So after writing about Star Trek – Into the Darkness without having actually seen it, I finally went to see it, and boy was I right. Who are these people? You really can’t reboot character.
What follows is a rant, which should not read by anyone who has not yet seen Into the Darkness, but intends to:
I get that JJ Abrams is trying to create a “new” Trek, but then why doesn’t he just throw in a new captain and a new crew and give them another part of the galaxy to explore? Instead he’s turned McCoy, Chekov, and Sulu into near parodies of the originals, and given us an Uhura who bears no resemblance to the one we know. I do not recognize any of old Kirk in new Kirk, and I’m not talking about Shatner’s unusual phrasing. I understand Abrams’ Kirk is different. He grew up in a different timeline without a father. It made him more rebellious and “angry,” a kind of a rebel, which is how we first saw him in the original reboot – driving a souped up convertible like James Dean. Roddenberry’s Kirk was a boy scout compared to him. Zachary Quinto is somewhat more successful at giving us a recognizable Spock, but this Spock is rudderless. He’s lost his parents and his planet and somehow carries the irrational burden of knowing “his” actions in the other timeline had a role in causing the destruction. He lacks the detachment and cool we loved in original Spock – a cool which could sometimes convey great compassion, especially toward Jim. Instead he’s just repressed and barely holding it together. Still Jim is right in giving him command of the Enterprise at a critical juncture; compared to Kirk, Spock does know what he’s doing.
But the problem isn’t that Abrams made changes. The problem is those changes don’t add anything. Why redo Klingons? There are Klingon characters from the Roddenberryverse who we know and love – Worf and B’elanna Torres specifically. Are we supposed to now imagine them as Abramized? Why is someone named Khan Noonien Singh played with no explanation by a very white, blue-eyed actor? And when did he go from being not merely genetically superior, but actually having “super blood” that could resurrect the dead? (Different timeline doesn’t cut it since the timeline changed long after Singh came into being.)
Abrams wants to have his cake and eat it too, with all sorts shout outs and parallels to Wrath of Khan. That’s clever, but only serves to make the film seem more like a parody, and once you realize what he’s doing, it becomes predictable. (We know exactly where Jim is racing to once its clear the only way to save the ship is for someone to go into the warp core itself.) At least at the end of Wrath of Khan their was a possibility that dead was dead, that even if their was another sequel Spock wasn’t coming back. When he did, in Star Trek III,, he wasn’t the same, and he still wasn’t the same by the time we got to Star Trek IV. Jim’s resurrection was too easy, and clearly just a set up to establish more of the Jim/Spock bond and move to the next sequel.
Were we the only ones utterly creeped out by the militarized Starfleet uniforms? Do we blame the new timeline and destruction of Vulcan for the extreme shift in the very nature of Starfleet? We loved the fleet because it was a seriously non-imperialistic, non-military operation whose guiding principle was non-interference. It was the world to come we wanted to believe was possible. Who didn’t dream of being a cadet in Roddenberry’s Starfleet Academy? But Abrams gives us a darker future which is a lot less pleasant, and more generic, even dystopian. Why would anyone want to go there?
(If you found this post enjoyable, you might want to check out more of my stuff.)