- Star Trek
The reboot of a media franchise is a tricky endeavour made all the more precarious when the original has a fan base characterised by longevity and tenacity. Add to this mix a director better known as the 'creator' of flashy, gimmicky products such as Alias (US 2001–6) and Cloverfield (Reeves US 2007) – worse, one who has no history with the franchise and is not even particularly a fan – and there are many reasons why J. J. Abram's Star Trek was both an ambitious and foolhardy venture. That the film was not only successful but also won the approval of much of the Trekker community is nothing short of astonishing. And there are good reasons for this success.
First, the film returns us, in a way, to the early days of Star Trek (US 1966–9) and the characters that inspired such a dedicated fan following that a cancelled television series was able to spawn ten feature films between 1979 and 2002 and four spin-off series. One might blame the eventual faltering of the Star Trek universe on this proliferation of texts: they were just running out of stories to tell, as the marginally successful Voyager (US 1995–2001) and the misguided [End Page 164] Enterprise (US 2001–5) attest. There seemed no further corners to explore and the innovative attempt to set Enterprise in the future's past led only to the sort of complicated paradoxes and inconsistencies that dedicated fans were sure to point out, but which inevitably went unnoticed by the teams of writers typical of contemporary television production. Abrams' Star Trek not only takes us back to the original crew and the energy that made Star Trek fun, but it also opens up this universe to imagine it otherwise, creating the possibility of a Star Trek for the twenty-first century. Freed from the weight of history, the new Star Trek can once more take us somewhere unexpected.
At the centre of the film – whose plot, in many ways, is unimportant to its achievement – is an experience of time travel which creates an alternate universes, making this Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Uhura (Zoë Saldana) both like and unlike the characters we know. The story, about a rogue Romulan mining ship captain, Nero (Eric Bana), unexpectedly propelled into the past by a combination of a black hole and an exploding star, has all the usual problems one expects from time travel and miraculous technology. Consider, for example, the unexplained 'red matter', capable of creating micro-singularities, which is nonetheless mysteriously contained on a Vulcan science vessel. Since this ship is from the 'old' Star Trek's future, and since Vulcan is destroyed in the 'new' one, presumably this technology will now never have been invented, and hence we will not have to worry about further timetravelling paradoxes and tedious attempts to 'fix' the timeline to what it 'should' have been. Such logical problems aside, the real purpose of the plot is to create both a plausible explanation for this alternate Star Trek and an adventure which compels our main characters to become acquainted and work together to save Earth. This introduction of the crewmembers and the forging of a bond among them – particularly Kirk and Spock – is what this film is truly about. Indeed, the chemistry between Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto suggests that, like the original series, this franchise will inspire K/S slash among its fan fictions.
Abrams includes much in the film to reassure and appeal to dedicated fans, from the delightful insouciance with which Kirk defeats the Kobayashi Maru simulation, to casual drops of series minutiae relevant only to an insider (Scotty is exiled for a transporter accident involving Admiral Archer's beagle), to the implausible but nonetheless entertaining battle aboard a mining-drill platform that begins with a parachute jump from space into the atmosphere, during which the non-central character wearing the only red jumpsuit crashes...