Rediscovered Worlds

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By Jerry Pinto

THE PREQUEL comes with the assurance that things just can’t go wrong. The sequel, however, may spell disaster. Can you watch The X-Files reruns now that you know that Mr and Mrs Mulder have settled down to suburbia and that Fox has grown a beard?

It’s interesting to trace the path science fiction has taken from Star Trek, the television series, to Star Trek, the film. When the world’s most famous split infinitive was coined (“to boldly go where no man…”), grammar teachers held on to a Latinate rule with little sense in English and the world believed in technology and space. Today, space might not be the final frontier and we’ve downsized our ambitions of finding new life forms and civilizations. While Trekkies know that the world’s problems could be solved, conspiracy theorists are sure that no one wants to solve them. JJ Abrams doesn’t let that bother him; he knows what he has to do. He has to create a mythic past for a mythic future that hasn’t happened. Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman borrow from sources as diverse as Oedipus Rex and the story of Jor-El and Kal-El to fashion a back story for the vibe between Spock and Captain James T Kirk. The look and feel is Solaris and 2001: A Space Odyssey even if the science is highly suspect.

For instance, the Starship Enterprise sets out on her maiden voyage to answer a distress call from the planet Vulcan. Only Kirk, a young officer who isn’t even supposed to be on board, recognises that this as a trap. The planet has been taken over and a black hole is about to eat it up. Okay, that’s the kind of technology available at the time, you say. But then improbability is piled upon improbability. A character meets himself but apparently has already entered a black hole and left it again. Another character is introduced to an equation he will write later because time travel makes all possible.

That’s the problem. If all is possible, nothing is impossible. Once nothing is impossible, why bother with a plot at all? Why not keep going back and undoing everything that went wrong? Why not undo what makes the villain a villain? Why not change the past?

But if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and settle down to watch the special effects, this is as good as it gets. The psychological aspects of the characters — Kirk’s risk-taking, Spock’s aloofness — are handled with panache and enough is left for the next in the series.

It’s coming. Of course, it’s coming. At warp speed.

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