Star Trek: The ADHD Generation


I’m not a Trekkie, or at least I don’t think I am. Aside from the movies, as a kid I regularly consumed reruns of The Original Series, as well as The Animated Series (which was, in many ways equal, if not even superior, to TOS). I was equally devoted to The Next Generation, even through the first few seasons, when (as memory serves) the most harrowing crisis experienced aboard the Enterprise-D was Troi’s mother having a bad hair day. Even though I know it eventually redeemed itself, I didn’t have the same patience with DS9 and lost interest after a sporadic handful of first-season episodes which seemed to primarily consist of Kira endlessly whining about how the Cardassians were being mean to her and Odo giving everyone on the station the stink-eye (although I’ve been meaning to eventually go back and pick it up from the start of The Dominion War). I similarly gave up on Voyager at the end of the first season, when I realized that I would be rather content to leave the Voyager crew to die a cold, ignominious death in the Delta Quadrant (with the exception of Neelix, for whom death would have been too kind a fate), and after a few odd episodes of Enterprise, I realized that I was done with the franchise (for the time-being). So while I don’t consider myself an expert on the Star Trek universe in its entirety, I consider myself qualified enough to offer an authoritative criticism concerning the Enterprise and crew from the 23rd through the 24th century.

Although I’ve touched on the recent Star Trek “reboot” before, I’ve been relatively restrained on the subject, recognizing that this topic would threaten to drown whatever other point I may have been making (although, truthfully, there probably wasn’t one) in a frothing tidal wave of nerd rage. But with the release of the second of the “rebooted” Star Trek films imminent, I’ve decided it’s time to finally open the flood gates and see where these rough waters take us.

While my general disdain of J.J. Abrams is rather well-documented, I’ll start off by putting it on the record that although I have a lot of issues with the “new” Star Trek, I don’t consider it the worst of the Trek movies. That distinction, by far and away, belongs to William Shatner’s rambling pseudo-philosophical recount of Spock’s hippie half-brother’s search for God, where the most imminent threat to the galaxy was the possibility of a spontaneous drum circle breaking out after Sybok turned the Enterprise into a fucking hippie commune or Spock and McCoy having a psychotic break after (presumably) going on a bad acid trip.

In keeping with the commoditization of geek culture, I’ve discussed the obvious tonal shift of the reboot, which brings us Star Trek, by way of Michael Bay, meaning it has to be sexy, fast-paced (so as not to lose the mainstream attention-deficit demographic) and have lots of shit blowing up. Of course, given the pretty damned spotty track record of Star Trek movies to-date (the lesser of which I consider to be 1, 5, and all of the TNG movies except First Contact), there’s obviously been no successful “formula” established, so I’m willing to concede that the new approach might not necessarily be a terrible thing, so long as a) it’s not completely bereft of intelligence and b) it doesn’t completely piss on my wistful Star Trek memories. Of these two, while the first is certainly debatable, the second is likely home to most of the nits I’ll be picking, and although Abrams has a reputation for “fan service”, I don’t give a shit if I see a fucking stray tribble hiding in the corner or someone name-checks the Kobayashi Maru, if the balance of the movie is ultimately incongruous with established Star Trek conventions. But so far as “fan service” is concerned, I will give Abrams credit for resisting the temptation to throw in a William Shatner cameo, since (as fond as I admittedly am of Bill), he’s regressed to the point that (much like Donald Trump) he’s become a living parody of himself, and doesn’t seem able to be able to play any role except “William Shatner” playing Captain Kirk.

I’m also not so nostalgic that I demand absolute authenticity in the aesthetics of the Star Trek reboot. I vaguely remember hearing some bullshit explanation as to why the NCC-1701 didn’t still have toggle switches and analog chronographs (I don’t know if it was official), but to be honest, I couldn’t give a shit and don’t really need an explanation that strains credibility to explain why the bridge of the original Enterprise doesn’t still look like the cocktail lounge from a 1970s airport Hilton. As far as continuity is concerned, Enterprise already ret-conned the look without explanation (as far as I know) and even Zeffram Cochrane’s homemade spaceship seemed a damn sight more advanced than the original Enterprise (if for no other reason than because it had a badass stereo), so I don’t feel the need to quibble over the details of the past-future aesthetics (although I do hope the red velour uniforms make a return at some point).

At any rate, I’ll begin with the first egregious sin that the new Star Trek movie commits: the basic plot, which, admittedly, isn’t particularly strong in any given Trek movie; but nonetheless, time travel is perhaps the most overused trope in the entirety of the Star Trek franchise (next to the fucking Borg), which shows up in 3 of the prior 10 movies (though it may not be technically accurate, I include the Nexus horseshit from Generations in that tally) and about 60% of the television episodes. Altogether, the collective crews of the Enterprise have spent so much time fucking about in the past, I have a hard time believing that the universe hasn’t completely collapsed in upon itself like the end of a Looney Toons cartoon (with Mark Twain saying “That’s all, folks”). Of course, given J.J. Abrams’ long-standing erection for time travel and alternate timelines, we can surmise that the space-time continuum is actually quite resilient, so I suppose he figured it could take one more for the team. But more importantly, the alternate timeline horseshit ultimately gives him a blank check to fuck with Star Trek canon with wanton abandon, which is why Kirk is now a dick (to be fair Kirk was always a bit of an ass, but he was never an outright dickhead) with a chip on his shoulder (which we can apparently chalk up to daddy issues), Spock is a whiny prima donna (although if they had given him a goatee, I would have forgiven everything else), Hikaru Sulu is now Korean, Scotty is a fucking Englishman, and Chekov apparently graduated the academy a few years early.

But assuming that the universe didn’t rightfully collapse after yet another hole is ripped in the tattered fabric of the space-time continuum, the only thing that comes of it this time is a spaceship full of pissed-off Romulans (and eventually Spock). Of course, the fact that the Romulans end up tearing-ass through the galaxy, destroying Vulcan along the way, is mostly a criticism of the Federation, who are obviously asleep at the helm, since Romulans are essentially the milquetoast villains of the Star Trek universe, which is why you never see anyone walking around at a Star Trek convention with pointy ears claiming to be a Romulan, because, at the end of the day, Romulans are basically whiny, Klingon-wannabe Vulcans.

More importantly, however, the Romulans’ anger is completely misplaced throughout the entire movie. Granting that Spock fucked up and accidently destroyed Romulus, it’s ultimately their own goddamned fault. As much as I like Spock, by the time this takes place, he’s got to be going on 400 years old (give or take), and although Vulcans are relatively hardy creatures, and allowing that Spock perhaps got something of an extension with his whole Genesis “rebirth”, he’s still pretty goddamned old, even for a Vulcan. In addition, we know from Sarek that Vulcans can go senile, and since it obviously runs in the family, I think it’s fair to assume, by this time, that Spock is probably starting to slip. And yet, the Romulans, who should have a pretty good notion that he’s not a spring chicken, decide to entrust the fate of their entire planet to him, to such a degree that it doesn’t even occur to them that maybe they should go hang out on Remus for a while, just in case Spock has a senior moment and gets the red and green wires mixed up. Not to mention the fact that apparently they don’t even have anyone else sharp enough to at least double-check his work or keep an eye on the red matter as he sails off in his little spaceship with the left blinker flashing. Of course, for all I know, it was all a clever ruse and he was actually giving them the finger as he took off, in which case, destroying Vulcan was only fair turnabout, but nonetheless, I would argue that the Romulans had it coming either way. (Also, Spock had effectively defected from the Federation by then, anyway, so there was no really no reason for the Romulans to take it out on Earth, too, other than just for the sake of being assholes).

However, the most worrying aspect of the “new” Star Trek universe is that Starfleet seems to have become so completely inept or desperate that they’re willing to give over their flagship to the same cocky cadet who just fucking wrecked it. Granted, Kirk and his merry band of scrappy upstarts saved Earth and foiled the *cough* Romulans *cough*, but he clearly demonstrated that he doesn’t have the maturity to captain the Enterprise. When he had them on the ropes, he could have simply backed away and let the pouty, tattooed Romulans get sucked into the black hole or whatever the fuck it was (admittedly, I haven’t seen the movie in a while), but instead decides to hang around so he can essentially say “fuck you” in dramatic fashion, almost getting the entire crew killed and trashing the Enterprise in the process. And yet, despite this, he’s officially given command of the Enterprise (presumably once it’s out of the shop). And while it’s debatable as to whether or not he actually deserves to be given command of a ship at all at this point, he certainly doesn’t deserve anything more than perhaps some used Defiant-class ship, for the same reason you don’t buy your 16 year-old a new Lexus: you know they’re going to fuck it up. And Pike, despite appearing gracious about it, has every right to be pissed, since he’s clearly been fucked out of a command that he’s rightfully earned because some asshole kid got lucky; but this isn’t acknowledged because now everyone’s just happy that Pike (presumably) isn’t going to end up in a zoo on Talos IV.

More importantly, however, this sets a dangerous precedent for the Federation, as a governing organization. I’ll admit that I’m not intimately familiar with the workings of the 23rd century economy. Despite, on several occasions, overhearing that they didn’t use money, I have to assume that this is possibly just a condition of employment by the United Federation of Planets (or perhaps just Starfleet). At the very least, we know that there exists a black market that uses some form of currency (latinum or otherwise), because McCoy obviously isn’t getting his supply of Romulan Ale at the Starfleet commissary. And if the quasi-totalitarian Federation government doesn’t, in fact, own all of the resources and means of production and distribution of all member planets of the Federation, and all “citizens” of the UFP are not, in reality, Starfleet conscripts, then there has to exist some civilian population and some underlying economy that supports it (I’m sure that there’s some Star Fleet wiki or book that clarifies some of this, but so far as I’m concerned, it’s not canon, so I can speculate all I like), which, in turn, supports the Federation. This means that the Federation and, therefore Starfleet, must be taxpayer funded, and the taxpayers are ultimately saddled with the burden of Kirk’s previous (and presumably future) recklessness, making Starfleet’s decision to give Kirk command of the Enterprise an equally reckless decision and an egregious abuse of the public trust. One can only assume that this kind of precedent will eventually pave the way for future Starfleet financial scandals such as 5,000 credit (or wing-wangs or whatever) tricorders (although maybe that’s a good deal; I can’t be certain) and covertly selling photon torpedoes to the Klingons and using the proceeds to fund the Maquis.

But aside from being financially irresponsible, it’s also incongruent with almost every administrative action we’ve previously seen from Starfleet. If nothing else, Starfleet Command has always been predictably anal, and between the Kobayashi Maru (which they were ready to hang Kirk out to dry for), thrashing the Enterprise, and generally being insubordinate, Starfleet would never have let Kirk completely slide on all of these, let alone given him command of the Enterprise, despite saving Earth. We already know that despite rescuing Spock (although it was kinda on Kirk, anyway, since he dumped him on the Genesis planet to begin with) and, more importantly, saving the Earth from interstellar whale watchers (or the 23rd-century equivalent of Greenpeace), Kirk was still demoted to Captain solely on the charge of insubordination, and this was after he had already saved the galaxy at least a few dozen times prior (for the record, despite being unceremoniously plucked from the ocean and dumped into the San Francisco Bay two hundred years in the future, it was pretty sporting of the whales to straightaway tell the probe that everything was cool and send it on its way, although to be fair, Spock actually did clear it with them, first). Again, if this is the kind of precedent the “new” Starfleet is setting, it’s only a matter of time before some Starfleet Admiral is caught getting a hummer in his office and drunken Captains are crashing their starships into the fucking moon.

Despite all this, in the end, I didn’t hate the new Star Trek. I’m not even sure that I completely disliked it. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I could say that, much like the typical superhero “origin” story (which is essentially what this was), it required pulling a significant portion of the story out of someone’s ass in order to set the table for the rest of the series, and in that light, perhaps there’s still hope for the franchise, after all. I’m not overly optimistic, but I suspect I’ll still see Star Trek Into Darkness (although for some reason, I can’t seem to make peace with that name) in the theater, even though I was desperately hoping we wouldn’t be getting Sherlock Holmes in a big-budget “Space Seed” rehash, but what can you expect with J.J. “Timewarp” Abrams? There’ll likely be some high-speed chases, Kirk will hook up with Uhura and the inevitable Carol Marcus stand-in, Spock will fret in the form of deadpan one-liners delivered with comedic timing, they’ll probably blow up the Enterprise again, Kirk will be promoted to Admiral for it, and manage to act like a smug dick the whole time. But who knows? Maybe it’ll grow on me. After all, I thought Picard was an insufferable tight-ass for the first season or so.

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