Mr. Scott: I need a script. Now!
I’m an admitted Star Trek Sucker. Most folks think the first Star Trek film was a bore. Not me; I still recall losing myself in glassy-eyed delight as the camera panned the Enterprise in dry dock. Wrath of Khan? Loved it. And whose liberal heart could not be moved by saving the earth by saving the whales in Star Trek Four? Several episodes of The Next Generation were, in my eyes, just about as good as television gets and I’ll crawl out of my pod to club anyone who doesn’t think the Borg were the greatest sci-fi villains ever. I pretty much gave up watching TV when Deep Space Nine and Voyager went off the air. I’ve loved Trek in all of its iterations. (Okay, nobody liked Enterprise, but T’Pol was easy on the eyes!)
So why do I share Phoenix Brown’s reservations about the re-launch film? She’s certainly right—with one notable exception—that J. J. Abrams did a helluva job casting the new crew to look and act like the old crew. Karl Urban’s Leonard McCoy is fab, Simon Pegg’s Montgomery Scott captures the character’s crusty brilliance, and I want to see Zachary Quinto’s DNA records—he’s got to be Leonard Nimoy’s clone. Loved the cast, even the cameo bits such as Winona Ryder playing a Spocker mom.
Chris Pine’s portrayal of Kirk left me cold, though. Yes, Kirk was a cowboy full of swagger but he was a disciplined cowboy who resorted to intuition and the unorthodox when his back was to the wall, not as the default position. Let’s see if I’ve got this right. In the new film a drunken letch gets beaten to a bloody pulp in a cheesy bar and from that performance a Star Fleet officer, Captain Christopher Pike, realizes the lad’s potential and talks him into going to Star Fleet Academy. After three years of drinking, womanizing, breaking every rule in the book, and smuggling his way onto a starship against express orders in the midst of a pending cheating scandal he manages to get appointed First Officer!? But wait; it gets worse. After banishment and an improbable return to the Enterprise he gets a Vulcan to crack emotionally so that he can be appointed—straight out of cadet school, mind you—as captain of the fleet’s newest starship. And I thought some of the old Holodeck episodes rested on dodgy logic!
The new film has continuity holes big enough to drive a Borg cube through. The only way to sustain such logical inconsistencies was to turn Star Trek into a big f/x shoot-‘em-up. Explosions, fisticuffs, and thrills fly past at warp speed, but are as plentiful as ions in a particle beam. And—as is generally true of excess—ultimately they bore rather than excite. Moreover, they leave no time or room for character development. Those who already know these characters will read between the lines; those who don’t will give up on the text.
I’m delighted the film is doing well enough to stimulate discussions for new Trek spinoffs. But “dammit man,” as McCoy would say, they need a script that’s written for someone whose intellect exceeds that of a fifteen-year-old video game addict. The Next Generation set the standard for thought-provoking scripts that probed questions about violence, defining life, tolerating difference, the nature of memory, collective guilt, learning from other cultures, and other weighty matters. It won 18 Emmys, two Hugos, and a Peabody prize. You don’t get that kind of hardware with scripts whose idea of drama is “Let’s blow up some more stuff.” If the Enterprise is really going to have an ongoing mission, the franchise needs to let adults write the scripts and tell the little boys to be selective with the pyrotechnics. --LV