Star Trek: Into Darkness

I realise this isn’t a book, and it came out a while ago, but I have some thoughts about the film and I want to share them.

Firstly, and to get it out of the way, I really enjoyed it. When I was sat in the cinema watching it, I was very happy indeed. There were bits that made me laugh, bits that made me nearly bounce in my seat, and some that made me want to cry. It was, as far as I can tell, an actually good film.

But it wasn’t a Star Trek film. And that’s sad.

I’ve made this argument to friends in person before, and I’m always met by the “ah, but it’s an alternate timeline and they’ve led different lives, so of course the characters will be different” argument. No. Sorry, no. The film is clearly not trying to do that. They end up in the same roles, with the same catchphrases. There is a clear intent to have them be very close to their TOS counterparts. But they aren’t. The superficial similarities are all there – the aforementioned catchphrases, for instance – but underneath… it’s just not the same at all. I struggle to put my finger on precise details, but it all just feels wrong. It’s an extension of the issues the first film had. In Star Trek, most of the characters were pretty ok, but Kirk was wrong. And I could live with that because, much though I love TOS, I am not much of a fan of James T. Kirk. But in retrospect, ShatnerKirk is necessary for the dynamic on the bridge, and for driving the episodes forward, so PineKirk just doesn’t quite fit. And I suppose the novelty of NEW STAR TREK hadn’t quite worn off when I first saw it, so the superficial similarities were all there needed to be for it to be ok. It was all about meeting the characters for the first time again and bringing them into the positions they needed to be in, without much need for exploring the actual dynamic of the bridge crew as experienced in the original tv series. And it’s because that dynamic does get explored in STID that it becomes a problem for me.

I’m not going to go through each character and list what’s wrong with them. That would be tedious and pedantic. But there are issues with all of them. Some of them insurmountable even if you do buy the “it’s an alternate timeline” argument. But it’s more than that. The overall tone is more… action filmy… than the tone of a lot of TOS and the TOS films. And not really in a good way. It seems to be sacrificing a lot of the introspection and thoughtfulness (not to mention references and just damn good plotting) of TOS for shiny colours, lense flare and action sequences. And this can work in a Trek setting (I love Insurrection, for instance) but it doesn’t work for me within a TOS setting. The dynamic of TNG is so much different that it can get away with more exuberance than TOS. It still has the moral debate and pondering (more so, because Picard) but the way they go about the individual episodes (and thus the way the films can work) is rather different to TOS. Even in the TOS films at their silliest and most exuberant, they are nowhere near the levels of STID. Equally, I can’t imagine anything like “Who Mourns for Adonais?” or “Plato’s Stepchildren” or “Court Martial”… or so many others… being done with the same actors and tone as the new films (I know they’re films and it’s different but still).

Snobby though it may be, TOS was always slightly on the intellectual side of telly. There is some seriously thinky stuff in there, sometimes. STID… is just an action film. I like me a good action film sometimes, but that’s not what I want from my Star Trek. And certainly not from my TOS. Basically, all it is is it feels wrong. It’s uncanny valley Star Trek. And I don’t like it. By all means, Mr. Abrams, make exuberant, shiny action films. But maybe leave TOS alone. It was good enough without you.

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About readerofelse

A student of a redundant, useless and thoroughly interesting subject and reader of many books, particularly fantasy, science fiction and plenty else besides.
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