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Thursday May 7, 2009 3:00 pm

STAR TREK: J.J. Abrams, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and John Cho Make It So!

Posted by Tom Mason Categories: Movies, Reviews,

It’s finally here. I’m talking about neither killer bees nor swine flu, nor Arlen Specter’s vote on anything pro-Democratic. I’m talking about the new Star Trek movie by J. J. Abrams starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and John Cho (Harold Lee is Sulu? Inspired!)

I’m a fan of Star Trek, but I don’t get the vapors over every new ST movie or series, or any glitch in continuity, nor do I love all things Trek. Any time the Star Trek crew beams down to a planet where the background looks like Ape City from Planet of the Apes and all the inhabitants are wearing burlap tunics as they rebel against an evil alien force who’s using them for either meat, factory work, or target practice, I’m out.

I don’t refer to Star Trek as TOS (The Original Series), I don’t care how the animated series fits into continuity, and I don’t care if anyone calls me a Trekker, a Trekkie or “Romulan Praetor.” I know just enough Star Trek trivia to run a category on “Jeopardy,” (“I’ll take ‘The Jeffries Tube’ for $400, Alex.”😉 but not enough to debate Klingon military history with a guy dressed as a Klingon speaking Klingon.

But I do have some Star Trek cred – thanks to writer-producer Larry Brody, I’ve actually met and chatted with D.C. Fontana at a writer’s conference in L.A.; I edited the launch issues of Malibu Comics’ Star Trek: Deep Space Nine comic book and toured the set of the DS9 TV series (with artist Gordon Purcell); I had lunch with Alexander Siddig where we talked about our favorite video games; and I was once interviewed (by Mark Altman) for the official Star Trek magazine.

So I feel I have enough of a background in Star Trek to start a flame war by doing what all the other cool kids are doing: listing their five favorite Star Trek movies. Here are mine:

I liked this when I first saw it, and over time it’s beaten out Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan to claim the #1 slot on my list. I love the Khan as well, but I think ST IV holds up better over time. It’s funny, it knows it’s funny and everyone is in great form. Even Catherine Hicks as the token hysteric impresses with her best Meg Ryan “aw shucks really?” impression. Plus, “Everyone remember where we parked” is such a great line.

A spectacularly good movie that does exactly what the first Star Trek movie didn’t – be entertaining and full of action and still be faithful to the old TV show. Ricardo Montalban takes a great late-career role (he was still doing “Fantasy Island” at the time) and really digs into the character of Khan, someone he’d played on Star Trek years earlier. A big budget film that’s really an emotional character study. And a lot of cool stuff gets blown up. Kudos to Nicholas Meyer for coming in off of “Time After Time” and “The Seven Percent Solution” and nailing it.

Need you ask? It’s the Borg. Possibly the greatest recurring villains in the Star Trek mythos – the Romulans and the Klingons have always come across as what they were: analogs for the nation-states of the Cold War, but the Borg? They’re the villains of tomorrow, baby, and they don’t take “no” for an answer. It’s as if the Terminator and Hydra from Marvel Comics had children: they just keep coming. Plus, has there ever been a creepier alien villain than Alice Krige’s Borg Queen? I think not.

It’s not a great Star Trek movie, and it feels more like an episode of the TV series with stunt casting for sweeps month. (“Tonight, a special episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation starring that Brit actor you love to hate, Malcolm McDowell!”😉 But two things cause the nerd in me to nerd up: the appearance of Picard with Kirk, and the visual when the saucer section separates (say that three times fast) from the Enterprise and crashes on the ground below. Oh, spoiler alert. And it has “that guy from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” in it.

(5) And finally, fifth place is actually a tie: GALAXY QUEST and MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD.

First, Galaxy Quest. Yeah, it’s a parody of Star Trek and Tim Allen is playing an actor with a Shatner-like ego who’s one step away from signing on for a reality show, but at a certain point in the movie, didn’t it stop being a parody of Star Trek and actually become a Star Trek movie with doppelgangers? You bet it did.

Okay, so Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World isn’t a Star Trek movie either, but watch it again, more closely. I think the banter between Russell Crowe’s Capt. Jack Aubrey and Paul Bettany’s Dr. Stephen Maturin is very Trek-like. Crowe appears to be channeling an inner Kirk and Bettany comes off as a Spock/McCoy mash-up. But it’s the scenes where the two ships duke it out on the high seas, dodging each other in the mist, using their experience to be innovative when their technology fails them, that recall the end of the Wrath of Khan. Watch it again and substitute spacecraft for the ships and planets for the island and see if you don’t agree. Bonus: I’m not the only one who thinks that, either. Check out what this guy has to say. Then the gang over at Michael D’s Region 4 DVD Info Page weigh in with this: “Imagine an episode of Star Trek being acted out with the cast, costumes, and sets of Hornblower.” Exactly.

I was so disappointed by the last Star Trek movie (see: Tunic, Burlap) that I wasn’t all that thrilled about the new one, even though I’m an Abrams fan. But a friend of mine got me to watch the trailer online, and I remembered how great a job a non-Trek universe guy like Meyer did with his Trek films and now I’m in. In fact, I’m already in line. Phasers set for…popcorn and a large high fructose corn syrup.

Now, some Star Trek links to fill up your time while waiting for the movie to start:

JOHN SCALZI’S STAR TREK RECAP: Award-winning sci-fi author (Old Man’s War, Zoe’s Tale) John Scalzi recaps the plot of the various Star Trek movies. Big deal? Yup. He does each one as a haiku.

STAR TREK’S PLAYGROUND: courtesy of Kate Beaton.

STAR TREK COMIC BOOKS: Graeme McMillan boldly goes into the high-and-low points of the many Star Trek comic books. Go with him, won’t you?

STARLOG LOVES THEM SOME STAR TREK: Starlog editor Dave McDonnell posts his review at the Starlog website. Spoiler shields on full.

If you like Starlog, you might enjoy my earlier post about the magazine.




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