The Real Kirk and Spock Would Have Fixed The Time Line


John Podhoretz shares my discomfort with the manner in which J.J. Abrams wiped out all previous Star Trek canon in making the new Star Trek movie. (Major spoilers here). He compares the movie to City on the Edge  of Forever, one of several Star Trek episodes involving changes to the time line discussed in my review of the movie:

Without the plot discipline that requires a time-travel scenario to leave the past as it was, the whole business just becomes a Rube Goldberg machine, with characters simply jumping backward whenever they want to make the present-day reality more appealing to them. That is suitable for comedies involving time travel, like the two Bill and Ted movies and Back to the Future, but not for science fiction. For science fiction to work, and work memorably, it has to offer a believable reason for every alteration in the nature of reality.

The writer-producer-director J. J. Abrams seems intent on ignoring the need for rules–any rules. On his beautifully made and insanely exasperating science-fiction TV show Lost, people travel forwards and backwards in time whenever it suits the show’s fancy, can occupy the same time and space with their younger selves so that they literally exist in two places at once, and in general, make a hash of any coherent plotline.

Abrams has decided to imitate himself on the big screen. He has now produced and directed a new Star Trek movie, the 11th big-screen feature in the series and a deliberate attempt to relaunch it with a new cast of younger actors playing the Star Trek crew. All the trappings are good. The movie is dynamic and propulsive, and the new cast is terrific. It will surely be a hit.

But it’s a mess, and a disgraceful mess at that. That’s because Abrams and his screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, simply discard all fealty to the iron rules of time travel that made “City on the Edge of Forever”–the episode that was one of the key reasons the show so captured the imaginations of its viewers and became the phenomenon it did–such a haunting and memorable hour of television.

A gigantic alien spaceship from the future decides to rewrite history to its liking. That changes the past, but nobody seems all that interested in going back and fixing things, which is what would have happened on the show. Instead, we are asked to accept that a planet well known in Star Trek lore can be destroyed at a cost of six billion lives, and the event is simply accepted. Instead, Abrams and company also devise a deus ex machina in the form of one of the show’s most beloved characters. He won’t do anything to fix things, either, except try to turn young Kirk and young Spock into friends.

I still had a favorable view of the movie and felt that in many ways it remained true to Star Trek as I pointed out in my earlier review. I could easily overlook some minor changes from the past to reboot the series for a new era, and can understand why Abrams wanted to avoid having to follow every element of Star Trek canon, but there was no need for Abrams to change Star Trek as radically as he did. There were people doing Star Trek before Abrams and there will hopefully be people doing it after him.  Abrams wanted to leave himself free to kill off any characters or change the history of the Enterprise but to a certain degree living within the confines of the known Star Trek universe is part of writing Star Trek. Abrams is always free to exercise his creativity in writing other shows.

If Abrams had settled for only minor changes involving the Enterprise crew of the Kirk era, this would still leave people free to write of future generations while sticking to the main history presented in the previous shows. After all, slight changes in Kirk’s Enterprise would not have to have any bearing on a future show done along the lines of  Star Trek: The Next Generation. By making changes as radical as destroying a major planet, any future shows will be forced to choose between the original and the Abrams time line.

While Abrams simplified things for himself, he actually made Star Trek more complicated when looking at all the television shows and movies. Will we wind up with a situation as confusing as the multiple universes of the D.C. comics? Will discussions of Star Trek involving events which differ depending upon the time line make Star Trek appear as convoluted as Lost?

Abrams thought he was being true to Star Trek by using a plot device which was often used on the television shows. Matthew Yglasias accepted this writing, “Handling the desire to ditch elements of the established history through the mechanism of a goofy time travel plot is very much in the spirit of a franchise that’s full of goofy time travel plots.” This goofy time travel plot differed from the typical goofy Star Trek time travel plot by remaining in the altered time line.   As Podhoretz notes, if they were true to the show they would have fixed the time line and saved everyone who died.

As I pointed out in the comments to my earlier review, there are a couple of solutions (which I expect will show up somewhere in fan fiction). They could have the Enterprise and old Spock go into the future to prevent these events. Perhaps they could prevent Romulus from being destroyed, or otherwise intervene to prevent Nero from going back in time.

A second possibility, if they want to avoid further time travel, would be to launch an undercover operation on Romulus at the time of the movie and kill Nero’s ancestors.

Yet another possibility would be for Spock to go take a shower, and when he comes out be on Vulcan talking about the illogical dream he just had.

Comparisons to how time travel is also being used in Lost are inevitable. The comparisons are not as significant as above as Abrams isn’t actually involved with the current plotting of Lost, but it is still hard to ignore the comparison as we head into the season finale. On Lost, Jack is trying to prevent the event which caused Oceanic Flight 815 to crash on the island. We will find out what happens on Wednesday, but I have a feeling that, after being led to believe that what happened cannot be changed, Jack just might be successful.

We have been told that the finale of Lost will be a real game changer. Imagine if the episode ends with Oceanic Flight 815 arriving safely in Los Angeles and never crashing on the island. The main characters wouldn’t even know each other despite all the ways in which their lives turned out to be interconnected. This would really leave fans guessing as to where the show is going in the final season. They can easily get themselves out of  such a change next season  by having Ben or someone else change the time line yet again. I suspect the writers of Lost are capable of throwing something like this at us for the summer, or perhaps something even more bizarre.

It is one thing for Lost to play around with time lines which change back and forth, but fans expect more internal consistency to Star Trek.  On Star Trek the goal has always been to repair the time line and make sure things are as they were  intended to be.

Trippi Responds To Reports Of Plot To Sabotage Edwards Campaign

Joe Trippi has responded to the earlier reports that some Edwards staffers planed to sabotage the campaign if it looked like he might receive the nomination, for the good of the Democratic Party. Trippi writes, Complete BS — fantasyland – not true.”

Strange, that’s exactly what I usually thought whenever listening to John Edwards speak.

As for the doomsday plan, perhaps the people who planned this just didn’t think it was a good idea to let Joe Trippi in on the plan. Or perhaps they thought that making such claims after the election reduces some of the stigma of having accepted all those paychecks from Edwards. (It doesn’t.)

CNN has further response from Trippi.

Christian School Student Suspended For Attending Prom

A couple of days ago I reported on a student at a Christian school who was threatened with suspension if he attended a public school prom. He  attended the prom and as a result will not be allowed to attend graduation with his class:

A Heritage Christian senior attended a “great” Findlay High School prom despite warnings from his fundamentalist Baptist school that he would be suspended for doing so.

Tyler Frost, 17, danced and held hands with his girlfriend at the prom, attended by about 800 high school students, officials said.

Frost’s grandmother, Karen Frost, who teaches at Heritage Christian, said she had been praying for her grandson to “make the right decision.”

But Frost said he never wavered on attending the dance with his Findlay High School girlfriend, even though doing so violated Heritage Christian rules that forbid dancing, hand holding and rock music.

Frost is suspended from the 84-student school at 2000 Broad Ave. beginning today, according to a letter sent to Frost’s mother from Tim England, principal at Heritage. Frost has attended the school since kindergarten.

Frost will receive an “incomplete” on remaining assignments and will be banned from graduation ceremonies, according to England. He will receive his diploma after completing his final exams, England said.

Frost’s father, Stephan Johnson, said he plans to file a lawsuit against Heritage Christian because the suspension is unfair and unwarranted, he said.

The principal defended his actions:

In a statement on the school’s Web site, England quoted Bible verses to defend the school’s decision.

“Should a Christian place themselves at an event where young ladies will have low cut dresses and be dancing in them? Isn’t it contrary to the example of Joseph and the (Bible) verses I have stated?” England wrote.

Here in America the fundamentalists are more civilized than in other parts of the world. At least they didn’t stone him to death, although there were threats of expulsion if he was involved with alcohol or sex.

Posted in Education, Religion. 3 Comments »

Obama Reportedly Ready To Call Cheney’s Bluff On Torture Documents

Dick Cheney has been claiming that his policy on torture is vindicated by secret documents, and has been calling on Barack Obama to release them. Reportedly Obama is getting ready to do so but Greg Sargent reports they won’t help Cheney:

The White House has decided to declassify and release a classified 2004 CIA report about the torture program that is reported to have found no proof that torture foiled any terror plots on American soil — directly contradicting Cheney’s claims. The paper cites “allies” of the White House as a source.

Dem Congressional staffers tell me this report is the “holy grail,” because it is expected to detail torture in unprecedented detail and to cast doubt on the claim that torture works — and its release will almost certainly trigger howls of protest from conservatives.