Sitting in the theater watching producer/director J.J. Abrams' (TV's Alias and Lost) new Star Trek prequel, I elbowed my pal on several occasions and whispered what section of back story this movie was currently explaining--partly because I wanted him to appreciate the scene and partly because I wanted him to appreciate my knowledge of Star Trek. I personally grew up addicted to Star Trek spin-off shows The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, but I made time over the years to watch all six of the original cast's movies and a handful of episodes of the show. The repeated elbow jabs I doled out got me to thinking: Does one actually need to be well acquainted with the original series and films to appreciate this new edition?
I'm working to improve my ability to succinctly synopsize (see boiseweekly.com's 3SR), so I'll limit myself to three sentences as I discuss what occurred in the original films.
At the outset, the story is slow and viewers are eased back into the Trek universe by long shots of the Enterprise and the crew's pajama-like uniforms, but in Part II, Kirk's nemesis and Shatner's melodramatic delivery resurface ("Do you hear me, Khan?! Do YOU?!"); alas, Spock meets his demise. The crew then searches for their fallen science officer while makeup-laden Christopher Lloyd and a Klingon crew harass the Enterprise, and when a strange alien ship threatens to destroy Earth, the planet's only hope is for Kirk and Co. to go whaling in the 1980s. Part V sees Spock's eccentric brother lead the crew into a mislabeled Eden, and Part VI is all about debates--and battles--over making peace with the Klingons.
In the newly released prequel, we witness Captain Kirk's birth and see snapshots of Kirk and Mr. Spock as children, young men and Star Fleet officers. This is a full-on prequel and a different storytelling style, covering decades instead of single missions.
The action is so amped up now that if one only watched the original series beforehand, he or she may only see a thread of connection. However, the Star Trek universe--in the form of the Next Generation movies--has been evolving for years.
Many of the new portrayals of these extremely iconic sci-fi characters are puzzling. While Zachary Quinto, (TV's 24 and Heroes) absolutely nails the look and speech pattern of Spock, Chris Pine (Just My Luck) reinvents Kirk. I didn't hear or see anything Shatner-like in Pine, but I credit the script for keeping Kirk brash. Simon Pegg (Sean of the Dead) and Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) are mere shades away from the original Scotty and Dr. McCoy--who is my favorite character in all-original cast productions--and provide loads of comic relief.
Pretend now I'm throwing elbows in your direction as the opening credits roll.
"You're going to love this two-hour roller coaster ride, but to really appreciate it, you probably should've been around for my 12-hour Trek fest last week," I say. "Ooh, sorry about your ribs there."