Sunday, July 05, 2009

Star Trek: Wrath of Retcon

I was brought up watching the original Star Trek on BBC 2. Every Monday (possibly Tuesday. Or any of the other weekdays. It was a long time ago) at 6pm there'd be an ace sci-fi TV show on the Beeb's second channel and I'd settle down to watch with Mother. Star Trek was always amongst my favourites, mainly because I really, really, wanted to be Captain Kirk. I must confess though that that was only because my Mum told me that TJ Hooker used to be Captain Kirk. That confused my little child mind, but I did know that TJ was the bestest cop in the whole wide world. That surely meant that Kirk was just as good! Fuck yeah!

(Actually I never said things like "Fuck yeah!" at that age. I'd've got a skelping, and they're never good. )

Over the years Star Trek was of course followed by The Next Generation (the one with the robot), Deep Space Nine (the one with the space station that wasn't Babylon 5), Voyager (the one with the Holodeck and yet no imagination) and finally Enterprise (the one with no viewers) but none of them captured my imagination like the original show. Kirk, Spock, McCoy and friends made the show what it was. The characters in the subsequent shows just couldn't match up, never mind your baldy diplomat blokes or your shouty black men.

So, geek factor nine engaged. New Star Trek movie ahoy. The old ship, the old characters, new, prettier actors and a CGI budget larger than the gross national product of Bolivia. Is it good? Well, yeah. It's a reboot, innit. Re-energising an existing franchise for newer, younger viewers to capture a whole new generation of geeks and enslave them to the brand. Boldly going forward cos we can't find reverse, as someone once put it.

As a bog standard sci-fi movie I'm sure it would work - the MacGuffinry in there could easily be expositioned away in a non-Star Trek manner - but it's somehow hard to swallow it as real, proper Star Trek. Perhaps I'm too old, too set in my ways. Perhaps I'm too used to Star Trek having cardboard sets and ridiculously inexpensive special effects. JJ Abrams brings wobbly camera angles, far more shiny things than the 1960's Enterprise ever had and lots of explosions in an attempt to "action up" the franchise. It's explained about halfway through the movie that this is an alternate timeline where literally anything could happen - a good excuse for subsequent entries to ignore the futures laid down for the crew in the TV shows, movies, books, comics, cartoons, lunchboxes and bed spreads of the last 40 years. Here we have a more emotional Spock, a Uhura who does more than answer the phone and a Chekov who is all of a sudden a mathematical genuis.

Each of the main characters have their moment to set themselves up but they all feel oddly empty. Sulu is missing George Takei's rich voice, Kirk is missing The Shat's awesome charisma and Spock just isn't Leonard Nimoy. What's worse is that when he finally appears, Leonard Nimoy just isn't Spock.

I think it's sour grapes. Or possibly regret. Regret that The Shat got old and Bones died and someone shot Scotty's ashes into space and missed. Regret that they're not making new stories with them anymore. Regret that these pretty young upstarts just can't fill the boots left for them - they cant replace, only succeed, as someone else put it.

It's not a bad movie. In fact it's probably a very good one. But for me it just isn't Star Trek.

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