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John Podhoretz's review is now available:

The movie is dynamic and propulsive, and the new cast is terrific. It will surely be a hit.

But it's a mess, and a disgraceful mess at that. That's because Abrams and his screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, simply discard all fealty to the iron rules of time travel that made "City on the Edge of Forever"--the episode that was one of the key reasons the show so captured the imaginations of its viewers and became the phenomenon it did--such a haunting and memorable hour of television. ...

Star Trek's characters, let us recall, were on a "mission .  .  . to boldly go where no man has gone before." That mission was to "seek out new life and new civilizations." It wasn't to practice interplanetary male bonding.

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John Podhoretz's review is now available:

The movie is dynamic and propulsive, and the new cast is terrific. It will surely be a hit.

But it's a mess, and a disgraceful mess at that. That's because Abrams and his screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, simply discard all fealty to the iron rules of time travel that made "City on the Edge of Forever"--the episode that was one of the key reasons the show so captured the imaginations of its viewers and became the phenomenon it did--such a haunting and memorable hour of television. ...

Star Trek's characters, let us recall, were on a "mission .  .  . to boldly go where no man has gone before." That mission was to "seek out new life and new civilizations." It wasn't to practice interplanetary male bonding.

Interesting review. I think I'd file it under "You didn't make the genre or type of movie I wanted so I don't like it." If we're talking about taste, this is legitimate. If we're talking criticism...errrr, I don't know. Star Trek: the Voyage Home featured time travel as well. In that episode the original crew changed the past quite freely. When the problem of...what are we doing...giving them this new technology (transparent aluminum) was raised...the response was something like, "Who knows, he might have invented it." A show like Star Trek encompasses a lot of genres. City on the Edge of Forever was just one episode of the series -- perhaps the best episode -- and yet to this reviewer it appears to typify everything Trek ought to be. I'm not convinced that because the film is a "mess" because it isn't harder sci fi like that episode.

I think our discussion regarding Peter's criticism that there should be a justification in the story for why one character, standing firmly on one planet, can see what's happening on another, is similar, though less intense.

If I read him right, what Peter is raising is the story telling rule that a good story should have some sort of internal consistency. Kind of like the famous Checkov (the writer, not the ensign) assertion that the gun on the mantlepiece in the first act must do something by the end of the play. And of course we can apply this to the film if we take it as a single work, rather than a part of very long series, if the work itself does that. I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't say.

If we are looking at the whole mythology of all the TV shows and the films, or even just the original series, I'm with Bowen. This was and is popular entertainment aimed at a very broad and general audience. I think the writers have always gone with whatever worked, without bothering to invent a rationale for it the way Tolkien very much did in LOTR. They did have to keep some sort of internal consistency going so far as the characters and the main technologies. There were limits on when you could and could not transport, how fast you could get from one place to another, what the computer and sensor arrays could and couldn't tell you. But when it came to what happened on the various planets, I think it was loose so far as providing much of an explanation, unless it was part of how the crew overcame the problem.

In the original series, if I remember right, there was even an episode where a super advanced race stopped war between the Klingons and the Federation with their terrific powers and for a time, in the original series, the truce held. Later on, the writer's dumped that one super fast. How can we have drama if some god like alien keeps everybody penned to opposite sides of the ring?

I do think the films have gottem progressively looser, in ways the shows never did, when it comes to providing some kind of explanation. Maybe that too is a difference between film and TV? Since film is about spectacle, if I show you it happening beautifully, you will accept it without thinking about it. My favorite example of this is the old cinema man hanging from a cliff by his hands pulls himself up and over. Ever tried that in real life? A friend of mine's brother did long ago in Afghanistan. He had a picture taking of himself hanging from a bridge like a stunt man. The only problem, he couldn't get back up. His brothers on the bridge couldn't get him back up either. So he let go, fell into the river, and drowned.

Edited by Harris-Stone

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bowen wrote:

: That is what we call an after-the-fact rationalization, not an explanation that was ever offered to the audience of any of those stories within the context of the stories themselves.

Not true. The reason the Memory-Alpha page sites the original-series episode 'Bread and Circuses' in the first paragraph is because this explanation was offered within the episode itself. This is the quote from the episode itself:

Captain's log, stardate 4040.7. On the surface of planet IV, system 892, the landing party has won the confidence of what obviously is a group of runaway slaves. They dwell in caves not far from a large city, wear rags, live under primitive conditions. But they are creatures of a heavily industrialized 20th century-type planet very much like Earth, an amazing example of Hodgkin's Law of Parallel Planet Development. But on this Earth, Rome never fell. A world ruled by emperors who can trace their line back 2,000 years, to their own Julius and Augustus Caesars.

: It is also grossly inadequate of course.

True, but so were the budgets they had to work with back then. :)

: The various incarnations of ST have trafficked in terrible science for a long time.

True, but neither here nor there. The question here is one of a story following its own rules, NOT one of a story following the laws of science to a T. And the rule followed by Star Trek in every other example that I can think of is that everything happens according to natural laws, and in situations where they don't, some sort of pseudo-scientific explanation is offered for the exceptions. No such explanation is offered at all for the planet-gazing thing in the current movie.

John Podhoretz wrote:

: But it's a mess, and a disgraceful mess at that. That's because Abrams and his screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, simply discard all fealty to the iron rules of time travel that made "City on the Edge of Forever"--the episode that was one of the key reasons the show so captured the imaginations of its viewers and became the phenomenon it did--such a haunting and memorable hour of television. ...

I can't subscribe to this complaint. Star Trek has never been absolutely consistent when it comes to the rules of time travel.

True, most of the original-series examples I can think of followed the principle that one should never mess with the past -- and indeed, in episodes like 'Assignment: Earth', the actions of the Enterprise crew turn out to be a necessary element in ensuring that the past turns out the way it was always supposed to. (A closed-loop paradox!)

But there was always a bit of wriggle-room there, right from the beginning. The episode 'Tomorrow Is Yesterday' features at least two characters from the 1960s who are yanked out of history and onto the Enterprise, and then... eventually, the Enterprise goes back in time again just enough to put those people back where the Enterprise found them, and history continues the way it was supposed to, and the characters in question have no memory of ever being aboard the Enterprise -- and yet the Enterprise crew remember interacting with those two men. Did those men ever truly set foot on the Enterprise? To the men, no; to the Enterprise, yes. So is there a bit of a parallel timeline there?

I think it was the ST:TNG episode 'Yesterday's Enterprise', or an episode that came out shortly afterwards, which established that timelines which "no longer exist" could still have an effect on the regular timeline -- because, in that episode, an alternate-timeline version of Tasha Yar ends up going back in time and entering the regular timeline, and in later episodes we discover that she now has a daughter working for the Romulan Empire.

More recently, the final episode of ST:VOY begins something like 20 years in the future, and it tells us that Seven of Nine died way back when and Captain Janeway has regretted this fact ever since... and so Captain Janeway steals some technology, goes back in time, and gets the younger version of herself (i.e. the regular-series version of herself) to come home to Earth many years ahead of schedule, with Seven of Nine still alive. The older Janeway dies along the way, but the younger Janeway -- "our" Janeway, I guess -- survives. (And then she gets to be the admiral who gives Captain Picard his marching orders in ST:N.) So... does the older Janeway's timeline still exist? Has she unilaterally obliterated the past 20-ish years of all her friends' lives? Or does that timeline still exist in some other dimension, somewhere?

Based on the new movie, I think we'd have to say that these alternate timelines continue to exist, somewhere. At any rate, there is certainly a precedent for that sort of take on the subject. Granted, it kind of undermines the urgency with which, say, Picard declares (in ST:FC) that he HAS to go back in time and un-do the damage that the Borg have done. (Jean-Luc, the Borg haven't changed your timeline at all! They've only created an entirely different timeline of their own!) Or the urgency with which, say, Kirk and Spock declare (in, yes, 'City on the Edge of Forever') that they HAVE to go back in time and un-do the damage that McCoy has done. But, oh well.

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That's pretty convincing Peter. Are you sure though that there has ALWAYS been an explanation given in the episode or film? What about something minor, but odd, that wasn't so central to the plot, as I believe the planet gazing isn't. You know Trek way better than I do. Does nothing come to mind?

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bowen wrote:

: That is what we call an after-the-fact rationalization, not an explanation that was ever offered to the audience of any of those stories within the context of the stories themselves.

Not true. The reason the Memory-Alpha page sites the original-series episode 'Bread and Circuses' in the first paragraph is because this explanation was offered within the episode itself.

I stand corrected on B&C, but I don't believe that any such explanation offered for Miri, which aired the year before. It was just unexplained.

In any case, whether you consider something as requiring "explanation" is very subjective is it not? In the case of the planet-gazing thing, it requires an explanation only if you assume that two planets cannot be that close, but frankly, we don't know any such thing. Our sampling of solar systems that we know much of anything about is basically one; the number of solar systems whose formative process is well understood is basically zero. To argue that in no possible solar system could any planet be close enough to see another planet with the clarity that we can see the moon is speculative. It may well be true, but it is hardly proven to be true. In the context of the story, I thought it was vanishingly small potatoes compared to the startlingly improbable coincidence of the meeting of two characters that occurs on one of the planets in question. But, you either decide to roll with something like that or you let it prevent you from enjoying whatever there is to be enjoyed. (Of course, you may find that you want to get past it but just can't.) I've been reading Dickens lately, and he's been toughening up my tolerance for stories that hinge on amazing coincidences

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Harris-Stone wrote:

: That's pretty convincing Peter. Are you sure though that there has ALWAYS been an explanation given in the episode or film?

With over 700 TV episodes plus the 10 previous films? I can't be sure of ANYthing. :)

: What about something minor, but odd, that wasn't so central to the plot, as I believe the planet gazing isn't.

The planet gazing is absolutely central to this film.

bowen wrote:

: I stand corrected on B&C, but I don't believe that any such explanation offered for Miri, which aired the year before. It was just unexplained.

True, but you did say that there had been no explanation in "any" of those episodes. :)

And like I say, the similarity between Earth and Miri's planet is unlikely but not impossible. One of William Shatner's novels proposes that Miri's planet was created by the Preservers (a race that figures in a different episode of the original series). Who knows. But again, it's not necessarily impossible that a clone of Earth could be out there, however it got there.

More importantly, if you set that idea up in the opening five minutes, then the rest of the episode can follow the implications and consequences of that premise quite naturally. It's not the same as throwing a major whopper into the MIDDLE of a story right at the point when the story is supposed to be making more sense to you.

: In the case of the planet-gazing thing, it requires an explanation only if you assume that two planets cannot be that close, but frankly, we don't know any such thing.

Yes we do. Our moon doesn't look that big, and it shares an orbit with us; and of course, we can't even see Mars or Venus, our nearest solar neighbours, as anything more than bright specks in the sky. Planets that exist in entirely different systems, such as Delta Vega presumably does, would have to be even MORE impossible to see.

If anyone wants to argue that Vulcan has a sister planet that shares its orbit, and is therefore so close to Vulcan that it can be seen in the sky (and vice versa), they are free to do so, but then we would have to ask (1) why we have never heard of this planet before, and (2)

how this planet can possibly be unaffected by the sudden loss of Vulcan's gravitational field -- indeed, the sudden substitution of a black hole for Vulcan's gravitational field

.

: In the context of the story, I thought it was vanishingly small potatoes compared to the startlingly improbable coincidence of the meeting of two characters that occurs on one of the planets in question.

FWIW, I sort-of agree. But the sheer scientific impossibility of the planet-gazing is sort of the icing on the cake. And for me, the bigger problem is not merely the coincidence to which you refer, but the question of what either of those characters is even DOING there in the first place. They are both there because the captains of their respective ships have ejected them from the ships -- but why WOULD they eject them from the ships? This is especially problematic, as I noted above, for the person who was ejected for the specific purpose of planet-gazing.

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More importantly, if you set that idea up in the opening five minutes, then the rest of the episode can follow the implications and consequences of that premise quite naturally. It's not the same as throwing a major whopper into the MIDDLE of a story right at the point when the story is supposed to be making more sense to you.

(Putting tongue firmly in cheek) Ah but Peter, you forget that the spectacle is what counts in commercial film. If Aragorn can fall from a cliff into a rocky and stream and survive, why can't someone see one planet from another? Why can't these two characters meet. It looks great. It's a great scene. They're suppossed to meet. If you can SEE it happening in the movie, why oh why can't you believe it? Don't think so much. ;)

My contention is that filmmakers actually REDUCE the drama, not accent it, by pushing spectacle to the limit. Our sense of drama is rooted in our own human experience. When something goes so far out of it, the result is more bafflement than awe. And this can happen to us in reality too. I argued with a man on 5th Avenue on September 11th moments after the first plane hit. I heard it, but didn't see it. He saw it and said it was a "big jet." I thought this was impossible, since a commercial pilot wouldn't make such a mistake and a terrorist wouldn't have access to a jet. WRONG. Ditto with the buildings falling. I thought, that couldn't be from the planes, because a plane hit the Empire State Building once and it didn't fall. Wrong again, as a building engineer at Lord and Taylor, where I was doing some consulting, told me a little bit later. It was all too unprecedented to take in, even live.

I'm really curious to see this scene now in the film.

Edited by Harris-Stone

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Appeals to the weak link in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and to the weak link in the narrative WITHIN that weak link, will not faze me. :)

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If anyone wants to argue that Vulcan has a sister planet that shares its orbit, and is therefore so close to Vulcan that it can be seen in the sky (and vice versa), they are free to do so, but then we would have to ask (1) why we have never heard of this planet before, and (2)

how this planet can possibly be unaffected by the sudden loss of Vulcan's gravitational field -- indeed, the sudden substitution of a black hole for Vulcan's gravitational field

.

Hmmm, I may have to drop the second objection. Phil Plait of the Bad Astronomy Blog has written a "review" of the science in this film for TrekMovie.com, and one of the points he makes is this:

Show hidden text
Incidentally, the gravitational force you feel from an object depends on two things: the mass of the object, and how far away you are (for a sphere like a planet, you measure from the object

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If Delta Vega shared an orbit with Vulcan, why would the one be HOT, and the other CCCCCCCCOLLDDDDD??!?!?!

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Delta Vega doesn't share an orbit with Vulcan; it is on an elliptical orbit that was in one of its occasional near-Vulcan passes at the time of the story. It was on its sunward pass and had been farther from Vulcan's sun than Vulcan for some time, which is why it was colder than Vulcan. [No, it will never collide with Vulcan; its orbit is not in the same plane as Vulcan's.]

It actually never got as near to Vulcan as the shot in the movie would make it seem; the camera was just far away from the protagonists with a zoom lens and it was a perspective trick to make it look that large. It was large enough to be about as visible as the moon is for earth, which is large enough to be sufficient for the purposes for which one of the characters was there.

We never heard about Delta Vega and its orbit before because the episode where it was going to be covered in excruciating detail was part of the original series canceled fourth season.

Now, you have to admit

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I just got back from seeing Star Trek with my wife, and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Obviously, as the posts immediately before mine point out, there are plenty of things to nitpick, but frankly, I just don't care. I was entertained from beginning to end, and even moved in places (such as the opening scenes with the U.S.S. Kelvin, which had both of us rather choked up).

It felt like J.J. Abrams et al. knew exactly where they had to be reverent to the original canon (if there is such a thing), and where they could be fast and loose. As a result, the film is a brilliant reboot, IMHO. It pays plenty of respect to the original series, and contains all of the things that longtime fans know and love, but at the same time, it injects plenty of new blood.

A few other impressions:

- The casting was just spot on. I didn't know who Chris Pine was before this movie, but he's one to watch, capturing just enough of Kirk's attitude and mannerisms without ever being a caricature. Zachary Quinto was so good as Spock, I almost want to give Heroes another chance. Simon Pegg was, well, Simon Pegg, which was good enough for me. But the biggest surprise was Karl Urban. Never in a million years did I picture him as Bones... until I saw him onscreen.

- Lots and lots of humor. As I said before, the movie threw in plenty of one-liners that would have longtime fans chuckling, such as the banter between Bones and Spock, but it was such that newbies, like my wife, found them just as funny. Even the more ridiculous scenes, such as Kirk's escalating medical emergencies, never felt like false notes in the movie, but rather, just really darn funny.

- I found the exploration and paralleling (is that a word?) of Spock and Kirk's childhood, and the constant alienation they felt, quite interesting. IIRC, Kirk's family background had never really been dealt with much in the series and movies, and so that was nice to see. Spock's scenes, especially with the Vulcan Academy, were quite poignant.

-

The time travel portion of the film reminded me a lot of the time travel that's recently occurred in

Lost, which isn't surprising. Spock has a couple of lines where he's explaining the new timeline that Nero's actions have created that sounded exactly like something you might have heard coming out of Faraday's mouth.

- Space battles!!!

- The riff on the red shirts, and their inevitable demise.

There are others, but I keep coming back to the casting. Seriously, if there was ever an Oscar for "Best Casting", this film would win hands down. It couldn't have been easy casting some (relatively) fresh faces in such iconic roles, and yet their choices never once felt odd or strange to me.

I suppose the highest compliment came from my wife, who is familiar with the series but by no means a fan. Afterwards, she told me that if she could, she would have turned right around and walked back into the theatre to watch it all over again.

Edited by opus

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The science, yes. Now what the heck is a Starfleet (as opposed to Vulcan) outpost doing there? :)

Do I have to do everything around here? :) Your turn: give it your best shot.

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The science, yes. Now what the heck is a Starfleet (as opposed to Vulcan) outpost doing there? :)

Do I have to do everything around here? :) Your turn: give it your best shot.

In our own real world, in the past, there were lighthouses manned by keepers who lived in relative isolation, yet were close to large cities. As long as the outpost has a purpose which justifies its existence, it's relative size isn't important. Maybe it didn't need to be large. Maybe something about this planet required an outpost. I haven't seen the film yet, so I can't speculate further and don't know if anything in the film itself provides any hint at all. Nor do I know how much of a problem the part in question will be to me.

Here a few scenarios: (again, I haven't actually seen the film so within its context, some of these may not make any sense)

1. Back in the days when the people from earth first took to space and were supervised by the Vulcans (isn't that part of the Enterprise mythology?) The base was a screening point/ training station for human crews. Close enough to Vulcan for visiting lecturers to pop over. Far enough from Vulcans to keep the human contamination at a comfortable distance. Now all this has faded, but in honor of times past, the Federation keeps the place manned.

2. Something on the planet requires some kind of continuous science observation. Maybe the planet moves in ways that aren't fully understood, sometimes close to Vulcan, sometimes far away. The mission to observe whatever was happening never yielded much, but its retained because politically no one can give it up and has become a hardship post.

3. Unique conditions on this particular planet are useful for a specific type of research. Whatever it is has gone on a long time and has become somewhat unsuccessful. Scotty gets himself into the position since it gives him the space to do the research he wants to do (into transwarp transporting?) without anyone else breathing down his neck and without the need to justify it to the Federation research bureaucracy.

4. The post is actually a prize, like a Rhodes Scholarship. allowing the winner to work on whatever projects he wants for a year. It's close enough to Vulcan to get whatever the winner needs, yet far enough to allow them to work in secrecy and privacy.

As to why its not a Vulcan outpost...maybe once upon a time it was, but when Vulcan became part of the Federation, they ceded it to Federation control. Or maybe what goes on here is something the Vulcans themselves had no interest in, but someone in the Federation did. Lots of possiblities, especially if its a relatively unimportant spot.

Edited by Harris-Stone

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Apropos of nothing, I was at a Star Trek party t'other day, and I heard the craziest song I've heard in a long time, "Beam Me Up to Heaven" by the Star Trek rock band, Warp Eleven. Some of their other songs were crass and explicit, but I liked "Beam Me Up to Heaven" so much that I bought it on iTunes.

Here's a link to Amazon.com's page for the digital download

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Anthony Lane is rather less impressed by this film than many people here. Being pretty much indifferent to the world of Trek I have nothing to say on that score. But Lane's remarks on explanatory backstory and the beauty of "the merely given" resonate with me:

Here [in Star Trek], in other words, is a long-range backstory—a device that, in the Hollywood of recent times, has grown from an option to a fetish. I lost patience with "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" once we learned of Willy Wonka's primal trauma (his father was a dentist, and forbade him candies, so guess how he reversed that deprivation?), and, likewise, with "Batman Begins," from the moment that mini-Bruce tumbled into a well full of bats. What's wrong with "Batman Is" ? In all narratives, there is a beauty to the merely given, as the narrator does us the honor of trusting that we will take it for granted. Conversely, there is something offensive in the implication that we might resent that pact, and, like plaintive children, demand to have everything explained. Shakespeare could have kicked off with a flashback in which the infant Hamlet is seen wailing with indecision as to which of Gertrude's breasts he should latch onto, but would it really have helped us to grasp the dithering prince? Or, to update the question: I know it's not great when your dad dies a total hero and leaves you orphaned at the same time, but did James T. Kirk have to grow up such a cocky son of a gun?

Again, I can't comment on how this applies to Star Trek; it sounds as though the film is a fun romp. But I have noticed Hollywood's irritating predilection for pat rational explanation of motive in narrative, and it makes me appreciate art that does more to honor the complexity of human motivation. I suppose one could connect this trend to innocent mythmaking, to playing with myths about how these worlds of Trek and Wonka have come to be. But whereas the ancient creation myths account for the existence of worlds or aspects thereof, Hollywood's mythmaking tends to be grounded in individual lives like Kirk and Wonka and Bruce Wayne. The risk of the Hollywood approach is that in accounting for the existence of those characters, the utter complexity of the process of individual identity formation can be given short shrift. This is one reason I appreciate filmmakers like Robert Bresson, who seem disinterested in these sorts of reductionistic storytelling devices that dishonor the characters involved as well as the audience.

Edited by thwackum

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Lane is so, so right about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but dead wrong about Batman Begins, and, I submit, wrong also about Star Trek.

I suppose Lane would also grouse at T. H. White's The Once and Future King for giving us the childhood learning experiences and traumas of King Arthur, Lancelot and Gawain and his brothers? Or maybe it only bothers him that the back story has "grown from an option into a fetish"? Be that as it may, it says nothing about the merits of any particular instance of this "fetish."

FWIW, mainstream NT scholarship suggests that the passion narratives were standardized earliest in Christian proclamation, which is why the passion narratives are far and away the most consistent parts of the gospels. Stories of his ministry, including gathering the apostles, took their final form at a later date, followed by the stories of his birth, infancy and childhood (as well as the first account of the acts of his followers after the Ascension). At a still later stage, stories about the marriage of Joseph and Mary, and stories about Mary's birth and childhood were written down in non-canonical texts.

I don't suppose that the story of Robin Hood shooting the deer, meeting Little John at the log bridge, and meeting his other merry men were the very first Robin Hood stories ever told. It seems more likely to me that the stories began with Robin and his men established in Sherwood Forest, and that Robin's meetings with his merry men and the reasons for Robin's outlaw status entered the story later.

Why should it not be the case that the stories of the voyages of the Starship Enterprise should later lead to interest in stories about Kirk and Spock as children, and how the Enterprise crew got together?

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Lane is so, so right about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but dead wrong about Batman Begins, and, I submit, wrong also about Star Trek.

I suppose Lane would also grouse at T. H. White's The Once and Future King for giving us the childhood learning experiences and traumas of King Arthur, Lancelot and Gawain and his brothers? Or maybe it only bothers him that the back story has "grown from an option into a fetish"? Be that as it may, it says nothing about the merits of any particular instance of this "fetish."

FWIW, mainstream NT scholarship suggests that the passion narratives were standardized earliest in Christian proclamation, which is why the passion narratives are far and away the most consistent parts of the gospels. Stories of his ministry, including gathering the apostles, took their final form at a later date, followed by the stories of his birth, infancy and childhood (as well as the first account of the acts of his followers after the Ascension). At a still later stage, stories about the marriage of Joseph and Mary, and stories about Mary's birth and childhood were written down in non-canonical texts.

I don't suppose that the story of Robin Hood shooting the deer, meeting Little John at the log bridge, and meeting his other merry men were the very first Robin Hood stories ever told. It seems more likely to me that the stories began with Robin and his men established in Sherwood Forest, and that Robin's meetings with his merry men and the reasons for Robin's outlaw status entered the story later.

Why should it not be the case that the stories of the voyages of the Starship Enterprise should later lead to interest in stories about Kirk and Spock as children, and how the Enterprise crew got together?

Good points all--thank you. To wit, I see nothing wrong with that sort of exploration, nor does its popularity surprise me at all. I can only say very broadly that my grouse is when this device is used as the equivalent of a sort of psychoanalytic reduction as in the Wonka example (I haven't seen Batman Begins or Trek). Kind of like the tendency of a certain kind of pop-Darwinianism that explains every away little nuance of life and choice and motivation through a lens of simplistic genetic determinism. But I realize I am being vague; I have no firm thoughts about how to distinguish between creative backstory which enlarges the narrative and that which reduces and diminishes. (Also I should acknowledge that this reductionism is by no means limited to Hollywood narrative and I am being unfair by speaking of "the Hollywood approach.") Yet I do think that such a line exists.

Edited by thwackum

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The science, yes. Now what the heck is a Starfleet (as opposed to Vulcan) outpost doing there? :)

Do I have to do everything around here? :) Your turn: give it your best shot.

In our own real world, in the past, there were lighthouses manned by keepers who lived in relative isolation...

Not bad. Although parts of your story don't jibe with the movie, although not having seen it, you couldn't know that.

I'll take a crack at it:

Why are there no Vulcan stations? There are. In fact, most of the stations on Delta Vega are Vulcan, mostly devoted to studying the ecology that DV's strange elliptical orbit has produced. In the movie, it is early DV spring, when the life forms that are in deep hibernation start to come out, and come out rather hungry. (Life of DV never entirely stops, but during the long DV winters active life is confined only to deep ocean where heat from the planetary core prevents a total freeze.)

Anyway, the reason for the Star Fleet outpost is that there was a disagreement about DV ecology between the Vulcan scientific community and a human scientist. The Vulcans refused to fund his research, but Star Fleet agreed to do so and built a separate station for that purpose apart from the main Vulcan research base network. As it happened, the research proved unfruitful, but rather than close down the station and admit that the Vulcans were right (few humans can be as unbearably smug as a Vulcan proven right in a dispute), Star Fleet left it operational but with a minimal crew to maintain the facility. It was not at all a pleasant assignment, and it was well-known in Star Fleet that strongly displeasing a senior officer could lead to a tour of duty there.

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Good points all--thank you. To wit, I see nothing wrong with that sort of exploration, nor does its popularity surprise me at all. I can only say very broadly that my grouse is when this device is used as the equivalent of a sort of psychoanalytic reduction as in the Wonka example (I haven't seen Batman Begins or Trek). Kind of like the tendency of a certain kind of pop-Darwinianism that explains every away little nuance of life and choice and motivation through a lens of simplistic genetic determinism. But I realize I am being vague; I have no firm thoughts about how to distinguish between creative backstory which enlarges the narrative and that which reduces and diminishes. (Also I should acknowledge that this reductionism is by no means limited to Hollywood narrative and I am being unfair by speaking of "the Hollywood approach.") Yet I do think that such a line exists.

In fact, I would say that Star Trek is the opposite of the problem that Wonka exemplifies. The central conceit of the Star Trek movie is that - regardless of their backstory, these characters will wind up as the same heroes we know and love. Think about it, Spock Prime says that HIS Kirk knew his father and that his dad lived to see him become the captain of the Enterprise. In contrast, New Kirk lost his dad at birth, and grew up with a mean stepdad. With either backstory, he grows up to be the captain that we love. Same for Spock, to a lesser degree.

Far from psychoanalyzing how our childhood traumas shape us into the adults we are, the Star Trek movie argues for nature over nurture.

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FWIW, while I am sympathetic to aspects of Lane's review, I completely disagree about his objection to Batman Begins. It is absolutely essential to the character that he is an orphan who has decided to fight crime because he witnessed the death of his parents; that goes back to the earliest comics. What is more, it has been part of the established comic-book lore for some time now that Bruce was afraid of bats as a child, and he chose to become a bat not merely to make OTHER people afraid, but to conquer HIS OWN fear as well. Given that Batman Begins was a complete reboot of the movie franchise, and not merely a prequel to the existing movies (which had their own version of Bruce's parents' murder anyway), it is not only fitting but necessary that the movie should have given its own spin on Bruce's childhood.

But Lane's point does apply, in some ways, to the new Star Trek movie. And indeed, I have disliked the idea of a "Starfleet Academy" movie ever since it was first proposed in 1989 or 1990, after the box-office disappointment of William Shatner's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It is simply wrong to suggest that Kirk and Spock and McCoy etc. all went to school at the same time, especially given that the existing series has already revealed quite a bit about their Academy days (or Kirk's Academy days, at any rate). The new movie PARTIALLY ameliorates this by creating an alternate reality in which things don't necessarily happen the same way that they did on the original timeline -- but there are still aspects to the new movie that feel annoyingly like that bit in the Star Wars prequels where we "learn" that Darth Vader built C-3PO when he was a boy. Exhibit A: The "revelation" that Spock programmed the Kobayashi Maru no-win scenario simulator.

CrimsonLine wrote:

: Far from psychoanalyzing how our childhood traumas shape us into the adults we are, the Star Trek movie argues for nature over nurture.

Hmmm, what about the Mirror Universe, where everyone's "nature" is inverted somewhat, at least on the moral level, yet Kirk is still captain and Spock is still first officer, etc., etc.? :)

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Just saw the film last night. Review here, although after reading some forum comments I feel I was a bit too generous. Yes, I agree that it was missing most of what made Star Trek what it was, and falls into the trap of trying to be a big summer-style action movie. Ironically, this was the same problem that the last 2 Next Generation era films had, although they were done ineptly and this was done expertly. The filmmakers certainly succeeded in marrying the Trek universe to Michael Bay's brand of Transformers scifi. Only the inevitable sequel will tell if they can actually tell a more intelligent Star Trek story with this kind of framework.

It was highly entertaining, but the only element that really stayed with me after viewing was the cheap but effective pathos

of dead parents and final words to lost loves.

The one thing that bothered me about the run-up to the movie was the excessive secrecy.

Spock's apperance

(is that really a spoiler? It was in at least one trailer) was an open secret, and the plot itself didn't have any real secrets to reveal.

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The only thing that shocked me was the destruction of Vulcan, which as a long time Trekkie I was not expecting.
On the other hand, given that the sets were filmed almost exclusivly in close-ups with out of focus backgrounds, I would have loved to see some more beauty photos from the secrecy-shrouded set. Why hide something you're never going to really show off anyway?

I have to say that this "prequel" does one thing really well and rather clever. I read a review of the recent X-Men Origins: Wolverine that said the problem with prequels is that the must, by their nature, be tragedies. Wolverine must lose his memory so that he can be the tortured soul we see in X-Men. Darth Vader and the Emperor must be triumphent so Luke Skywalker can overthrow them. The killer must get away to kill again. The werewolves must lose their rebellion so they can rebel again. Etc. Note, this only applies to prequels, not prologues or first volumes. The Hobbit was not a cash-in on the success of The Lord of the Rings. The only other option is for a prequel to be nothing but an empty setup for the existing story, which this film came dangerously close to doing(see Episode 1 territory). But by altering rebooting the series this prequel is allowed to tell its own story without having to end with everything reset back to a status quo

(although it almost is...)

.

Some comments on earlier comments:

Yes. Though for whatever it's worth, Star Wars was originally envisioned as a 12-part series, and then Lucas changed his mind before making the first sequel and turned "Chapter I" into "Episode IV" and on and on and on. So the first movie was never envisioned as part of a "trilogy", per se, nor did it necessarily have the sort of arc that we now associate with it. In a story stretched out over 12 installments, I don't know how much character development I would have expected.

Not to quibble too much, but my recollection of the recent "The Making of Star Wars" (the exhaustive "official" text), seems to indicate that the entire 12-part bit was dreamed up by Lucas well into the writing of Star Wars, if not during production itself. There are some indications that he wanted to tell a story of the Jedi but jettisoned that for a less complex "rescue the princess" story, but he never really developed anything beyond the basic backstory for the prequels and original trilogy, certainly not the fabled "second & third trilogies").

: No they don't. How many parallel earths did ST visit anyway?

A few, and they had an explanation for those, too. At any rate, it was something that they knew would require some sort of theoretical back-up. And in any case, that was a mere imPROBability, and not an imPOSSibility.

My favorite "explaniation," from "Miri" I believe: "It seems impossible, but there it is." -Kirk on seeing the familiar continents of Earth.

The planet gazing is absolutely central to this film.

Really? Central? A quick, almost throw-away shot? I felt that the idea that was being communicated, the feeling of being helpless, was much more important than the imagery itself.

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Even if Spock had simply been told, "I'm leaving you here while I go destroy Vulcan," and then Nero left him halfway across the galaxy, the effect would have been the same.

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Just saw the film last night. Review here, although after reading some forum comments I feel I was a bit too generous. Yes, I agree that it was missing most of what made Star Trek what it was, and falls into the trap of trying to be a big summer-style action movie. Ironically, this was the same problem that the last 2 Next Generation era films had, although they were done ineptly and this was done expertly. The filmmakers certainly succeeded in marrying the Trek universe to Michael Bay's brand of Transformers scifi. Only the inevitable sequel will tell if they can actually tell a more intelligent Star Trek story with this kind of framework.

I think this notion of the "highly intelligent" Star Trek stories is vastly overblown. Outside of City on the Edge of forever, most of Star Trek's metaphors were head smashingly obvious, especially as later series came along. But the truth is, Star Trek 5 is far more in line with traditional Star Trek story-telling than Wrath of Kahn or First Contact. Of those three, which is the least esteemed? Kahn and First Contact was not deeper than Abram's Trek, either. They were simple stories of internal conflict. The Trek filoms considered "best" tend to be closer to spectacle films than deep and thoughtful treatise that people keep claiming Star Trek is based in. Star Trek has been mired in talkiness and politics-in fact, Star Trek as a series tended to have a lot in common with the newer Star Wars prequels.

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