Friday, May 17, 2013

Backtime Flicktime: Star Trek's Alternate Reality


The new Star Trek franchise is dynamic to say the least. The redirection of Federation history is something that will spin your mind like a top, especially if the story was ingrained in your head since you were a kid, but the characters are first rate and the action sequences are spectacular.

You almost have to shake your head and marvel at how authentic the performances are of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The film starts with Spock quoting regulations and Kirk defying the Prime Directive - just like old times. 

Lt. Uhura is also far more developed, and Scotty, Sulu and Chekov are all outstanding as well. It's an all-star ensemble that leaves you wanting the next incarnation.

It's fashionable in Hollywood these days, to "reboot" iconic franchises and twist around the events and the character's motivations like in Batman Begins, Hannibal, and the very enticing preview for Man Of Steel. But the premise of this Star Trek pattern is a completely different course.

As opposed to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and the classic Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise didn't save the time-space continuum. In the 2009 Star Trek, a Romulan ship emerges from the future, destroys the 4 billion inhabitants of the planet Vulcan, and changes the timeline of mankind.

And it changes Star Fleet's mission from "to seek out new life and new civilizations," to creating a fleet of war ships. Instead of an outstretched handshake, the Federation's extended hand holds a phaser instead. Hence, Star Trek Into Darkness

Had humanity not been so threatened by the actions of Captain Nero in the previous film, Admiral Marcus wouldn't have had to reanimate the 21st century arch-criminal Khan (as Star Fleet Officer John Harrison) as the brains behind the Federation's advanced new weaponry.

Kirk is charged with the mission of seeking out Harrison on Kronos (the Klingon home planet) from the edge of the Neutral Zone, and raining Star Fleet's newest torpedoes on him, thereby obliterating him. It's the 2259 equivalent of a drone strike. Though Spock convinces Kirk that Harrison must be brought back to earth and tried for his crimes - the 2259 equivalent of due process.

This creates a new enemy, the Federation war machine. And while Harrison helps the Enterprise ward off destruction, he proves to be the super-human and duplicitous Khan, a great guest-starring role by Benedict Cumberbatch. Though not as entertaining as Ricardo Montalban's 1982 performance, it is every bit as powerful.

And in an incredible turn on the Khan story, it is Kirk disabling Scotty (rather than Spock incapacitating McCoy), sacrificing his life and saving the ship amidst deadly radiation levels in the ship's engineering core. Kirk dies on the opposite side of the glass from Spock, the mirror image from Star Trek II. And it's Spock that screams KHAN!!!!!

And we had every reason to think Kirk was dead until McCoy found Khan's blood in a Tribble on his desk. After Khan's capture, his genetically-engineered blood is used to resurrect Kirk. So the universe is saved and the Enterprise crew is intact, which now includes Dr. Carol Marcus, the mother of Kirk's son in the previous story.

So the Star Trek storyline is altered under JJ Abrams's command, but in a good way. Despite being Federation General Order #1, The Prime Directive has always been side-stepped by the likes of Kirk, Picard, et al. So Abrams simply fits that mold.

But I've got two words for JJ Abrams on his next Star Trek epic (and there'd better be one): Parallel. Universe. That is all.

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