Treknobabble #67: Ramblings of a Delusional Trekkie

treknobabble67

Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington leading up to and following the release of J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

Attention: Due to the sensitive nature of suicide, I feel I should clarify that the accompanying photograph is intended to be humorous. Besides, the phaser was set on stun, although at that range, if it had accidentally fired, I would have been out for a day.

I’ve been reading opinions about the Star Trek movie since it opened over two weeks ago. And I’ve been hoping for inspiration for the topic of this Treknobabble. I was going to let Treknobabble rest for a while and continue to write Killer Import reviews, but I haven’t seen any recent foreign movies worth writing about. So I’m trying something different with this Treknobabble in that I’m not going to edit what I write. It’s getting late so I don’t really want to start researching anything or compiling any notes. I thought I would ramble conversationally, giving myself a time limit of 60 minutes.

Despite suggestions from Film Junk readers, I still haven’t found any informative or insightful reviews of Star Trek, yet. Everyone keeps on saying the same thing without fully explaining themselves. In my opinion, with a movie like Star Trek, there isn’t much to discuss beyond the intricate details that Trekkies love to obsess about. And before I get accused of whining, or start repeating myself, I’m not going to address ill-conceived statements that reviewers and Film Junk readers constantly make.

Wait, now I’m thinking if I don’t mention some of these statements specifically, people are going to think I’m writing without really saying anything. But I don’t know how to convince people. There are arguments on both sides of everything. Perhaps I am being narrow-minded. Okay, I’m rambling, but I did put the word “rambling” in the title so I’m allowed to ramble.

Let me take issue with the statement that Star Trek was stagnating and that Enterprise was an awful television series that proved it. Executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were unfairly maligned for the failure of Enterprise, but they valiantly tried to make Enterprise into a different kind of Star Trek. First of all, they removed the words “Star Trek” from the title of the series! Who would have thought that the proper thing to do would have been to name the series “Star Trek” and leave the sub-title out? They even had the humility to admit their mistake and added the words “Star Trek” back into the title to no avail.

How about using a pop song, “Faith of the Heart,” as the main theme? And sung by an operatic singer, too. Okay, I haven’t heard anyone who has liked this move. Or maybe it was the song itself that was the problem. Perhaps a Beastie Boys song might have worked better.

In Enterprise, we got to see Star Trek at the beginning stages of space travel. We get to see initial difficulties with the Vulcans. There were some intriguing opportunities that Enterprise wasted or didn’t execute nicely. Perhaps they should have skipped all the interesting opportunities and instead should have jumped ahead quickly to the 23rd century.

Dedicated Trekkies complained about some canon inconsistencies like Klingons flying the wrong class of ships. Enterprise did hint at interference from aliens from the future, but this storyline was never fleshed out and it was eventually abandoned. Perhaps the writers would have returned to this had the series lasted longer. I guess they should have just explained in the Enterprise pilot that the series was showing an alternate reality. (Many people think that the use of an alternate timeline in the Star Trek movie was ingenious for rebooting the franchise. Only a science fiction newbie would think so. Sorry, Jay.)

When the number of viewers was lacking, Enterprise tried something different in the third season. Besides making T’Pol’s hair and make-up more attractive, Enterprise had a season long story arc, chasing aliens who had destroyed a part of the Earth. There was an obvious parallel to the terrorism of 9/11. Perhaps this allegory was too demanding for viewers who wanted to see explosions in space.

Okay, so the excitement of space exploration never got properly translated on screen, but there were signs in the fourth season with a new Executive Producer, Manny Coto, that things would get better. I especially loved seeing Archer and T’Pol running on the surface of Vulcan. I can’t remember what they were running from, but they didn’t steal The Phantom Menace gag of a larger monster overtaking a smaller monster during a chase.

I think part of the problem with Enterprise is that there was a stable of television writers that Enterprise depended on for ideas. Long gone were the days when ideas would be solicited from science fiction writers or even from anyone who thought they had a good idea. With the rebooted Star Trek movie franchise, I’m afraid we’re in the same rut again, but the names have changed to Lindelof, Orci, and Kurtzman. I have nothing against these guys, but Star Trek continually needs fresh talent.

Now that my time limit is up, I see that I wrote mainly about “Star Trek: Enterprise” while putting a few impolite digs into the new movie. I suppose some of you want me to lose my Vulcan composure while others don’t want to hear another Trekkie rant. In an alternate timeline or reality, this Treknobabble would have been called, “Star Trek: Enterprise – Not Anyone in Your Family’s Star Trek.”

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  • Nice ramble, but you should have given yourself a longer amount of time to ramble on in, so you could touch upon the issue a bit more instead of basically just saying that Enterprise had potential but was bad and that the new movie is like an action-version of Enterprise.

  • Zac

    Uber-trekkie my ass, I consider myself to be an armchair trekkie compared to some of the greasier people i know, and I consistently find multiple inaccurate facts strewn into your articles. The thing I have found about trek fans is they (we?) have a very selective memory about things like “Canon” and “What Trek is”. One example I can think of off the top of my head, and this even went so far as to be asked of J.J Abrams, is the whole Federation shouldn’t know the romulans thing. Fans were outraged, J.J defended his decision, and in truth the federation had an epic war with the romulans about a 100 years before Kirk’s time! It’s canon, i assure you, so are we to imagine that the federation had a massive mind wipe to erase knowledge of their existence? Selective memory people!

  • this column has officially Jumped the Shark

  • Matt

    Maybe the title for this post should have been:
    Treknobabble #67: Ramblings of a Disillusioned Trekkie.

  • Nuno

    Please, please, please NEVER write a column defending Star Trek: Voyager. Please.

  • ProjectGenesis

    I bought Nemesis in the bargain bin and it sucked.

  • Zac, if I ever write anything inaccurate, please do correct me. Regarding the Romulan issue, I don’t know what your point is. In the Original Series episode “Balance of Terror,” the episode made a point that a Romulan was never seen until that episode in order to highlight the racism of a crew member who could not get over the fact that Spock had pointed ears like the Romulans. There had been a war with the Romulans, but it was ship based and no ship to ship visuals were ever established, I guess. We already know the Star Trek movie is an alternate timeline, so it doesn’t matter that the Federation got to see Nero. But I can’t remember if Nero was ever identified in the movie as a Romulan anyway. The series Enterprise had an encounter with Romulans, but I think the excuse there was that the aliens were never identified as Romulans.

    rus in chicago, I found it humorous when someone wrote that the television series 24 had jumped every known aquatic species, or something like that. Yes, it may be all downhill for Treknobabble from now on, but I like to think my Pulitzer Prize piece is still to be written. Oh, BTW, I still love 24.

    Nuno, I guess I have the topic of my next Treknobabble.

  • Oh, I forgot to mention in my last comment that Brannon Braga and Manny Coto were writers on this past season of 24.

  • dan

    Great pic, Reed, complete with politically correct disclaimer. It’s like a glimpse into your soul.

  • the Middleman

    It’s great to hear some one giving credit to Enterprise; my personal favorite of all the series. No matter how bad people say it was, it beats alternate time line crap any day.

  • El Diz

    “Despite suggestions from Film Junk readers, I still haven’t found any informative or insightful reviews of Star Trek, yet. Everyone keeps on saying the same thing without fully explaining themselves.”

    Have you tried Rotten Tomatoes? Surely with 95% of the reviews being positive you’ll find one reviewer that “fully explains” why they think it’s a good movie. I’ll even get you started.

    This reviewer thinks it’s because Trek lives or dies on the Kirk / Spock dynamic and the movie delivered:
    http://uk.movies.ign.com/articles/973/973956p1.html

    This one covers the multiple levels they think the movie succeeds on:
    http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/92523-new-trek-should-live-long-and-prosper/

    And this one even breaks down everything the movie got right into helpful bullet points for you:
    http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20090508-ENTERTAIN-90508048?nocache=1

    “In my opinion, with a movie like Star Trek, there isn’t much to discuss beyond the intricate details that Trekkies love to obsess about.”

    I don’t know, you seem to be getting plenty of mileage out how no one agrees with your vague and incoherent reasons for not liking it. Your latest excuse seems to be about everyone hating on Enterprise, which means that everyone should be hating on Trek 2009 too? And the fact that people love 2009 but hated ENT is some kind of logic bomb that is threating to blow up your brain? Or something?

    Here’s an idea. Take what you’ve heard from everyone else about why this movie was awesome and go see it again. Look for what everyone else is seeing and maybe you’ll see it too. Or maybe you won’t. But either way you’ll hopefully be able to put into words the reasons why or why not. Sure, you can keep whining about not getting it while throwing in the occassional physics nitpick and rant about Enterprise.

    I dare you to do better.

  • I DOUBLE DOG DARE YOU (see A Christmas Story for the rules)

  • El Diz, I appreciate your trying to convince me that my initial impression of Star Trek was wrong. Both Jay and Sean have been giving me grief for my terrible attempt at a review of Star Trek after a year and a half of build-up with my Treknobabbles to establish my credentials as an uber-Trekkie.

    I don’t want to sound defensive in regards to defending my view of the Star Trek film, so please don’t take any of my following comments as attempts at ignoring any of your points.

    I do indeed refer to Rotten Tomatoes, but I admit I haven’t read all the reviews. I took the time to read the reviews you recommended. I didn’t agree with some of the statements made, and as you might have guessed, I didn’t find any of the three reviews to be particularly enlightening. I’ll just touch on a few of their positive points that I disagree with or that don’t really make the film enjoyable for me.

    I didn’t find the chemistry between Quinto and Pine as Spock and Kirk to be especially strong. I don’t feel there were enough conversations between any of the characters to establish much cast rapport. I did think the actors did a fine job with their respective characters with what little some of them had to do.

    I did not find the script to be smart, funny, or romantic. I’ll admit that Pegg as Scotty had some quaint lines. Oh, I’ll even admit that none of the previous Star Trek movies or episodes are particularly laugh out loud funny to me.

    I didn’t find the beginning to be that enthralling although I expect people are talking about the space battle and not the part with Nero conversing with the Captain of the Kelvin. The space battle was neat, but not enough combined with the rest of the film to make me think the film was “good.”

    I’ll half-heartedly agree that the film was a great introduction to Star Trek for non-Trekkies. Unfortunately, the lack of demanding effort required to appreciate the film was a downside for me. I would hope people could see this from my Trekkie standpoint. I know there are Trekkies who think the film is great, but I’m a Trekkie who wanted a more challenging film. I could have been swayed with a film that affected me emotionally, but unfortunately, I just didn’t feel enough.

    BTW, it was clever of you to use the line, “I dare you to do better.” Unfortunately, I’m only a James T. Kirk wannabe.

    Oh, when the DVD of Star Trek comes out, I’ll watch it trying to have an open mind, and I’ll try to write another review giving my opinions and reasons for my opinions.

  • Oh, El Diz, I think I miscommunicated the intent of this Treknobabble. I was trying to refute some people’s claim that Star Trek had been stagnating. So I mentioned the attempts that Enterprise tried to “reboot” the franchise. The Star Trek movie seemed to do the “opposite” of Enterprise in some cases and succeeded, but it didn’t seem to make any sense to me why the Abrams’ choices were the right ones for a successful reboot.

  • El Diz

    Reed, I’m not trying to convince you that your impressions of the new Trek are wrong, I’m trying to help you express those impressions in a coherent fashion, something you’ve so far failed to do in spite of ample opportunities.

    So, lack of Pinto chemistry — totally subjective. Worked for me, didn’t work for you. That’s one!

    Lack of character-establishing conversations — this I have to disagree with. I started making a list but it got too damn long because pretty much every conversation in the movie did double duty as plot and characterization. What exactly did you feel was lacking in characterization?

    I found the script quite clever, again doing the double duty of serving long-time fans and those new to the franchise. What exactly about the script leads you to say it wasn’t smart?

    Also, I found romance in the script, namely between Spock and Uhura. I admit it was understated and quite chaste – he is a Vulcan after all – but it was there. What exactly would have to be different for you to see that relationship as romantic?

    Although I disagree with you on the opening, especially the idea that a 30 second conversation that ends in the Captain’s death was boring, I congratulate you for stating this as your opinion instead of as what you think the general audience might think, as you did in your original review. That’s two!

    “The lack of demanding effort required to appreciate the film was a downside for me”. Now we’re getting somewhere. The fact that the film is accessible to a general audience somehow lessens your enjoyment. That’s three!

    Lack of emotional resonance — again a subjective thing. Either you feel it or you don’t, and you didn’t. That’s four!

    And no, I did not misunderstand your whining about ENT. Yes, it had a similar premise (pre-TOS, time travel shenanigans to hand wave any continuity issues) but my understanding is that the execution of those premises were miles apart – I can’t speak to my own opinion on the issue, as I didn’t have UPN, but the consensus seems to be that ENT sucked hard, especially at the beginning.

    So to sum up: you weren’t feeling the Pinto chemistry, you didn’t like all that icky talking in the middle of the space battle, you resent that the film found an audience outside Trekkies like us and the film didn’t touch you emotionally. Those are opinions! That’s a review! Congratulations!

  • I think El Diz is Jay C. in disguise.

  • So I did better?

    Actually, rus in chicago, El Diz might be the Mirror Universe version of me.

    El Diz, I could use your arguments for any stupid movie and say it was good. But most people agree with you, so obviously my perceptions or interpretations are wrong.

  • Tom Strong

    Phantom Menace did not invent the gag of a larger monster overtaking a smaller monster, you dimwit.

  • mike

    Well, I gotta say the new film is great when taken completely on its own. Also know that I am an avowed ANTI-Trekkie…in that I have always felt the franchise was a weak one with a smattering of great films(2,4 and6) and a single really good TV show (DS9) and the occasional good episode in some of the other series…and as a sci-Fi geek I have always considered the most important aspect of sci-fi to be the believeability of its particular vision of the future…a test Star Trek fails miserably with its inane and outright stupid idea that humanity could ever create and lead a galaxy wide communist co-op…and have it work!!!

    Now that I have briefly (and probably in-cohereantly) described my Trek pedigree…let me say again…I really enjoyed the new film. It has many of the strengths of the original series (the cameraderie and solid acting) without dwelling on some of the weaker points (how this future society is actually structured and the constant techno-babble…although I think that was more a weakness of Next Gen) and throws in some actual excitement and action…two things Trek is rarely known for (except the exceptional DS9).

    However…I have to say that I feel for you devout Trekkies out there…if I was one of you…I would despise the new movie…period.

    In those aspects of geekdom in which I revel, I demand absolute respect for canon from the creative forces involved. If one does not want to make a Star Trek film while respecting what has come before…one should not make a Star Trek film. Using the old different timeline argument is just plain lazy (and probably my biggest problem with Star Trek overall…alternate timelines always make for lame sci-fi).

    So while this film was a well crafted one in every aspect…and good enough that I am able to forgive the lazy time travel aspect…I don’t see how any true Trekkie could defend it…

    As a true Star Wars junkie I know how pissed I would be if some nut rebooted the franchise and tried to have a little Jake Lloyd fall for a decidedly different woman so we could see a certain smuggler tooling around the galaxy with his Wookie buddy using the force to try to redeem his asthmatic father. Alternate timeline or not…that is a film I simply could not defend…well done or not.

    You Trekkies should take pride in your geekness and demand the canon be returned for future installments…even if it means more time-travel wackiness.

  • Tom Strong, I am indeed a dimwit, but there was no implication intended that the “larger monster overtaking a smaller monster” gag was invented by The Phantom Menace. I used the word “steal,” but I’m guessing that Abrams or the writers were paying homage to that Phantom Menace scene since they are Star Wars fans. Actually, can anyone name an earlier movie that uses the “larger monster overtaking a smaller monster” gag? Or even a book?