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[PUBLIC] Star Trek XI - The Cover Story
October 2013
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 08:37 am
[PUBLIC] Star Trek XI

Yesterday I went out with pezzonovante, jalawingedone, noble_resonance, and hanasaseru to see JJ Abrams' swing at the Star Trek franchise. Before going, it had come highly recommended by a number of my friends, so I was encouraged when I went to the theatre.

Plot Synopsis

The movie itself dealt with a Romulan mining vessel traveling back in time after the destruction of Romulus, and attempting to capture Ambassador Spock, the venerable Vulcan who attempted and failed to save the world using an artificial gravity singularity. They fall into the black hole, and emerge 154 years displaced in the time line, where they encounter and destroy the USS Kelvin, a Starfleet destroyer. This event has a surprisingly large effect on the timeline, especially as the miner disappears into the night, not to be heard from again for 25 years.

Fast-forward through two extraneous scenes on Earth and Vulcan, and we pop out in 2255, in which the death of George Kirk aboard the Kelvin has caused a young James Kirk to grow up just as rebellious as he was before, get in a barfight, and be talked into joining Starfleet by, of all people, Christopher Pike. Kirk goes on to Starfleet Academy (his entrance is rather hand-waved, as is Leonard McCoy's), and doesn't-quite-graduate-but-kinda in 2258. By 2258, the 26-year-old Spock is not only through Starfleet Academy, but is a commander, and administrating the Kobayashi Maru examination. Fast study. There's some wrangling there when Kirk cheats on the exam (with significantly less style than the original time around), but during his disciplinary hearing, Starfleet receives a distress call from Vulcan. The admirals give a remarkable short excuse that the bulk of the fleet is engaged in some operation, and only six ships are available to respond to the distress call.

More remarkably, these ships apparently don't have crews (including the brand-new alleged flagship, Enterprise), and so the Academy is cleared of cadets who all jump in their starships and sail off to save Vulcan. Due to a mistake by Sulu, the Enterprise ends up about 30 seconds behind the rest of the fleet, which is apparently fortunate, because the five starships in front of them are reduced to expanding balls of scrap by the time the Enterprise reaches them. Remarkably, the ship isn't blown in half by the first volley of fire coming what the Romulan mining vessel, now attacking Vulcan. After being disabled, Pike takes a shuttle over to the Romulan ship, leaving Spock in command, inexplicably naming Kirk the XO even as he loads Kirk, Sulu, and Redshirt #1 into spacesuits for an orbital drop. He dumps them out to destroy the drill the Romulans were using to drill into the core of Vulcan so they could put their black hole goo (called, of all things, Red Matter) into the planet. They succeed in disabling the drill, and get beamed back up to the Enterprise, but have to split after the Romulans drop their weapon on Vulcan and the planet collapses into a singularity. In the process, Amanda Grayson is lost planetside.

There is angst, Kirk acts up, so Spock loads him into a prisoner transfer pod and shoots him down to Delta Vega (for some reason in this film portrayed as being in low orbit around Vulcan?) where he is attacked by a huge carnivore, and then rescued by Ambassador Spock from 2387. Spock tells Kirk he's from the future, and that Kirk is important and whatnot, and takes him to the Delta Vega Starfleet facility (being manned by Montgomery Scott, of course), and then gives Scotty the information he needs to beam the two of them back onto the Enterprise.

Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk and Scott are arrested, taken to the bridge, where Kirk insults Spock's mother and Spock beats him up and relieves himself of command, which causes command to revert to, of course, Kirk. Kirk then takes the ship back to Earth instead of rendezvousing with the rest of the fleet (a fleet strangely absent from the climax), beams aboard the mining ship, kills the captain, loads Spock into Ambassador Spock's ship, rescues Pike, and has all three of them beam back to the Enterprise just before Spock rams the Mining Vessel and causes it to implode into a black hole.

So help me, I'm not making this up.

My Thought

My feeling about this installation was that while it was an adventure movie set in space, it was not a Star Trek movie. It was a Star Trek fanfic writ large, and one that did not do the research.

Now, understand, that when people make fun of Star Trek fans taking the franchise too seriously, they're talking about me. I take Star Trek as a whole -- its the ongoing story of the Federation, and Earth's movement from a Type II to a Type III civilization, a template of the best-case scenario for our development. To me, the story of the human race is at least as interesting as the stories of the character in the show, and so I'm more sensitive to the details and self-consistency than your average movie goer. So what bothered me with this film? I've only seen it once, so a lot of things probably got past me, but to begin with:

The Big Thing, the part that the whole plot revolved around, was the Romulan Mining Ship. It was huge -- alright, I'll buy that. It didn't resemble any shipbuilding that we've seen come out of a Romulan shipyard before, but we've not seen a whole lot of mining vessels, so we can grant them that. The thing that really gave me pause was that it was this ridiculous Super-Battleship when it came through. Granted, it was 154 years ahead of its time when it fought the Kelvin, and the Starfleet ships wasn't that awesome to begin with. I could buy that it had the capability to destroy what basically amounted to a survey ship using whatever it used to tear up rocks for mining. But when it begins it engagements in 2258, its an unstoppable killing machine. I'm sorry, but since when is a mining vessel out-performing a Warbird in combat? You could raise the argument that was 129 years advanced at that time, but hell, Constitution-class ships fought at Wolf 359. Even in the 2360's, they weren't pushovers. The real breaking point was when they report that the Big Bad's ship had taken down 40-some-odd Klingon warbirds.

Really? Seriously? You want me to buy that?

There was also the inexplicable "falling into a black hole" plot device, which even at its most far-fetched, Star Trek has never tried before. I understand the series doesn't have the best record of using astronomical terms correctly, but could we try here? The Red Matter (who comes up with these names?) seemed something more in line with Star Wars than Star Trek in terms off sheer energy density, and the supernova destroying Romulus plot seems hideously contrived (although Romulus has been having a hell of a time of it in the last two movies.)

There's also considerable evidence that the existence of deflector technology is a conspiracy being perpetrated on the flag officers of Starfleet by their subordinates. Never once in the movie were the shield effective against anything (which might help explain the abrupt appearance of PDS technology in Starfleet's arsenal.) While this might be explainable in the Kevlin incident, even when the Enterprise emerges from warp around Vulcan into the cloud of debris that was the rest of the taskforce, fragments of metal are bouncing off the hull. If your deflectors aren't capable of stopping relatively slow-moving metal fragments, what the hell are you wasting power on them for? This leads to a particularly hilarious scene in which the base of the neck on the port side gets ripped apart by a "mining torpedo", blowing huge chunks of the underlying structure into space, as Sulu exclaims "Shields are down to 32%!" Well, they weren't doing much anyways, so who cares?

Now, a lot of the inconsistencies can be hand-waved by the fact this is in a different timeline. For instance, the Enterprise is launched 13 years after it was supposed to be, pretty much cutting Robert April out of the picture and dropping Christopher Pike right into the captain's chair for all of 10 minutes before they give the keys to Kirk. I'm not sure exactly how that works out, but maybe its because it takes so much longer to build Constitution-class ships on the ground.

There are a couple other things that bothered me both plot-wise (like Spock teaching Scotty how to beam aboard a ship that's not only at warp, but several light-minutes if not light-hours away, a capability that Starfleet didn't have even in the 2380's)and mechanically (the water-refining are Kirk and Scotty are arrest in only fits into the Enterprise's hull if we postulate its equipped with TARDIS technology), but I think I've probably bored even my fellow hardcore trekkies at this point.

In conclusion, I thought the new Star Trek movie had a story to tell, but Abrams didn't need to use the Star Trek universe to tell it, and he certainly didn't need to fork the timeline again. For me, the interest of going back to older periods is exploring how we got to the current situation, and this movie cheated me of that experience -- it wandered off into its own continuity, disconnected from the hundreds of hours of material that preceded it, and did so inexpertly. I don't want flashes and bangs and fistfights on the bridge, I want to know what happened before the 2265-2270 mission. Instead I get a half-cocked alternate history tale, and a growing sense of loss with the realization that we're probably never going back to the 2370's and 2380's again, and that is a discouraging thought.

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Sun, May. 10th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)

Don't forget, it was a simple mining ship.

Adam Augusta
Mon, May. 11th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)

Perhaps it needed defenses to fend off 24th century pirates?

I mean, hell, if you're going to make a ship that big for storage and have the power to haul it around at full load, you might as well hook up that power to some bad-ass investment-protecting weaponry.

I could imagine a mining ship costing a heck of a lot more than a conventional warship. But I'll have to defer to John on that one.

ReplyThread Parent
That gorgeous vixen
Mon, May. 11th, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)

I keep telling myself that ship was on the ground because it was being fitted for a museum display.


(That's the thing that bothered me most about the entire movie. Seriously.)

I, too, was confused by the uselessness of shields.

The logic of crew selection and promotion was idiotic, but then, most personnel decisions in Star Trek are. I didn't feel like this one jumped to any new level of absurdity, and its existing absurdities were comfortably familiar.

I could understand the Romulan mining ship being a biker gang's unstoppable fortress, almost. They may even have upgraded it over the 25 years they were wandering - they had a lot of room to build off, and a lot of badassery with which to pay unfortunate laborers. What threw me off was Spock's peaceful galaxy-saving ship and its hull-crushing weaponry. But, you know, in the future everybody has guns.

Robert Bronzite
Mon, May. 11th, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)

I'm pretty sure Spock's ship just had a pair of pulse phaser cannons, which wouldn't be unreasonable. The only time the mining ship reacts like it should to damage is when those popguns are able to blow the drill head off.

ReplyThread Parent
Mon, May. 11th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)

Well, when you put it that way....