Fact #1: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry modeled the show on Gulliver's Travels, wanting each episode to be both an exciting adventure and a social parable. The show tackled all kinds of 60s social issues -- feminism, racism, ecology, religion, the Cold War, and Vietnam. Perhaps the biggest hurdle facing Abrams' film is whether or not it can attain that same level of social awareness. Will the new Trek film make a commentary on anything, or will it be nothing but empty action in the name of rebooting?
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Fact #2: The cast was a television landmark, with a black woman and Asian man in prominent roles -- and it featured the first interracial kiss in history between that black woman, Lt. Uhura, and Captain Kirk. The ongoing message of the show was that humanity would overcome racial and social barriers to reach the stars. It's a message that's still relevant today, a positivity that keeps legions of fans (many of them outcasts of some sort) telling each other to "Live long and prosper." While it's no longer shocking to see interracial couples or Asian characters, television and film still lack strong roles for women and minorities. I'm hoping that while Abrams brought the Trek miniskirt back, he remembers to give Uhura some badass moments.
Fact #3: Captain Kirk was not the original captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. That honor fell to Captain Christopher Pike (played by Jeffery Hunter), who appeared in the pilot episode. However, Hunter was uninterested in continuing the series, and a new character was introduced in his place. And thus, the world became richer for having known Captain James Tiberius Kirk -- and Star Trek mythology used a casting change to create some interesting storylines, something that Abrams seems to really run with. The voice you hear suggesting that Kirk contemplate Starfleet is that of Pike, a story decision that is bound to rile continuity fans.
Fact # 4: Kirk was based on C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower, I would argue that the unhappy Napoleonic captain ended up having far less of an impact on Kirk's character than the Kobayashi Maru test did. This was a Starfleet test that all cadets were doomed to fail, presenting an unwinnable scenario that tested them on the content of their character rather than their tactical decisions. After taking it three times, Kirk rewired the computer in order to win ... and was rewarded for it. It's moves like this that make him the youngest Starfleet captain, and win him all the ladies. We know Pike and Kobayashi Maru both figure in Abrams' movie -- and either could be why Spock isn't too keen on Kirk in the trailer.
Fact #5: Though famed for his cool logic and unflappable cool, Spock was actually a rebel and an outcast. He's half Vulcan and half human, a lineage which earned him no end of harassment in childhood. While Abrams' trailer begins with a young Kirk breaking the rules, in the series, it was Spock who had the wayward childhood. (He did worse than wrecking a car -- he lost his childhood pet!) While losing his childhood pet inspired him to follow the Vulcan path of logic and emotional self control, his human side flares up in a talent for occasional lying and exaggerating. Zachary Quinto certainly looks the part, but will he get to tackle the complexities of Spock's character? Will he be too emotional? Too stiff and Vulcan? We shall see.
Fact #6: Star Trek never demonizes its enemies. The Enterprise crew may not have liked their adversaries, but Trek lacked a bloodthirsty side, and there was never talk of an "axis of evil" or annihilation. Kirk felt admiration for and grief at the death of a Romulan captain in one episode, "Balance of Terror," and the Romulan captain shared the sentiment with his final words. "In a different reality, I could have called you friend." The Trek crew even worked with the Klingons to defeat an alien entity. Will the new Star Trek feel a similar compassion for Eric Bana's sinister Nero? Or will this enlightenment be abandoned in favor of having a clear cut villain?
Fact #7: Trek was never about technology -- despite its beaming technology and warp drive, the original series generally insisted that it was the human values like loyalty, compassion and love of freedom that would have the most influence. Kirk even talked computers into the equivalent of a nervous breakdown, proving logic alone could not meet human needs. In one episode, the capacity for self-sacrifice to save others determined the survival of a race. And technological breakdowns often moved the plots, suggesting that technology made a good servant, but a poor master. Will the i-Bridge keep up that tradition, or will sleek technology rule Abrams Trek?
Fact #8: At first glance, the trailer seems to suggest that the recast Enterprise crew are a bunch of rebellious and wacky characters who will be forced to come together -- an image at odds with their peaceful and orderly 60s versions. But really, the Enterprise crew was always willing to go against authority, particularly in the later movies where they stole the Enterprise and broke all kinds of Starfleet rules.
Fact #9: And speaking of rules -- the guiding rule of Star Trek is the Prime Directive, which dictates that there can be no interference with the internal affairs of other civilizations. Special care is supposed to be taken with civilizations that haven't developed interstellar space flight, for fear of messing up their natural development. Of course, the Prime Directive is violated all the freaking time. Often, this serves as a poignant reminder that lesser civilizations are inevitably destroyed when they come in contact with advanced technology. Other times, it just shows how badass and rule-bending the crew of the Enterprise is.
Fact #10: Trek invented geekdom. Without Star Trek, I really believe there would be no geeks. Sure, people would still dig sci-fi and read comic books, but the fanaticism and dedication that marks true nerdery was born when fans were challenged to boldly go where no man had gone before. Is it possible to reinvent something that spawned an entire culture?