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!
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...'
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
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
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
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
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
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
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...".
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
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
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
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.