Star Trek: the Motion Sickness

By Velvet Belle Tree


I had read about it — characters who we knew didnÕt meet until Kirk took command of the Enterprise (and one a season later) all meeting when he was at the academy — and had decided not to see it. But then I read the glowing review in the New York Times and it was playing almost around the corner, so we went to see it opening night.

First for the praise. The opening sequence was brilliant. Tension, drama, noble sacrifice. But it was downhill from there.

To be facetious, there are only two problems with the movie: character and plot. The main character problem is that of James Tiberius Kirk. To an adult, he comes off as a complete jerk. But maybe thatÕs intentional. The middle-school boys sitting in front of us ate it up, and they were probably the intended audience. And thatÕs how Kirk acted, like a thirteen-year-old boy.

In the first scene where we see him, other than as a newborn, heÕs taken the vintage convertible of a man heÕs living with (we hear his voice but heÕs not identified), driving at very high speed, and then almost loses his life as it careens off a cliff. After hanging on the cliff by his fingertips (a scenario repeated two or three times in the movie) he says to the cop: ÒIs there a problem, officer?Ó Oh, how cool! The boys must have loved that. And it doesnÕt show him suffering any consequences for the destruction of very valuable property.

When next we see him, heÕs in a bar where thereÕs a bunch of Starfleet cadets. HeÕs referred to as a townie (Although the cadets are on their way to Starfleet Academy, so what college or university is in this Iowa town?) and quickly gets into a fight with a group of them and is thoroughly pummeled. HeÕs rescued by an officer who is, IÕll give you one guess, Captain Christopher Pike.

Pike looks him up, and finds out he has great aptitude and knows that heÕs the son of the heroic George Kirk. Pike convinces him to enlist in Starfleet, telling him that heÕll be an officer in four years. Now, if Starfleet Academy is anything like a current military academy (West Point, Annapolis or Air Force Academy) you donÕt get into it by enlisting. You have to apply and then get an appointment. ItÕs a long, difficult process. But who cares about reality?

We next see him three years later at the Academy. HeÕs still a wise guy. Again, at a real academy, either his attitude would have improved or heÕd have been out of there quicker than you can say Òbeam me up.Ó His attitude is most clearly shown when he retakes the famous Kobayashi Maru test. All Star Trek fans know that Kirk was the only person to ever pass the test and he did it by tweaking the program. The Kobayashi Maru is supposed to be a no-win situation, no matter what you do, you wonÕt be able to rescue the Kobayashi Maru.

When Kirk, with some of his friends playing the rest of his crew for the simulation, retakes the test, he lounges in the command chair chomping on an apple, the very opposite of an alert, clear-eyed commander. The rest of the ÒcrewÓ are dumbfounded by his attitude. The officers monitoring the test comment that heÕs not taking the simulation seriously. Then he casually rattles off his commands, the Klingon vessels in the simulation are quickly destroyed, the Kobayashi Maru rescued and itÕs over.

Next, we see Kirk at his hearing. The scriptwriters know one thing about a military academy — they have an honor code which forbids cheating. And Kirk cheated by hacking into the program running the simulation. Spock, who is an instructor and has worked on the program, says that the purpose of the simulation is for the cadet to experience fear and keep on going. Kirk replies that he doesnÕt believe in no-win scenarios. This is an echo of the mature Kirk from the original series.

But then, in the middle of the hearing, they learn that a distress call has come in from Vulcan and everyone at the academy is mobilized to go to Vulcan on a rescue mission, and the action part of the film begins. Kirk, and all his future crew members, of course, wind up on the newly commissioned Enterprise with, you guessed it, Christopher Pike as the captain.

Kirk is able to supply Pike with vital information. How did he get this information? He overheard it while hiding under a female cadetÕs bed. Oh, how cool is that!

Spock is the First Officer. When Pike has to go aboard the Romulan ship as a hostage, Spock is made acting captain. And for some unknown reason (the puzzled looks are apparent on the crew-membersÕ faces) Pike makes Kirk First Officer.

Later, after various plot maneuvers, Kirk has taken over. He confers with all the cadets. One wonders where all the real officers are. Surely a newly commissioned ship would have had officers. They wouldnÕt have taken the Enterprise out with almost all cadets. When Chekhov is asked how old he is, he says heÕs seventeen! How has he gotten through even a year at the academy at that age?

And speaking of the Romulans É They look and act more like bikers than aliens. Gone is their resemblance to Vulcans, who we know they broke off from maybe thousands of years ago. They now have shaved heads and tattoos. And the Romulan captain is named Nero. Nero?

And now for the plot. I wonÕt go into the ending, because I donÕt want to give away too much of the story, what there is of it. But letÕs just say that the ending is ludicrous.

The nefarious part of the plot involves a super weapon from the future creating a black hole at a planetÕs core. But in order to deploy this super weapon, they use a huge drill. Surely they could have used some kind of a particle beam to drill to the planetÕs core. And the black hole is created using something called red matter. Red matter creating a black hole? Surely this isnÕt a reference to StendhalÕs The Red and the Black?

At one point, when Spock is in charge of the Enterprise, Kirk acts in a manner that is interpreted as being mutinous and Spock orders him to be thrown off the ship! Thrown off the ship? Very un-Spock-like, very un-military. It reminds me of Mutiny on the Bounty, but in that case, it was the mutineers who threw the loyalists off the ship. But then I realized that it was done because the scriptwriters needed to get Kirk onto the planet on which he landed in order to advance the plot.

And did I mention the explosions? There are battle scenes with explosions and explosions and É And thereÕs Kirk hanging by his fingertips over the edge of a cliff, and hanging by his fingertips (with the bad guy trying to stamp on his fingers) over the edge of the drill platform, and hanging by his fingertips over the edge of a beam (with the bad guy trying to stamp on his fingers), and hanging by his fingertips É

So, if you like explosions and fingertip hanging, and want to watch a movie with your brain turned off, go and enjoy.