Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

Set Transporter Coordinates to…

Centauri Dreams, where my friend Paul Gilster is graciously hosting my more extended take on the new Star Trek film.  I think that the mixed reactions are universal among those who loved the original Star Trek’s optimism and civility.   Here is the closing paragraph of my extended essay, to whet your appetites:


ST|| is an odd-numbered film in the series, so I’ll give it a long space tether. However, if Uhura degenerates into the Angel in the House or if the certain-to-come sequels become more generic, I will put ST|| permanently in the same category as Star Wars. Those who have read my essay on Star Wars know how dire a fate this is. And though my wrath may not equal that of Khan, if enough of my ilk get disaffected we may abandon all the old lumbering dinosaurs and manage to relaunch the real McCoy — the Firefly-class starship Serenity, with its true love of endless skies and its persistent aim to misbehave.

19 Responses to “Set Transporter Coordinates to…”

  1. Walden2 says:

    This Web blog, which wonderfully took apart the terrible ending to
    the reimaged Battlestar Galactica series, does an equally good job
    with the new Star Trek film, both by itself and linking to other sites
    which also called this piece of dreck and an insult to the original
    series as it is.



    and here:

    Abrams and his gang has dumbed down Star Trek. Will the
    series that we originally knew arise again one day, or is this
    the end of Roddenberry’s vision?

  2. Athena says:

    Yes, Abigail Nussbaum’s analyses of SF/F work are incisive, though they tend to be on the long side.

  3. Walden2 says:

    I don’t mind long-windedness so long as it is interesting, and her
    stuff definitely is interesting and well written.

    She and the ones she linked to said it all about the new film, so far
    as I am concerned.

    I could have taken all the light elements of Abrams ST a bit better
    if the plot wasn’t just so utterly light but outright DUMB so much of
    the time.

    If nothing else, Star Trek was about SOMETHING of at least some
    substance bolstered by an interesting world with characters we
    cared about because they cared about others.

    I saw virtually nothing of that in this summer popcorn flick. Heck,
    even the interior of the Enterprise looked and acted ridiculous.
    In the original series, the starship was logically consistent enough
    that someone could and did make detailed blueprints of the vessel.
    The new Enterprise reflects the film: An illogical mess that is there
    merely to dazzle and entertain on a base level.

  4. Athena says:

    Yes, it is — but you, like me, also happen to agree with her, which makes reading these essays a double reward. However, even if you agree completely with someone, brevity still counts as does the seriousness with which ephemeral cultural phenomena are treated: at some point it becomes a bit like trying to kill a midget with a SAM missile.

  5. Athena says:

    By the way, Larry, don’t think I’m pooh-poohing your concerns. I’m more inured to such abuses, that’s all. How would you like to be Greek like me and see all your myths get constantly mangled? Hmmm… I see an essay coming on the topic!

  6. intrigued_scribe says:

    Excellent, spot-on essay, Athena, as always. 🙂 With ST’s flaws in mind, I’m hoping that in the event of sequels, Uhura’s character doesn’t drastically devolve as well (among other factors that could potentially detract from said sequels).

    Also, thanks for the links to Abigail Nussbaum’s blog; her writing is indeed detailed and interesting.

  7. Athena says:

    Yes, Uhura is already a cause for concern — but what can we expect of a high-budget, high-concept Hollywood film? On the other hand, I think both of you will spend happy hours browsing Abigail’s blog!

  8. Walden2 says:

    This article by Marc Bain in the May 6 edition of Newsweek
    hits a lot of nails on the head regarding the new Star Trek
    film in comparison to the original series:

    The quotes from the film’s writers show they want to reflect
    the people and issues of the early 21st Century just as the
    original series reflected the era of the 1960s. Not exactly a step
    up in the world.

    Either the writers “got” the original Star Trek but stripped out
    whatever they didn’t care for (or what they considered would
    drive away the money – I mean the potential new fans), or they
    didn’t really get it to begin with and didn’t care, despite the
    constant declarations of being “huge” fans – which producer J. J.
    Abrams admits he is not.

    The more I have been thinking about Star Trek lately, the more
    it has been hitting home that the Enterprise and its mission as
    dictated by Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets is far
    more of a military and political one than it is about pure
    exploration and understanding new and alien cultures.

    It’s not that I didn’t realize it before, but seeing the new film
    which got me back into the original series for a bit again with
    a more mature and worldly perspective really hit home how
    much the mission of the Enterprise is to secure new territories
    (galactories?) and resources for the UFP while finding potential
    new allies to strengthen the Empire – I mean Federation –
    against its many enemies.

    I will be the first to say that the first groups of humans to
    physically move out into the galaxy some day will probably
    not be the (mostly) noble and talented astronauts we have
    been used to since 1961. However, in the case of Star Trek
    going back to the beginning, the assumption is that our
    explorers will really be working for a new version of the
    military with scientific exploration going along for the ride.

    Then again, the Apollo lunar missions were first and foremost
    about geopolitical and technological showmanship, despite
    NASA’s efforts to make it look like noble exploration was the
    real purpose.

    So maybe ST will be right – assuming we have FTL drives – but
    that is kind of sad and nearsighted on our part, too. Even more
    so if the ETI we encounter have taken similar routes as well.

  9. Athena says:

    You’re exactly right on both points, Larry. I wrote about this issue extensively in my book. The last chapter (Is Every Day a Good Day to Die? Marooned in monochromatic societies) discusses the fact that behind the pretty words the Federation is as militaristic as its enemies and as punitive as the Roman or American empires to those who resist its “goodies”.

  10. Walden2 says:

    While you can still count on one hand the number of science fiction
    films that portrayed science and its practitioners with any level of
    accuracy, it appears that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is
    finally making an attempt to help Hollywood do a better job in this long-
    neglected area of cinema history:

    To quote:

    The Science & Entertainment Exchange is a program of the National Academy of Sciences that provides entertainment industry professionals with access to top scientists and engineers to help bring the reality of cutting-edge science to creative and engaging storylines.

    Their blog is interesting:

    Not that guys like Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay won’t continue to
    ignore physics and other aspects of scientific reality at their whims
    (Armageddon has to be one of the biggest violators of science I have
    ever seen in terms of a film with lots of resources and money that could
    have done better if they so chose, and the similar film Deep Impact which
    came out in the same year – 1998 – proved that), but now they will no
    longer have an easy excuse when they say they didn’t have the time,
    money, or people to get the science right.

    People get a lot of their visceral “education” about science and the world
    in general from films, whether they or anyone else want to realize it or
    not. So the least those responsible and able can do is throw in a few facts
    now and then with their cinematic product while the public consumes their
    five dollar container of popcorn.

    There isn’t much hope for this year’s crop of crap, but maybe by next
    summer, or maybe 2015….

    Meanwhile, the original Captain Kirk refuses to go quietly into that dark night:

  11. Walden2 says:

    Phil Plait, Mr. Bad Astronomer, recently posted two new items on
    the latest Star Trek film here:

    One is a review of the science in the film, such as it was, and the
    other is a review of the original script and what did and did not make
    it to the final version.

    FYI – The two writers for Star Trek 11 also wrote Transformers 2,
    the other overblown and nonintelligent megablockbuster of this sad
    cinematic summer.

    Having seen both films now, I am convinced that these writers are
    teenage males at least mentally if not chronologically. And they
    are definitely NOT snatchmos. :^)

    Either that or they know where to aim the moneymakers at. Or both.

  12. Athena says:

    Why does this not surprise me? Then again, the belief that the 15-25 male demographic holds a lot of financial clout may explain why Hollywood films are getting increasingly awful and decreasingly profitable.

  13. Walden2 says:

    At least one good thing came out of the 2009 Star Trek film – these really cool retro posters:–Retro_p_101.html

  14. Athena says:

    Very Art Deco!

  15. Walden2 says:

    A rare ten-minute featurette about the first Star Trek film, which I think was a lot better than most of the fans did back then:

  16. Athena says:

    Well, it was an extended take on one of the older episodes — and I thought the business with Persis Khambatta and her “chastity oath” was dumb.

  17. Walden2 says:

    Wed May 01, 2013 at 09:15 PM PDT

    The Philosophy Of “Star Trek”

    The first time I ever really watched an episode of “Star Trek” was on a weekend I was stuck at home sick. I was a little kid, William Shatner & Leonard Nimoy were hosting a “Star Trek” marathon, and I tuned in just as “The Devil In The Dark” came on. That episode contains almost every element that makes Trek… Trek.

    In that episode, there’s the dynamic between Kirk, Spock & McCoy, but also the episode goes a long way in differentiating Trek’s values from those of most Sci-Fi. I once read an article that compared Trek to most other science fiction franchises. In almost anything else, the Horta would be the “monster of the week” that gets killed off at the end of the story by the triumphant hero. However in “Trek” the Horta is ultimately an entity to be understood & given compassion, with Starfleet finding a way for everyone to live together.

    Among the big science fiction franchises with huge fandoms, “Star Trek” is somewhat odd compared to the others (which are usually predicated on humanity existing in varying degrees of dystopia), with Trek depicting an optimistic future in which humanity is an “enlightened,” altruistic species that has turned Earth into a quasi-utopia & leads a massive interstellar government called the United Federation of Planets.

    In 2009, the collective 6 television series & 10 films that had come before J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’ were effectively rebooted, with Abrams’ film creating an alternate timeline where things are a little different. The film enjoyed both popular & critical success, but there is a contingent of Trek fans that feels Abrams’ film is an abomination and not “real” ‘Star Trek’ in keeping with the franchise’s original underlying philosophy.

    With the release of ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ in a couple of weeks, some of those same arguments are happening again. So I thought it might be interesting to look at what that philosophy is.

    Full article here:

  18. Walden2 says:

    Well, no shock here:

    Athena and everyone else with a working brain and ethics, I am particularly sorry to post this quote from the above review, but it needs to be known:

    “The film’s female characters fare even worse, relegating Zoe Saldana’s Uhura to nothing more than “Spock’s girlfriend” and treating Alice Eve’s Carol Marcus as expository eye candy. That scene in the trailer where she’s in her underwear? That’s it. She just takes her clothes off in front of Kirk for a second for no real reason. It all feels dangerously misogynistic and very, very far from Gene Roddenberry’s egalitarian future.”

  19. Athena says:

    Yes, I was afraid of that (already evident in the first reboot). I will relegate Abrams’ Star Trek to the parallel universe it occupies. In other words, I think I won’t even bother seeing any of it from now on.