Stardate 2233.04: An immensely powerful vessel of unknown origin appears in the path of the Federation starship U.S.S. Kelvin. The vessel’s commander summons the captain of the Kelvin to negotiate a cease-fire in person, and he acceeds to this demand, having little choice and even less backup. He leaves Commander George Kirk in charge of the Kelvin. The captain is questioned about a Vulcan ambassador named Spock whom he has never met, and is killed in cold blood by his hosts. George Kirk orders the Kelvin to beat a hasty retreat, but the early-23rd-century Starfleet ship is simply no match for its attacker. Kirk orders an evacuation and prepares to leave with his wife, who is in labor. When it becomes apparent that the Kelvin’s autopilot is incapable of defending the evacuation shuttles, Kirk remains on the bridge and sets the Kelvin on a collision course with its unknown assailant. Seconds before he dies, Kirk hears the sound of his son being born and tells his wife to name the child Jim.
Although he possesses exceptional intelligence and instincts, James Tiberius Kirk has a troubled childhood and a police record before he even reaches his 20s. After a bar dust-up with a group of Starfleet cadets that doesn’t quite go his way, Kirk comes to the attention of Captain Christopher Pike, who wrote his Starfleet dissertation on the U.S.S. Kelvin mission and is more than familiar with Kirk’s background. Pike challenges Kirk to challenge himself – to enlist in Starfleet. Kirk declines the invitation, but then Pike makes it a dare that Kirk can’t back down from: prove that he’s at least the leader of men that George Kirk was. Kirk joins Starfleet, promising that he’ll complete the four-year academy program in three.
Stardate 2258.42: Rising Starfleet cadet James T. Kirk is brought before a Starfleet Academy board of inquiry on accusations that he aced the dreaded unwinnable Kobayashi Maru simulation by reprogramming it to allow him to win. The Academy graduate responsible for the simulation’s programming, Commander Spock, is less than impressed with Kirk. But before judgement can be passed, a planet-wide distress signal from Vulcan mobilizes Starfleet. Though he’s intended to stay on Earth pending the outcome of his hearing, Kirk is smuggled aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise by his Academy friend, Dr. Leonard McCoy, under the pretenses of a medical emergency. When he hears details of what’s happening at Vulcan, Kirk breaks his cover and alerts Captain Pike to the danger: whatever is attacking Vulcan is the same unknown ship that destroyed the Kelvin. Over Spock’s protests, Pike enters the fray with caution – and the Enterprise is the only Starfleet ship to survive the initial engagement. As with the Kelvin, Pike is summoned to the ship to meet Captain Nero, who questions him about Earth’s defenses – but on the way to Nero’s ship, Pike drops Kirk, Sulu and another crewman with hand-to-hand combat experience off to sabotage the drilling platform Nero has aimed at Vulcan. Kirk and Sulu are the only crew members who survive the trip to the drilling platform and make quick work of the Romulans manning it, but they’re unable to prevent it from firing. By firing red matter into the planet’s core, the platform creates a small black hole, and Vulcan is destroyed. Spock is able to rescue several members of the Vulcan Science Council, including his father Sarek, but his human mother is lost.
In the wake of this disaster, Kirk insists that the Enterprise should intercept Nero’s ship rather than wasting time rendezvousing with the rest of Starfleet, but Spock will brook no disagreement with his commands and eventually has Kirk put off the ship in a life pod which lands on remote Federation outpost Delta Vega. After a close encounter – almost too close to survive – with the local fauna, Kirk finds himself in the company of an elderly Vulcan who says that he is Spock – from a future that Nero’s actions have changed permanently. The elder Spock convinces Kirk that his best chance for victory against Nero is to join forces with the younger Spock, however unlikely such a prospect seems given their current relationship. They discover a Federation base where a Starfleet engineer named Montgomery Scott is languishing in obscurity, but thanks to Spock, Scott is about to make a momentous breakthrough that will rather handily put Kirk back aboard the Enterprise.
Once he’s back on the Enterprise, Kirk must single-handedly convince Spock that the destruction of Vulcan has caused enough emotional upset – even in a Vulcan – that Spock is unfit for duty. When Spock declares himself unfit to serve as captain, that leaves Pike’s choice for acting first officer – Kirk – to take command. His mission is to save Earth from Nero, and the odds are against him. On the other hand, James T. Kirk has the U.S.S. Enterprise at his command, along with a crew that, regardless of the changes to the timeline, is destined to help him make history.
screenplay by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman
directed by J.J. Abrams
music by Michael Giacchino
Cast: Chris Pine (James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Spock), Leonard Nimoy (Spock), Eric Bana (Nero), Bruce Greenwood (Captain Christopher Pike), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard McCoy), Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Simon Pegg (Scotty), John Cho (Sulu), Anton Yelchin (Chekov), Ben Cross (Sarek), Winona Ryder (Amanda), Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk), Jennifer Morrison (Winona Kirk), Rachel Nichols (Gaila), Faran Tahir (Captain Robau), Clifton Collins Jr. (Ayel), Antonio Elias (Officer Pitts), Sean Gerace (Tactical Officer), Randy Pausch (Kelvin Crew Member), Tim Griffin (Kelvin Engineer), Freda Foh Shen (Kelvin Helmsman), Kasia Kowalczyk (Kelvin Alien), Jason Brooks (Romulan Helmsman), Sonita Henry (Kelvin Doctor), Kelvin Yu (Medical Technician #1), Marta Martin (Medical Technician #2), Tavarus Conley (Kelvin Crew Member), Jeff Castle (Kelvin Crew Member #2), Billy Brown (Med Evac Pilot), Jimmy Bennett (young Kirk), Greg Grunberg (Kirk’s Stepdad), Spencer Daniels (Johnny), Jeremy Fitzgerald (Iowa Cop), Zoe Chernov (Vulcan Student), Max Chernov (Vulcan Student), Jacob Kogan (Young Spock), James Henrie (Vulcan Bully #1), Colby Paul (Vulcan Bully #2), Cody Klop (Vulcan Bully #3), Akiva Goldsman (Vulcan Council Member #1), Anna Katarina (Vulcan Council Member #2), Douglas Tait (Long Face Bar Alien), Tony Guma (Lew the Bartender), Gerald W. Abrams (Barfly #1), James McGrath Jr. (Barfly #2), Jason Matthew Smith (Burly Cadet #1), Marcus Young (Burly Cadet #2), Bob Clendenin (Shipyard Worker), Darlena Tejeiro (Flight Officer), Reggie Lee (Test Administrator #1), Jeffrey Byron (Test Administrator #2), Jonathan Dixon (Simulator Tactical Officer), Tyler Perry (Admiral Barnett), Ben Binswagner (Admiral Komack), Margot Farley (College Council Stenographer), Paul McGillion (Barracks Officer), Lisa Vidal (Barracks Officer), Alex Nevil (Shuttle Officer), Kimberly Arland (Cadet Alien #1), Sufe M. Bradshaw (Cadet Alien #2), Jeff Chase (Cadet Alien #3), Charlie Haugk (Enterprise Crew Member #1), Nana Hill (Enterprise Crew Member #2), Michael Saglimbeni (Enterprise Crew Member #3), John Blackman (Enterprise Crew Member #4), Jack Millard (Enterprise Crew Member #5), Shaela Luter (Enterprise Crew Member #6), Sabrina Morris (Enterprise Crew Member #7), Michelle Parylak (Enterprise Crew Member #8), Oz Perkins (Enterprise Communiations Officer), Amanda Foreman (Hannity), Michael Berry Jr. (Romulan Tactical Officer), Lucia Rijker (Romulan Communications Officer), Pasha Lychnikoff (Romulan Commander), Matthew Beisner (Romulan Crew Member #1), Neville Page (Romulan Crew Member), Jesper Inglis (Romulan Crew Member #3), Greg Ellis (Chief Engineer Olson), Marlene Forte (Transport Chief), Leonard O. Turner (Vulcan Elder #1), Mark Bramhall (Vulcan Elder #2), Ronald F. Hoiseck (Vulcan Elder #3), Irene Roseen (Vulcan Elder #4), Jeff O’Haco (Vulcan Elder #5), Scottie Thompson (Nero’s Wife), Deep Roy (Keenser), Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Starfleet Computer Voice), William Morgan Sheppard (Vulcan Science Minister)
Notes: Star Trek effectively sets up an entirely new timeline for future installments of the movie franchise to follow. The existing timeline – the original 1960s series, its TV spinoffs and the first ten films – are now a separate timeline unaffected by the new adventures of the Enterprise that carry forward from the end of this movie. Intriguingly, it’s possible that this was a separate timeline even prior to Nero’s intervention, given some of the technology seen aboard the early-23rd-century U.S.S. Kelvin. This film was the last acting role for the late Majel Barrett Roddenberry, who provided the Federation computer voice as she had done since the original Star Trek series. Blink-and-you’ll-miss-him “Barracks Officer” Paul McGillion – whom Kirk asks about his berth on the Enterprise – was formerly a regular cast member on Stargate Atlantis, and auditioned for the part of Scotty. Deep Roy, who plays Scotty’s unusual alien sidekick, is a performer well-known on both sides of the Atlantic; he has appeared in Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who, among many other UK series. The story of Nero’s origins, and Spock’s mission, begins in the original timeline’s 24th century and is chronicled in the graphic novel “Star Trek: Countdown”.
LogBook entry and review by Earl Green
Review: It seems to be the most popular film in the franchise since Star Trek II – and if box office receipts are anything to go by, it may prove to be even more popular than that. The movie simply titled Star Trek has “rebooted” the Star Trek universe for a new generation of fans, and seems to be winning over a wide audience – an audience that, perhaps, wouldn’t have bothered if this was simply a follow-up to the Next Generation flick Star Trek: Nemesis.
To put it bluntly, Star Trek has needed this for some time. Now, around the time that writers and directors new to the franchise teamed up to give us Nemesis, we were hearing a lot about new blood then too – but all that “new blood” really brought to the table, under the thumb of the executive producer who had been at the wheel since 1991, was a glossy new look for what was essentially a watered-down rehash of Star Trek II. Star Trek takes a bolder stab at reintroducing Trek to a new audience by completely dispensing with what has gone before. To say that this was a risky move may be the understatement of the decade – Trek fans love their delicately-balanced fictional history, and you don’t even want to wade into a debate about whether or not novels, comics or games are “canonical” to that history. To tell this crowd that this history is now going to be retold in a different way…well…let’s just say that I’m surprised at the acceptance the new movie seems to have found. Some of that may be a knee-jerk reaction to the general perception that the aforementioned long-serving executive producer had flown the franchise into the ground at top speed: any new talent at the helm would surely be a good thing. And for that talent to be none other than the prodigious creative mind behind such genre-skirting favorites as Lost and Alias…could it get better?
Ultimately, I felt the result was analogous to the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie – given that the studio mandate was for a reboot of the franchise to make Star Trek less of an “inside joke” for a select (and legendarily geeky) crowd, it’s better than we had any reason to expect it to be. The casting is spot-on, the directing energetic, the characters relatable and largely likable, the new extrapolation of the Starfleet future is interesting, and the end result is quite watchable. Are there some time-travel-induced plot headaches? Yes, there are – it’s a time travel movie, and they can’t all be Back To The Future Part II. But even the new elements that fly in the face of what’s gone before – i.e. Uhura and Spock having a relationship – aren’t completely out of left field (many fans have pointed out some instances in original series episodes where there seemed to be some subtle flirtation in play between the two). Is it old Star Trek? No – but the folks bankrolling the whole thing had already made that decision before Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman, Lindelof, et al. got the gig. That it comes as close as it does, and pays homage in places where it doesn’t come that close, speaks to some effort being made to maintain at least some of the spirit of Star Trek.
Chris Pine and Zach Quinto are a formidable force as Kirk and Spock. Without doing a comedic imitation of William Shatner’s occasionally off-rhythm staccato speech pattern, Pine made me believe he’s young James T. Kirk from sheer swagger alone. Quinto’s Spock, similarly, is not Nimoy’s Spock, but given the events that unfold in the movie, we’re presented here with a Spock under wildly different influences and outside forces than what we’ve seen before short of the death-and-rebirth arc of the 1980s movies. Holding most of the first half of the film together, however, is its unsung hero: Bruce Greenwood as Captain Christopher Pike. Greenwood is an actor I’ve long admired for his gravitas and unerring dramatic instincts – I’ve been waiting for him to crop up in Star Trek in some form since the 1990s (especially after his starring vehicle, the UPN series Nowhere Man, was cut short after a single season during Voyager’s early days). Pike is the throughline that brings Kirk into Starfleet and pairs Kirk with Spock, and unlike many prior television and movie Treks, Pike – and the other captains seen in Star Trek (namely Faran Tahir as Captain Robau of the U.S.S. Kelvin) – do not come across as cyphers who telegraph “If only this captain had James T. Kirk’s infallible command instincts!” to the audience. In this movie, Kirk is still developing those instincts, and everyone including Pike seems to sense that there’s something there, and for once, we don’t get a lame duck who is obviously inferior to Kirk/Picard/etc. Greenwood’s Pike has command presence, and I’m heartened at the thought that he’s left alive (and promoted to admiral) by te end of the story.
Are there letdowns? A few – I wasn’t crazy about things like the Budweiser and Nokia product placements, or Scotty’s Gremlinesque sidekick (or, for that matter, Scotty’s dead-last non-prominence among the lead characters). I’ve seen much complaining from fandom about the big-pipes-and-valves reimagining of the Enterprise’s engineering deck, and the ever-present lens flares on the Enterprise bridge. Of the latter, I can appreciate that Abrams and his director of photography were attempting a style of lighting/shooting the bridge that isn’t what we’re used to, on Star Trek or anything else, but if it’s taking some folks right out of the story, maybe it’s worth thinking about dialing the flaring lights down a little bit in the next movie, though I thought it was an interesting enough technique that I wouldn’t argue for its complete elimination. My other advice for the next film(s) in the series: avoid time travel, period. Fan films have already subjected us to the “Spot the original series actor!” syndrome; I wouldn’t be upset if we don’t see Nimoy again in whatever films follow this one.
It’s the diehard Trek fan part of me that’s still doing a bit of head-scratching over the time travel mechanics of this movie. My preferred reading of the events in Star Trek is that the “existing” timeline – the original series, TNG, DS9, Voyager, and the movies revolving around those entities – is an alternate universe, separate from where the movies will carry forward from here. Spock and Nero, from that existing timeline, not only traveled back in time but jumped tracks sideways, whether intentionally or not. There are some subtle clues on hand to support this approach – i.e. the early-23rd-century U.S.S. Kelvin having technology that even the late-23rd-century Enterprise of the previous movies didn’t have – and it really does leave the fewest roadblocks to comprehending the whole thing and just enjoying the movie.
But Star Trek as a whole is an entity that hasn’t ever really made up its mind on dealing with time travel. Let’s use hard drives as an analogy.
- The Destructive Overwrite Theory. When it has served the writers’ purposes, Star Trek has treated the timeline as one single strand, changes to which completely overwrite future events (City On The Edge Of Forever, Yesterday’s Enterprise, Star Trek: First Contact, etc.). For the purposes of our hard drive analogy, the timeline is a single file to which changes are saved; once new changes are saved to the timeline, what was there before cannot be retrieved.
- The “Save A Copy” Theory. When it has served different writers’ purposes, there are several concurrent, parallel timelines that do not intersect unless extraordinary measures of intervention take place (Mirror Mirror and its numerous sequels, the TNG episode Parallels, Voyager’s Deadlock, etc.). With this theory, every time that Star Trek has told a time travel/paradox story, a new timeline has been generated/created (so we’re up to, what, universe #368 now?), but the original still exists elsewhere.
- The “Save It To A Floppy, And Then Walk Slowly Past A Powerful Electromagnet” Theory. Every once in a while, there have been curve balls that twisted time into a pretzel with an absolute minimum of rhyme and/or reason (Star Trek: Generations, Enterprise’s entire Temporal Cold War strand, Voyager’s string of time-hopping “Captain Braxton” episodes). Keep Dulmer and Lucsly on speed-dial for these; a strong grasp of temporal mechanics, and even stronger drinks, will be needed.
To put it mildly, the confusion as to which is the definitive approach continues with Star Trek, which, for better or worse, hinges on time travel. The “multiple timeline” approach is probably best for keeping everyone happy, so TNG/DS9/Voyager characters can continue to appear in print, comics and games (and you can bet that they will – unlike Doctor Who, whose publishing program switched over to the new series millieu in its entirety, it would seem that Paramount, via its Simon & Schuster and Pocket Books publishing arms, is supporting the “multiple timeline” theory). Heck, maybe there’s a universe where Kirk really does look like James Cawley.
I’ve heard numerous interpretations as to the new movie forcing a “destructive overwrite” of the hundreds of hours of TV and film that were available to Trek fans before Chris Pine ever sat in the captain’s chair…but as I’ve pointed out above, the franchise can’t make up its own mind about how time travel works. The movie’s dialogue pays lip service to an alternate timeline, and that’s really the least-headache-inducing option: the stories that we associate with Kirk and Spock will never happen to this Kirk and Spock in quite the same way, if at all, but they happened to another Kirk and Spock somewhere.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed Star Trek. It’s a rollicking good action flick that manages to split the difference – usually (but not always) successfully – between paying homage to past Star Trek and carving its own path. It’s the carving-its-own-path that now becomes the high-flying tightrope act. The filmmakers still have some room to expand here: the altered timeline of the new movies is an open book, and I’d like to see a return to Star Trek-as-vehicle-for-social-commentary. I understand that it’ll never be as deep a commentary in two hours of film as opposed to the development possible with an ongoing TV series, but it’d be nice to see something a bit meatier. Fandom also has room to grow: I’ve observed forums and chats in which some fans are stating a desire to see, for lack of a better way to put it, The Wrath Of Khan retold, but with a twist – no! No, no, no. This is the same fandom that quite rightly pounced when Rick Berman’s regime kept rehashing plotlines, if not entire scripts (compare Enterprise‘s Doctor’s Orders to Voyager‘s One – virtually the same script with different characters plugged in); with the decks cleared for completely new voyages of the starship Enterprise, let’s have precisely that – new stories, not just an altered-timeline variation on a 40+ year old story that’s already been told quite sufficiently.
Whether or not that balancing act can be pulled off over whatever movies follow is the real question; but for now, Star Trek provides a promising new jumping-off point.