Sunday, February 17, 2013

J.J. Abrahms

First off, I'm doing this on a tablet while recovering from the flu; not the best composition scenario. But in case the flu kills me I want to get this off my chest.

 J.J. Abrahms ruined Star Trek.

That's right. Ruined it. And I'm not talking about his time-traveling re-boot. That was genius. I'm talking about his either being completely tone-deaf to the characters. Or nonchalant about changing the characters to suit perceived tastes.

Last year before I ditched my Netflix account I watched all 79 episodes in order. What a revelation! I'd grown up watching Trek, but I had never seen whole episodes before, much less all at once and entire. (Older tv episodes are edited down to accommodate longer commercial breaks.) plus, I'm 20 years older; I pay better attention to what's going on onscreen. So imagine my surprise and delight when Kirk turns out to have been super-studious and serious about his career as a cadet and young officer. He was known for it. He was teased for it. He got to where he was--the captain of a fucking starship, one of only 12--by being super-smart, super-driven, and gung-ho about the Federation. In the Farscape universe Kirk would've been a Peace-keeper. In Serenity he'd have been Alliance. Kirk was willing to blow people up to preserve Federation ideals of Centralization, Darth Vader-style.

I was a little shocked. What an asshole! He also, and I couldn't tell if Starfleet practice was to dump cadets from the same class into assignments together, or whether Kirk worked it so his (few) friends got posted to the Enterprise, but he did start the series with a handful of Academy friends. He was not pals with Spock, McCoy, or Scott; theirs was a working relationship of captain and officers. So here's where Kirk turns from a one-note asshole into a character: the writers start killing off his friends. All of them! And remember, he doesn't have that many. It takes about a year and a half, but midway through the series, he is fucking alone on that boat. He doesn't even have a plant--or hobbies. It' just him and the Enterprise. Oh! and his bickering officers... No one likes or trusts Spock. He's an alien! You're in the Federation--a group to which you were introduced by Spock's people. Why no love for the Vulcan?

Kirk admires his intelligence and contributions to the ship, though whenever a conflict comes up between Spock's desire for scientific study or furthering Federation diversity and Kirk's desire to protect the status quo, Kirk wins. And the universe loses another last-of-its-kind creature or being, again and again.

So on the series, when things go poorly and Kirk is missing and/or presumed dead, and Spock is in charge? You can see the sharks circling. The other officers, McCoy in particular but all of them, go after Spock! Damn. It's so bad that Kirk makes a special video to his officers in case he ever is declared dead...He has to tell them to knock it off, to accept Spock as one of them and their new captain, to play nice. Of course after they watch the video Kirk turns up alive, but after that there are small changes. There's no more turning on Spock when Kirk disappears. Spock only has to be rebuffed once before the unique creature gets a death sentence, though now Kirk admits that if they can spare it, they will. And Kirk starts relying on his senior officers for friendship.

Other than both being human and working for the same employer McCoy and Kirk don't have a lot in common. And Scott's an engineer and gear-head while Kirk, though talented, is not. But Spock... Spock's family is bitterly disappointed that he's chosen a career in Starfleet instead of the Vulcan Academy of Science--geez, even a Federation career like his dad would be better. Kirk's family...we don't know a whole bunch, but Kirk's bro and sister-in-law are both scientists, and it seems easy to believe that maybe Kirk's family was disappointed when he chose Starfleet over the sciences. His parents dis drag him around the galaxy to different research posts. And nothing turns on Kirk like a scientist lady, preferably blonde, but certainly brainy. So these two have some things in common, and it was so satisfying watch the friendship develop--until NBC killed it, anyway. Thirty years and a handful of series and movies later comes the J.J. Abrahms reboot. And while he cleverly liberated himself from the events that came before, we now have a J.D. Kirk who is brash, brawls, doesn't study or work at it or for it, a rigid Spock, a buffoon Scott, and a one-liner McCoy...I want my old series back. Hey, Netflix!

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