||January 23 2014 09:50 PM
NuTrek's Faulty Moral Compass
I want to preface this by saying I really like the last two Trek movies--they are in the the 3 and 4 slots after TMP and TWoK. And, while I don't view them as anything other than complete reboots, with more in common with the off-Trek of my childhood--the Gold Key Comics, the Peter Pan story records--I don't find any of the elements that depart from TOS to be a potential deal-breaker. Any but one, that is.
In Star Trek, when Nero has been defeated and the Narada crippled, Kirk offers assistance, just as he would in TOS. Nero, for obvious reasons, tells him to go fuck himself. So far, so good--Mark Lenard's Romulan Commander did pretty much the same in "Balance of Terror," though he was much more gentlemanly about it. But then, with the Narada not firing off a single weapon, Kirk unloads on her, sticking around just long enough to get caught in the red matter black hole's gravity well.
Uh, no. Not only did it make Kirk look petty and vicious (and I've heard the argument that Kirk couldn't risk letting even a wounded Narada pop out somewhere in the past; be nice if he or Spock said as much), it dropped the chance for a much better dramatic moment: Kirk makes his offer, Nero refuses then locks a tractor beam or--better still--shoots harpoons trailing chains of rilistrongium alloy into Enterprise. Kirk's fussilade would then have been an act of self defense. He could even have echoed his alterna-self's line from the last time we saw an adversary opt for attempted murder-suicide rather than accept help as he wearily mutters, "Nero, I've had enough of you."
Into Darkness has the same problem. Spock, pushed past his breaking point, is clearly trying to murder Khan, not apprehend him. That makes sense, actually, and it's a reminder of the pre-Surakian savagery that lurks in all Vulcans, not just he half-human ones. It also underscores just how deep his brotherly love for Kirk runs and just how fragile watching his mother and his home planet die has left him, a year or so on. And then, before he can take it too far and cross a line he would have a tough time living with himself for crossing, Uhura stops him. Again, so far so good.
But her rationale? "He's our only chance to save Kirk!" (And why couldn't any of the other superpopsicles--products of the same gene manipulation and selective breeding--have done the same?) Pretty selfish, you ask me. How about: "Spock, stop! This is not you! This isn't Vulcan! This isn't your mother, it isn't Kirk!" Dramatically, I'd have saved the miracle blood reveal until after they had Khan in custody.
This stuff really bugs me. If our heroes are moral only until it affects them personally, they fail to be heroes, like their TOS counterparts. Heroes do the right hings for the right reasons. If I want selfish, brutal killers as protagonists, I'll watch The Sopranos or Breaking Bad (and I did and do watch them--they are two of my favorite shows; The Sopranos vies with TOS for my all-time favorite). I expect better of Kirk and Spock and I expect better of those writing for them.