Beammie Up Scotty

49 Comments

[Long post]

The early 80s. On a Sunday morning, they came into my life. The pointy-eared man. The original serial kisser. The sardonic doctor. The Aye Aye captain engineer. The adventures of the star-ship Enterprise.

Strange creatures. New planets. The transporter. Tractor beams. Red alert. All hands to deck. Incoming Incoming !!! Sparks flying. Warp factor. Fire photon torpedoes.

I was too young then to understand everything about Star Trek. But I fell in love with the idea of space explorers, facing the most extreme of challenges  jumping from one planet to another.

Then in 1985 I came to Canada. Where I saw more of Star Trek. And started reading Star Trek fiction, which the local library had enormous quantities of. At the age of ten, a bit more mature than when I first saw Star Trek, I was able to look beyond the alien masks and the explosions and the “thrills” and became drawn to the themes of friendship ,trust and universal co-existence that Star Trek embodied. I enjoyed thoroughly the verbal jousts about logic and emotion between Kirk and the Doctor on one side and Spock on the other.

I cried copiously when Spock says “I have been and always shall be your friend. Live long and prosper” to Captain Kirk and dies saving the Enterprise from the “Wrath of Khan”. I rooted for his revival in Star Trek 3. And as I pranced about wearing a red Star Trek sweater that my mother had sewn for me (which even had the iconic Star Trek logo) and pretended that the pocket torch was my phaser, I wondered  how soon it would be till the transporter would be invented and I could be beamed back and forth to India whenever I missed my grandmother.

Then once back to India, I again started re-watching reruns now being aired in the afternoons. In the late teens, people get rebellious and start pooh-pooing everything they liked a few years ago. Star Trek became one such “That’s for kids” things for me . I began to see how hokey the special effects were, how funny the space monsters looked, how William Shatner chewed up and then spat out his lines, how some of the “guest stars” hammed atrociously. Most importantly, I lost respect for the Captain as I saw that how, far from being the paragon of wisdom and bravery I had always taken him to be, he was nothing but a skirt-chasing horndog eager to kiss any space-object that moves, often to the detriment of the mission at hand. I also noticed for the first time how short Lt Uhura’s skirt was. Among other things.

I moved away from the Star Trek world. The books gathered dust in my book-shelf. I outgrew the red sweater. The Next Generations was being shown on TV. I saw a few episodes of it. The special effects were better. So was the acting. But somehow I hated it. I later realized why.

It was in 1999 once I came to the US to pursue my graduate studies that I got reacquainted with this friend from my past. As I watched back-to-back episodes of Star Trek the Original Series (TOS) on the Sci-Fi channel,  I finally “got it”.  Unlike the Michael Bays and the Jerry Bruckheimers and yes even the George Lucases and Steven Spielbergs, Star Trek TOS could not rely on the wow factor of special effects to take audience attention away from the story. This made the episodes all the more remarkable because every bit of impact had to be made by the story, the script and the characters. And what an impact they made on me now.  The themes I discovered were much deeper than those of friendship and peace—-there were political messages about the Cold War, disarmament, prejudice, absolute power and the balance of it, civil rights, environment and conservation. There were fascinating insights into alternate realities, the power of the mind and of our basic instincts, the complexity of personality, reflections on the evil inside all of us, the reality of dreams and the nature of time.

What was remarkable was that I often realized how great Star Trek TOS was when I was watching something else. There were countless times that I would be watching a science-fiction movie or TV series and I would discover that the plot was a derivation of a theme previously covered (and usually covered better) in a Star Trek TOS episode. Not that I believe everything I saw were cases of Anu Mallikian “inspiration”  but so wide is the spectrum of themes explored in those three glorious seasons, that overlap with it for any sci-fi creation becomes inevitable.

This was also when I realized why I never liked the Next Generation or Deep Space Nine. For me Star Trek means Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock. Anyone else on the bridge of the Enterprise were imposters. Simple.

Having re-discovered my love for Star Trek, I accepted the inevitable. I was a Trekkie. And a Trekker. I bought and read Leonard Nimoy’s autobiography. In a journal paper, I named a section “Amok Time” (on inconsistent timing requirements in a medical device) as a tribute to one of my favorite Star Trek episodes. With my first salary after getting my PhD, I bought the entire 3 season collection of Star Trek TOS DVDs each of them in a case shaped like a tricorder (aah the joy). Recently I blew an obscene amount of money to get my photo taken in the original Captain Kirk’s seat in an exhibit at the San Diego Space Museum and the framed picture is placed on the table where I am presently typing this post.

Yes like Brooke Shields and her jeans, I let nothing come between me and my Star Trek.

When I heard that Lost and Cloverfield’s “visionary” director JJ Abrams was going to revive the Star Trek TOS characters, I felt a mixture of hope and apprehension. Hope because the Batman series, which like the Star Trek one had degenerated to camp, had been spectacularly revived by Nolan. Apprehension because the Superman series had been similarly “revived” and been reduced to the love-story of a suburban dad . Considering how Paramount Pictures had mismanaged the franchise for decades, I was worried a  fate similar to Superman would befall Star Trek. More importantly who else other than Nimoy could be Spock? Will the eyebrow arch so beautifully? Will the voice be so powerful? Similarly how would someone who is not William Shatner ever be a convincing Captain Kirk?

So, scared and expectant, I went in last Saturday, a day after its release to see the afternoon show. Would they murder my old friends on celluloid by reducing them to a collection of pixels? Or would they be re-invented for a new generation?

The verdict?

With the exception of Spock necking Uhura on the transporter, which made me squirm in my seat, it is perfect.  Yep. Perfect. Bones is perfect. Scott is back in all glory. Uhura has lost a loss of weight and is curvaceous, in the context of a new aesthetic different from the 60s. Spock is good (have to accept slightly disappointed with the face). And Kirk. The person whom I thought would be the most difficult to replicate and would be the weakest link is truly truly the revelation of the movie. Chris Pine. He captures the boyish arrogance, the rascally skirt-chasing, the side-grin, the “devil-may-care” attitude and most importantly the endearingness in a way that is remarkable. He grows into his character as the movie progresses and as he sits on the iconic Enterprise captain’s chair at the end,  as an old-time die hard romantic I must accept he fit right in.

When I say that Star Trek is perfect, I need to qualify that. It is perfect considering that this is the first in a series of movies which ultimately seek to re-cast the original characters for a new generation. JJ had an unenviable task—-on one hand he has to mainstream Star Trek for kids used to bleeding-edge special effects and explosions (after all they are the studio’s meal ticket) and at the same time he cannot risk alienating its base of geeks (like me) who enjoy its philosophical underpinnings and its “vision”. Given these constraints, Star Trek is the perfect opening shot—–it establishes the chemistry between the characters and goes heavy on visual thrills. The philosophy is, for the time being, kept on the backburner.

This is a necessary compromise because it would be impossible to both establish characters and as well pour in heavy philosophy all in the space of two hours without compromising on both on them. I expect subsequent installments of the franchise to gradually layer in the complexities, now that the characters have been established. For now, Star Trek is a delirious space romp (which is how I initially liked it in the early 80s and I would expect newbies to view it similarly before they graduate to appreciating the deeper aspects). It is light and frothy but with an arresting storyline, unashamedly commercial yet with potential for morphing into something greater.

If there is anything controversial about the new Star Trek is that the director, in order to free himself from the established mythology of the Star Trek characters, has introduced a plot-device (which I shall not expand on further) by which everything we know about the Star Trek universe has changed. While to many old-hands this may sound like “cheating” I am prepared to give JJ  this liberty to “surprise” us with innovative twists and alternate character developments —-after all if there is anything Star Trek teaches us is , it is to embrace the new and to look at change with an open mind.

For now however after seeing the new Star Trek, my dilithium crystals have become fully charged. My shields are working fine.

After many years, the final frontier again lies in front of us.

Full warp speed ahead.

Steady as it goes.

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49 thoughts on “Beammie Up Scotty

  1. Lucky you. We trekkies don’t have the option of seeing it soon in India – dates of release haven’t even been announced if ever. And the only ways to see it shall remain un-written .

    But I agree completely with this. Trek was my first brush with Science Fiction. And I have ALL the stuff EVER created about Star Trek. Be it be the episodes, DVDs, DVD Extras, Movies, Books and comics, I have it all.

    And last year during a visit to Las Vegas, I was lucky enought to catch Star Trek: The Experience. Got myself clicked on the Enterprise D captain’s chair as well as assimilated in a Borg enclove!

    Trek beat Star Wars for me everytime due to the potent nature of its stories and acting. I like ALL trek, but some notable mentions of the Original Series that are classics:

    - The City on the Edge of Forever: Amazing story, sacrifice of love for the greater good, etc.

    - Amok Time: Secret sexual issues, the fleeting glimpse of pure joy on Spock’s face when he realizes he hasn’t killed his captain and best friend – amazing

    Star Trek TNG and DS9 also bought out other contemprory issues – everything from racism, sexual orientation, tolerance for other cultures, war, diplomacy and more. The later trek kind of forgot that but were still good fun to watch.

    Live Long and Prosper! :)

  2. Amok Time is a great favorite of mine. Added this part to the post based on your mention of it: I have a section in a journal paper called “Amok Time” !

  3. Saw it Sunday night with the spouse & loved it. I am not a big JJ Abrams fan – found Alias too popcorn & Lost needlessly obscure, though MI3 was a good comeback from the MI2 disaster. In fact I find Joss Whedon of Buffy & Serenity fame much superior as a director. But he hits all the right notes in ST, though the plot doesn’t stand up to my close scrutiny (my Trekkie better half could make sense of it all). I was surprised to see some Star Wars homages – Kirk in the stranded planet running into a comrade from the future reminded me of Luke & Yoda in the swamp in Empire Strikes Back, & Scotty’s little helper had Ewok written all over him. Even Chris Pine was channelling Han Solo while playing Kirk. Other interesting casting choices – US born Pakistani actor Faran Tahir doing desi accent as the captain in the opening scene (Sepia Mutiny had a story about him) & Randy Pausch of Last Lecture fame with a small speaking role talking to Tahir in the opening scenes. Someday I need to do a comparison between the Kobayashi Maru training simulation of Star Trek & Prof. Xavier’s Danger Room in XMen.

    Oh, & I loved watching TOS backk in the id-late 80s. Very hot women in tight sweaters & short dresses. I recall one episode which was part 1 of a very gripping story. I wait one whole week for Part 2 & lo! DD has a different episode. I mutter klpd to self :-(

  4. I am a huge star trek fan, and i was also very apprehensive about seeing a new cast being drawn up for the same characters. I felt they could never do justice. After reading your blog, i have some hope, and I will even date to venture to a theater to watch it.
    When I watched the second re-run when i was 14-15, i was so fascinated, that i used to write down the main plot in sheets of paper so i could recall each one of them( i did that for all the episodes, and they used to be aired at 11:30 in the night!!).
    Thanks for the review.

  5. Well, it is good to see a substantial article from you (other than the ones that deal with IPL) after a while…

    Not that I hated any of the IPL ones, but it was getting slightly monotonous….

  6. I used to watch a star-trek series on doordarshan in 80s. May be it was TOS. I remember liking it. I later saw many of its episodes copied on a hindi sci fi called “Space City Sigma”. I liked it too. This blog comment is not for TOS or space-city-sigma though.
    I wanted to talk about Star-Trek – The Next Generation(TNG). The world of Captain Jean Luc Picard. I am extremely impressed by it and felt bad that you could not feel ‘just the same’ towards it. A wholly understandable emotion but I would implore you to keep aside your oh!-this-is-a-rip-off-hat and watch TNG. Why don’t you watch the following (they are my personal top picks, and you need not like these but give them a try):
    1. Loud as a whisper
    2. The measure of a man

  7. “This made the episodes all the more remarkable because every bit of impact had to be made by the story, the script and the characters. And what an impact they made on me now. The themes I discovered were much deeper than those of friendship and peace—-there were political messages about the Cold War, disarmament, prejudice, absolute power and the balance of it, civil rights, environment and conservation. There were fascinating insights into alternate realities, the power of the mind and of our basic instincts, the complexity of personality, reflections on the evil inside all of us, the reality of dreams and the nature of time.”

    Exactly why I watch Southpark!!! :))))

  8. “I wanted to talk about Star-Trek – The Next Generation(TNG). The world of Captain Jean Luc Picard. I am extremely impressed by it and felt bad that you could not feel ‘just the same’ towards it.”

    Actually I agree. I like Jean-Luc Picard and TNG more than any of the other series although I started off with TOS & Kirk.

    I think TOS was a great space adventure. But as I grew up, the issues of TNG were were better. One other thing that made it stand apart from the other Star Trek series and that was the Captain character.

    Picard was a true diplomat. Instead of going in with phasers and photon/quantum torpedoes firing, he’d look at an intelligent and diplomatic solution to it.

    Picard termed Spock’s running off to Romulus as “Cowboy Diplomacy” in Unification. All the others, Kirk, Sisko, Janeway and Archer, were more shoot-from-the-hip type of captains. And amazingly, all of them, american captains of Star Trek, could be termed the same!

  9. “….every bit of impact had to be made by the story, the script and the characters” Spot on. I had a similar view when I watched episodes of the Twilight Zone. The weirdest things would happen, but at the center of it all was the impact of them on the characters.

  10. While I gradually went from being a “Star Trekkie” to a “Star Wars” fan over the years, I am still curious to see how the new Star Trek series (going forward, at least) treats or ignores the character of Lieutenant Ilia, the Deltan navigator of the USS Enterprise (played by the late Indian actress Persis Khambatta in the “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”).

  11. I can’t believe JJ Abrams has a midas touch. Ressurceted a dead franchise and brought it back to life to people who’ve even never seen the series. Folks do watch the film when it releases in India.

  12. Great review, GB! Despite the shoddy special effects and a ham of a skirt-chasing Captain, Star Trek TOS had always been my favorite because of the powerful stories with relevant/philosophical undertones…and..of course, Spock! I’ve always been fascinated by the scientist, half Vulcan Spock who hides a half-human heart underneath his logial exterior.

    Amok Time is one of my favorites, too. Lotos Eaters and Shore Leave are a couple more from a long list.

  13. Love love TNG. Picard outclasses Kirk anyday. Let us agree to disagree since my grad school experience was all about TNG reruns.
    But I’m with Vishy above – relieved to see something other than IPL. So cheers for the review.

  14. God, and I thought I was the Trekkie..Hehehe..How wrong was I?

    Somehow Trek did lose its charm with the Enterprise and Voyager series being one of the biggest disappointments and of course the series of miserable onscreen adaptations ( except for the Khan…oh I loved tht one)…

    But the new polished Trek in Abrams packaged bottle is intoxicating…it is just brilliant if I may say so…

    And in the truest meaning of the term, it has indeed been rebooted..the characters have been very well balanced..

    Here is my take on it..

    http://www.oneknightstands.net/star-trek-rebooted/

  15. For those of you who are major trekkies (like me), you might want to check out the Star Trek: Countdown a mini comic series that is a sequel to Star Trek: Nemesis and a prequel to Star Trek (2009). You see the origins of the Nero character and ties in with the TNG timeframe as last seen. There a few new reveals for the TNG fans – what’s Picard upto and who’s the new captain of the Enterprise 1701-E.

    Check out the trade paperback (which collects all 4 volumes) at http://www.amazon.com/Star-Trek-Countdown-J-Abrams/dp/1600104207?SubscriptionId=15HRV3AZSMPK0GXTY102&tag=ie8suggestion-20&linkCode=xm2&camp=2025&creative=165953&creativeASIN=1600104207

  16. Amen brother. It was a fresh look and definitely leaves a whole new world of possibilities.

    Totally worth watching it in IMAX.

    - An born trekkie and a greatbong regular.

  17. Hi all,

    I am more a Spock fan than of Captain Kirk, used to wonder as to why he could not be the captain. Your sentiments, of loving, growing up and coming back to Star Trek, is reflected in the film ‘Galaxy Quest’. I hope some of you have seen it and wondered if you too could be a part of a show that you identified with. I still do not mind watching the original Batman series, specially for Julie Newmar playing the deliciously wicked CatWoman.

    There’s a film release strike going on here, so we have the choice to watch re-runs of recent Hindi films and a slew of regional movies in languages , I do not really understand in the cinemas halls. Now, this review is driving home the point that we will have to wait longer to finally watch the movie.

  18. well…good on all u trekkies

    “Space! The Final Frontier…” that was a very cool startline though, does anyone know who did the voice over

  19. Saw it first day -first show while I was in T & T. Loved everything about it except Uhura and Spoock necking :-)

  20. Don’t read this comment if you don’t want spoilers.

    I didn’t like the fact that Vulcan was destroyed which meant the timeline was altered and the TNG world etc we know as been gone. They didn’t even restore the timeline in the movie.

    Other than that it was a good movie.

  21. Hey hey HEY now… I agree with what you said about watching Star Trek TOS as a kid – being mystified, then liking it, then not so much, then rediscovering it as a more discerning adult. All that’s fine. But dont diss Start Trek The Next Generation, you break my heart… Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard is brilliant! He has dignity, something which Kirk lacked as a captain and as a human. He never chases skirt indiscriminately like Kirk, never becomes the overprotective clucking mother-hen that Captain Janeway is, will NEVER be as pathetic as the captain in the latest series “Enterprise”, and is well memorable, unlike the captain in Star Trek Deep Space Nine who is the opposite of memorable. :) There, I’ve said my piece!

  22. PS. Spock, however, is my all-time favourite character and always has been – more than even Capt Picard. :) And if there is any character I loathe more than Bones – priggish, narrow-minded, convinced that HIS ways are better than any alien civilisation (how very colonial!) – from the original series, I cant think of one.

  23. Damn. Awesome write up. I really want to see this now – and I am depressed that I won’t, due to the stupid fight between some greedy rich men who want more money. :(

  24. Brilliant movie review greatbong it echoes my sentiments. I too went for movie nto sure what to expect. The only pointer for me was the reviewer from MSNBC Alonso Duralde who never gives a full fleged positive review for any of the hollywood movies was all over this movie. I went for it with my dad had a great blast and have been recommending it to all my friends. Kudos to your review greatbong. You nailed it in your review. Chris Pine fits in the chair as easily as Shatner did.

  25. ********Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before.*********

    I am sitting here all misty eyed, in an enclosed cube… thankfully. That was a brilliant article, thanks for the memories.

  26. Nice post! I really liked it!! Being a hardcore Startrek fan myself, I can fully understand the emotions behind being a ‘Trekkie’ !

    Live long and prosper!

    ~seemanta

  27. Star Trek was my initiation into sci-fi as well. As a little child, even when I didn’t understand a single word, everything looked so cool and I fell in love with the series. As must have been the case with so many Indian kids growing up in the early eightees. Great review, GB. Now waiting for your review of Angels & Demons. My 1000 bucks are riding on your opinion!!!

  28. For me it was like a pilgrimage…… the makers did justice to the spirit of the series.
    J.J. Abrams gets to live. For now. :P
    K’PLAAAAAAH

  29. @ Cliffy:

    Misty Eyes indeed! When Spock’s words and the leitmotiff played at the end of the movie I nearly burst into tears of joy/nostalgia. It might be corny but I wish they integrated The Shat (Kirk a.k.a Shatner), Takei and Koening into the movie. But I guess without Kelly and James Doohan it would be sacrilege to show the old *crew*. Spock was another thing…. Nimoy was closely involved in the making of the movie and his character was necessary for the storyline.

    Pity Admiral Pike ended up in a wheelchair this time too! :) Though it ain’t as bad as what happened to him in Star Trek: TOS. Except for Kirk, apparently he was the only iron willed Captain in the whole of the Federation in Trekkie universe. And I never thought they would put in a Redshirt….. I mean Olson was right in the face!

  30. I think it actually did tackle some broader issues — the villain is the lone disgruntled madman rather than an Evil Empire of some sort. Very modern, in a subtle way.

    And yes, the plot twist to allow full rebooting of the series was really clever, & it was *mindblowing* on IMAX!

  31. Thank you for an awesome review,Gb,. I hope I get to watch it this weekend but I have been apprehensive about it but after reading your review I feel much better!

  32. Saw it over the weekend.
    The movie is superlative.

    Am looking forward to Terminator and Transformer 2

  33. Agreed with the review. The movie is good and must be enjoyed in a movie hall. After watching it on a huge screen, I watched stuff on my 23″ TV for 2 days so that my big screen TV does not look small when I go back to it.

    And yes, we want an article on Space city Sigma.

    It will be unfair if you leave out comments on “aadha-machine-aadha-insaan” Shakti. That aluminum foil patch on his face should have received an award for best make up in a TV series.

  34. Pingback: Into Darkness and Man of Steel | Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind

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