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Star Trek - The Movies

Introduction:

For a long time I hesitated to fill this section dedicated to the Star Trek movies. I don't want to claim that the movies are bad but they don't correspond entirely with my view of Star Trek - why I will point out when dealing with the details of the movies. My problem is mainly based on the changed atmosphere when comparing series and movies.

That's why it is a little difficult to be sufficiently objective - but I will try. I hope that this way also fans of the movie series will be satisfied.



Star Trek: Phase II

When Star Trek was first aired in the USA 1966 to 1968 it was impossible to foresee the later success. Partly the viewer ratings were so bad that even the third season of the original series was at stake. Back then this third season was saved by a letter campaign that made clear that Star Trek had much more fans that the ratings had indicated. Bad timeslots and a reduced budget brought the end after the third season after all.

At first, it is likely that nobody would have put a penny on a future of Star Trek. The 1970s brought some changes, though, that finally led to a rebirth. For one thing, science fiction became sociable. The landing on the moon in 1969 was THE event of the decade and drew plenty of public interest. Parallel, the three Star Trek seasons were aired repeatedly in TV.

This time the series was much more successful and the idea of a sequel was born. Which form this sequel should have - another series or a motion picture - was in question for a long time.

The financing of the project was also not assured so the whole matter was delayed again and again. What made things worse were the lag of the original sets. They were not available any more even Spock's ears had not survived. New, expensive sets would have to be taken into account.

Whether Paramount favored the series or the motion picture is not really known, the information on this matter is contradictory. Fact is that nearly all actors agreed to play their roles again. The only important exception was Leonard Nimoy. He signaled his consent to take part as Spock in a movie but he didn't want to play again in a weekly series. Nevertheless, for a long time the revival of Star Trek as a series with the working title "Phase II" was likely. Scripts were written in which Spock were replaced by other characters. For his function as first officer, the human Will Decker should be his replacement, the alien Xon should have been the science officer.

Why in the end everything was turned upside down will most likely remain the secret of the persons in charge. Fact is that "Phase II" was canceled and Star Trek's sequel became a movie. Most likely, the premiere of "Star Wars" in 1977 had some influence as well as Steven Spielberg's "Close Encounters of a Third Kind" in the same years. While ones claim that this way the decision for a movie was supported others say that the success of "Star Wars" did the contrary so that the same ground was not raided again.

Today, it is not unusual for well-known movie actors to take part in a series. Some decades ago, that was quite different. Actors of a weekly show were supposed to stay in TV, movie actors keep working solely for cinema. So it was quite unusual that finally the decision was made favoring the motion picture since the frontier between cinema and TV had to be disregarded, too.

Be that as it may, even though there had been some scripts ready to be filmed "Phase II" was cancelled even before it really started. One of these scripts was published decades later as a book ("The Joy Machine") others were altered and used in the 1980s for "Star Trek - The Next Generation". Only the script of the pilot episode was used for its original purpose: "In Thy Image" was the basis for "Star Trek - The motion picture" in 1979.

Overview

No. Title Rating
_________________________________________________________

1 Star Trek - The Motion Picture **1/2*
2


Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan ****
11 Star Trek XI ***1/2*

"Star Trek - The Motion Picture"

Rating: * * 1/2*
First Aired: USA: 12/07/1979
Script: Harold Livingston
Director: Robert Wise
Producer: Gene Roddenberry
Cast: "Bridge Crew": William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Majel Barrett, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Grace Lee Whitney as well as:
Persis Khambatta (Ilia), Stephen Collins (Captain Willard Decker), Mark Lenard (Klingon) u.a.

Story:

Stardate 7412.6: Almost 3 years after the end of the original five-year-mission:

Spock is on Vulcan to undergo the "Kohlinar" to reach a condition of pure logic without all human emotions. In the meantime, Kirk has been promoted to Starfleet "Chief of Operations" and is riding a desk as an admiral in San Francisco. Scotty is surveying the radical refit of the Enterprise which is almost done. The ship is waiting to be reassigned to active duty again under the command of the young Captain Will Decker.

When a deadly and till now unstoppable object is nearing Earth and threatens to destroy the whole planet, the Enterprise is the only ship within range. Kirk pulls his rank and took command again by reducing Decker to first and science officer. He reactivates all of his bridge crew, at first with the exception of Spock. Newly assigned is the Deltan Ilia as navigator who has been in love with Decker.

Spock, while completing his education on Vulcan, receives a telepathic message. He leaves Vulcan, quits the ritual of Kohlinar uncompleted and joins the crew of the Enterprise. Decker offers him the position of science officer. Still dedicated to the pursuit of logic and non-emotionalism, Spock keeps his distance to his former friends.

In the meantime, the Enterprise has reached the object where the Deltan Ilia becomes absorbed by it. She returns as a probe of the object that declares itself as "V'Ger". Through the Ilia-probe the Enterprise crew ascertains that V'Ger heads for Earth to find its creator there. Unnoticed by everyone Spock melds his mind with V'Ger on his own responsibility, almost loosing his life in doing so. In the meld, Spock encounters his ideal of pure logic without emotion. He recognizes that his pursuit of that goal was wrong as was his rejection of his friends.

Meanwhile, V'Ger has reached Earth and is close to destroy it. By using a bluff Kirk is able to communicate directly with V'Ger. It turns out that V'Ger was indeed built on Earth that is to say as the NASA probe Voyager *). Later, it merged with alien technology and became something new. V'Ger is still following its old programming to learn everything possible and to bring the information back…



Opinion:

The story alone shows clear similarities to the TOS episode "The Changeleing". Taking a closer look the situation remains the same. Obviously, nobody realized soon enough that they weren't creating something new but producing a remake instead.

Director Wise "prepared" himself by watching a few episodes of the original series only and it is easy to see that in his movie. He does not only reuses an old script by accident, there is little left of the old Star Trek, too.

The movie has so many weaknesses that it is difficult to find a starting point.

The most important deficit is the one visible in the relationship of the characters. Star Trek had been brilliant in using fine nuances and subtle hints to make the crew something special. This was most visible in the relationship of the triumvirate Kirk - Spock - McCoy but the other bridge crew was important as well. They were real humans that had hobbies, strengths and weaknesses. Instead of continuing that way and using the potential that was offered by the extended time frame compared to the one of an episode the movie put a focus on special effects. Admittedly, plenty of the visual effects are pretty to look at and even after all these years impressive. You can see where all the money went and that was pretty much especially regarding the budget of an average TOS episode (around 300,000 Dollars). The special effects of the movie took alone 10 Million Dollars, the whole production took 44 Million Dollars - 15 Million Dollars had been originally planned with. To be fair it has to be mentioned that 4 Million Dollars were spend in vain because the special effects ordered first were not ready to be used. This way, the costs were raised on the one hand, on the other the premiere was delayed additionally.

Therefore, it is almost a miracle that Leonard Nimoy and all the other actors took part, especially regarding the long discussion how Star Trek should return, TV series or movie. It is especially worth mentioning that not only the bridge crew returned but also Majel Barrett, known as Nurse Chapel and since 1969 Roddenberry's wife but also Grace Lee Whitney aka Janice Rand. While Chapel rose to be a physician, the former Yeoman Rand was now a transporter chief. The fact that Kirk pushes her aside in the transporter room when problems occur made her look incompetent, though. It was also never explained what happened to her in between. Also missing are scenes with the crew. The people are part of the movie but they are not really present in the story. Most of the screen is filled with epical pictures. Everybody who favors shots of space in real time is better of watching Kubrick's "2001: Odyssey in Space". In a time when the crew would have rescued the galaxies three times over in a normal TOS episode, "The Motion Picture" just began to warm up and bring everybody together. **)

The story takes place about 2.5 to 3 years after the original five-year-mission. When assuming that the animated series fills the fourth and fifth year although it is explicitly not a part of the official history and only parts of it were integrated into that so called "canon", there are at most five years gone since the last episode of TOS. In reality, it is a ten-year-gap between the end of the series and the motion picture, though, and you can't help but notice these ten years. That the actors grow older is normal but the script should have been altered accordingly. The way it is should it really be realistic that Kirk has forgotten how to command in 2.5 years only? Besides, the whole Enterprise looks like having taken a shower in pastel colors. Real colors are missing the uniforms are literally uni-form and have more resemblance to pajamas. There is no red, something which was about to be corrected to overkill in the subsequent movies. At least, the women were allowed to wear something less provocative (although Ilia is able "compensate" that fact). Nevertheless, the TOS uniforms had much more style than the ones of "The Motion Picture". Be that as it may, the new Enterprise needs to get accustomed to. Obviously, Kirk feels the same - he didn't set his foot on the ship for 2.5 years. In addition, he apparently didn't even take a look at the blueprints since he looks for the first time in Trek history really incompetent when Decker saved the worm whole problem. Does that sound as the known Kirk at all?

Then, there is Spock who has buried himself on Vulcan, dedicated to logic. He has dropped all of his friends and yet, during the series, Edith Keeler had stated that Spock belongs at Kirk's side. Nevertheless, Spock's absence can be far better explained than Kirk's transformation from dynamic Starfleet captain to egoistic nostalgic prone to the past although that past took place only 2.5 years ago. The whole development is even more incomprehensible when comparing the Kirk out of the series with the other commanders presented in the course of the episodes: all had been considerably older, e.g. Matt Decker (the father of the same Will Decker to captain the Enterprise here) and Ronald Tracey, to name only two of them.

Most likely that initial situation was chosen so that more potential for further development was given. To gain a nice effect it is always best to show a change from bad to good. Concerning Spock, that development can be seen starting from his all-over dedication to logic back to his actual self. Kirk goes back from "old geezer" back to starship captain. Considered all the facts this potential is not even fully used which makes the development the characters had taken during the lost period between series and movie the more regrettable.

Kirk's behavior towards Will Decker is not proper, either. It doesn't fit to the man he was described as formerly.

McCoy's share of the action is only marginal. There are only few nice McCoy moments so again there is much potential wasted.

Pushing all personal opinions aside what should have become of the characters after the series or not, the movie doesn't get better anyway. Till today, when a series manages to make the jump from small to large screen, it is one of the goals to reach a new audience. In this case, no one who hasn't seen an episode of "Star Trek" before would be able to understand what is going on. Most conflicts are not clearly shown. Spock's telepathy, Ilia's Deltan heritage and her celibacy, her former relationship to Decker, practically everything is mentioned only casually. In any case, Decker has a hard time. At first, he is demoted to first and science officer. Till then I had assumed that the position of the science officer does require a special scientific qualification. I doubt that Decker has that qualification but then there is nothing known about him anyway - so why not? Afterwards, Decker is demoted a second time when Spock arrives. This time he takes his degradation quite lightly and at the end he acts pretty friendly towards Kirk. It is most convenient that Decker gets rid of himself then.

At any rate, the end of the movie does contain some of the Star Trek that has made so many fans in three seasons so that the movie was able to draw much attention and bring in 175 Million Dollars. Kirk uses a bluff and some traces of the old relationships become visible. The best of the whole movie is, however and without any doubt, the soundtrack. It was used afterwards for "The Next Generation". TNG inherited further aspects. The "somehow we must spend our money" changed look of the Klingons is one example but also the relationship of Ilia and Decker is practically transferred one to one to Deanna Troi and Riker.

Additionally, it is interesting to know that there are several versions of the movie. Besides the original cinema version there is another one several minutes longer shown in TV. Cut scenes were integrated so that some contexts become clearer, e.g. the scene in which Chekov is injured and "treated" by Ilia.

Since 2002, there is also a "Director's Edition" likewise longer containing new effects. Some details were corrected, e.g. Vulcan's moon is removed. In "The Man Trap" Spock had explained to Uhura that Vulcan doesn't have a moon but on the premiere of "The Motion picture" one was clearly visible.

Even more interesting than the differences between the movie versions are the differences between movie and book. Usually, books to movies are merely add-ons. This one, however, is different since the author is named Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry, the "Great Bird of the Galaxy", was Star Trek's creator and therefore everything that he had to say or to write has some significance although Star Trek novels are never part of the official history which is of course also true for this one. His book, the only one he contributed in this form to Star Trek, is not exactly brilliant but it fills some gaps and explains some details here and there. Sometimes it differs from the movie. The movie, for example, indicates that Spock didn't finish the Kohlinar on Vulcan because he felt the logical presence of V'Ger. Roddenberry's novel states that it was Kirk who called Spock telepathically. In addition, Roddenberry used the term "t'hy'la" which is Vulcan for "friend, brother and lover". The extent of this simple "t'hy'la" was astounding, especially since the term was, at least to my knowledge, never officially used in a Star Trek production. It nourished the theory of some people that wanted to make more of the friendship Kirk/Spock - Slash was born thus stories which are dealing with Kirk and Spock as lovers. Even though I don't agree with that theory I value the more emotional aspects of the book that are missing in the movie.

One way or the other I had to admit that I was never able to fully appreciate "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" and, because it is the basis for all subsequent movies, also the later ones. Regarded from an objective point of view the great soundtrack and some of the special effects alone make the whole lot worth seeing- but the movie is not able to really continue the tradition of Star Trek.

*) There is indeed a Voyager program of NASA. Till today, there had been two Voyager probes which were launched both in 1977. Both are still active and they carry greetings ("Sounds of Earth") with them. Both belong to the objects that gained the largest distance from Earth ever. In 2006, NASA announced that Voyager 1 had reached a distance of 100 Astronomical Units (about 15 Billion kilometers). This way, Voyager 1 will reach interstellar space within the next ten years. It is expected that contact to both probes will cease around 2020 since then there won't be enough energy left to supply the critical systems with energy. Maybe then there will be indeed further Voyager probes launched with the ciphers 3 to 6…

**) Ralph Sander named some alternative titles for the movie in his book "Das Star Trek Universum". They should have their origin in disappointed fans and some are indeed partly more fitting:
Star Trek - The Motionless Picture
Star Trek - The Slow Motion Picture
Star Trek - Where Nomad Has Gone Before
Star Trek - Spockalypse Now

"Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan"

Rating: * * * *
First Aired: USA: 06/04/1982
Script: Jack B. Sowards
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Producer: Robert Sallin
Cast: "Bridge Crew": William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols as well as:
Ricardo Montalban (Khan Noonien Singh), Bibi Besch (Dr. Carol Marcus), Merritt Butrick (Dr. David Marcus), Paul Winfield (Captain Terrell) Kirstie Alley (Lieutenant Saavik)

Story:

Stardate 8130.3: Together with her team and her son David the scientist Dr. Carol Marcus has developed "Genesis", a project to create life out of lifelessness. Barren planets can now be made fertile. After the first tests had a positive outcome, the USS Reliant is now searching for a desert planet to test Genesis on. The sixth planet of the Ceti Alpha system appears to be perfect. That's why Captain Terrell and his First Officer Pavel Chekov beam down to take a closer look. It turns out, however, that they are not on Ceti Alpha VI but on Ceti Alpha V, exactly the same planet on which Captain Kirk has left Khan Noonian Singh and his followers 15 years ago. Shortly after that incident, the whole solar system changed; one planet exploded and Ceti Alpha V turned into a hostile desert. Since then Khan seeks revenge and uses the opportunity to gain control over Terrrell and Chekov using wormlike parasites that settle in the brain of their victims. Khan and his people take over the Reliant and learn about Genesis.

In the meantime, Admiral Kirk, a vast part of his former bridge crew and several cadets conduct a training cruise with the Enterprise. There, Kirk receives a message from an agitated Carol Marcus. Chekov told her under Khan's influence that Starfleet will take over control over Genesis on Kirk's orders. The com connection to Carol Marcus was interrupted, though. Kirk, who once had a relationship with Carol Marcus and who is the father of Carol's son David, takes over command of the Enterprise after consulting Captain Spock first. They head for the Regula station where Dr. Marcus and her team are supposed to be. Barely arrived, the Enterprise is lured into an ambush by Khan and is heavily damaged by the Reliant. Many of the cadets aboard the Enterprise die. The Enterprise makes a narrow escape and Kirk beams down on the research station accompanied by a landing party. They find the station depredated. Most of the scientists are dead, Terrell and Chekov were left behind by Khan. They are freed by the landing party that proceeds to the inner planet. There, Carol and David Marcus have taken refuge and Kirk met his son for the very first time.

Chekov and Terrel are still under Khan's influence, though. That's why Khan can get control over Genesis but he is not able to kill Kirk. The landing party beams back aboard the Enterprise that was repaired in a rough-and-ready way but which is still heavily damaged. Finally, the showdown between both ships takes place in the Mutara Nebula that Kirk is able to decide on his favor at first. In his death struggle Khan uses Genesis as a weapon against the Enterprise that is not able to avoid destruction without working warp drive - until Spock exposes himself to deadly radiation to rescue the ship…



Opinion:

According to the commercial success of "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" a sequel was under discussion pretty fast, even though the reactions to the first movie were in general more mixed. As a consequence, Roddenberry's position and the budget for Star Trek II were cut short (to 12 Million Dollars).

Again the gossip mills boiled over in the run-up. Some of the rumors turned out to be correct, some were pure fantasy. Among other things there were again speculations whether Star Trek should return as a series or as another movie. Spock's death was mentioned as well as a possibility and instead of a remake of an old TOS episode as in "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" there should be some kind of sequel. Almost every opponent out of classic Trek was discussed as the enemy for Star Trek II but then the title of the new movie was published and it became obvious that Khan would be the one. The commitment of Ricardo Montalban who had portrayed Khan in "Space Seed" years before was very lucky. He had been most impressive in the TV series and time was not able to change anything of his charisma. Even aged over 50 years the actor, who unfortunately died at the beginning of 2009, impressed with agility and vibrancy. Actually, Khan's wife Marla McGivers should return as well but because of a severe disease of Marla actress Madlyn Rhue her part in the script was cancelled.

In all, Star Trek II managed not to repeat all the mistakes made in the predecessor. Instead, Star Trek returned to its core. There are plenty of good Kirk/Spock/McCoy dialogues and the friendship between Kirk and Spock has never appeared as close as here.

Partly, one could gain the impression that there has never been a predecessor at all. While on the one hand as most as possible of the sets of "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" were recycled to spare the budget, on the other the largest possible optical distance was created. Instead of pastel colors that had dominated ship and uniforms in the first Star Trek movie, Star Trek returned to bright colors. Different uniform colors were no more, instead red became dominant. Compared with the Enterprise of the TV series and also with the one of Picard it was not possible anymore to distinguish ranks at first sight. The red/black uniforms overshoot the mark a bit but they are definitely an improvement to the "PJs" of the predecessor. Considering the fate of redshirts the domination of red didn't look too promising regarding the chances of survival, though…

The ship was modernized as well and the similarities to the TV Enterprise were only marginally anymore although both ships were supposed to be one and the same. Plenty of the rooms appear to be much larger, e.g. the sickbay, the bridge and so on which entail the question whether some walls had been removed. Of course a movie has completely different demands than a TV show but nevertheless some of the old design is missing and leaves nostalgic feelings.

The story of Star Trek II is by all means light-years better than the one of the previous movie. Almost from the beginning the film can convince with excitement and good dialogues whereby many of them went down in history and are quoted again and again, and rightly so. Right at the start the audience is thrown into a battle scenario that turns out to be a clever move: the (forlorn) rescue of the Kobayashi Maru. That move became even cleverer considering the rumors Spock would die. There had been many protests before against Spock's possible death and the fans had been calmed down with the promise of an alternative ending. Later it turns out that this alternative had never existed at all.

The Kobayashi Maru test, however, became an inherent part of the Star Trek universe and was used may times over. In this context two oddities turns up: first, Kirk himself was able to win the test only by "cheating" and that only in his third attempt. I had never considered that statement really satisfying. Second, Kirk states that he never had to face death. In this case, I must have imagined all the fatalities in 79 Star Trek episodes. Apart from several redshirts Kirk lost Gary Mitchell who was his best friend then ("Where No Man Has Gone Before"), his brother (George "Sam" Kirk in "Operation - Annihilate!") along with his sister-in-law and his great love (Edith Keeler in "The City on the Edge of Forever").

Some more facts of the series were bent as well. What attracts attention the most was the acquaintance of Khan and Chekov who had memories of each other. Walter Koenig joined Star Trek as Chekov in the second season while Khan's guest appearance took place in the first one. The Enterprise is a large ship, however, and therefore it is quite possible that Chekov performed his duty somewhere else before being transferred to the bridge. Much more disturbing is the thought of Khan sitting on a planet for 15 years with a neighbor planet that vanishes into nothingness and nobody is able to count all of the planets afterwards. First, it is quite surprising that nobody looked after Khan all those years. Considering the danger he constituted at least a research vessel should have made a detour. Not only that nobody cared for Khan, nobody noticed that the neighbor planet was destroyed and the whole system changed quite significantly. Most outrageous was the mistake considering the planets. Even without sensors a plain look out of the window resp. the viewing screen would have been sufficient.

The named stardates constitute again sloppiness. By no stretch of the imagination they can be right. Since "Space Seed" 15 years should have past. "Star Trek - The Motion Pictures" takes place at best five years after the end of the TV show, that makes seven or eight years max after the named episode. The missing seven or eight years are indeed very hard to explain particularly since Star Trek II names a stardate to announce the start of the Genesis project one years ago and that stardate is almost equal to the one out of the previous movie. Even "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" has made it difficult to get a thread into the timetable. Star Trek II makes it completely impossible to get some sense into it.

To gain more emotional impact, plenty of additional characters were introduced. Unfortunately, these persons got into the final script but without their background. Saavik's relationship to Spock remained unexplained as well as her Vulcan/Romulan heritage, something which would have explained her un-Vulcan cursing. Peter Preston who was carried injured to the bridge by Scotty should be the nephew of the chief engineer. Without that knowledge it would have been justified to question Scotty's state of mind to mistake the bridge for sickbay. Concerning Kirk, there were some more explanations whereas some details were not named directly. With Carol Marcus, Kirk's list of lost loves grew even more. It is a pity that they didn't use a known character out of the series, e.g. Ruth of "Shore Leave". Kirk's son David was a living collection of stereotypes. Of course, he had to be a Starfleet hater and of course he had to become the lost son. Basically, a little more background is nice to have but David Marcus was so lifeless that he was not really an asset to the movie and to Kirk's family ties.

The introduction of the new characters took time that was missing for the rest of the crew. Sulu, Scotty and Uhura had an almost non-existent part of the story and one has to hold the actors in high esteem that they took part in the movie at the first place. Chapel and Rand who had been included in the previous movie were not even meant to be in the script for Star Trek II.

Then there were the Ceti eels to live in the human brain. Khan explained at first these little pets would stay there but later one of them abandoned Chekov voluntarily. Why? Didn't it found a brain in Chekov? Then, Kirk pulverized that thing. Great. Granted that they don't look too nice but instant killing is not the optimal course of action. It was impossible to know whether Chekov would suffer from any consequences or not and a specimen for research purposes could have proven useful in this case.

Compared to the series, Star Trek II had a completely different atmosphere which is my main point why I am not overly fond of the movie despite all the good moments and its strengths. During the series, hope and a positive future had always been tangible; the Enterprise was ready "to boldly go where no man has gone before". Here, aging is in the focus, typified e.g. by Kirk's glasses, and loss is a prominent subject everywhere. The whole atmosphere has something depressive that is never leaving despite all the hope and reaches its end with Spock's death. By the way: I really think the way Spock's (interim) end was shown was perfect (something Kirk's death in Star Trek VII should have taken a leaf out of the book). The later included bridge to Star Trek III ("Remember") is ingenious; the same is true for the explanation surrounding the Genesis project. The "Remember"-sequence that doesn't make sense only by itself but draws a perfect bow to Star Trek III is the core of multiple rumors. Sometimes it can be heard that that scene was a spontaneous idea. That is not plausible since the camera angle had had to be altered to shot it. Then it is claimed that it was included to have a backdoor against the will of the director. Most likely the backdoor version is the one with the most probability because the "Remember"-scene would not be that bothering for Star Trek II without a sequel whereas it is an essential basis for Spock's later return. It is said that Leonard Spock was only willing to be a part of Star Trek II on the condition that Spock would die. Already in "Star Trek - The Motion Picture" his involvement had been in question for quite some time. Now, in the way Spock's death was realised, all options were kept open for Nimoy until the very end. Of course it came in handy that Spock's coffin (without turning to ashes in the planet's atmosphere!) made a smooth and strategically fortunate landing. All the same this Star Trek, as realistic as the development it has taken might be, is too depressive for my taste.

That atmosphere is sweetened by a really felicitous score by James Horner. Back then he was a pretty unknown artist, today he belongs rightly to the real big names. Star Trek II was, till then, his most important work and he did his job in only a fraction of the usual time. Nevertheless he managed not to recycle themes out of the predecessor. Instead he included some traces out of the original series. The "Amazing Grace" at the end at Spock's funeral was forced upon him by Harve Bennet which is one reason that this track is missing on the soundtrack CD.

"Star Trek" XI

Rating: * * * 1/2*
First Aired: USA: 05/08/2009 resp 05/07/2009
Script: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Erik Jendresen
Director: J.J. Abrams
Producer: J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof
Cast: Chris Pine (Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (Leonard "Bones" McCoy), Zoë Saldaña (Nyota Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Leonard Nimoy (old Spock), Ben Cross (Sarek, Spock's father), Winona Ryder (Amanda, Spock's mother), Bruce Greenwood (Captain Pike), Eric Bana (Nero)

SPOILER ahead!
If you read the article, some details of the story will be revealed. Don't continue if you like to see the movie by yourself beforehand!


Story:

2233: When the USS Kelvin gets under attack, Lieutenant George Kirk dies to rescue his pregnant wife - she escapes in a shuttle. Shortly afterwards his son James Tiberius Kirk is born who grew up fatherless to a reckless daredevil. Being a young adult, Kirk decides to join Starfleet Academy nevertheless after Captain Pike talked some sense into him.

At the academy, Kirk meets Dr. Leonard McCoy who currently lives through a divorce and both become friends. Three years later, Kirk has practically finished the Academy. He gets into trouble when cheating and therefore winning the Kobayashi Maru test in his third attempt. Especially Commander Spock who has developed the test turns into an enemy for Kirk. The half Vulcan, son of the Vulcan Ambassador Sarek and Sarek's human wife Amanda, had a difficult childhood. He joined Starfleet in an act of defiance because his human heritage was regarded as a flaw on Vulcan.

As a consequence of his cheating Kirk is suspended and should remain on Earth when a Galactic crisis comes up. Thanks to Bones McCoy Kirk gets on the Enterprise nevertheless when the ship leaves heading for Vulcan to help the planet which is under attack. Aboard the ship, Kirk recognizes similarities between the current attack and the one that had cost his father his life shortly before Kirk was born. Kirk convinces Captain Pike from his theory and is left as second in command with Spock as acting captain when Pikes leaves the Enterprise and was captured by the attacker, the Romulan Nero.

Spock is able to save his father while his mother dies and Vulcan is destroyed. When Kirk is recalcitrant one time too often Spock abandons him on the neighbor planet Delta Vega. There, Kirk meets a much older version of Spock who traveled, as Nero, from a far future back in time.

In that future, Romulus was destroyed for which Nero blames Spock. He wants to take revenge by the destruction of Vulcan. The old Spock explains to Kirk that Nero's appearance has changed history and created an alternative timeline. Actually, Kirk should have met his father and be captain of the Enterprise. That's why the old Spock conjures Kirk to take his ancestral place and to provoke young Spock so that Kirk would be able to take over command. With the aid of the engineer Montgomery Scott stationed on Delta Vega, Kirk and Scotty beam onto the Enterprise where Kirk follows the old Spock's advice and assumes command as a result.

Aided by Scotty, Kirk and Spock beam onto Nero's ship, free Pike and beat Nero. Kirk is promoted to Captain by Starfleet afterwards and takes over the permanent command of the still brand new Enterprise.



Opinion:

After it became known that Star Trek XI would be a movie about young Kirk and Spock the discussions didn't come to an end. It would be necessary to replace the old actors by new ones which raised many fears.

Personally, I anticipated the movie half longing half afraid and most likely that was the same way many fans felt. Almost as usually in life, the truth lies in between.

The actors resemble their alter egos out of the 60s remotely only. The best cast was Spock of course. In his make-up, Zarachy Quinto has a very strong resemblance to the young Leonard Nimoy.

His mannerisms and the script make it instantly possible to recognize Spock. Concerning Kirk, the matter looks a little bit differently, though. Chris Pine is not a bad but also not a perfect choice. Carl Urban as McCoy is not a perfect match either but pretty acceptable as well as Uhura and Sulu. Chekov divides the opinions. Personally, Anton Yelchin's Chekov got on my nerves and the Scotty of Star Trek XI (Simon Pegg) is more a parody of the resourceful chief engineer. Apart from the new look of the characters the most important question would be: would the story respect the characters and would known facts, the "canon", be respected?

Yes and no. The first part of the movie was able to stun me positively with plenty of details. Spock's childhood was shown exactly as assumed; Sarek and Amanda were just great. Many hints are included (Kirk's youth in Iowa, Sulu's hobby fencing, McCoy's divorce, familiar names in the admiralty and so on). There are many details missing, though (e.g. Kirk's friend Gary, Pike's Enterprise crew including Number one etc.).

Kirk seems to be out of the known character, too and needs getting used to.

The alternative timeline makes it possible, however, to show all of it and not cause a break with the "canon" since practically everything that doesn't fit in can be explained away as an alternative development.

Personally, I was satisfied by this explanation although I was not satisfied that the original timeline was not restored. Star Trek was reset, so to speak. Floodgates are opened for further sequels, something which is indeed planned if Star Trek XI should prove to be a (financial) success.

Apart from the actors the whole rest was rejuvenated, too. Even the galaxy itself was redecorated since the planet Delta Vega had been at an entirely different place in "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and definitely NOT beside Vulcan. Partly, the makeover is well done; partly the results are varying in quality. It is possible to recognize the uniforms, in all acceptable. The Enterprise looks like a mix of the TOS Enterprise and the one out of "Star Trek - The Motion Picture", in all acceptable, too. The bridge, however, is too white, too sterile, too large. Engineering looks much larger, and the whole appearance is more industrial. So you have to gets used to engineering, too although Scotty's department is far better realized than the bridge. In all, everything looks a little bit too modern, the same problem "Star Trek: Enterprise" has had before. Rationally, it has to be admitted though, that the normal film-going public would have rebelled if a movie with a look of the 60s had been served. The humor of the movies connects in part to old traditions and is in asset to it in general.

Despite the question whether Star Trek XI is able to continue in the sense of the classic series or not the movie has to accept criticism as a stand-alone creation. For one thing, there is Eric Bana as the evil with only slight resemblances to a normal Romulan. He doesn't leave much of an impression and reminds me quite strongly of Shinzon of "Star Trek X" (Nemesis), using his own version of Khan's Ceti eels. The time traveling explanation is quite thin and not really convincing, pretty boring in fact. Then, there is the military structure I fail to understand. When the Enterprise starts her journey, Spock is Commander, Uhura and Sulu are Lieutenants and Chekov is an Ensign. Kirk is a cadet, though. Then, Pike leaves his ship and he appoints above all others the cadet (!) to be the acting First Officer (!). Nobody is surprised and therefore, the same trick is repeated again by Starfleet Command. This time, the cadet (!) is promoted directly to captain (!!) of a starship (!!!). Just imagine Chekov would have been promoted to captain in the original series whereas Chekov had been at least an Ensign there… Furthermore, nobody steps in when a crewmember is left behind in a potentially hostile planet in only a small pod. The whole military protocol seems quite ridiculous and the attempt to create the original bridge constellation is quite visible and somewhat forced.

At the end, the feelings concerning Star Trek XI are mixed and the question remains unanswered for whom the movie was made. Star Trek XI had a giant budget and is now forced to make enough money which can only work if old fans as well as a new audience rush into the cinemas. Whether that is possible only time can reveal. In all, Star Trek XI is not a bad movie but it doesn't feel exactly as Star Trek.

My opinion: I can live pretty well with the movie but "Star Trek" remains what was shown in the 60s, especially regarding the altered timeline.

Sources and Remarks:

All information (no guarantee) is based on the original (US) version of the movies. All texts are written by me. Mainly, I used information out of my mind I gathered over the years. For verification, I used some literature:

  • "Das Star Trek Universum - Volume 1" by Ralph Sander, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag München 1989
  • the German version of "The Nitpicker's Guide For Classic Trekkers" by Phil Farrand, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag München 1996
  • http://www.episodenguide.de/startrek/ by Florian Heidinger
  • http://www.nasa.gov official homepage of NASA