Damnit Jim, From hating Star Trek Beyond to loving it, in under 2 hours

I’ll admit it, I liked the new Star Trek movie.

There I got that out.

I was livid with JJ Abrams when he abandoned the “prime” universe in the first “reboot” making a film that was a cheap copy of the original, with a non-sensical plot, and saw it just as a way to make money, and really not have much originality, while stealing my favorite science fiction universe from me.   But then over time, I slowly, slowly, slowly gave in. The reality was that if I wanted to watch Star Trek on the big screen, this was it. And bad Star Trek was still better than no Star Trek.  So I re-watched, and re-watched, and even went willingly to the second film, Into Darkness.  That one was both good and bad.  Like in the first, there was too much bait and switch, there was too much of an effort to just mess with the canon of Star Trek.   But it was enjoyable.

The previews for Star Trek Beyond left me, well, meh…  Just as in Into Darkness, it appeared as if the Enterprise was about to bite the dust, even though that didn’t actually happen in Into Darkness.   But the previews suggested an alien sci-fi battle on land, with NO SHIP, and thus, for me, no STAR TREK.  I’ve lived through the destruction of the enterprise before.  Twice before.  I never liked it.

Ok…  from here on our there be spoilers.  BE WARNED.



Star Trek Beyond started horribly.  Kirk was going through some sort of depression, because it must be terribly boring exploring new worlds and new civilizations on a starship, over 900 days.   Damn, the guy would never have lasted on the The Hermes, in Matt Damon’s The Martian.  I just had a bad feeling.  Then there was the insanely designed Yorktown space station.  That wasn’t a space-station, it was some sort of curved world in space, designed by technologies that far exceeded any conception of the Star Trek universe.   Ray Bradbury or Neal Stephenson might design such a world (think Seveneves), but this wasn’t Trek.

And then they go off on the mission through a nebula, which seemed to me to be one giant condensed asteroid field.  But the ship has no problem flying through rocks.  And then the swarm like alien ships, with no background, no sense of what’s going on, the aliens board the ship. There is lots of fast motion fighting (which I had a hell of a time watching, very blurry, I think an artifact of filming for traditional screens and 3D), the nacelles are torn off, these swarm-like aliens start EATING the ship, and BAM,  there goes the Enterprise.  Gone.  Destroyed.  Except for the Saucer, which somehow still manages to crash to the planet.    And miraculously, it seems like most of the crew — all of the crew that matters anyway — lived.  Were it the other side, were it the Enterprise firing on a Romulan ship, let’s be honest.  They would all be dead.   Were it a Borg cube, there would be no more assimilating except for the smart queen in her little round escape min-borg ship.

I was pissed.  Here we go again.  Let’s destroy the Enterprise.  Hell, we’ve seen it before.  Star Trek III — say good by old faithful NCC 1701.     Star Trek Generations, hasta la vista to my favorite ship, NCC 1701 D.   Nothing original.

And now, we have no ship, apparently no fleet either.  And the whole crew survives crashing on a mountainous planet covered in ROCKS.  And then it is no longer a Star Trek movie.  Its just a bad action flick with characters resembling Star Trek because of their blue and yellow and gasp… RED … shirts.   I almost grabbed my $6 bucket of popcorn and headed for the door.

I hated it.  Hated it.  Hated it.   THEN, Damnit Jim, something happened.  There was dialogue between characters that was enjoyable.   Yes, Bones and Spock saved the day.  And then there was Scotty.  Or should I say “Montgomery Scotty.”   AND there was this interesting new alien character with some serious white makeup, whose name I never did learn during the film, and all of a sudden it went from I HATE THIS to, I don’t like it, but I’ll stay with it.     BUT damnit Jim, Star Trek is supposed to be in space.  And the Enterprise is a central character, the central character, and JJ’s world just killed it.  Give me time to mourn.

THEN, we discover the Franklin, a long lost NX-class star ship, which our new alien friend, whom IMDB tells me is named Kalara, had been working to try to bring to life so she could escape the planet, and the alien bad guy who had killed her crew and abandoned her there.   Now there were plot holes in this of JJ Abrams proportions, don’t get me wrong.  BUT by God, we had a ship.  And we had a transporter.  It went from I HATE IT  to I MIGHT BE ABLE TO SALVAGE THIS.

At that point, we are nearing the final third of the movie, and things pick up dramatically, and my excitement increases with it.  So much that I was smiling.  I even brushed aside the  insanity of Jim Kirk on a hyped up motorcycle on an alien planet.  Sure, why the hell not.   AND then the NX-class ship, the Franklin makes it into space, and DAMNIT JIM, they used the exact design of the NX-01,  the Enterprise of the ill-fated tv-show of the same name.  I was now smiling from ear to ear.

Guys, we are back in space.  And its Star Trek.  The film comes to its logical conclusion — and sure, Spock plays a role — although who knew that Bones was such an incredible space pilot in ships of x-wing proportions?  They apparently teach a lot of stuff in Starlet Medical.    And the good guys win.

And we know, we know that the new ship being built at this strange space station will be the NCC 1701A.  That was a given.  I was just holding my breath that JJ’s world didn’t jump to the galaxy class ship.  Looks like the five year mission has second life.

And then there is Spock, and his alter-ego, prime universe  Ambassador Spock.  Well, Leonard Nimoy has died, and early on in the film young Spock gets notification of this (of Spock, not Nimoy!).   It is in the background for much of the film, but at the end, he gets his doppleganger’s possessions (or is young Spock the doppleganger?  Yes, yes, he is).  And what do they do?  They show us a photo of the ORIGINAL Star Trek crew, circa Star Trek VI.  So so happy at that point it wasn’t funny.   And then they go off into space.   With the crew mouthing the words, These are the voyages…   and we come to credits, and are given first the Original Star Trek theme in its entirety.   Then the new theme.  Then before black screen,  Dedication to Leonard Nimoy, and then “For Anton.”  It was over.

I went from I hate this film, to this film could be salvaged, to this film is really good, to loving it.  Well, I still hate the first third. And I only loved the last third, but DAMNIT JIM, my faith was restored by the end.

These are the voyages…   Damnit Jim, I’m a professor, not a movie critic.  But I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it.

PS Now bring me a prime universe tv-show, and please, please, please, don’t suck.


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