Saturday, May 09, 2009

Star Trek: Canon Shmanon

I've embraced my various layers of geek-dom: I'm a knitting geek, love Dark Shadows, and adore Transformers, but my geek-dom started in one place: Outer Space. 

Star Trek. The Original Trek, with Mister Spock and Captain Kirk has always ALWAys been my favorite, above and beyond The Next Generation and the decline that started with Deep Space Nine. Sure, TOS is cheesy in a way that only the 1960s can be, but that was part of its charm. It was sexist (did you see those short skirts?) and bound by the social mores of the time (not to mention the special effects), but it had a message that wasn't overly preachy, something that later Treks could not maintain. 

Let's not forget that it pushed boundaries. It did show the first interracial kiss on television, the one between Kirk and Uhura in "Plato's Stepchildren". 

So, I was quite excited over the new Star Trek movie. The title harks back to the very beginning of Trek lore, with Captain Kirk and most of the entire crew of the starship Enterprise. (Dare I hope that Lt. Kevin Reilly shows up eventually?) Of course, with going back to the beginning, this is bound to get some Trekkers upset. (FYI: Trekkers are hard-core serious. I can't even attempt to make it that hard-core serious, so I have no problems in being called a Trekkie.) There's all this cry of canon, such as Chekov showing up in the movie even though he was obviously a second season addition. 

But let's move past this. I believe that the Star Trek canon, if we include all the series, is bloated. In order to revive the franchise and bring new Trekkies and Trekkers in, changes need to be made. To merely go back and tell the same story again is akin to adding new special effects to Star Wars (lay it on me, fan-geeks, I can take the hate), or the revival of Dark Shadows.  Granted, with the later, enough changes were made in the 1991 revival series to make it up-to-date and not a mere retelling. But it borrowed a lot from the series and House of Dark Shadows movie. 

That's not to say this movie didn't borrow a lot from TOS. It did borrow a lot from canon. To be clear, Trek canon usually refers to what happened in the series and movies, and NOT in the many novels that were written as a result. But with ten previous movies and five live-action series (there was an animated series as well), the canon was very bloated. And in great Trek fashion, they did what Trek does best: transcend time. 

Time-travel is not new to Trek. Kirk sling-shot around the sun numerous times, most notably in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which took Kirk and Co back to 1986 to save the future Earth from a mysterious probe that could speak only to humpback whales. (My family loves this movie probably best of all.) There were also various series episodes that borrowed a page from the movie, and some of my favorite episodes were time-travel ones. I love the entire concept, and was a fan of the first season of Sliders as well because of the alternate realities. 

If I were a bigger sci-fi fan, which I'm not, I could probably say who was famous for the theory of alternate realities. I'm thinking either Carl Sagan or Isaac Asimov. 

This movie is a true "alternate reality" of the Trek universe. Without giving plot away, a beloved character has to make some harsh decisions in the future. In the process of going through with it, he unwittingly creates a type of time warp that propels him back in time. As a result, the lives of the main characters have a slightly different trajectory than we're used to seeing without making them unrecognizable. They are all there, their personalities are still there, and there's enough action to keep even non-Trekkies happy for plonking down ten dollars for a ticket.  Many of the lines are homages to TOS and the TOS movies. The movie moves as an action movie and is faster than previous movies in the series. 

Devoted fans may see the Romulan Curse rearing its ugly head (as it's an odd-numbered movie), but I don't see it that way. I hesitate to call it number 11, instead calling it Version 2.1. 

In fact, my geek-dom has crossed over to the point where I want to knit Scotty's hat. 

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