1/23/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "In Defense of Abrams"

It has come to my attention through various channels that some people have problems with Star Trek (2009) because certain aspects of it don't comply with standard Star Trek canon. This is complete and utter bunk.

You do not complain about canon when a Borgified Romulan mining vessel slips through a singularity and creates an alternate universe. If alternate universes had to comply with canon, then the Mirror Universe should be utter nonsense to you. But as I say this, I can just hear some of the arguments coming from people who insist that because all prequels are bad (see: Star Wars) that Star Trek's prequel also must suck. So let me go over a few things for you.

It's a singularity.
The Nerada, Nero's ship, went through a singularity. Commonly known as a black hole, it's really just called a singularity because its true nature is "crazy space-thing that we can't think of a name for." These are usually referred to in Star Trek as "anomalies," but since we have somewhat of an idea about how this thing is formed, "singularity" seems a better option. In the radio transmissions at the very beginning of the movie, an officer says "I've never seen anything like it! It's like a lightening storm in space!" Well, it's unlikely that he's never seen a black hole before. After all, Starfleet operates in space. Kirk at one point calls it black hole, but that's likely because he was trying to wrap his mind around what it really is and simply couldn't. Black holes do not look like lightening storms in space. They look like... nothing. They take the light from whatever they're next to and suck it up; thus: Black Hole. So it's not really a black hole.
It's really more like a... Stargate.
Why is it so important that we don't really know what it is? Because if we don't know what it is, then we can dictate a completely singular (get it?) standard for what it does. Yes, it goes back in time, but it may actually go through to a separate universe as well. Maybe this universe runs parallel to the Prime Universe, or maybe it was created by the singularity as an offshoot of the original time line. In either case, the point is this: this universe is something completely new. And nothing that happens inside of it has to comply with normal standards so long as it makes sense.

The red matter is sealed.
For some reason, some fans trip over this one. Red matter, the substance that formed the singularity, appears to some to be cheesy or undeserved. Well, I'd like to agree with that sentiment, except that I can't fault J. J. Abrams for sticking with emotional aspects of the story rather than peripheral MacGuffins. In either case, the red matter is given background information in a comic book which acted as a prequel to the movie, Star Trek: Countdown. It's an artificial substance manufactured from decalithium, which is a rare isotope that the Narada, Nero's mining vessel, was capable of mining. It was created by the Vulcan Science Academy, according to Star Trek Online, without Federation approval which was highly criticized in the investigation that ensued following the destruction of Romulus. Because of this, Vulcan vowed to discontinue red matter research and development, and stated that the entire supply of red matter had disappeared with Spock on the Jellyfish.
I'm pretty sure I saw this in an episode of Alias...
So it's not that red matter came up out of the blue in the Star Trek universe, it's just that the movie didn't bother to explain it. Because it wasn't important to the plot. This does not make Star Trek (2009) a bad movie, it objectively makes it a good movie for trimming the fat.

These are new characters.
The story of Captain Kirk as we knew it was that he was a fine captain, the youngest to ever earn his position, born in Riverside Iowa; a smart, fine, upstanding man who could do no wrong, loved his women and loved his father. And then Nero came along, put his mother into a stress-induced early labor before they could reach Earth and killed his father. You can't tell me that doesn't have an effect on a growing young man. Winona Kirk, after mourning the loss of George, apparently married a douche-bag of a man who collected antique cars and threatened young children who wanted to take revenge on him by driving them into rock quarries. George Kirk was a fine man who would have been a great father; this step-dad drove Jim to be an angry, rebellious man with no direction in life until Captain Pike came around to steer him straight. This is not the same Kirk we know. He's jaded by the loss of his father, but he still has the basic personality traits: smarts, loyalty, libido, pride. Maybe he's a little more of a jerk, but when you consider what he's been through, it's understandable.
BFFs!
The idea that Spock is too emotional is simply false. In the beginning of Star Trek: The Original Series, you can see Spock smiling and showing a lot of emotion that he would later hide. This was, of course, because Leonard Nimoy was still getting used to the character and was unsure how to play him, but it was later worked into canon that Spock himself was unsure of which of his dual heredity to follow. Now we're extrapolating back several years. Spock found out who he was during his service on the Enterprise, but while he was a professor at Starfleet Academy, he was still learning about himself, still exploring ideas like hate and love, and considering, but not yet committing, to Kolinahr. Through the course of the movie, Amanda Grayson, his mother, dies. Now, we haven't yet seen the full ramifications of this, but I would extrapolate that Amanda's death would affect Spock by giving him a reason to honor her memory by embracing emotion. The mourning period will also give him a chance to connect with his father, Sarek; become less estranged than he was in the Prime Timeline. Make no mistake, this is the calm, rational, lovable and logical Spock that we know, but events have shaped him so much differently.

There are Orions in Starfleet??
Sure, why not? To make the contention that every Orion female only has black hair and ambitions to be sold in the slave trade to unsuspecting buyers is to give in to the racial prejudice that Gene Roddenberry fought so hard to defeat! I think it's completely plausible that an Orion family decided to distance themselves from their home world in an attempt to start life anew on Earth. And, I mean, it's not like Gaila isn't enough of a slut to make her heritage as a "slave girl" believable. As for her hair, there are two possible explanations: diversity of genetics or hair dye.
This chick is actually a programmer. I KNOW!
In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode, "In a Mirror Darkly, part 1," an Orion can clearly be seen on the bridge of the mirror Enterprise NX-01. Now, you can take that as her being a slave in the Terran Empire or whatever, but it's clear that, whatever her role, she is not affecting the crew with her pheromones. It is, therefore, true to canon that the possibility exists for these pheromones to be extracted so that an Orion woman can operate around humans without affecting them, and the possibility existed well before the time of Kirk and Spock.

There are Romulans now. Romulans are cool.
In the Prime Timeline, Starfleet is unaware of what Romulans look like until stardate 1709.2 when Kirk ran into an unnamed Romulan Commander who wanted to be friends with Jimmy after Jimmy outsmarted him. During this episode, "Balance of Terror," the Romulan Commander speaks to the Enterprise over video transmission and when the crew finds that their adversary has pointed ears, they all look to Spock for an explanation. Spock, who himself is surprised at this twist, quickly searches for an answer and realizes that Romulans may be a Vulcan sect that split from Vulcan long ago.
Screw that.
So, how is it that while Kirk suffers an allergic reaction from Bones' vaccine, he immediately knows to ask Uhura about Romulan transmissions? And why does Spock say "Also, Romulans and Vulcans share a common ancestry" later like it's no big thing? Well, let me ask you this: Is a huge frakkin' Borgified Romulan mining vessel destroying a Starfleet ship not enough to catch the attention of the Federation and follow up with an inquiry to the Romulan Star Empire?? It took 25 years for Nero to catch up with Spock Prime and in that time he got into at least enough trouble to be caught by Klingons and escape. I find it difficult to believe that the Federation didn't want to find out everything they could about Romulans after the USS Kelvin was obliterated. I submit to you that this is exactly what they did, and the untold story is that everyone pretty much knows about Romulans now. They may still be a bit of a mystery, but not quite so much as they're "supposed" to be.

Transwarp beaming.
Really? When The Next Generation introduces subspace beaming it's cool. When Enterprise introduces sub-quantum beaming no one bats an eye. But for some reason you have a problem with Montgomery Scott, the best engineer to ever recrystallize a dilithium matrix, toying around with the idea of transwarp beaming? There's more than one way to transfer a matter stream, guys. Deal with it. And just because Scotty eventually became too busy caressing the Enterprise's ample nacelles to properly test his theory doesn't mean that someone couldn't eventually get it to work, pass that knowledge on to Spock Prime who would, in turn, pass it back to Scotty's younger self.
I've been working on a way to transport a sandwich from
Earth to Delta Vega. A little help?
Ok, I get the argument that it seems tacked on to the story. Really, I do. Here we've put Kirk in an impossible situation to escape and along comes transwarp beaming like a deus ex machina to save the day. But there was actually some important plot points going on on Delta Vega that day. It's where Kirk learns what's really going on, it's where Scotty finally joins the crew, it's where Keenser climbs on things... Transwarp beaming is actually the best way to accomplish two things: 1) Establish that Scotty is the best frakkin' engineer in two universes. 2) Get Kirk back onto the Enterprise after an exposition dump.

And the rest...
If I went on to defend anything else in this movie I would have to delve into a million different nit-picks that probably only cropped up because people were looking for any fault they could possibly get their hands on. Admiral Archer's prized beagle? Doesn't have to be Porthos. Doesn't even have to be the same Archer. (It is, but if Archer being 145 years old is too much of a mind-bender for you, then it doesn't have to be.) Spock/Uhura love? Explain this:
This image may be a stretch, but Spock/Uhura was
hinted at subtly throughout the entire series.
Cliffs in Iowa? No, that was a rock quarry. Enterprise construction in Iowa? There's no reason it couldn't have been finished in space. Lens flairs? Gimme a break. Lens flairs and visual design are both a matter of taste and something that cannot be expected to carry on from 1966.

It comes down to this: Some people can't see Star Trek (2009) as an objectively good movie because it's too far outside of their established Star Trek box. But that's exactly what, not just Abrams, but everyone was trying to accomplish with this movie! Star Trek was going down hill, and it took a hard left turn to bring it back into the mainstream. And if you're upset that no more "classic" Star Trek stories will be made, that's just wrong, too. The "Prime Timeline" will live on in future comics, books, and, most importantly, Star Trek Online. Just recently I saw a timeline of The Legend of Zelda in which three different sub-timelines exist with several games on each branch. Why can't we have a franchise like that? We've got our Prime Universe and our Mirror Universe, now it's time to play around in our Alternate Universe!

After this wall of text nit picking at nit pickers, here's the main point of this post: Forget about it and have fun!