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New Star Trek Movie a Brilliant New Start
#4 of 100!
Where Everyone Has Gone Before...
I refuse to swipe any of the images from the new Star Trek movie, not knowing which of them is actually open to be reposted -- they're other people's art and photography and I respect copyright. But if you want to see the new cast for the beginning of the great legend revisited, here's the link for the <a href="http://www.startrekmovie.com/?gclid=CJ2098KKvJoCFR7yDAodIFPCdQ">official Star Trek Movie site with trailer.</a> They have a great image of the entire new cast looking every bit as young and naive as they should -- and the story rolls on.
The series in all its iterations relied on time travel and accidental time travel. A jaunt back to the beginnings of the original crew is a natural next step, almost inevitable -- and it worked. It flows with the series as a whole.
We do not have something as finite and tragic as the Arthurian cycle here -- but we do have something as enduring and culturally significant. Star Trek has shaped the world we live in. When a starship captain was forced by a villain to kiss his subordinate communications officer and objected strongly on the grounds that he was her commander on conflict of interest -- standing up furiously for the principles of the situation and completely implying that if she wasn't working for him he'd have swept her off her feet in a batted eyelash... that set the groundwork for the President of the United States that we just elected.
The ethics, the themes, the ideas behind Star Trek and its courageous acceptance of diversity have shaped this country's values and rung around the world. A band of actors fooling around with a space opera script and a bunch of writers led by a visionary producer created a collaborative work of art that will stand with the legends that like Arthur, will never be forgotten and always reinterpreted.
Star Trek has outlived some of its creators already. Gene Roddenberry is no longer here to see this latest triumph, and I wish he was.
He would've loved this film in every aspect. It is true to the spirit of the series, both the old first series and the best of the new.
It also uses one of the hoariest tricks of science fiction to make it work for continuity.
This is not the universe of the original series. This is the path not taken, an alternate universe created by the time traveler in the first seconds of the film where every character takes a path not taken yet they come together again as if by destiny -- well, actually, by destiny since the amount of time travel and time looping in all the series is so intense that I'm sure that ship and several of its crews would propagate sideways across more parallel worlds than you can count.
It's one of the most interesting and thoughtful examinations of that theme -- the road not taken -- that I've seen in a movie. It works in large part because all those historically important episodes and everything in between did get created. The dull episodes, the derivative ones, the silly ones, the bloopers all contribute to the whole of the Star Trek canon and in some ways are what makes it solid.
Goofy things do happen in life. Military blunders do happen. People look back with 20-20 hindsight and some of these things could not be shown as bloopers without something to compare with them -- without the familiarity of the original four seasons.
By doing that, they just freed themselves from the canon.
Anything can happen now. They can do things they didn't choose to in the old series. They can examine themes and concepts and social issues unthinkable in the 1960s -- literally in a cultural blind spot. I don't know if anyone back then could imagine that gay marriage would be legal anywhere or accepted, or that we've got a black President or that he'd be a darn good one and call himself a "mutt" truly representative of an America that's multicultural.
Many of the issues that were flaming controversies when the first series aired have become the status quo, get called political correctness and joked about, people take them for granted and you can't get a job if you're an insulting bigot because your boss doesn't want to get sued if you offend a customer or coworker. Certain ethnic insults are more objectionable now than the old familiar cuss words.
We're reaching for a technological Camelot and for the hope that just as we can create machines to do things no one's ever done before and have physical luxuries and health and comforts no one ever had before, that human culture and human societies can be improved. That there really is such a thing as social progress, that cultures can grow and mature as individuals do. It's a tall order.
It's also one of the things that is intensely cheerful and happy at a time people are scared out of their wits over the economy. We want hope. We want to be reminded that physical prosperity can be created with clever engineering and that innovation can solve problems, not just create them. We want to believe that green technologies can maintain an Earth as green and healthy as Earth always looks in the Star Trek universe, it's not the smogfilled crud of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Star Trek at its core is the "Camelot That Can Be," the hope of a better world that we can build. Not a golden time lost in the past that could never be more than a brief moment of beauty and justice, but the optimistic message that we are capable of making our own moral choices and ultimately, society is something we are all making up every day that we participate in it.
One character's life path changes dramatically. Several of theirs do, but one of them made a life choice and took a path not taken that diverged in exactly the way one of mine might have -- his choice of which college to attend had as profound an effect on his life as it did on mine. In seeing the differences in his character created by that choice, I can see who I would have become if I hadn't made my bad choice at the time.
Why that matters?
I am alive today and I can choose to heal and be more like that man, that Robert, than I would've been if I didn't look and didn't think about it.
Star Trek didn't just toss platitudes and tack a moral onto each story. Star Trek at its best shows rather than tells its themes, or shows them while telling, it has layers and depths. This movie, simply titled Star Trek, rings the true note of its deepest theme -- that it's a good thing to think. That it's not wussy or dorky to stop and ask the tough questions of life of yourself before barreling through making important decisions on whatever your ancestors told you to think.
That to a very great extent we live in the world we create with our decisions and can take control of our lives. Even at the moments when we have the least control of our situations, we can decide how to behave and how to take it. This movie has heart.
I came away from it feeling stronger. I came away from it feeling more confident, more self-accepting, more forgiving of my past mistakes and more optimistic about being able to turn my future bloopers into serendipity -- as some of my past blunders have been. Leaving the most secure employer-job of my past was a dumb move at the time that led to the best years of my life when I discovered I could live as a self employed artist and live on much less money with much more freedom -- and that was a big step toward discovering why I need more elbow room than other people and why I had a harder time doing that or any job than other people do.
It's a Utopian vision. It's counterbalanced by some equally powerful cautionary ones -- most of those have a specific message and warning. But the cautionary stories have been heeded. I'm still breathing here and still have a country to elect the President that I voted for in. No one's set off World War III with the ludicrous nuclear stockpiles in the world, and the Berlin Wall did come down.
I've seen quite a few reasons for hope in my time.
The way most of the world views torture now is about the way it viewed literal slavery when I was a kid -- and a couple of hundred years ago questioning slavery was a lunatic fringe idea.
I've got more connection with the human race today than I would have had at any earlier time in history. I'm disabled -- and so all the technological advances between my childhood and now have made a much bigger difference in my life than they would to someone who had no congenital defects. Way too many otherwise interesting historical periods are times I'd have just died very very young, too young to write about anything.
I don't need to be wealthy to self publish either. I can afford to be a thinker and a writer, to send these Hubs out to whoever wants to read them, let my ideas bang around in the marketplace of ideas -- and work on the great questions of our times, the big question Star Trek has always raised and always left open-ended -- how to get along with people who categorically can't stand me for any of numerous reasons, without oppressing them in the process.
It's a rules discussion as old as democracy -- who's included and whose voices count? How do you keep the masses from stamping out any unpopular minority?
This movie is worth watching. The gamble worked on all levels. It's light fun entertainment, you can enjoy it on that flash and bang special effects and hair-raising plot level and you can come home and think deep thoughts and you can wonder about the characters' antecedents and gossip about all the new connections -- we all know these people. We know the crew of the first Enterprise better than we know most of our neighbors. We know this story.
This telling is full of energy and it's now, it's our Star Trek of 2009. We all have second chances every day we breathe. We can connect with people we cut off for good or decide to let go of dysfunctional relationships instead of blindly pursuing endless vengeful vicious cycles. Why is this story so moralistic -- and so compelling?
Very few stories and institutions actually reach people disenchanted by corruption in high places. Very few moral authorities have any authority left. But human beings need myths and fables, need to have the stories that shape how we look at other people and how to behave in bad situations. Star Trek has always excelled in showing the best and worst of human nature and sentient nature -- it's always also asking the question "What is human?"
When none of the traditions alone can answer those questions in ways that only work locally for members of an immersive monoculture, those questions need to be raised in ways that don't get someone shot just by raising them. If carrying on the way things were would create disaster, because we are not living in the environment our ancestors did, then we need to look at who we are now and create the patterns of living that'll thrive in our real circumstances.
Technology changes things at a pace that is not generational any more. Technological generations are less than a year. My cheap little brand-new netbook has the same power and speed that my three year old good laptop did -- and cost a lot less and it's smaller and it's got all sorts of genuine improvements streamlined in. It's better for its purpose. I've finally got one that even with my physical weakness I can carry around as easily as -- most people could carry my other one, which is now the big machine for viewing movies and games on a larger screen.
These innovations are tangible and they change my patterns of living. In a good way. This tiny machine may mean that I go out of my house next November and go to a coffeehouse or library and hang out with other <a href="http://www.nanowrimo.org">Nanowrimo</a> writers to work on my novel and socialize in person with them. Losing four and a half pounds of weight has put it within reach instead of nearly within reach to do that.
I'm thus included where I was excluded, not always by other people's bigotry but just the simple physical logistics of my crooked bones.
I don't know that within my life I won't wind up cured of some of the incurables. I do know at least one of the defects that afflict me is now treatable if it happens in a child and is diagnosed earlier -- if I was born today, I wouldn't actually suffer from it but with treatment wouldn't even have that problem. One of my disabilities is an actual obsolete one, an antique!
Cautionary SF is important too -- its warnings do get heeded and they are vital. The point of looking ahead is to avoid the cliffs and pitfalls and leave town before the volcano actually blows. Those things do make sense.
But the optimistic side of the SF coin is what gives people the inner grit to face difficulty and overcome it, to handle it well when life kicks them in the teeth. You can't know that about yourself till tragedy happens, no one can. But if you rehearse and the myths show how you can stand up to adversity, that can be there inside you when it kicks you as if those fictional people were there cheering you on. If you're alone at the time it kicks, that can make the difference of whether you survive or not.
Thanks, Gene. I know you aren't here to read that now, but those who knew you are. I know you saw enough of it to know which way the wind is blowing and how good this story is, how much good it does in the world to this day.
It's a good movie. If you like Star Trek you'll enjoy this one. For me, it meant reconciling a deep painful part of my past and being able to move forward.
Isn't that what great art and literature is supposed to do -- reach anyone who sees it and move them, speak to the human condition even in the lives of the extreme? I felt more human coming out of it and moved to be a bit more humane. That's good true art.