5.20.2013

Captain's Blog pt. 22: Reviewing the Reviews of Into Darkness

So I caught Into Darkness. You? 


If not, this post probably isn't going to make much sense. And it is filled with "spoilers," so you're encouraged to skip it altogether if you haven't seen it. If, however, you haven't seen it because you are wary of doing so due to some of the bad press surrounding it, please accept my assurance up front that a) yes, this is a damn good Trek movie, b) no, Abrams, Orci et al. didn't "ruin Star Trek," and c) no, Into Darkness does not piss in the face/ other hyperbole of "the entire idea of Trek." Trust me. Go and see it; you'll enjoy yourself.

Still with me? Okay, good.

Put simply, there's an awful lot of outright bullshit being tossed around about this movie (quick example: there's this bit of nerdbait, which went viral. It's funny, and I sympathize with what Jon is saying here. But watch the whole interview - it's nowhere near as cut-and-dried as it appears here. And newsflash, folks, that guy who directed The Wrath of Khan, that film reviewers are now saying * is perfectly-distilled/ lightning in a bottle Trek, Nick Meyer? Yep - he wasn't a Trek fan, either. Instead of admitting it and saying "Oh but eventually, I saw the appeal..." as Abrams has done - over and over and over again - Meyer not only shrugged off his non-fandom at the time, he doubled down on it for The Undiscovered Country and remains unapologetic/ dismissive to this day.)

* I love it, too, calm down.

Let's start with Devin Faraci's review over at BadAss Digest.

"Star Trek Into Darkness is not the worst Star Trek movie. I would probably watch this film again before I rewatch The Final Frontier or Insurrection or Nemesis."

Right off the bat, we get a dis of Insurrection, how original. Insurrection came to mind a couple of times while watching Into Darkness, actually, mainly as it's the only other Trek film of recent decades to posit the shocking idea that when your superiors commit to a course at odds with morality and legality, it is your ethical imperative to resist. Insurrection remains the most bafflingly maligned Trek film in the franchise. Final Frontier and Nemesis, okay, well, snipe away; they're flawed films. Insurrection isn't perfect, but seeing this sort of moral calibration recalled in STID was damn welcome for yours truly.

"A suicide bomber blows up an archive in London, which turns out to be a secret base for black ops guys Section 31, and which triggers a meeting of important Starfleet personnel (including Kirk and Spock for some reason.)"

That "some reason" is right there in the script; they're there as first officers of the Enterprise and the Bradbury. The same way everyone around the table is a Captain and his/her first officer. 

Faraci now turns his attention to Khan:

"(Khan) has been thawed from his cryosleep by the head of Starfleet and pushed into servitude, designing weapons and ships, and for reasons that are unclear and probably nonsensical, actually personally engaging in terrorist activities. Because if you suddenly had Napoleon or Genghis Khan on your team you would send them off to do drive-bys. (...) STID makes the decision to turn Khan into a generic villain who can punch very hard. It's such a strange decision; everything special about Khan has been stripped away, leaving only a villain-shaped outline. The fact that he was an important ruler and the fact that he's 300 years out of his own time are just ignored. (...) Old Spock has to assure the audience (and) explain why Khan is a guy to be feared."

Okay: 1) I agree that the phone call to Old Spock could have been excised, or done differently, but 2) Obviously, we as an audience will recall Khan's backstory, but this is a whole new history/ timeline. There is absolutely no imperative that Khan has to be this same guy. I would say the fact that Kirk and Spock don't immediately say"Oh, God, this is that guy from the Eugenics Wars?" means this is being intentionally left vague. It's mentioned he's a genetically-engineered baddie from a more savage era, whose savagery is being exploited/ blackmailed in an era that has "gone soft." That's it. (Right? I've only seen it once, so if there is mention of "Khan was a genocidal tyrant who killed millions of people in something called The Eugenics Wars," explicitly, I'll revisit this.)  And c) The bombing of London is not a drive-by; the attempted assassination of Marcus et al. is not a driveby.

I personally think Khan is a cooler character if he is the genetics warlord/ former-Hitler of Earth's darkest age (more on that in a bit,) but it's not like the film fails to exploit that, is my point.

"Where (2009) Star Trek swept you up as it jumped from scene to scene, logic and motivation be damned, Star Trek Into Darkness is like tagging along with a meth addict who is incoherently searching for a fix."

No it's not. Good God, stop trying so hard.

Next we come to something that keeps coming round like a bad engineered-hivemind talking point:

"And then Alice Eve. Carol Marcus serves literally no narrative function - everything she does could easily be done by an existing crewmember."

Probably. If said crewmember is the daughter of the Admiral upon whose villainy the entire film turns. Oh, wait. She is. Never mind.
 
"Even her relationship with the bad guy has essentially no pay-off whatsoever. The only reason she's in the movie, I assume, is because there was a Carol Marcus in Wrath of Khan. There are number of bits of fan service like that (which is weird in a movie like this that tries to alienate Trekkies at every turn,) but the inclusion of Carol Marcus is the biggest and hollowest example. Alice Eve is fine, but she's playing a non-character whose biggest moments are when she, without reason, strips to her underwear and when Khan steps on her leg."

Okay, so let's talk Carol Marcus. Here's the scene in question, which, of course, if you're reading this, you've already seen on a million pre-release Trek sites:


Let's get the first objection out of the way: she's in her underwear because she is changing into her spacesuit. So, "without reason" is simply incorrect. You might say it's a flimsy reason, i.e. "let's find a way to get this very fit woman into an underwear scene." To which I would respond, uhm, yep. That's about as controversial for a film/ tv show/ print ad as finding a reason to blow something up. i.e. This accounts for 2/3rds of everything ever filmed. To single out this freaking three seconds of screen time, which is cute and allows for Kirk to get busted peeking at the new "hot chick shiny object" who has crossed his radar - OMG, what a horrible mischaracterization of James Kirk, there - is crackerjacks.

(And if your objection is rooted in "Star Trek should be above this sort of thing," again, it's a particularly inoffensive entry in the "let's show actors in their underwear" business that has characterized the majority of cinema for about a hundred years, but more importantly, it's hardly new/ egregious for Trek, altogether. Go back and watch any episode of TOS, Voyager, or Enterprise; you'll find a hell of a lot more pertinent examples.)

Carol Marcus serves as much purpose in Into Darkness as she does in Wrath of Khan. There, she knew about Genesis; here, she knows about the torpedoes. There, she was a character from Kirk's past with whom he had a relationship and who bore him an estranged son and told him to stay away - all things common to any soap opera, ever made, hardly revolutionary, hard-hitting character-development stuff - suddenly introduced onscreen, and who never appears again. Here, she's simply introduced into the cast with all of that potential intact; it's not like her presence in STID takes anything away from that. (Ditto for Khan, actually) I'm not knocking the character or Bibi Besch, but methinks thou protest too much. It's not like Abrams and co. turned McCoy into Pamela Anderson. She's reintroduced here, that's all, as the daughter of the Admiral who is trying to start a war with the Klingons, who harbors scientific suspicion about the weapons of said war, and as a Starfleet officer, it is perfectly fine/ reasonable/ welcome for her to be here.

She's hardly the main point of either TWOK or STID, is what I'm getting at. She's simply part of Captain Kirk's story arc in the former and some moral foil/ supporting cast with potential in the latter.

Finally, Faraci mentions this about the scientific implications of the Khan's personal transwarp machine/ magic blood bit:

"Imagine a universe where you can beam yourself anywhere in the entire galaxy and also you can't die. That's essentially the universe that will exist in Star Trek 3."

Okay, the magic-blood thing. I remain as confused as everyone else as to why it was singularly necessary to re-capture Khan to revive Kirk when they had 72 other people from whom to draw the same blood in Sick Bay, already captured and ready to go. A simple line from McCoy (i.e. "Prep one of those spacemen just in case") would have covered this. Too bad. BUT, I mean, is this your first trip round the Trek carousel? Whether it's the replicator, the transporter, Spock's katra, the cloaking device, or roughly a gazillion-trillion other examples, Trek has always been about introducing wonky sci-fi concepts that carry implications like this. Sure, I prefer more consistency/ less rope to hang one's self, but to single out STID for this is as stupid as singling out Alice Eve's underwear scene; you've missed the forest for the trees. It can be as easily explained as any of the above, pure and simple.

Okay, moving on, to the Movies by Bowes review. I like this blog a lot, but a few things in this review ticked me off. He brings up a few things (such as the racial implications of casting a white guy as South Asian Khan) that are worth reading, though the implication that it's racist to cast someone named "Khan" as anyone but a South Asian is confused, and fairly predictable. (We don't know anything about the world Khan comes from, in this timeline, so why assume he's a South Asian? Because he's named Khan? One might assume "Jean-Luc Picard" from France wouldn't have a British accent, but he does.) Anyway, what I want to focus on is:

"STID is, in every regard, a movie that could have been written by a computer program that left the proper nouns blank (and) onto the generic-as-shit sci-fi template, toss a whole bunch of references to shit they know fans will get, making the whole thing kind of feel like a rewrite of Wrath of Khan by someone who didn't actually watch it."

I'm getting pretty sick of reading that STID is a "remake" - and a vapid one at that - of TWOK. It's not, at all. I get that Bowes is saying "like a remake," but they are totally different films. It's not a reboot of the concept, nor is it a film all that concerned with old age, friendship, and vengeance. It's a film, like Insurrection, about standing up to unethical decisionmaking in the face of emotional hysteria calling for someone's head/ blindly following orders, of doing what it takes to get the job done, and it's Kirk's character-arc movie about how to be a leader. That it incorporates elements of "fan service" and transposes aspects and characters from TWOK is perfectly fine. This is an alternate timeline -  mix-and-matching elements of canon and putting them into a 2013 sci-fi blockbuster is precisely what was supposed to happen, here. Do these same people see Batman and Catwoman married on Earth 2 and think "OH GOD, THIS IS SUCH PANDERING SHIT!?" If so, whew.

"You can argue poetic license and adaptation all you want, but that's not Star Trek. (...) Abrams not giving a particular fuck about Star Trek didn't get in the way (of the first one,) because his indifference to canon led him to focus on the characters as human beings, and their relationships. Ironically, the thing that makes the sequel go tits up (for me, anyway) is the ineptitude of the fan service; it's like Abrams and the writers read the Star Trek page on the Wikipedia and were like "Oh, okay, here's Carol Marcus, which means, yeah the bad guy'll be Khan, everyone likes Khan, oh, and sure, let's give them a Tribble. (...) All these gestures seem rote and hollow."

Well, at least there's a "for me, anyway" in there. I'm likewise getting tired of people telling me this isn't Star Trek or what the motivations for Abrams et al. were. All I can say is, that's not the experience I, as a longterm Trekkie and as someone who spends far too much time pontificating on "the Trek spirit," had with this film. I'm not someone so blinded by explosions and underwear that I forget everything about the franchise. (Though I'm strongly getting that impression about many of those who criticize the film. Not Bowes here, his blog is great. We disagree on STID, obviously, but otherwise, I enjoy the Movies by Bowes perspective quite a bit.)

Let's get to Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy, whose reviews I often enjoy for their "yes, but here's how science really works" aspects. Off the bat, he nails a rather glaring error in STID.

"At the climactic battle, they say they're 237,000 kilometers from Earth, but wind up near the Moon; I suspect someone mixed up kilometers and miles (the Moon is 238,000 miles from Earth, which is 380,000 kilometers or so. Also, do the math: it's 2259, and they say Khan was born 300 years ago."

I was confused by that last point, too. Originally, Khan led the Eugenics Wars in the 1990s. Obviously, that didn't happen (we probably would have noticed. Though, maybe not.) Why nail him down to 1959? But, again, no one even mentioned the Eugenics Wars, really, nor the 1990s, in STID, so is it important? Needlessly confusing/ adhering to this particular aspect of canon, but important, no.

The moon thing, though, that's sloppy. (Not that it's an excuse, but, again, hardly the first time such a thing has happened in a Trek film.)


Another aspect of the movie that may confuse:

"(The whole beginning with the volcano) makes no sense. Why put the ship under water, instead of in orbit directly above the volcano? That would give them line of sight, and they could've beamed Spock there and back safely without being seen as anything more than a bright light in the sky. And why not just beam the bomb into the volcano in the first place? Also, saving those humanoids all by itself was a violation of the Prime Directive, but Spock didn't seem to have too big a problem with that."

That last point, yes, sure. (It's even confused a little by the subsequent disagreement between Spock and Kirk as to whether Kirk should have saved Spock.) Is it a big deal? Frankly, I cannot stand bitching about the Prime Directive. The fact is, it's never been consistent. That doesn't mean everyone has license to do whatever they want in contempt of it, but just saying, if you're not somewhat forgiving of wild leaps of logic (or illogic) re: the Prime Directive, I can't understand what Trek you've been watching all this time. As for the rest of it, these objections make sense to me, and the script should have included a line or two that offers just enough covering fire to justify the scene. (Which adheres to every other blockbuster-storytelling rule: i.e. jump right in, big set piece, set up the moral dilemma that will be resolved by the climax, etc.)

Frankly, as with Chekov knowing Khan in TWOK, the ship's in the ocean because it makes the scene better. And allows us that awesome dissolve from drawing the ship in the red dirt to the Enterprise in space. It's not the sturdiest hook upon which to hang it, perhaps, but it's hardly unforgivable.

Okay, so back to Khan:

"I admit, I chuckled a bit when the movie took the penultimate scene from TWOK and did a role reversal on it (...) but then Spock yelling "KHHHANNNN!" made my eyes roll back so far in my head I think they went back in time - and any real drama was drained from that scene because we know Kirk won't die. They had already telegraphed how they'd save him in an earlier scene... with a tribble, of all things. Compare that scene to the one where Spock dies (in TWOK) and tell me which one hits you harder."

I, for one, got a huge kick out of seeing Spock yell "KHAAAAN!" precisely for the reasons Phil lays out above, i.e. that there was no emotional weight attached to the scene as there was absolutely no way Kirk was really dead. So, for me, trying to play that tonally would have been a serious misstep; best to have a bit of a wink, here. Obviously, Spock's death hits harder. To expect the same from this inversion of that is completely off the beam. I'm not too married to it; it could have been left out. But why bother? And who cares if it was a Tribble? Would the scene have been better served if it was a space rat? 


Nordling from Ain't It Cool News also addresses this, amusingly calling STID "The Wrath of Ret-Khan." I'll get to this after I finish up on Phil's, but that review seems to suggest Spock's yelling "Khan!" is an insult. I think that's a rather precious way to take things, honestly. (He admits as much in his review, yet objects nevertheless.) Anyway, back to Phil:

"(STID) is just action without any overarching strategy. Now I know that this will sound like a get-off-my-lawn kind of moment, but seriously: Trek isn't supposed to be about this kind of stuff. (It's) about the relationship of the characters and the grander theme of exploration. It's also a meta-story about us. At its best, it was a deeply thoughtful mythology about ourselves and our conflicts, an allegory of our modern problems and flaws of humanity - war, greed, bigotry, narcissism - and how we overcome them, told as science fiction. That's why we're still telling these stories nearly 50 years later. This movie wasn't any of that. To quote the great storyteller Homer (Simpson, that is:) It was just a bunch of stuff that happened. Fight scene, battle scene, people running, conversations, then more fighting. It had the elements of Trek, but the signal was shouted down by the noise."

Again, Jesus, I know what Trek is about. "But seriously," people are really on their high horse about this. The fact of the matter is, a) practically every story, Trek or otherwise, can be summed up in such a way (fight scene, conversations, underwear, running, etc.) and b) when Trek does hew to those themes, the very same fans bitch about it for decades (ahem, The Motion Picture.) And STID is very much a meta-story about us. (The title is a dead giveaway!) Here's a much more accurate read on the "meta"ness of the film courtesy of Where No Blog Has Gone Before:

"The whole movie seems to ask a simple question: is this really who we are?  Are we the kind of people who will let ourselves be swayed toward doing the wrong thing just because somebody else has done something really, really bad to us?  That's not what Starfleet is about, Scotty seems to be saying.  Starfleet is just an imaginary idea, of course; but in a way, you can say the same thing about America.  Some segments of Trek fandom have objected strongly to the Abrams films because, they say, the movies lack the core ideas of moral philosophy that the original had.  I simply don't find that to be the case; the Abrams movies, instead, are canny enough to realize that the America of this millennium so far does not itself possess that core idea of moral philosophy.  We are, in a sense, lost.
  
So rather than pretend we aren't and have the subtext of his films feel weirdly anachronistic, Abrams has opted for a different approach: he's pointed toward the right direction and said, "Hey, guys...?  Shouldn't we be going that way?"  These new versions of familiar characters are headed in that direction right along with us; they haven't quite gotten there yet, but we sense that they will, and through them we sense that we can get there, too.  As such, this reboot-universe Star Trek feels every bit as of-its-era as the original series did of its own era.  To me, that seems appropriate, and it reinforces the core philosophies of Trek; it doesn't refute them or bury them, or ignore them, it's merely realistic about them."

I'll get to this more in our next segment but to wrap up Phil's review:

"A big part of what made the original movies work was the way these old friends interact. In the new timeline they're not yet old friends, of course, but in this movie there wasn't a whole lot of progress made in that direction."

Couldn't agree more with the first part, couldn't disagree more with the last. I found this a welcome step forward for the new cast's interaction, all around, inside and out.

Finally, let me address two reviews (first, Nordling's from Ain't It Cool News and second, Forrest Wickman's from Slate) that explicitly deal with the War on Terror-ness of STID:

"Khan wants Kirk to know the truth - that he's simply a pawn in Marcus' machinations to start a war with the Klingon Empire (...) This isn't the Khan of "Space Seed" or TWOK and he even has a sense of nobility about him as he and Kirk form an uneasy alliance to stop Marcus. I also liked how in this reality, the Federation was quickly becoming more militarized since Vulcan's destruction, and since Trek has always been somewhat topical, those themes felt especially relevant. I loved Scotty's plea to Kirk to not undertake the mission (...) and I think Gene Roddenberry would have approved the symbolic way (it) addresses the War on Terror."

I agree. It might be the only thing Roddenberry (whose vision was a bit constraining on this point, as discussed elsewhere) would have recognized, actually.

"STID offers up a surprisingly nuanced critique of American military power. Benedict Cumberbatch, speaking to BBC America earlier this month, wasn't afraid to be more specific: 'It's no spoiler I think to say that there's a huge backbone in this film that's a comment on recent US intervenionist overseas policy from the Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld era.'"

Yeah. That era hasn't ended, dude; it's gotten demonstrably worse. Which, ironically, makes his point all the stronger; STID is even more relevant in 2013 than it would have been in 2003, when the US invaded Iraq. This next section explains why, in case you missed it:

"After Khan orchestrates a terrorist bombing of Starfleet's main archive building, attacks its high command, and hides out, Osama-like, in a mountain cave in an uninhabited corner of enemy territory, Admiral Marcus orders Kirk to fly to the edge of enemy space and execute Khan using a payload of classified, high-tech torpedoes that are capable of seeking out enemies from long distance. In other words, he orders an extrajudicial killing by drone strike. The fact that this measure isn't strictly kosher under Starfleet law worries Spock, who reminds Kirk of Khan's right to due process, noting that there is no Starfleet regulation that allows the killing of a Federation resident without trial. Soon, Kirk is persuaded by Spock's argument that the mission is both against Starfleet regulations and morally wrong, and decides that he will personally lead a manhunt on the enemy planet.

"Marcus turns against the Enterprise and is not afraid of using Khan's terrorist attack to provoke a war with the Klingons. Some commenters (...) see this in this turn of events a hunt of 9/11 Trutherism - the idea being that the Admiral was complicit in Khan's terror attack because he needed a pretext for war. But it's not Marcus who orchestrates the attack on London. It's Khan. Just like George W. Bush, Marcus invokes a terrorist attack in an attempt to start a war on a country that had nothing to do with it."

First, isn't it Marcus who orchestrates the attack on Section 31? Perhaps I missed that - it's possible, but it was my impression that the attack was Marcus' idea. Second, if I understand "Trutherism" correctly, it's not that the US govt. initiated the attacks; it merely allowed/ cleared the way for them to happen so as to exploit them for its apparently-neverending War on Sovereign Banks, Energy and Opium Terror. And third, about the only thing Chris Hitchens said that I ever agreed with was during Bush/ Cheney, when he made the point on Real Time with Bill Maher that "George Bush has become the joke that stupid people laugh at." Ditto for "9/11 Trutherism/ Alex Jones." i.e. the idea that those in power do not allow or blatantly-orchestrate such things pursuant to their agenda is historically ignorant (particularly in this country: Remember the Maine, Gulf of Tonkin, etc.) and dangerously (one might say embarrassingly) naive.

(Hitchens' point, by the way, is not that George Bush was great or that Trutherism isn't stupid; it's that stupid people mock things when they see other people mock things. And that this is dangerous. So, to that point, when you see or hear someone who can't shut up about how stupid insert-media-talking-point/ insert-Jay-Leno-joke here, the intelligent and perceptive thing to do is to ask "Why?" Not to clap like a circus seal and snort.)

Okay, so this post has turned into a Russian novel, so let me comment on one final bit from Wickman's review:

"At (film's end,) the Enterprise is prepared to jet off into the literal darkness of deep space. But thematically, it's a move out of darkness and into the rosy utopianism that is the hallmark of the Trek franchise. After a film full of violence, betrayals, and internal conspiracies, Captain James Kirk is prepared to lead its crew on a five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before. It's a great finish to a film that was surprisingly successful at delivering a mainstream pop cinema experience while simultaneously doing a much better job than the previous JJ Abrams movie of hewing to the Trek faith."

Finally! A bit of clear-eyed appreciation for the Trek faith. (Though, as I've gone over elsewhere in this series, that "utopianism" is more problematic than commonly assumed.) A quick nitpick - I don't think the "darkness" of the title is so easily dismissed, though. Mainly because this movie - like Trek - springs from a society that is still shrouded in darkness. (Its optimism, likewise; anything we project bears the ideology and assumptions of the projector.) But, like Insurrection and the best Trek spirit, it does give us the hopeful message that we can and should stand up against the idea of filling body bags and coffins for whatever agenda works best for a short-sighted, war-driven, morally-bankrupt establishment.

NEXT: I'll get back to the Original Cast movies soon, but a quick digression into "What the Hell is Canon, Anyway?"

14 comments:

  1. I coulda kept right on reading that for another few dozen mouse-scrolls.

    Trek is a massive franchise, and it's a massive concept. In fact, it's a little difficult to wrap one's head around just HOW massive it is. And here's the kicker: it lost its consistency practically right off the bat. It wasn't even out of the first season before incongruous things had happened left and right. On the one hand, that's kinda of a shame, but on the other hand, I think it's permitted for Trek to be subjected to seemingly-minute course corrections at more or less any time course correction is needed.

    The end result? It only holds together if you're willing to roll with the changes. Otherwise, you might as well have tuned out around the time of "The Menagerie," if not sooner. And don't EVEN watch an episode of DS9...because it gives some very different answers to some of Roddenberry's rhetorical questions. Which is annoying on the one hand, but completely okey-dokey on the other.

    I've got my issues with "Into Darkness," but they are no more (or less) serious than the issues I have with my other favorite Trek movies. (Those being I, II, IV, VIII, and XI.) And in all of those cases, the things I love FAR outweigh the things that bug me.

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    1. I was going to add a disclaimer on how I DID have one or two problems here and there, but the focus of the reviews I've been reading seems so negative (and off) that I decided to table those thoughts for now. I'll eventually get to the 2009 flick, and, I imagine, a full-on review of Into Darkness. But this'll do for now.

      Good point on rolling with the punches/ changes. For me, the alternate timeline is good covering fire for most things. It's not like they bothered creating an alternate timeline, just as one of a thousand examples, for Vulcan having a moon or Zefram Cochrane being from Earth and not Alpha Centauri.

      Certain things would be a bridge too far. Naturally. No one's saying they wouldn't be. I have no desire to see Trek turn into the 21st century BSG, by any means. But if this film (and the 2009 one) are "too far" for some, I simply disagree. Just one guy's opinion, of course.

      Me, it just feels great to have a new Trek film I love out there. I hope a new TV series debuts at some point. (It'll never happen, but I still hold out hope for a Star Trek: XON or a Star Trek: WORF. Come on, guys, throw me a bone...)

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    2. The Zefram Cochrane thing is a good example. The character in "First Contact" bears no relation -- I mean none whatsoever -- to the one in "Metamorphosis." And while a part of my brain is bothered by that ever so slightly, most of it -- let's call it 96.4% -- couldn't care less, because the Zefram Cochran in "First Contact" is kinda awesome.

      I don't know what my personal "bridge too far" for Trek would be. I could see myself actually being okay with a BSG-style Trek show, provided that the story circumstances permitted for it. Aspects of it show up in DS9. And Voyager COULD have been that; it could very well have been, "We are traveling through regions of blood-soaked horror, but no matter what, we do NOT compromise our beliefs and principles."

      I can't wait to see what form the next series takes. Heck, who knows? This campaign to get Netflix to produce a fifth season of Enterprise might even pan out. Stranger things have happened.

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    3. Now THAT would be a Voyager reboot I'd not only watch but absolutely love to see. Put Starfleet Principles to the test! It'd combine the best elements of "Course Oblivion" and "Year of Hell."

      I really would love that Manny Coto s5 of Enterprise. Or even just giving him some other Trek to run; he got it.

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    4. What I mean with a BSG-style Trek (though I agree, if the stories/ everything else was in place, I'd probably like it, too) is that I like it to be stories of the future we want to have, with certain conflicts and technologies resolved. I don't mind a grittier Trek, or to see Admiral Marcus acting like Averill Harriman or Prescott Bush, but at the end of the day, I don't want to see people fighting for water in a post-apocalyptic environment or anything on the Enterprise. Maybe as a stand-alone episode/ alternate timeline, but there's just already so much sci-fi like that. I think once Trek gets turned into that - kind of like what people are misguidedly saying about Into Darkness - it does lose something that shouldn't be lost. That's just my gut feeling, here. Turning Trek into something that makes a billion dollars per movie is fine (and if it gives us more series/ keeps it going, then even better,) but the day Captain Ryan Gosling has a love scene with Lieutenant ScarJo before there's an expletive-laden rape/fight scene in Sick Bay, etc.... there's just certain tonal things about this set-up, in Starfleet uniforms, that repel me.

      Or Werner Herzog's Trek, even - it's a fascinating idea, to me, but I just feel there are certain things that should always be in place.

      That said, if all those elements WERE in place, and Voyager had to go through literal Hell in Space, being preyed upon, and the show were about what would people of the highly principled, tech-heavy future do / how would they would fare, I can think of a thousand stories to tell in that universe without it descending into Rob Zombie land.

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    5. God help me, but I'd kinda like to see what a Rob Zombie "Star Trek" would look like. I'd probably want to keep the entire rest of the world from ever seeing it, though.

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  2. I’ve always assumed that what’s going on here with Abrams take on Trek was a slow process of the the characters growing into their TOS roles. Into Darkness however sort of does make me wonder if that’s an accurate assessment, though.

    I’ve talked elsewhere about serial and limited characters in stories, and it’s clear enough to me that Trek definitely falls on the serial side of things, and that, to be fair, serial characters have an adaptability to retconning that limited characters don’t have.

    That said, some redefinitions are better than others, for instance the new film takes on Batman and James Bond have for the most part been spot on and even in some sense keeping in with tradition, however I’m afraid the same can’t be said, for me at least, with regard to the reimagining of Sherlock Holmes by Robert Downey because unlike Bond or Batman, it misses or leaves out too muchof everything that made the character work in the original short stories.

    Then there are the more interesting re-imaginings that seem to split people down the middle. Trek seems to be one and here is a good example of another centering around the Looney Tunes:

    http://blip.tv/nostalgiacritic/nc-the-looney-tunes-show-good-or-bad-6566934

    For what it’s worth, I think the case can be made that the Tunes re-imagining more or less works, though it’s by no means perfect.

    As all this applies to Trek, well, I don’t have much to say one way or the other is the truth. The main reason is, without claimingto be a die-hard Trekker, I’ve sometimes found myself wishing ideas or stories could have been better worked to the point where I’ve done some imaginative recasting of characters and stories of my own. For instance, I thought it would be interesting if Seven of Nine was removed from the Borg not by Voyager but just as a result of a defeat in combat. In this version she’s the lone survivor in a fight which the Borg lose, and she has her humanity rather unceremoniously thrust on her when she’s picked up by scavengers who harvest cybernetics. Naturally, this version is a bit more brutal yet I thought wouldn’t it be interesting if you were to recast the character so that instead of a Star trek story, you get a film set in the Star Trek universe that isn’t concerned with Trek but about questions such as what is humanity. I don’t know if that’s a good example of good reimagining, yet there goes one example.

    I even once thought of an alternate Dark Knight sequel where not only does Ledger still get to play the Joker but Rachel Dawes is Catwoman, just to give another example. I could even see how she wound up that way from the second movie. At least it seemed better to me than the third movie.

    What all this says to me for franchises like Trek is that it’s probably all up in the air for the most part, and can go any which way depending on who’s at the helm.

    On an unrelated note, Bob Ledrew is back with new episodes of the King Cast, and I knew the subject two new episodes would be the perfect topic for this site: The politics of Stephen King. The subject is broken into to a two part episode.

    Part one is here:

    http://thekingcast.ca/site/?p=406

    And here’s part two. Enjoy:

    http://thekingcast.ca/site/?p=425

    ChrisC

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    Replies
    1. I've got to ask, Chris... what is up with this nostalgiacritic guy you always link to? Is that a friend? Is that you? Just someone you like? I'm just curious.

      Without having watched it, weren't Looney Tunes more or less rebooted as "juniors" with Animaniacs?

      I think you're the first person I've met who doesn't like The Dark Knight Rises!

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    2. Is he me? Hell no, I'm much more polite, even if I think a film isn't that great.

      As for a friend, I've never met the guy in person. The only reason I link such things is because, incredible as it may sound, I've found people the Critic, Atop the Fourth Wall et al a good way of finding my own opinions about things.

      That said, I'm amazed the Guy with the Glasses manages to keep from being alienating. Call him annoying all you want and you be telling a lie, yet the fact that I can keep coming back to here more of his opinions says some sort of achivement.

      I guess I just watch more review vlogs than others maybe. Oh well.

      Getting back to Trek and retconning, one thing I'm interested in finding out is what will happens to, call them the "Roddenberry Principles", the original thematic lynchpin of the whole franchise.

      Treatments like Abrams are showing a tendency to toss whatever principles Roddenberry lived by out the door in favor of their own concerns.

      Being more a Prisoner fan than a Trek fan, I can't say I'm as bothered about it as others. Like I said, I always wondered about Trek having an "edge". This might be the first steps somewhere in that direction.

      ChrisC

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    3. I don't know if I'd agree that Abrams is tossing whatever principles to the wayside. Truthfully, the Roddenberry Principles (i.e. no interpersonal conflict, no undue militarization, study aliens not fight them) survive in the 09 Trek and STID more or less as intact as they were in the later seasons of TNG on down the line. I'd say something like Undiscovered Country is still the reigning champ of the un-Trekkiest-Trek ever Trekked.

      I'm interested in this phenom, as well, as evidenced by the TWOK and TSFS blogs, or those portions of those blogs that address that. I'll keep that going with Voyage Home, TNG, Final Frontier, and TUC, just got to get there! But as a broad statement, I'll say, Roddenberry's Principles were not as consistent as he believed in the later years of his life, and their flexibility allows for significant expansion and contraction.

      I just hope they don't go out altogether. I like BSG more than I like most things, for example, but I just don't want to see someone interrogated via rape and torture on Star Trek. Even if it was done by a nano-replicated Max Ophuls from a script by Ronald D. Moore.

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    4. I'm familiar with the Nostalgia Critic; I watched some of his videos before this blog came to life. He's not my cup of tea, for the most part, but he does have a following (and holy cow, I see he's been doing it since 2008, which is positively antediluvian on the internet!).

      That Looney Tunes video does apply to the discussion at hand. It differs from most of the prior "reboots" in that it cleaves far more closely to the source material while still diverting from it in fundamental ways. Most importantly, as the Nostalgia Critic points out, it has the characters reacting to and living in a world with modern sensibilities and developments, much as Abrams' Trek has done with the elements of its source material.

      I LOVE the Looney Tunes show, by the way, for much the same reasons cited in the video, and found the same flaws as he did. It's a good example of the type of argument that has been presented in favor of Abrams' Trek, and it may have just helped me change my opinion a bit...at least for the first one. I still need to see Into Darkness.

      But boy, does a little dose of that guy's affectations go a long, long way.

      Also, I actually liked Loonatics Unleashed. It was fun.

      And on a completely different note...Alice Eve. Hooboy. That is all.

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    5. Probably very fair, particularly the in-the-final-analysis part:

      http://thedissolve.com/features/one-year-later/591-one-year-later-star-trek-into-darkness/

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    6. I liked the movie a lot (despite its problems) when it came out last summer, but I've since then had virtually no desire to watch it a third time. And indeed, the movie has soured in my mind, probably as a result of being influenced by the many detractors.

      I love many elements of these new movies, especially the cast and the overall aesthetic sense. I don't like certain other things, especially the use of warp speed, which seemingly now gets you anywhere you want to go in exactly as much time as the dolts writing the screenplay need to get there. Overall, though, this series of films is still very much in the plus column. Anyone arguing that "Into Darkness" is the worst Trek movie is probably watching Trek for a different reason than I watch it.

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    7. I'm pretty much with you here. I can accept that the franchise is less "science-first" oriented (and would remind those critics that there was more than a little bit of that before the reboot as well - I keep reading like Into Darkness was the first one to have a screwy plot or the new Treks the first with screwy science. Nope. Not even remotely the case.) and I can accept that the plot for ID unravels when looked at too closely. But does Insurrection, and I love that one, too.

      I think I've got a pretty solid track record on calling Trek out when it fails to hit its marks, and for allowing plenty of wiggle room when its heart is in the right place or meets its marks elsewhere. And I think ID does.

      Still, it was a good read and I found myself agreeing with more of it than disagreeing.

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