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Monday, May 11, 2009

Spoiler questions, now that we've seen Star Trek

After four days in release (counting late shows on Thursday), J.J. Abrams' Star Trek is now the fifth highest-grossing installment in the 11-film franchise. One of the clever notions of the new Star Trek prequel is that it uses a time travel plot device to justify alterations in the franchise's continuity, but that doesn't mean nits can't be picked.

1. This isn't really a spoiler, because it involves a scene from the trailers, in which young Jim Kirk sees the Enterprise being built in the Iowa shipyard. Now, I can see the advantage of building spaceships on flat plains (they obviously don't need to build space ships on coastal dockyards) but don't they build starships IN space in the 23rd century? I seem to recall shipbuilding and repairs taking place in "spacedock" in the franchise, because some of those starships aren't built to land. This is the original teaser trailer:

2. Several of my questions involve those two big chunks of exposition about what happened in the 24th century to send vengeful Romulan Nero and Old Spock back to Kirk and Young Spock's present in the 23rd century. If I remember correctly, the instigating event is that Romulus' sun was about to go supernova, and Spock said he had a plan to use red matter to save the day. But for some reason, the sun went nova ahead of his calculations and destroyed the planet. WTF? How could Spock -- Spock! -- make a mistake like that? What went wrong? Vulcan Alzheimer's? Or some kind of skullduggery? I actually wondered if Nero's second-in-command would be revealed to have sabotaged Spock's calculations and/or engineered the supernova for reasons unknown. It seems weirdly convenient, given that Nero's motivations -- and thus the whole plot of the film -- hinge on Spock's failure to save Romulus.

3. The 24th century sequencing is kind of vague to me. According to Nero, he was a decent Romulan who went nutzoid after his wife and planet were destroyed, so he got the giant warship and went after Spock for revenge. But Spock's account seemed to say that he was trying to stop the supernova with the red matter when the time warp sucked in his and Nero's ships. In Nero's account, the events seem to take weeks; in Spock's, more like a matter of hours. Does the timing actually make sense?

4. So Nero comes back in time to encounter the Federation Starship Kelvin, kill Kirk's father, etc. Then Nero's ship apparently just waits for the time warp to reopen and spit Spock out, which takes 25 years. Even granting that his crazy, why would Nero hang around that long? It could take decades for Spock to show up. After the first few years, wouldn't someone say "Hey, if Spock doesn't turn up, can't we go blow up Vulcan anyway?" True, Nero wouldn't have the red matter, but surely a 24th century Romulan warship armed to the teeth could put the hurt on 23rd century Vulcan by some other means.

5. Kirk and Old Spock just happened to be stranded on the same ice planet within miles of each other? Oh really? And where is that planet in relation to Vulcan, anyway? When Spock watches Vulcan blow up, it looks as big in the sky as the moon does from Earth. But surely it's farther away from that.

6. This isn't a question, but I feel compelled to repeat the point: William Shatner's Kirk died. Ergo, he can't be in the movie. Shatner seems just beside himself because he's not in this great new Star Trek movie, but Leonard Nimoy is. He's said words to the effect that, so what if Kirk died? Star Trek can bring him back. Which is perfectly true, given the franchise's many gimmicks. But in Star Trek Generations, Kirk went missing, presumed dead, in the 23rd century, and did die in the 24th, with Captain Picard as a witness. Spock was still alive in the 24th century, Vulcans being longer-lived than humans (and if memory serves me right, was last seen on Romulus, giving the new movie a surprising bit of consistency). The new Star Trek would have to basically devote its entire plot to bringing Kirk back to life, a la Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, while introducing all the new actors, and their character arcs. It would be too damn complicated. They should have just cast Shatner as the head of Starfleet Academy, instead of Tyler Perry.

I have a hunch Shatner will turn up in the inevitable sequel, though. Klingons, too.

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