May 12, 2009


Star Trek Review: Who Would Captain James T. Kirk Vote for? JFK, of Course (James P. Pinkerton, May 8, 2009, US News)

Chris Pine (born 1980), who stars as the new Captain Kirk, spoke diplomatically to Entertainment Weekly as he compared current film fare: "You've got apocalyptic movies like Watchmen and Dark Knight—movies that explore the darker side of human psychology—and they're great. But this is not going to be one of those movies," he added. "This is not nihilistic. This is not grim. This is a bright vision of the future, full of hope and optimism."

And that's a far cry from not only the politics of the last few decades, but also from much recent science fiction, which has descended from techno-inventiveness into pseudo-Wagnerian mysticism. The six alternate-franchise Star Wars movies, for example, stretching from 1977 to 2005, are of a different ilk, owing more to the "sword and sorcery" genre than to Jules Verne.

By contrast, the creator of "Star Trek," Gene Roddenberry, was that rare breed—a tech poet. He had been a B-17 pilot during World War Two, so it was easy for him to see military machinery as a valuable companion to human valor. And like his fellow vet John F. Kennedy, Roddenberry saw no contradiction between flag-waving patriotism and what has since been called "big government." Indeed, it was only a muscularly robust Uncle Sam, in the view of the Greatest Generation, who could defeat fascism abroad and racism at home—with help, of course, from the popular culture; the original Trek series featured the first inter-racial kiss on TV, between Kirk and Lt. Uhura.

By contrast, George Lucas' Star Wars films put forth the bleakest possible genetic determinism. The Phantom Menace (1999), for instance, tells us that membership in the Jedi Knights is reckoned not by virtue, but by the presence of "midi-chlorians" in the blood. In other words, if the Star Trek series was about equal opportunity—including an equal chance for all females anywhere in the galaxy to enjoy a fling with Captain Kirk—Star Wars was about something dark and drear: immutable race-based destiny.

On the other hand, the new "Star Trek" vindicates the high call of duty, summoning all who hear it. At the beginning of the film, a veteran space commander tells Kirk, then still in his young-punk phase, "Your father was captain of a starship for twelve minutes. He saved 800 lives, including yours. I dare you to do better. Enlist in Starfleet." And Kirk does.

Mr. Pinkerton gets himself a little bit confused here--he's calling for a rejection of Science.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 12, 2009 6:04 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus