30th Nov2009

Hey Star Trek! gotchoo ALTERED STATES!?

by jerad.formby

a great star trek chris pine stands ontop of rocking hey star trek artwork

JJ Abrams’ Star Trek is now on DVD. We’re sure most of you have watched it or re-watched it. We especially hope that some of you holdouts saw for the first time. No matter your thoughts on the film and its ramifications, we hope you had fun.

When we were first told that the new movie would feature young James Kirk, there were a number of questions that had to be asked. Most wanted to know if the sets would look the same. We wanted to know what elements known from Trek’s long history were going to be included. We just generally hoped that Bad Robot would do it right.

The movie we got was spectacular and fun. The writers were clever enough to build an unforeseen approach to the material at hand. Their approach now seems so obvious and we should have seen it coming.

They set their movie in an alternate reality.

while explaining concepts of alternates doc brown is handy dandy
Star Trek has often used alternate realities and alternate timelines to tell stories that for one reason or another could not be told in the proper Star Trek universe. The original series introduced us to the mirror universe, but the true fun of seeing a place where everyone and everything seemed to be the exact opposite of what we’d come to know was seeing through the eyes of our own players.

Fast forward to the Next Generation and we’re given a very special episode called Yesterday’s Enterprise. This episode was based around a time-altering event that occurred decades earlier which thrust the entire universe into a chaos only the viewers and (for some reason) Guinan could observe.

Heralded as a very favorite episode amongst many a Star Trek fan, Yesterday’s Enterprise might be argued as the first truly hardcore episode of Star Trek. The definition of hardcore may only read as warlike, battle like, and downright rabid.

Yesterday's Enterprise brought exciting new additions to the look of TNG

We are shown new versions of Picard and everyone else onboard the Enterprise D. They are no longer explorers, but soldiers fighting a losing war with the Klingon Empire. It’s interesting to watch this new universe unfold because Picard is similar to the one we all know and love, but his choices are made through the hardened prism of war.

Many a fan has speculated what a show set in that timeline might be and have wondered wistfully if that show could have been produced in TNG’s stead. People simply enjoyed seeing these characters a little differently and more than one was fascinated with the idea of a Star Trek Wars.

yup yup yup accuse new trek of it all you want but you wanted it in 1989

The episode ends with what could be termed a “pesky reset button.” More or less, the timeline is corrected when Picard takes Guinan’s advice. On her insistance, Picard sends an entire starship back in time to lose a fight –effectively killing everyone on board. His hope is that Guinan is right and the war with the Klingons is a mistake.

He was right to trust her, because the timeline is “properly” restored to one where Tasha’s already dead. It’s interesting to me that Tasha’s fresh appearance in Yesterday’s Enterprise is resolved rather simply –she falls in love with one of the doomed crewman and chooses to go back with him to the losing fight.

That effectively negates the question of which timeline is “better”. In two distinct realities, Tasha is fated to either live or die. This could be true for any number of other people, but the one we all know is Tasha. Tasha isn’t meant to exist in a life of exploration. She is best served in a life of war it seems, because in that reality she gets to live until at least the third season of The Next Generation –possibly longer if not for love.

tasha was only brilliant when we first met her okay yesterday's enterprise was sad

This episode showed us the joy of seeing Picard but not Picard. When the matter was finally closed, Picard didn’t have a recollection of this altered state. Nobody did except for Guinan. Oh. And us. We had a great time watching that bizzznisss.

Another very famous altered timeline is found in the Delta Quadrant with Starship Voyager. Many a fan has screamed about the glory that is the two part story “Year in Hell.” This is similar to its cousin “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” but welcomes a new approach to altered reality.

This altered reality takes place in season four of the series and begins in season four of the series. The story details Voyager’s attempt to get through a certain region of space while being bombarded by a time-altering weapon.

time weapons can be used for good or ill well mostly ill

The story is fascinating because it’s Voyager’s attempts to negate the time-altering weapon that in effect doom them to fighting an entire year until the ship is beyond repair and Janeway insisting that the fight can still be won.

She’s right.

She fights until she regains crewman that have been imprisoned and until the time weapon is effectively destroyed. This introduces the “pesky reset button” again, because all of the choices for the last year of Voyager’s crew is simply negated. Life goes on with none of the crew any the wiser that Voyager was destroyed as Janeway took her principles all the way to the grave –by ramming the weapon with her frickin’ ship!

This episode shares with “Yesterday’s Enterprise” the hardcore factor that makes many a fan salivate at the possibilities. But, unlike it’s dear TNG cousin, gets a touch of ridicule from fans because none of it “mattered.”

We reason that TNG is off the hook for its very similar crime because Guinan remembers and if someone remembers than it’s all-good-in-the-hood. This logic seems silly to us because we really don’t think Guinan’s memory is really all that crucial to Star Trek storytelling.

There’s also the evidence that Tasha lived on and produced off-spring, so obviously the other timeline did in-fact happen –much to Picard and company’s surprise. We suppose that by staying tuned long enough to meet Sela is reward enough to fans that “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is somehow more legitimate than “Year in Hell.”

i missed tasha too but dammit denise dammit dammit dammit dammit

We find the two similar and see merits in both stories. Janeway but not Janeway is actually a hell of a lot closer to Janeway Prime. Picard but not Picard is not quite the same as Picard Prime –because Not Picard’s entire career has been fighting Klingons.
But he’s very similar

Which brings us to the new movie.

Here we are introduced to an altered life of James Kirk. One massive, life altering assault ensures that James Kirk grows up without his father. Some say this is what leads to his rebellious streak, but we disagree. We’ve always fancied James Kirk as a well-read rebel (which is what the movie gave us). What’s really changed is the scope of his early life, career and how its unfolded.

There are other nit-picking ramifications that leave fans dissastisfied with the alternate timeline. Apparently Chekov was born later than in the Prime Timeline. Many have a problem with the bridge looking like it’s not built in the 1960s. Many don’t understand why this need for an alternate reality was necessary to the movie at all.

The reason is simple. Kirk is dead in the proper timeline and with that playing so finally, something had to change in the movie. So time was changed. This was the only way that the Abrams crew could see getting around the prequel paradox that plagued the new Star Wars trilogy.

The Star Wars Prequel Problem With Editorial

We know that seems obvious and seems like the smallest morsel to offer hungry Star Trek fans demanding their proper timeline be restored, but we make the effort anyway. We want you to embrace this new movie even if it is a “Yesterday’s Enterprise” or a “Year in Hell.”

The new movie is actually more “Year in Hell” than “Yesterday’s Enterprise” because our crew are very close to their original counterparts. The most significant change we see is in Spock who has lost a planet and his mother. The ramifications of these choices very well might paint a very different Spock –the new movie’s sequel will tell us for sure.

The brilliance of these alternate reality episodes is that we get to see our characters pushed in directions that the “proper” timeline could never allow. It is fun to see Picard with a phaser strapped to his hip, but we don’t want to see it all the time. It is fun to see Janeway covered in burns and attempting to maintain ship morale with half the ship blown away –but not week to week. And it is fun to see Young Kirk and Young Spock meeting for the first time at a Starfleet Academy Inquiry –it’s actually hard to speculate where else they might meet.

That’s the sound of Star Trek fans shaking the fence. If there was to be a prequel, they would argue that seeing how they met for real would be the point. Watching their careers unfold with each of their proper details intact would be the point. Getting Chekov’s frickin’ age right would be the point and selling a modern audience on 60s retro would be the point.

did you really want it to be the frikkin brady bunch movie

That’s not the point. The point is telling a good Star Trek story with characters who are close enough to the ones we know and love. All of us know in our heart of hearts that to make this prequel fit perfectly with canon would be to burden it with a series of details that would make us Trekkies high-five each other, but leave us in a cold and very long movie.

Then why mess with Kirk at all? Why go into this alternate reality business and use those characters if the story fans want to see can’t practically be told?

Because Kirk, Spock, and McCoy encompass the most basic Star Trek there is. It’s the most beautiful, purest dose that is Star Trek. This isn’t to say that the other crews aren’t Star Trek, but how many crews does the Trek universe really need? More crews isn’t the answer.

The answer is getting people to fall back in love with the original crew of the Enterprise. It’s from there that the gate opens to a wide and wonderful 40 year canon of other movies and shows –many of which new fans will experience for the first time.

the real reason the new star trek rocks

Perhaps one or two of them will watch enough of the old stuff to develop the same problems many of us have with this new movie

But we doubt it. Because their first memory of Young Kirk and Young Spock will be supported time and time again when they watch the Original Series. When they run out of Blu-Rays to watch, they’ll begrudgingly try Star Trek: The Next Generation and like it well enough. Someone will get them hooked on Deep Space Nine and they’ll hope Voyager is better than they heard.

Yessir, Enterprise will be watched in one weekend and they will be left with all of us anxiously awaiting the movie’s sequel –curious to see if it might not correct things and restore their new favorite shows’ universe (something that could actually be the end of a trilogy).

But it won’t matter all that much, because watching Star Trek is fun and will always be fun no matter the universe, time, or reality.

even joss whedon went there and killed our favorite slayer how could one not

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  • Steve

    I couldn’t agree more. Nicely done, sir.

  • Matt Sorvillo

    Uhmmm… ‘scuse me, but, uh… The new film ISN’T set in an alternate reality at all. Think of it from the elder Spock’s perspective, it’s all one long chronology. In fact, if it weren’t there would have been no point in including time travel in the story at all. Nero could have just been a pissed off Romulan, instead of a pissed off FUTURE Romulan. Taking this idea further, everything in canon from the original series (and beyond) still DOES matter. It’s what led up to elder Spock getting so old to begin with. Everything, all of it, led up to his eventual failure to save Romulus, and the beginning of the current plot line. All that time wasn’t erased. If it were, not only would the elder Spock not have remembered it, he would have ceased to exist entirely. It all happened, just not to our hip new cast. But it did happen to the elder Spock, and Nero, and the entire crew of the Narada. So, what’s ll the fuss about exactly?

  • Kahless

    Loved this blog. I think that the final point made by Jerad sums it up quite nicely, I quote:

    “…watching Star Trek is fun and will always be fun no matter the universe, time, or reality. ”

    Spot On!

  • http://apizzagirl.blogspot.com PizzaGirl

    Great blog! I tend to think of time-travel as halfway between alternate universe and linear chronology. In reality (this one) there’s no time travel, so I think for any science fiction story or universe all the creators have to do is decide on the rules for how time travel works and stick with it. I don’t know how the other time travel happened, but it seems like a possibility that the method of time travel might affect the effects. For example, maybe black-holes tear holes not only in time but in reality and take Nero Spock Prime to an alternate universe (previously running parallel). So when they undo their own “history” they don’t disappear because their universe is unchanged. Perhaps in their original universe they simply disappeared and the federation now has to deal with the loss of Romulus and Ambassador Spock.

  • Son of Worf

    If you look at all the episodes of Star Trek that dealt with time travel, most of them had to do with traveling to the past & unwittingly mess up the time line gets and/or to go back & repair the damage done to the original time line from a third party. This Star Trek uses contemporary theories of time travel to do what they need to do. Preserve the Prime universe we all know & love and give Star Trek a reboot. Lets face it. Star Trek needed new blood if it was going to make it big & attract new fans & thrive. Sure, we would still have our previous Star Trek still, but, now we will get new adventures with the TOS crew we know & love. Albeit different actors playing them. The movie may not be perfect, but it was what was needed to give Star Trek the Viagra it needed as I heard a Star Trek novel author eloquently put it. The new Star Trek still respects it’s history, but it tells a fun, fast paced story. It will be the fastest 2 hours anybody will ever experience.

  • Parttimehoe

    Don’t care too much bout the blog, but who is the blonde with the pink ribbon in her hair blowin a bubble? Please Anybody Who Knows?