will be angstier but I hope at least that they will allow him a wider emotional palette than just anger.

  10. Walden2 says:

    I am willing to bet if this version of Kirk and Spock ever come across the Horta they would simply kill it outright for being a big ol’ ugly monster and let the Janus VI miners turn her eggs into omelettes in revenge and to supplement their breakfast.

    Can you tell I am not happy with the direction Star Trek is going? I bet Gene Roddenberry would be very unhappy with them.

    Either keep the spirit of the series as it was intended or let it go away. We have enough SF films about dystopias and other dark futures for humanity.

  11. Caliban says:

    The useful term for this is “the myth of redemptive violence” (coined by Walter Wink). It’s been all along in American history–the idea that we solved our problems and even claim to have “rescued” others via violence. I think it really kicked in during the 1970’s, when violence was failing us in Vietnam. You can see it most clearly in the first “Dirty Harry” when the Scorpio killer lunges for the gun, thus giving Clint Eastwood the “right” to shoot him. I see it more and more in movies…the “good guy” gives the baddie a chance to surrender…instead the baddie goes for the gun…and the good guy, gosh darn it, just has no choice but to KILL THE BASTARD. And we are supposed to feel good about this. This cliche has become overwhelming in US cinema–for God’s sake, it even appeared in the end of Jodie Foster’s 1999 movie “Anna and the King,” where they are “forced” to blow up a bridge with the bad guy on it. That felt totally out of place.

    So I agree it is disappointing that Abrams, who is celebrated for his cleverness, had to fall back on such a tired cliche to end what was otherwise a satisfying movie.

  12. Walden2 says:

    I am not some mindless peacenik, please note. If there is some SOB bent on harming and killing with intent and without remorse then they need to be stopped by whatever means possible.

    But I can recall more than one original ST episode where Kirk, who was no shrinking wallflower, offered diplomatic solutions whenever possible. Today’s attitude comes from the last decade’s approach to enemies perceived and otherwise to kick their butts and conduct diplomacy with the business end of a Predator craft.

    Another thing that bugged me about the new ST film was utter absurdity of how Kirk violated Starfleet command and rank protocol whenever it suited and benefited him.

    Yes, the original Jim Kirk broke the Prime Directive on numerous occasions, but at least it was with the intent of making things better for the natives he encountered. The filmmakers let the new Fake Kirk brake the rules because they think his being a bad boy is enough for the audience.
    Clearly this version of Starfleet has the internal structure and integrity of Swiss cheese.

    In case anyone is wondering why I am complaining about what may be considered just a summer flick, I do so not only because I don’t like seeing Hollywood trash a franchise that is far more than just a means of entertainment, but if we keep letting them get away with pouring junk in our laps, they will just continue to do so at $10 a ticket and $7.50 for a big bucket of popcorn.

  13. Athena says:

    Calvin, the disease that you name has penetrated deeply into Hollywood. It seems that as people become more and more cubicle drones and couch potatoes, their tastes revert to the primitive — men and women are reduced to no more than the primary attributes of their genitals.

    Larry, to expand on some of your points, the new Kirk is in my view the weakest link in the reboot. I found him mostly annoying and the logical contortions employed to seat him in the captain’s chair don’t bear even remote scrutiny. His hunches appear as results of whim rather than informed intuition. Abrams seems to be aware of all this, since he does not award him the favors of the lone woman in the film.

    Which brings me to the women, all two of them. Amanda meets the classic fate of all good mothers in Hollywood — a death that gives her son an excuse to go on convenient rampages. Uhura fares marginally better on paper (a linguist, and assertive) but she is still carefully excluded from all the action, whereas all the others are given at least one major scene of derring-do. If she degenerates into the Angel in the House, I’m done with Star Trek.

  14. Walden2 says:

    Roddenberry may have tried to excise the military/empire aspects of Star Trek in the early 1970s with a series idea that never got past the planning stages – though apparently the idea later turned into the series Andromeda, which I never watched so I cannot comment on.

    Apparently from the few details we have, Roddenberry’s idea stuck with a starship and its crew exploring the Milky Way galaxy, but this time the crew consisted of “genius” scientists and the ship itself was “living” and had AI for a brain. The latter is certainly an improvement over ST’s original views of AI, which was usually a threat to humanity.

    The gory details on the ship are here:

  15. Athena says:

    I saw portions of Andromeda. It didn’t hew to Roddenberry’s premises, unfortunately — but then he was no longer there to shape it. Despite the presence of at least one charismatic actor (Sorbo) and some very interesting ideas (the Nitzscheans, the ship’s AI and its avatar), the potential got entirely wasted in shoot-outs and the obligatory teenaged crew members.