Thursday, May 21, 2009
Indulge a trekkie once more.
I’ve pretty much confined myself to watching DVDs at home. But I felt that the new Star Trek movie should be seen in the movie house where the sound is better, and where I can allow the suspension of disbelief unfold before my eyes as I won't have a remote control to pause a scene when I want to go to the john.
I know I should have followed the tv series so I can familiarize with the characters in the movie. But I came into the series much later in life. And the only reason for that was not that I could not relate to it when it first came out in the 1960s, but that we had no TV in the 1960s. The first time I saw a “Star Trek” episode was in the reruns of the 1970s.
One particular idea in the series that has always fascinated me is Starfleet's "Prime Directive". It is a non-negotiable premise of contract with other civilization. It commands trekkers not to interfere with the natural evolution of more primitive societies whatever the reason. The logic being that interference, however well-intentioned, however benign, however humane, will produce disastrous results.
That theme, unfolded in dramatic, amusing, and other worldly adventures, but which is in fact as timely and very worldly as our today’s headlines. If you think about it, this “Prime Directive” is a hugely enlightened concept, and strikes at the heart of imperialism. It rejects all the excuses for conquering other peoples on the grounds of civilizing them or baptizing them into a new religion.
You introduce new ideas, sure. You coax, you persuade, you argue, sure. But you do not interfere. You do not give one tribe guns or blasters to use against another because they are the better tribe. You do not introduce warp drive to simple societies and not expect distortions in their development.
Yes, the stardate may be the future, but the concept is here and now and may be found in the UN. That is the premise of mutual respect and non-interference. I’ve always thought that if George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had grown up on Star Trek, the world might have been a safer place to live in. Or the Arabs, particularly the Iraqis, might have had a better chance to live long and prosper.
That is what makes me a lot more partial to Star Trek than to Star Wars. Star Trek inspires wonder, about what we are and are capable of, about our animal instincts and angelic strivings, about space being the final frontier—but which space, the inner or outer one? All this told with wit and magic, with manic energy and desperate adventure.
Doesn’t hurt that just about everyone in the film is fantastically good-looking and that there’s no shortage of slickly directed action sequences. It was also sweet to include Leonard Nimoy (the original Mr. Spock) in this incarnation… I cried when he appeared on screen.
At the end of JJ Abrams’ stellar reinvention, when the new crew of the USS Enterprise is assembled on the deck, Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, McCoy, Scottie, and Chekov, looking bedraggled after weathering a violent storm but ready to brave new ones, I was one of those up on my feet applauding. A new day has dawned. Another trek beckons.
If you haven’t seen this movie, go quickly. Or should I say, boldly?