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A Reboot or a Booter?



WARNING!!!

THERE ARE HUGE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW

DO NOT READ ON IF YOU DO NOT WANT THE PLOT OF THE FILM REVEALED BEFORE YOU SEE IT

Click here to read about the prequel graphic novel, Star Trek: Countdown



From a financial box office and ratings perspective, Star Trek was pretty much dead. Star Trek: Enterprise was cancelled on television after four seasons (the other spin-offs got seven seasons each) and Star Trek: Nemesis did terrible, barely recouping its $60 million production budget. As far as the Paramount suits were concerned, they were flogging a dead horse with Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future.

Of course, there are still millions of Trekkers out there and DVD and merchandise sales remain high. So what were the Hollywood executives going to do? They had already seen several franchises go from strength to strength with brave, new visions of the core material. The Dark Knight did huge box office and Battlestar Galactica's revamp had many calling it the best science fiction television for years. Was it time to overhaul the Federation and bring it into the 21st Century, so to speak? Who could steer this re-imagining of Roddenberry's sacred creation?

Bring in JJ Abrams, creator of TV hit, Lost, and director of Mission: Impossible III. Could he bring a new audience to the franchise and inject it with a much-needed shot of cordrazine? Before production began, rumours abounded of what the film would be about. Would it be another Next Generation film? Would we see Kirk and Spock once more? Would it be the past or future of what we had seen before?

It was decided that we would see the young Kirk, Spock and the rest of the original series crew of the USS Enterprise embark on their very first adventure together, fresh out of Starfleet Academy.

Many rejoiced. I groaned. I thought it would be crap. Sorry, but I just did.

Everything went quiet for a while. Production of the film continued inside a cloak of secrecy worthy of the Romulans. Whispers of the film including the original Kirk and Spock (William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy) began to be heard. Could it be true? Well half of it was. Leonard Nimoy would be appearing as the old Spock and it was said he was going to appear at the beginning and end of the film, bookending the story. Oh, dear, I thought. We're going to have Spock telling somebody about how Kirk became the legendary Kirk and the high-jinks at the Academy. I had lived through V'ger, Khan's wrath, Spock's death and renewal, peace with the Klingons, Borg invasions and Reman plots to destroy the Federation. I had seen the Alpha Quadrant almost tear apart in the Dominion War, a lone starship survive a 70,000 light year journey home and, dipping a toe back a hundred or so years, seen the birth of the Federation and Starfleet's first steps into the galaxy. I didn't want to see some snotty schoolkids playing with ray guns. I wanted Star Trek, not some future Harry Potter with a sci-fi spin!

Calm down...

Anyway, the first teaser trailer finally hit and it showed the USS Enterprise being built. Okeydokey. Then, much later, the real trailers came out and. boy, did they make an impact (on me at least)! We saw space battles and monsters and Spock (except it's not Spock, it's the guy from Heroes) and Kirk (except it's not Kirk, it's the guy from, er, yeah) and more space battles and a car (a car?!) going over a cliff with a kid saying he's James Tiberius Kirk and people getting it on and the old Spock (the real one this time)!!!! Anyway, I was drooling.

May 8th seemed a lifetime away...

So, on May 7th, I toddled along to my local multiplex, cos the film was opening there that day. Yippee! It was the first screening at 11am and the cinema wasn't exactly packed. Okay, there were about twenty people dotted about. It was a school day! The lights faded and the movie started. Somebody behind me went 'Yay...' very quietly.

SPOILERS

So, here's what happens and I'll strip it down afterwards:

The USS Kelvin encounters an anomaly somewhere near the Klingon border. A huge ship emerges and attacks. The captain of the alien vessel, some Romulan bloke called Nero, demands that the captain of the Kelvin shuttles over, so he does, leaving the young Lieutenant George Kirk in command. Nero wants to know where Ambassador Spock is, but Captain Robau doesn't know who that is. Nero asked what the stardate is and kills the Starfleet officer in a fit of rage. Nero's ship pummels the Kelvin and George Kirk orders the crew to abandon ship. His pregnant and in labour wife, Winona, is bundled aboard a shuttlecraft (the Gilliam!!) and the crew legs it while Kirk stays at the helm to pilot the starship into Nero's much more massive vessel. As George dies, James Tiberius is born.

Meanwhile, on Vulcan, a young Spock is set upon by logical, yet cruel, bullies, so he gives one a good pasting. It seems Spock doesn't like anybody dissing his human mom, Amanda (not Jane Wyatt, but Winona Ryder). His dad, Sarek (not Mark Lenard, but Ben Cross) explains that while Vulcans are very emotional, they must use logic to control them at all times. Then Spock's older (he's Sylar now, no, Zachary Quinto!) and accepted into the Vulcan Science Academy. But they diss his mom, so he runs off to Starfleet instead. (In between this, we see the young Jim Kirk nick a car and drive it over a cliff for some reason. Hey, he must be a rebel, yeah?)

A few years later, Kirk (Chris Pine) gets into a bar fight with some Starfleet cadets after he hits on Uhura (who won't tell him her first name for some reason). He gets a pasting before Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) steps in and tells him he should join Starfleet because he'll be really good and might have his own ship in eight years. Kirk says he can do it in three and signs up, meeting Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) along the way. McCoy was running away to Starfleet after a messy divorce which left him nothing but his bones... geddit? Bones? Hmm.

Nero captures a ship that emerges from an anomaly. We don't see who is within. We can guess.

Three years later, Kirk decides he wants to take the Kobayashi Maru test for the third time. He does, beats it by adding a subroutine to enable him to fight off the Klingons and rescue the crew of the stricken freighter. Captain Pike is amazed that anybody could beat the test devised by Commander Spock! Didn't see that coming did ya?? Oh, before the test, Kirk's caught in the sack with a buxom Orion girl (all green skin as we would expect) by her roommate, Uhura. Small Academy campus, I guess. Kirk overhears Uhura mention something about some Klingons getting destroyed by something or other.

At a hearing about Kirk's cheating, he and Spock clash, but matters are cut short after we are told that something weird's happening on Vulcan. The cadets are all assigned to various starships, except Kirk, who's suspended because of his shenanigans. Uhura is assigned by Spock to the USS Farragut. She says she wants to be on the Enterprise, the shiny new ship we saw being built earlier. Spock grants her wish. Ooh... we all think.

Kirk realises that what's happening on Vulcan is the same thing that destroyed the Kelvin and the Klingon ships. He has to get on the Enterprise, so Bones helps him by giving him a shot of some disease or other that makes him poorly. The logic is that McCoy needs to get on the Enterprise ASAP and taking Kirk to Starfleet Medical would take too long, so he'd have to treat him on the starship. Kinda thin, but, hey, it worked!

Finally we see the USS Enterprise NCC-1701. She looks very lovely - on the outside. The inside's a bit Blade Runner meets Galaxy Quest, depending where you are in the ship. Suddenly we have a comedy sequence with Kirk's hands swelling up because of the shots Bones had given him (he must be allergic to more than Retlax 5). Meanwhile the fleet gets under way, except the Enterprise because the young Mr Sulu (John Cho) makes a bugger of the controls. He sorts it out and off they go, a few minutes behind the others. Kirk rushes onto the bridge, all swelled hands and sweaty, and explains to Pike that Vulcan is under attack. Uhura confirms what she heard about the Klingons and everybody believes him.

They arrive at Vulcan amid a shower of starship parts. Nero has destroyed the other Federation ships and is using a big beam thingy to make a hole in Spock's home planet. Nero demands that Pike shuttles over to his ship (uh-oh). Pike makes Kirk his first officer (bizarrely) and he, Kirk, Sulu and Chief Engineer Olson climb into a shuttle. Spock is left in command of the Enterprise. As Pike pilots the craft to Nero's ship, the others don spacesuits. Their mission is to dive down to the platform that is firing the tunnelling beam and disable it. Then the Enterprise will use the transporter to bring them back. The beam was disrupting the transporter, by the way, so they couldn't teleport down.

They dive down and Pike heads to Nero's ship. Olson makes a hash of his parachute and plummets to his death, getting fried by the beam. Kirk and Sulu make it (Sulu just barely) and they have a fight with some of Nero's men on the platform. They win and blast the machine with phasers until it stops working. Then they get beamed back after some nifty transporter work from Chekov.

Meanwhile, Nero interrogates Pike, asking him about Ambassador Spock. Pike doesn't know what he's on about, obviously. Nero explains that Spock was the reason that Romulus was destroyed and that he and his team of miners in their mining ship were out for revenge. Pike remonstrates, saying that Romulus is not destroyed, but Nero says he saw it happen with his own eyes. Nero needs the Starfleet codes so he can approach Earth unassailed. Pike refuses, so the Romulan uses a creature like one of those leeches from Ceti Alpha V that Khan used. The Romulan orders his men to deploy the Red Matter (or something). This is a single drop of red liquid stuff that they have a big vat of, which they took from the ship they grabbed earlier (remember the one who we didn't know was aboard, but did really?).

A canister of this drop of whatever is fired into the hole the beam had dug and Vulcan begins to convulse.

On the Enterprise, they watch as Vulcan begins to be destroyed, the red stuff creating a black hole that is sucking the planet into it from within. Spock places Chekov in charge while he heads to the transporter room. Uhura follows him and kisses him, strokes his face and, generally, gives us the huge impression that they are an item. I know, I KNOW!

Spock beams down to Vulcan to save some priests who hold the essence of Vulcan history, as well as his mom and dad, who just happen to be there with these important chaps. They escape a cavern just before it collapses and, outside, Spock orders them to be beamed up. As this happens, Amanda falls to her death as the ledge they are on collapses. No transporter jiggery-pokery from Chekov there!!

Kirk and Spock have a major falling out and Spock uses a neck pinch on him when he resists being escorted off the bridge. They bung him in a pod and fire him to an icy planet that has a Starfleet outpost. The Enterprise warps away to join the fleet in the Laurentian (?) system. Nero's headed for Earth, by the way.

Kirk wakes to find himself in the pod on the frozen world (Delta Thingy) and heads out to the Starfleet outpost, some fourteen kilometres away. Along the way, he gets attacked by a furry beast and a big, slobbery thing. He is saved in a cave by the old Spock (Leonard Nimoy. Yaay!). Spock explains everything to him, using a mind-meld to help. A hundred and twenty-nine years in the future, Romulus' star went supernova. Spock devised a way to save the planet, using the red stuff to stabilise the sun (by turning it into a black hole!!!!!) before it engulfed the home of the Romulan Star Empire. Unfortunately, he arrived too late and Romulus was destroyed. At the same time, Nero arrived and the two ships were pulled into the singularity. Nero emerged first and destroyed the Kelvin, changing the timeline (Kirk's dad never died on the Kelvin in future Spock's reality). Spock emerged twenty-five years later (an instant to Spock in the black hole) and was captured by Nero. The Romulan marooned Spock on the icy world, from where he could watch Vulcan destroyed, as Nero had watched his homeworld obliterated. No, I didn't know there was an ice planet so near to Vulcan either...

Anyway, Kirk must return to the Enterprise, take command, beat Nero and fulfil his destiny. According to old Spock. They go to the Starfleet outpost and find Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) and his annoying alien companion. Pet? Colleague? God knows! Scotty explains that he's there as a punishment for testing his transporter theories on Admiral Archer's pet beagle. Unsuccessfully. He says he can transport somebody from one planet to another inside the same system. He can also transport to ships that are travelling at warp speeds. Handy that!

Spock stays on the ice world for some reason and Kirk and Scotty beam onto the Enterprise. After saving Scotty from inside some watery tubes (I don't know!), they are captured and taken before young Spock. Kirk disses Spock's mom, so Spock loses it, attacks Kirk and relinquishes command. Kirk makes himself captain. That was easy!

They come out of warp near Saturn, hidden from Nero's sensors. Nero's got his beam firing down into San Fransisco Bay. Scotty transports Kirk and Spock onto the Romulan ship and they fight off the baddies while Spock steals old Spock's ship (the one with the big vat of red stuff). Kirk finds Pike and rescues him, while Spock shoots the tether holding the beam platform to Nero's ship. Why didn't they do that at Vulcan??!! Kirk does some more fighting before he and Pike are beamed aboard the Enterprise. Spock flies the future Spock's ship into Nero's and is also beamed back just in time.

The Romulan vessel is engulfed by a black hole and Kirk offers Nero aid, which is refused, so Kirk opens fire. Uh-oh! The Enterprise can't pull away from the black hole. Scotty saves the day by ejecting the warp core into Nero's ship and the explosion pushes the old girl out of danger.

All is well.

Kirk gets a fast-track promotion to captain, replacing the wheelchair-bound Pike (no, he's not fitted with his beeper - yet!) and all the crew we know and love are assembled. Old Spock decides to save the Vulcan people by finding them a planet for a new colony. There's only about ten thousand of them left. He urges young Spock to remain in Starfleet.

Kirk takes command, wearing his gold jersey for the first time, and they set off, with old Spock doing the voice-over of "Space the final frontier...".

The End



Right. Opinions. Breathes...

I thought the film was very good. I enjoyed it immensely. It was a great space adventure. The actors were all terrific, particularly Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, who nailed their characters perfectly. The special effects were awesome. The story? Well, that's kind of where it falls down.

We have to remember that this is a reboot of Star Trek, not a remake. It's like the reboot of Battlestar Galactica on TV, but where that show excelled at what it did, Star Trek didn't quite cut it with me. How can I like the film and not like it at the same time? It's hard to say, but while I enjoyed the experience of watching the movie, I kept finding myself shaking my head at some of the scenes.

Sure, the timeline had been changed by Nero's incursion from the future, but there were things that niggled away at me. How come Nero's mining ship was so powerful? Yeah, it's from the future, but it's a mining ship! Nero, while being a reasonable baddie, was not in the same league as Khan, the Borg Queen or even Shinzon. He just came across as a thug with a big ship and a bad attitude.

Then there's the ships themselves. They look brilliant from the outside, but inside it's a different story. The Enterprise bridge is far too cluttered and looks like it was designed by Apple. The engine room looks like it was filmed in a water treatment plant. God, it looked bloody awful! Speaking of Apple (i.e. product placement) what was with the big Nokia plug in the car that young Kirk heisted? So Nokia's still going in the 23rd century???? The transporter effect looked rubbish, like a high-tech version of the Tasmanian Devil from the Looney Tunes! The phasers sounded like they were ripped straight from The Phantom Menace. At warp, the Enterprise sounded like it was running on a rubber band!

Then we have the changes to the timeline themselves. Vulcan is destroyed. Spock's mother is killed. Kirk's father is killed. Kirk goes from cadet to captain in one mission. What's with the relationship between Spock and Uhura? Where did the ice planet VERY near Vulcan come from? How did young Spock know that Romulans and Vulcans were related? What happened to the stardates? What system were they using? It sounded like the year: 2235.42 for young Spock and 2385.75 for old Spock or whatever, I can't remember the exact numbers used.

What Abrams and his team have done is take Star Trek history and flushed it down the toilet. They've put nods in to please the fans, but I honestly don't think it will work. I reckon hardcore Trekkers will hate this film. They'll see it as a betrayal of the work put in over the last forty years since the original series ended. The only thread remaining in the film connecting it to the work of Rick Berman and the rest of the 24th century Star Trek crew is 'Ambassador' Spock. Remember, Ambassador Spock set up a resistance group on Romulus in Star Trek: The Next Generation. That's it. Everything else has been ripped up and thrown away.

I might sound angry here (and I am a little bit), but I did enjoy the film and I have nothing against reboots or re-imaginings, but JJ Abrams' Star Trek took it down the wrong path, in my opinion. With this new timeline, everything that we know in Star Trek lore can be rewritten. The universe set down in hundreds of hours of television shows and ten movies has been changed irrevocably. I could be wrong and the franchise might go from strength to strength, but surely a way could have been thought of to preserve the Star Trek we know and make it fit with the universe we have come to love.

Star Trek? I'd have called it Star Trek: The Alternative Voyages.

Steve Johnson - 7th May, 2009

In my review above, I cover what I feel to be the many shortcomings of JJ Abrams' version of Star Trek, the biggest being its almost complete decimation of previous Star Trek lore.

Titan Books has released Star Trek: Countdown, a graphic novel overseen by Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, writers and producers of the movie, in an attempt to fill in the backstory of how Romulus was destroyed and how Nero changed from a simple miner to an angry, tattooed demon of vengeance.

The story is set in the 24th Century and explains how the Hobus star went supernova, but in a way never seen before. As the explosion consumed material in space, it added energy to the process and continued to expand, threatening the entire galaxy. Being in Romulan space, that empire was the first to be affected. Spock, by this time Federation ambassador to Romulus and living permanently on that planet, devises a method of collapsing the supernova using a process devised on Vulcan. The Romulan Senate rejects his proposal, but Captain Nero believes that this is his homeworld's only chance and travels with Spock to Vulcan. The Vulcan's are wary of helping their emotional cousins and Nero leaves the planet, threatening that if his home is destroyed, he would hold Vulcan responsible.

Spock continues his work on the Red Matter, with the help of Ambassador Picard and Captain Data of the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-E (the android B-4 from Star Trek: Nemesis is now Data, the neural patterns of that destroyed machine now imprinted onto the positronic circuitry of its sibling). Using a ship designed by Geordi LaForge, Spock races towards Romulus, but is too late to prevent that world from being destroyed by the continually expanding Hobus supernova.

Nero is insane with rage. Following age-old Romulan custom, they tattoo themselves, vowing vengeance on those that failed to save them. They  encounter a fleet of Federation ships on a humanitarian mission to Romulus and destroys them. Docking with a secret military station, Nero's ship, the Narada, is upgraded using protoype designs that utilise advanced Borg technology, transforming the mining vessel into a terrifying instrument of destruction.

A squadron of Klingon ships, led by General Worf, decloaks and attacks the Narada. Worf and a team of warriors enter Nero's ship, but fail to defeat the savage Romulan. Worf is impaled on a Borg spike and dying as the Enterprise arrives.

Nero offers to beam Worf over to the Enterprise and as both ships lower their shields, he attacks. The Enterprise survives the encounter, though, and Nero warps away to deal with Spock.

When Nero arrives, Spock has fired his Red Matter canister into Hobus and the resultant black hole pulls in both his and Nero's ship. As the Enterprise arrives on the scene, the 24th Century crew can only mourn the loss of Ambassador Spock.

Star Trek: Countdown is great fun to read. It clears up many of the problems with the movie's script, explaining why what occurs in the movie actually happens. It is a huge pity, though, that for the film to make some sort of sense (and the novel doesn't clear up every problem with the film - maybe the novelisation will do that?) you have to read a comic prequel! The movie should have explained itself better, in my opinion, then many of the fans would not have been left so angry. You know what would have been good? Releasing Star Trek: Countdown as a TV movie or straight-to-DVD film (as Stargate SG-1 is doing), but that would mean pulling in many of the old Next Generation crew, as well as actors from the new movie to reprise their roles and, as we know, Hollywood can be a fickle beast. How about an animated movie prequel, in the same vein as Dead Space: Downfall? Anyway, these are just my own musings and it didn't happen. We have to make do with the graphic novel, which I highly recommend, by the way.

 

 

Steve Johnson - 12th May, 2009

 


 

 

 

Updated 12th March, 2012