Wednesday, June 5, 2013

By Your Re-Bootstraps

I had three big problems with Star Trek: Into Darkness.  (Four if you count the bland stupidity of the title.)  In order to talk about these problems, I’m going to have to spoil the movie for those who haven’t seen it, so:









Okay.  Here we go.

The Three Who Are One.  One of the things that made the original Star Trek unique and memorable was the way Dr McCoy went from a bit player to a regular.  If you watch the first season all the way through, you can see the show evolve from a two-way dialogue between Kirk and Spock to a two-way dialogue between McCoy and Spock about what Kirk should be doing.  I don’t know whether Roddenberry had this in mind from the start, or it was the actors and writers who helped develop it, but by the beginning of Season 2, it’s canon: McCoy reacts with his gut, Spock reacts with logic, and Kirk balances the two by finding a way between the two extremes.  But in New Trek, Kirk is the one acting with his gut—he even says as much to Spock in New Trek 2.  Which completely eliminates the necessity of a triangle.  In New Trek, Kirk has become McCoy.  

Texas Rangers In Space.  If you’ve ever read Harlan Ellison’s original script for City On The Edge of Forever, then you know how different it is from what was finally televised.  One of the many changes that Gene Roddenberry made to it was the episode's inciting incident.  Instead of McCoy accidentally injecting himself with a drug that drove him bonkers, there was a crewman on the Enterprise who was addicted to a hallucinogenic drug, and it was this crewman who cause the whole time paradox.  If I remember it right, Roddenberry told Ellison in so many words that nobody in Star Fleet—nobody ever in Star Fleet—would do drugs deliberately.  End of story.  Which is not to say that there couldn’t be One Bad Apple, or that everyone on the Enterprise was pure and unsullied, or that they couldn’t be weak or misguided.  It’s just that there’s a line that would never be crossed—a line, say, where the weakness couldn’t be supported into strength, or the misguided turned to the correct path, or the bad apple redeemed.

How would Roddenberry have felt about the black ops Star Fleet initiative that shows up in Into Darkness?  Hard to say.  It reflects our time as much as Roddenberry’s original vision reflected his, so in that sense there’s a certain necessity to it.  But what it also reflects is this weird self-flagellating undercurrent in a lot of action movies these days that say The Real Enemy Is Us.  (When they’re not saying We Only Ever Fight When The White House Is Destroyed.)  That kind of fits in with Season 1 Original Trek, at least in my mind, where there’s this rolling loop of Kirk pointing out the evil behind Fear Of The Other, or making a plea for mercy, understanding and tolerance, when he isn’t making a play for some alien hottie. 

But see, to me, that falls under M for Misguided.  And say what you will about Peter Weller’s Admiral Marcus—misguided he ain’t.  Which is why I think that, in Original Trek, he would have been an alien, and the whole debate about pre-emptive attacks against a potential enemy would have been played out in the same triangle format as Kirk/Spock/McCoy, with two warring alien factions and the Federation taking the place of Kirk.  Making the enemy an earthman—making him a Star Fleet Admiral?  I don’t think Roddenberry would have allowed it.

Stardate WTF.   The original premise of the reboot was that Kirk grew up without a father, which changed everything in his life.  It also seemingly changed everything in Christopher Pike’s life, since he never wound up crippled from visiting that off-limits planet with the green-skinned space hoochie girl.  And I can buy that.  But what I can’t buy is that, if we’re to believe what we’re seeing in Into Darkness, then (SPOILERS) a couple of hundred years ago, Khan didn’t go off into  space in a rocket full of cryo-chambers, but wound up a prisoner of Star Fleet.  Now maybe in all the excitement I missed the part where Admiral Marcus rescued Khan and his men from that rocket sometime after Kirk’s dad died, but either way, this is a MAJOR change from what was supposed to be an established universe up until 25-odd years ago.  And that bugs the hell out of me.  Either say this is a completely different universe, or stick to the single change in the established universe and see how it plays out.  Don’t play both sides against the middle, or change the rules as you go along.  (I know, I know—why should I look to the guy who created LOST for internal consistency?) 

Seriously—the more I think about this, the more it bugs me.  It bugs me even more than Spock shedding tears.  Spock does not shed tears, JJ.  Spock is the guy who sees someone crying and observes “Your face is wet.”  (He doesn’t yell “KHA-A-A-A-A-AN!!!” either, pal.)

So Kirk is McCoy, Star Fleet is corrupt, Spock cries, and God knows what else has changed in what was supposed to be a single-cause reboot. 

Verdict:  whatever it is we’re watching may be fun and engaging, but it ain’t Star Trek.   

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