Movie Review – Star Trek
Boldly going where many have gone before
On the evening of June 3, 1969, the final episode of a faltering TV show aired on NBC television. According to that evening’s Nielsen ratings, hardly anyone saw it, or seemed to care. That show was “Star Trek.” From the first pilot to the last episode, the Star Trek series had been a monetary black hole for Desilu Studios (now Paramount) and Star Trek’s viewership had dropped more than 50 percent.
Forty years later, no one probably remembers those statistics. For a show that made its comeback in reruns, today the Star Trek kingdom boasts six Stark Trek feature films, four TV series off-shoots (and their subsequent feature films), a short-lived animated series, almost unlimited paraphernalia, and “Trekkie” (or “Trekker”) conventions around the globe.
The newest Star Trek movie no doubt hopes to whip up a frenzy once again and bring a new Spock-ear-wearing generation into the fold. What is it about what the creator Gene Roddenberry once described as “Wagon Train to the stars,” that has added enough creative fodder to the pop-culture cannon and made Star Trek still sellable after all these years?
There’s no denying that a large and thriving fan base may bolster Star Trek’s newest incarnation into a profitable success. However, whether the newest Star Trek succeeds in your own mind will largely depend on your own history with the series.
Star Trek might be billed as a prelude to the original series, although the manipulation of time and space leaves that up for debate. Still, Star Trek chronicles the history behind the famous crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise—before they were all famous. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is the sauntering ladies man of the original series, although, in his youth, it seems he was a little more “Rebel Without A Cause” and a little less “Rico Suave.” Kirk and Doc “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban), whom Kirk meets the first day after enrolling in the Federation Academy on a dare, take the most inspiration from the original series, with Urban nailing the sarcastic intonations of McCoy (originally played by DeForest Kelly) and one can imagine Pine practicing William Shatner’s sneers in the mirror. Although it’s not hard to nail Shatner’s over-the-top bravado, Pine succeeds in avoiding the temptation to play Kirk like a Saturday Night Live parody.
Star Trek centers on a conflict between some pissed-off Romulans (closely related to Vulcans, but not quite the same) and the threat they pose to Spock, the Federation, and Earth. At its heart, Star Trek is a summer blockbuster with big bangs and booms, a lot of action, a little romance, and a surprising cameo. The trials and tribulations of saving the future draw together the much younger versions of all the usual suspects: Spock (Zachary Quinto), Sulu (John Cho), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and Scotty (Simon Pegg). Purists may squirm at some new spins put on old characters, but one thing this Star Trek provides is a much-needed breath of fresh life to the aging characters who were last seen fighting to keep the magic alive in Star Trek VI (1991).
Those familiar with the small details of the original show will probably notice some deviations from—and probably get more of the allusions to—the original series. But Star Trek is more “based-on” than a “re-make” of the original, so it’s no use quibbling over the details.
Director J.J. Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have made sure their plot devices give them just enough creative liberty to go where no one has gone before (and a Star Trek sequel is already underway for 2011). And don’t try to think too hard about whether the film’s timeline makes sense. It doesn’t. But it’s not the first time any Star Trek has tried to get away with that.
Sarah Phelps is an editor and reporter. She was raised in Kenwood and has a BA from Loyola Marymount University.