Exploring the Final Frontier

JJ Abram’s 2009 reboot of the beloved Star Trek franchise has been one of my favorite movies for some time now, and I am not alone in this. Critics and fans agree that this film is not only a great Star Trek film, but a great summer blockbuster, period. For those of you who haven’t seen it, here’s a (detailed) synopsis. Spoiler Alert!

The Stardate is 2233.04 and the Federation vessel USS Kelvin is surprised to find an enormous future Romulan ship, the Narada, emerging from a black hole. The Kelvin’s captain is murdered by the Romulan Captain Nero (Eric Bana), and his ship is destroyed by the Narada. 800 crew members manage to escape including Winona Kirk (Jennifer Morrison) and the newly-born James T. Kirk (Chris Pine). George Kirk, however, sacrifices himself to save the crew members.

Fast forward to Stardate 2250, and the adolescent Jim Kirk meets Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood). After a brief conversation, Pike convinces Kirk to join Starfleet. On board the shuttle to the orbiting Starfleet station, Kirk meets a distressed Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban). Three years pass when Earth receives a distress signal from Vulcan, and all cadets are assigned to their respective ships. Kirk, after being “grounded” from accusations of cheating by Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto), is brought aboard by McCoy. Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), Ahura (Zoe Saldana), and the Enterprise arrive at Vulcan after the rest of the fleet, which as been destroyed single-handedly by Nero.

After realizing the connection between Vulcan and the Kelvin incident, Kirk rushes to the bridge and attemps to prevent the Enterprise from meeting the same fate.  The Enterprise arrives at Vulcan, and Captain Pike is taken hostage by Nero, who is lowering a drill into the atmosphere to create a tunnel to the planet’s core.  Kirk and Sulu destroy the drill, but not before Nero can launch a black hole device into the center of the planet.  Krik and Sulu are brought back to the Enterprise along with most of the Vulcan High Council, including Spock’s father.  After attempting to attack Spock, Kirk is sent to Delta Vega, where he meets future Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg).  Kirk and Scott “beam” back to the Enterprise, where Kirk once again confronts Spock on the bridge.  After attacking Kirk, Spock relinquishes command of the ship to Kirk, who was promoted to First Officer by Pike.

The Enterprise, now under Kirk’s command, returns to Earth to confront Nero and the Narada.  Spock and Kirk beam aboard the Narada and fight their way to future Spock’s captured Vulcan ship.  Spock leaves in the ship while Kirk searches for Captain Pike.  Once outside the Narada, Spock taunts Nero into leaving Earth, where he is ambushed by the Enterprise.  The Vulcan ship, which contains the Red Matter, is driven into the Narada after Spock, Kirk, and Pike are all brought back to the Enterprise.  The Narada falls to the ensuing black hole.  The Enterprise barely escapes the black hole and returns to Earth, where a recuperating Captain Pike officially hands the Enterprise over to Kirk.  Future Spock watches from the balcony above.  The film ends with the classic Star Trek closer: “Space, the final frontier…”.

Many of the film’s science technology is straight from science fiction, but many of the technologies are hypothesized.  Early in the film, the Narada emerges from the future through a wormhole.  The Enterprise and other Federation ships are also capable of multiple factors of Warp speed, resulting in faster-than-light travel.  From a purely acceleration based perspective, achieving FTL speeds in impossible due to electromagnetic fields breaking down.  However, it is possible that the Enterprise runs on technology similar to the hypothesized warp drive that NASA is currently speculating.  The technology bears similar resemblance to that of Star Wars.  Both have futuristic laser-based weaponry, FTL travel speeds, and a myriad of different alien species (all of whom conveniently speak English.

This movie didn’t address any pressing social issues when it was released in 2009, but there is a notable amount of discrimination in the movie between races.  Aliens in the Star Trek universe are, for the most part, depicted as highly intelligent, highly advanced civilizations most capable of speaking fluent English, and capable of FTL travel speeds.  Spock experiences a significant amount of racism (if you can even call it that) due to his mixed heritage of both Human and Vulcan species.  McCoy calls him a “pointy-eared bastard” on multiple occasions and the entire Vulcan planet is destroyed by Nero, who showed no remorse for his mass genocide.

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