Mar 10, 2011

Accepting the geek – Part II: The Dividing Line

Welcome aboard the Bitter Trolley, and since I’ve collected your tickets and everyone is comfy, let’s get the BT underway.

Sorry it has been so long since my last post, I had Army Reserve drill last weekend and that tends to eat a lot of time. I know it’s no excuse; there is never a good excuse, only the truth.  And my first duty here is to the truth.

"The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth! It is the guiding principle on which Starfleet is based! And if you can't find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you don't deserve to wear that uniform!"

Sorry, I channeled Jean-Luc Picard from one of my top five favorite TNG episodes. It happens.

So, last time we met here in the dining car explained how I came to embrace and accept the geek I am, and that I am not only happy with the person I am, but I have met some truly amazing people who share the same passions and humor.

But there was a polarizing event less than two years ago, and for the geek community there is still a divide that can run deep and sometimes lead to actual yelling. I saw it. When I’ve seen it I have to admit, it’s kind of made me sad to see.

What was the Fort Sumter of Trek? The 2009 release of JJ Abrams “Star Trek.”

Because the story evolves in an alternate timeline from the Kirk, Spock and McCoy we grew up with (Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley), some fans call it nuTrek. Others call is “Abramsverse.” But one thing many agree upon calling it is…well, there are a lot of less than flattering words they use. I am not in that group, and I have taken some heat for it. But let me explain where I’m coming from, and then we can discuss.

I first heard about nuTrek while in Iraq, when I saw the teaser trailer on I was SO excited, the Soldiers I was with can attest that I became obsessed with checking out about the film. See I have bad luck with movies and deployment.

See, “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” both were released while I was in Iraq, so was “Star Wars – Revenge of the Sith.” Ok, so the last one didn’t break me up too much, but still….

Finally after 24 months I was headed home and nuTrek was opening in theaters THE NEXT DAY! I made plans to see it (by myself…my wife has zero interest in sci-fi and made it a point to explain to me how very little she wanted to sit in a theater for a Star Trek movie) and was through the roof.

The movie started. I was not bothered by lens flares. I really liked the look of the film in fact. One of the big things I was worried about was would I be so jet-lagged after flying home 8,000 miles that even if this thing was “The Godfather” in Star Trek form, I’d fall asleep. It was not even close to happening.

After I left the theater I went home, my wife asked how it was. I had to think about it and said the most honest thing I could, “I don’t know.”

See, I liked a lot about the film, truly. There were things I didn’t like. Then there were things I just wish…weren’t. I mean, destroying Vulcan????
(And if that’s a spoiler for you, I am so not saying sorry. It’s been on DVD for how long now?)

But in keeping with IDIC, I accepted the film and was happy it was out. I know that for some, me saying that is like saying to them that Superman is a pussy, and I’d rather have….Aquaman…help me fight crime.

Superman is such a tool...I mean, look at this:

Enough said about that.

But back to the topic: Why? Why the outright open hostility some show towards nuTrek? I get picking the story, or some of the set designs. But we’re talking hard core MSNBC toward Ronald Reagan fans hatred I have seen.

I get it, by rebooting and having beloved, classic characters (and yes, I do have a blog planned how Star Trek is the modern mythology) played by new actors and changing the back-story, it shakes some people’s worlds. I get that. But the thing is – none of it is real anyway, so maybe I am being a heretic saying this, but I am along to enjoy stories that make me think and bring me some escape.

I have talked to people who literally could not say a good thing about nuTrek. That’s silly, and if I may, a tad hardheaded.

Here are five things about nuTrek I enjoyed:

5 – It was a Trek that was filmed for the BIG screen. People can have issues with lens flares and such, but this was a Trek deserving of the theater experience. I mean really, was “Insurrection” anything more than a TNG episode an hour longer?

4 – The music was amazing, and when the classic theme hit at the end (and I loved that, as if the nuCrew had earned it), I got goose bumps.

3 – The “origin” story. Look, maybe it’s not what I would have written, or you. But it IS the story of how the “original” crew met, something fans wanted for years. I admire them for tackling it.

2 - Chris Pine was outstanding in the role of James T. Kirk. He didn’t do a Shatner, he made it his own. Plus, let’s face it, he has the look.

1 – Not only was Capt. Christopher Pike in the film, but Bruce Greenwood owned ever scene he was in. He had a depth and charisma rarely seen in any Trek.

Now, five things I didn’t care for so much:

5 – Scotty as comic relief really bugged me. A lot. I am a Simon Pegg mark, and really felt let down by this characterization.

4 – The engine room. I think that says enough about that.

3 – Nero. That was not the epic villain we needed. We needed a Khan. Hell, I would have settled for a Harry Mudd.

2 – Spock/Uhura romance. Look, I am not opposed to it, it just….came out of nowhere. And if anything in the film deserved at least a sentence of explanation, this was it.

1 – Vulcan destroyed. Vulcan. Destroyed. VULCAN. DESTROYED! No matter how many times I say or write it, I get mad.

So I admit, there’s some big problems with the film. But for long-time Trekkies (or Trekkers, no diff to me) to bash the film is short sighted, and does not take into account something nuTrek opens for us.

The future.

Yeah, ironic huh?

See, we grew up in a world with just TOS (TAS was so no easy to find) and the books. Then there was TNG, changing everything.
Then the flood hit, we had DS9 (the most underappreciated Trek, and the best), Voyager (UGH in so many ways) and Enterprise (sadly, once they got their shit together it was cancelled). We had the TOS films, the TNG films…I think Rick Berman was right, we reached saturation.

Then we had a break and nuTrek came out. And you know what I noticed last year at my visit to Shore Leave? A lot of young people, teens and younger, wearing nuTrek uniforms while talking about the film and excited to learn more about Trek. They are excited about Star Trek! So what if it’s not the Trek we grew up with?

This is THEIRS. THEY are joining the family! Isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Look, I know nuTrek isn’t for everyone, I get it. But we have to look forward to get the next generation (no pun intended) to look back. Isn’t that what it’s about, passing this wonderful gift of Trek on to future generations?

Am I being naive?

I look forward to hearing thoughts on this topic.

Oh, if it is kind of disjointed I apologize, I am medicated at the moment and also working with a really crappy keyboard that has jumped all over the place while typing.

Thanks for reading. And as always, thanks for riding the Bitter Trolley, and please, remember us for your future travels.


  1. I've read this twice.

    I'm trying to figure out where we disagree.


    This is EXACTLY how I feel! The new movie IS bringing in NEW fans! And they're WATCHING THE OLD SHOW!!

    How awesome is that?! I love it!.

    I may not have like the plot of the movie purely because it was convoluted drivel - but the actors were great and the jokes were laugh-out-loud funny!

    I am looking forward to the 2012 film only to see if Orci, with Lindelhof's help can actually write a script with depth - but I'm not expecting very much in that regard. Since my expectation with regard to character are set so low - they actually have a chance at impressing me.

    But as far as everything else you've said - the fandom WILL learn to accept NuTrek fans because they are, TREK fans. The world expands - and just because you may not like the road that show takes you down, doesn't mean you're strapped into walking it.


  2. I agree with you 100%.

    There were a few things I didn't like as a huge trek fan, but looking at it objectively it was a good movie. I also think its value in introducing Trek to a new generation is often overlooked.

  3. As you mentioned in your blog, Scotty was turned into a joke (as was the engine room). And WTF was that stupid sidekick alien? You see, contempt and lack of respect. Total.
    Chekov was made into a joke and while Sulu was able to lay a strong action role, he was pretty flat.
    You get the point with all of that. The characters were mere echoes of themselves at best and at worst – in the case of Kirk and Spock they were practically opposite to how they logically should and would have been in a real “origin” story.
    Other gaping idiotic things: well as you pointed out THEY DESTROYED VULCAN AND ESSENTIALLY THE VULCAN CULTURE. This is obviously a big one, and another thing I interpret as Abrams flipping the bird at REAL Trek fans. You can’t have the Star Trek universe without Vulcan. You simply can’t. The Federation is another thing entirely and the relationship between humans and Vulcans is critical. Just plain pathetic and weak as a plot point. I mean, anyone new to Trek movie doesn’t really care that Vulcan just blew up, it’s just a big ball in space, but to REAL fans…
    More stupidity: putting a pimply teenage cadet crew in charge of the flagship of the Federation. WTF? Spock served for years on the Enterprise with Pike and Uhura was already a Lieutenant, Scotty a Lt. Commander, etc. yet we are supposed to believe that they rolled out of the frat house and became the best crew in Starfleet with NO experience. It just shows a complete lack of care and concern for the show. They wanted to tell a story about “how everyone met” and didn’t care if the actually background and development of the characters would suffer.
    And that brings us to the main point. None of it matters. This was a big flashy space-battle movie meant to make money. Did anyone who saw it who was new to Trek come away with an understanding of the principles of Star Trek? Did the idea that mankind would move past greed, poverty, racism, violence to explore the full human potential come out?
    The plot itself was completely lame and full of holes so big you could fly the planet killer through them. The villain two dimensional – and WE NEVER EVEN REALLY SAW OR CARED ABOUT THE WOMAN WHO’S DEATH CAUSED ALL THE TURMOIL. We are supposed to get his motivation? Idiotic. I also have to say the Romulan ship was uninspired and ugly. Star Trek is built upon the vision of Gene and the interaction between the characters as they grow together. Since they characters were all wrong and their history completely changed then any attachment we may have had was based upon what we remembered from REAL Star Trek, but again, Abrams violated that.
    I could go on and on. Keep in mind, I only saw this evil piece of filth once so this is from memory. I would never watch it again. In fact, over my dead body will I watch any product that JJ Abrams has any part in whatsoever. He has earned a special place in my heart as only someone who pissed on something you held so dear can do.
    My only hope, as someone else who commented said, is that the people who are seeing ths as this introduction to Star Trek, will quickly realize what a lifeless valueless piece of shallow junk it actually is when they compare it to the real thing.

    PART III...

  4. If not, if this is “their” Star Trek as you say, then I predict a short and shallow life. For if this were the thing that “started it all” it would have ended up being nothing but a lens flare in a pan.
    There has been a lot of Trek before, but if you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all. Let it stay the way it was. Again, I would have been open to something NEW, but never before did anyone try to RE-DO something. That was a fatal mistake.
    Now it is my turn to apologize for the ramblings…


    Ps – Oh yeah, I forgot - WTF – A WINDOW ON THE BRIDGE?!?!?!

    Pps – it breaks my heart that Nimoy had anything to do with it.

  5. Where to start? First, I appreciate this post. As a lifelong fan who grew up with TOS (my first memory in life is watching it with my father and my 3 year old loves it already) I have strong feeling about the Abrams Abomination.
    Now, I admit, back in 1987 I bought a t-shirt that read: Trek Classic – Who Needs Another Generation. Watched TNG with a skeptical eye even KNOWING that Gene was behind it. However, it clearly proved to be worth its weight in gold pressed latinum and furthered the ideals of TOS.
    To start from the bottom line: JJ Abrams & CBS have absolutely NO reverence for Star Trek, its ideals, its message, its history, or for its original fan base. They are in it PURELY for the motivation of making money – and nothing is too sacred for them to screw with. Now, of course, Rick Berman wanted to make money too, as did Gene, but it was more to them and they proved that. Abrams – the self admitted Star Wars fan, doesn’t give a sh**, clearly.
    As for the movie itself: well it was impossible from the start. Indeed the premise itself was insulting and actually “illogical.” Why make a movie re-imagining the TOS characters if you were not trying to appeal to Trekkies, Trekkers and anyone else who is a fan? They admitted that this was NOT a movie for Star Trek fans – that they wanted to reach out to a new audience. It’s actually a Kobayashi Maru, but Abrams isn’t smart enough to fool the test. There’s no way to win. You can’t do it better because it is the original and were it not so special then we wouldn’t be discussing this. So that begs the question: WHY NOT COME UP WITH SOMETHING ORIGINAL!?!?! Personally, I think it was a deliberate “screw you” to us TOS fans. Abrams DID think he could do it better. He was wrong. (of course in REAL Star Trek Kirk for a commendation for “original thinking” for his Kobayashi Maru stunt… remind me again how they violated that idea in Abrams Abomination?)
    Now, about the “alternative timeline” crap: the only way this works s if you at LEAST stay true to the characters. Sure, some events can change, but if you alter who these people ARE and to a great extent how they came to be, then why should we even care to watch them? They are no longer the Kirk, Spock, McCoy et al that we came to love.
    Kirk: he was never a rebel boy character. He was an “absolutely grim” cadet. He became the youngest captain in Starfleet – AT 35! Pine can run around and say the lines but he was acting a character that was NOT Kirk. Not even close.
    Spock, oh where to begin? Why even bother having an arc to a character if you are going to skip all that and have him find the meaning of life the universe and himself in 45 minutes? So stupid. Spock would NEVER be ready to have the emotional development he did at that age, and if he did, then he is no longer even fun to watch. Just retire now and write self-help books, Spock-o. (the thing with Uhura falls under the category of idiotic moves almost too stupid to even mention).
    McCoy was actually not all that bad. In fact, his portrayal and the design of the shuttlecraft are probably the only things in the movie I didn’t hate (the idea of beaming across light years onto a movie ship from a shuttle was also idiotic, of course).

    PART II...

  6. Wow, sorry that all my comments were out of order. It did not show that they had posted so I kept trying (but it was very late and Gorn's need 7 hours of sleep). Thanks.

    Can you make sense of my comments then?

  7. I blame the Universal Translator for putting them out of order. LOL

  8. I was told there would be refreshments on this trolley....

  9. *serves up lemonade*

    Well - there were all these lemons laying around.... ;)

  10. The drink car is three cars back. Fully stocked!