The Very Rich Hours of the Lambrights

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Six Billion Vulcans Died to Make This Movie

May 20th, 2009 · No Comments

Well, I finally saw the new Star Trek movie.  And I have mixed feelings.

I’ve been a Trek fan for a long, long time.  And while I love it all, the original series holds a special place in my heart.  So, you can imagine my excitement upon hearing that the next movie would feature the original characters.  And, I have to say, the movie was great.  The plot was exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat.  The actors all did a fantastic job portraying the younger versions of the old, familiar characters.  The guys who played Scotty and McCoy really stood out and were a blast to watch.  The new Spock was even better.  I haven’t seen a Trek movie this good in a long time; probably not since Wrath of Khan. So that’s the good news.  What’s the bad news?

Spoiler Alert:  I’m going to discuss details of the plot.
If you plan to see this movie and don’t want it to know
what happens, stop reading now

A few days before seeing the movie, I was channel surfing and found the original series episode Balance of Terror among the recorded shows in the DVR.  Excellent, I thought.  The new movie features Romulans and this is the very first Trek episode featuring Romulans.  Perfect way to get warmed up for the movie.  It’s one my favorites.  The Enterprise is sent to investigate the sudden loss of contact with several outposts on the very edge of Federation space, along the border of the Romulan Empire.  Earth fought a war with the Romulans over one hundred years ago, in the very first days of intersteller space flight.  The ships were so primitive that no Romulans or Earth people had even seen each other face-to-face; the ships were just powerful enough to launch nuclear missiles at each other.  That was all the contact that was possible.The war was tragic and destructive and had finally ended with a treaty negotiated over radio.

A DMZ was established between the two powers and both sides had stayed on their own side of the line ever since with no further contact.  Were the Romulans back, testing our resolve as prelude to another war?

To make a long story short, they were.  And the rest of the episode features a cat and mouse game between the Enterprise and a Romulan warship.  Based heavily on WWII submarine/destroyer combat, the two ships dodge and weave, trying to get a firm view of the other so that their weapons can be brought to bear.  One of the great things about this episode is that the time is divided evenly between both sides.  Kirk and our heroes are there but we also get a detailed look at the Romulan captain and see that he is just as passionate and patriotic as the heroes.  He’s just doing his job, fighting for his country and trying to get his crew back home alive.  No one in this episode is truly a villain.

Of course, you know who wins.  With no Enterprise there could be no show.

So, now I arrive at the movie.  And about halfway through, I learn that Balance of Terror, along with about 700 hours of TV shows and movies has been cast aside. Due to the wonders of time travel, the whole timeline has been eliminated.  Effectively, this is the very first new Star Trek story.  Now, I know that they were careful to say that the original timeline/alternative reality/whatever isn’t destroyed.  It’s just that we now have a new one.  But the bottom line is that it is extremly unlikely that there will be any more movies or TV shows using that original timeline as background.  Major buzzkill.

Like all Trek fans, I love the characters.  And like many, if not all fans, I regard the various ships named Enterprise as characters.  But here’s the thing.  I considered the whole universe of Trek a character too.  The history, the various planets, all the people who showed up or were described; it was a cohesive whole, a sweeping backdrop against which all kinds of stories could be told.  Not all the stories were great and the Trek universe wasn’t always 100% consistent.  But was the best, most detailed future landscape we’ve seen on the screen.  I love that universe as much as any of the characters or ships.  And now it’s gone.  And that makes me sad.

I’ve read the fan forums and am familiar with all the arguments.  Trek was dated; it needs a reboot to reach new fans and energize the franchise.  Sorry.  I don’t buy it.  I think they decided to scrap the whole thing and start over so that the screen writers could have complete freedom to do anything.  Who needs a bunch of fanboys like me complaining everytime a movie contradicts the increasingly complex past history?  I get it.

But let’s be honest.  The last few movies and TV shows didn’t do poorly because the canon had become too restrictive.  They did poorly because, too often, they were poorly written and/or directed.  Over the years, there were many examples of great and successful shows and movies that somehow managed to succeed within the “confines” of the canon.  If the new people running Trek cannot manage that, it’s because they’re lazy and/or incompetent.

Lest this sound like a sour, bitter rant, I want to emphasize my first points.  The movie was great and I loved it.  I will continue to see anything that Trek puts out in the future.  I’m still a fanboy.  I’m not angry at J. J. Adams.  But I will miss the canon.

NOTE:  I cannot take credit for the title of this post.  Mike, one of the guys I work with, came up with it and I laughed my butt off when I heard it.  If you’ve seen the movie, you get it.

Tags: Movies

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