From: Bill Goodwin
Location: Los Angeles, CA
I posted the following on facebook this past June, and got a variety of interesting responses, thoughtful and otherwise. As you've written a Trek novel (and are, I grok, a Trekker of original stripe, yourself) I thought this might amuse. Peace and Long Life!
THE OPINIONS BELOW ARE THE AUTHOR'S AND DO NOT NECCESARILY REFLECT THOSE OF GREG BEAR
That's Right I Didn't Like "Star Trek 2009"
A spontaneous afterthought-rant by Bill Goodwin
*Sigh* I guess it falls to me this time to be the old curmugeon...to rain on the parade, and say that not all is well with The Franchise and its popular "reboot."
Problems with Star Trek 2009, in no particular order or category-of-objection.
I could start with that word, reboot, and its cousin, "reimagining." I hate them. Isn't re-imagining sort of a contradiction in terms? If you're gonna go to all that trouble, why not create something new? (answer in two words: Brand Recognition).
"We're just de-nerding it, so that cool people can enjoy it too."
"But if liking it is nerdy, why would cool people be interested? Wouldn't they rather see something else?"
"Lighten up! You're being a nerd!"
"Oh, right. Mustn't be a nerd."
THEY BUILT THE ENTERPRISE ON THE GROUND.
Why is George Kirk's pregnant wife with him on a battleship?
Kirk's swollen Mickey Mouse hands are really dumb, a new low for Trek, worse than Scotty hitting his head on the beam in The Final Frontier and such. Just DUMB.
HEADLINE: SUPERNOVA SENDS WALL OF FLAME ACROSS GALAXY. No time to evacuate! We had decades to see it coming but we weren't looking in that direction...
This is worse than that Praxis nonsense in Star Trek VI, where a power station blows up a Klingon moon, sending out a presumably faster-than-light shockwave strong enough to shake up Sulu's Excelsior lightyears away, but leaves survivors on the moon itself to broadcast a warning. Never mind that long before Star Trek 2009's supernova-fireball expands beyond its own little corner of creation it will be harldy denser than the surrounding vacuum. (Was it radiation that was the hazzard? I saw a wall of flame, I saw a planet shattering. Or was it the Romulan sun itself that blew up? I didn't hear anybody say that.)
Pity no one mourned or even mentioned Romulus' poor brother world Remus, where Ron Pearlman dwells with big pointy bat-ears.
I'm not gonna touch the "red matter" issue. It's some yet-undiscovered thing and I can deal with that. BUT WHAT'S UP WITH THE DRILL? It dangles for hundreds of miles out of Nero's Ginsu-Knife-Set ship and then fires some super-phaser-beam, anyway.
If the beam can penetrate four-thousand miles of rock, it can penetrate an atmosphere, so don't even start. It's there as an excuse for the space-diving scene, and a couple Romulans with polearms have to stand around at the bottom of it in case any bronze-age culture tries such a trick. Any hole it bores into a planet's core collapses the instant the beam's turned off, so it's not going to be much use for dropping tubes of that rosy goo from ALIAS into a world's heart, but worrying about science is nerdy.
Kirk, Sulu and a Red-Shirt dive onto the slippery platform from orbit (straight down, no coriolis effect), without grapling hooks, or magnets or glue--real men, after all, don't use safeguards. But only the Red-Shirt has explosive charges and, being on crack, he decides not to pull his ripcord till the last moment, because hitting a chunk of metal at mach-twelve will make him even more manly, perhaps, than Kirk. Why didn't they give everybody explosive charges? OH, I DON'T KNOW...
Let's skip ahead.
So here we are, back on Delta Vega where it all began...where Kirk himself will one day (maybe) attempt to maroon his buddy-turned-demigod Gary Mitchell. It seems a lot colder now, but I guess we're near one of the poles. This time it's Kirk who's being marooned.
And that's absurd.
Logical, upright, Top-Of-His-Class Spock orders a man shot into space in a metal tube? The offender couldn't be taken to the BRIG? The Vulcan has already lost his mind, relieve him now!
Did the Enterprise even actually GO to Delta Vega (meaning that Spock took a Constitution-Class Cruiser engaged in Crisis Operations lightyears out of its way just so he could have the satisfaction of seeing pretty-boy Kirk dropped into Carnivourus-Monster Snow-Hell without weapons or provisions) or did Delta Vega just happen to be passing by the window at that moment? Madness! The Vulcan Science Academy was right, this guy is deranged--and the writers, too!
Luckily Kirk's luck is running at least as well as Luke Skywalker's (who with a whole planet to choose from managed to crash just a brief swamp-stroll from Yoda's house). In Luke's case we can figure it was The Force guiding him; I guess it's just Destiny that lands Kirk right by Spock's cave, which he stumbles into all on his own.
Spock was marooned, too (does Delta Vega ADVERTISE itself for this?). Nero put him here so he can look up and see his homeworld (oh, Delta Vega is a Vulcan MOON) collapse into a blackhole caused by the red stuff which, come to think of it, IS starting to annoy me.
Things aren't so bad though. Spock knows where there's an outpost; much less impressive than the Lithium Cracking Station we saw here forty years ago, but cozy for Scottsmen and their horny-toad companions.
He walks Kirk over. Spock himself has been staying in the cave so as not to interfere with the past, but seeing Kirk look cute again has put him in mind of old times, so he says what the hell, I'll teach these guys the militarily-invaluable trick of transwarp beaming and trust them to use it discretely.
Scotty ends up in the Enterprise's coolant-plumbing, an embarassingly dumb steal from Charlie and the Chocolate factory that they didn't even build (pardon me, render) a set for, but shot in some damn brewery somewhere. This is how Scotty--who I used to think must be pretty hot stuff to be Chief Engineer of the Federation's flagship--actually winds up aboard her. He's so unimpressive as to be assigned to a snowed-in shack in the ass-end of nowhere, but now makes an impression with an equation Future-Spock has slipped him on the sly.
Then the movie is good for about ten minutes, before falling back into a bunch of dangling-drill-and-blackhole madness that I lack the ambition to sort out. But hey, it would be taking things too seriously to require that it make sense, and that would be nerdy.
The upshot is that Nero, who's nuts (we don't have to explain his thinking--he's NUTS) gets his ship sucked into a blackhole which, we must assume, remains as Earth's new moon. We get to see the Enterprise hide in Titan's cloudtops, too, because the Cassini photos are all over the net and it'd be a shame not to work Saturn's rings in somehow--magnetic interference, that sounds good--WTF?
So the original Spock, the Spock we know and love, spent 80+ years trying to reunify Vulcan and Romulus for nothing? His life, and everything we've seen of him before, ends with him stranded in a timeline where both worlds have been annihilated because of his own screw-up?
This makes me very sad...although Spock himself seems fairly sanguine about the whole thing. I guess he rents a room across town from Quinto-Spock (to give the younger Vulcan his space), and eventually winds up selling pencils on a street corner somewhere. He could support himself selling bits of future knowledge, of course, or by playing the stock market, but he won't because he wouldn't sacrifice principle for profit, even if Nimoy would and does.
Pike ends up in a chair again, but at least he can do more in it than blink his little light. Too bad really, I think he kind of dug Vina and might not have been so bad off spending eternity on Talos IV (wait a minute, did this Pike and Spock even go to Talos IV? I don't think they had enough time. Certainly Kirk never served under Garrovik).
And forget Chekov's hair--what's up with his even being out of kindergarten? Classic Chekov didn't join the crew till the second season, when Kirk was 36, and I had the impression he was fresh out of officer's school.
I know. Nerd Nerd Nerd Nerd. He hadda be there 'cause everybody hadda be there--it's not meant to be taken too seriously! (Grrrrrrrrrrrr...)
And so on.
So now we've got our old crew magically pre-united, years before they were serendipitously assigned to the old NCC-1701 in the first place, meaning that now they can be a lot hipper and sexier in the films that follow, which--since this one's going to bank huge--will be no more constrained by reason than it is.
Science and tradition be damned, we don't need that stuff anymore. The Space Shuttles are being retired soon, after which American astronauts (for the next few years at least) will be hitching rides into orbit exclusively in Soyuz capsules, courtesy of our old rivals. Hey, we proved WE can explore the universe, now let Moscow do the work (and China) while we sit in theaters and relax, free from all that thinking at last and able to focus on more important things like Being Entertained.
Physics and Astronomy don't matter? Fine. Sell that to the kids, and see where we stand by the time Star Trek is "rebooted" yet again.
"But it's a RESPECTFUL reboot...just a facelift, so that we can still enjoy it!"
No, I'm sorry, it's NOT. If you believe that, you're lost. You're licking the boots of the very people laughing up their Armani sleeves at you, even laughing PUBLICLY at you on Saturday Night Live.
Star Trek was good because it was smart. Star Trek was SEXY because it was smart. Oh, it had loads of junk science and cornball characterization. But that was when it failed--now the stuff is INTENTIONAL.
Yes, Classic Trek often fell short of its ostensible creed of plausible, well-crafted stories grounded in science (what the term science-fiction meant before it became a sub-category of Action/Horror). But today there is no such creed. Not just science but plot itself is no longer required to make sense to audiences dazzled by eye-candy CGI and eye-candy stars. Chris Pine is one good-lookin' boy, and his Kirk takes all this Starfleet business none-too-seriously. Oh, he gets a twinge of religion--enough to convince him to go brawling and debauching in Space instead of Iowa--but it's still Kirk And Spock's Excellent Adventure.
I'm not blaming the actors. It was WRITTEN that way. It was DIRECTED that way. Zoe Saldana's verrry-foyne Uhura is well-realized and effective, and Quinto choked me up with his sorrow-turned-anger breakdown on the bridge. But these were moments when the actors' talent broke through that coating the filmmakers paradoxically sought to give the movie: a teflon coating of of happy, don't-take-it-too-seriously, just-have-fun hipness.
And that's what's put SF in jeapordy in cinema. The idea that it's just a leave-your-brain-at-home roller-coaster ride.
It's nothing new. Studio execs have always been baffled and a little afraid of SF. They solve the problem by deciding SF means ANYTHING GOES, when of course it's just the opposite: science and rationality are all the more important in SF because, when you're presenting such unusual situations, it's that much more crucial to hew to facts wherever you can.
Star Trek 2009 is a DATE FLICK (no pun intended). Well I've got nothing against dating OR roller-coaster rides, but a film can achieve all that and be smart, too. And the prevailing wisdom is that it CAN'T.
Be advised, you ARE being insulted.
Yes, I really think they talk about this behind closed doors. I'm that paranoid. I think it's really possible that absurdities are DELIBERATELY INTRODUCED into films like Star Trek 2009 as subliminal cues to "non-nerd" audiences that they're safe--that there's no IQ test after the show and won't be any need to remember things that happened more than 3 minutes earlier.
Because, after all, that would be nerdy. Taking a "sci-fi" movie seriously enough to care that it makes sense would be nerdy.
Then you'd be like THEM. The awkward, overweight Trekkies who don't bathe or lose their virginity, yet whose prefered entertainment we kind of envy nonetheless, if only you didn't have to know the difference between a star and a galaxy to follow it.
Star Trek episodes used to be ABOUT things. But now an awful trend that started long ago has reached its ultimate conclusion. Star Trek--however pretty the stars and effects, however funny the gags--doesn't look outward anymore. Star Trek is merely about...Star Trek.
From: Greg Bear
Actually, I quite enjoyed the film. Though both Bjo and I think that future films should get back to the "boldly go" scenarios and start exploring. (And this from a guy who's blown up a few planets in his time!)
From: Bill Goodwin
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Bjo! Good times in the '80s, finding a spot between houseguests and chicken-wire dragons to plop down and drink tea in the Trimble home! Her daughter Lora read the above on facebook and broke things down for me: "IT'S ONLY A MOVIE, BILL!"
I just hate to think of all the fanged Teddy bears dying.
And yes, I'm still afraid of Yosemite, after reading The Forge of God...
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