But whatever you think Star Trek is, was or should be, there is one specific, overwhelming issue with STID that should upset just about every Star Trek fan, and yet it hasn't (and no, I'm not referring to Khan – another, different problem altogether). I'm talking about the infamous "transwarp transporter' that was first introduced in the last film as a "deus ex machina" – a plot device introduced out of nowhere to satisfy an impossible situation with an equally ludicrous solution. In short, the "transwarp transporter" (TT) can apparently transport people from one point to another no matter the receiving end's location, distance or speed. And it can do it instantaneously! It's one of those things that you assume the writers want you to not notice and then they never bring it up again. But no! This singularly bad idea was resurrected for Star Trek Into Darkness, which means that from now on, this device is part of this Star Trek's universe.
"So what," you say? "What's the big deal?" Well, let's look at this (forgive me) logically. We now have a device that can beam someone to...well... anywhere. Across solar systems, across even interstellar space...ANYWHERE!!!
Which begs a question: why does Star Trek need starships anymore?
Simply put, it doesn't – the TT makes starships obsolete. I'm not splitting hairs or using selective truth to make a point. Given the way the device is used IN TWO FILMS, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is the fact that Star Trek no longer needs an Enterprise or any other ship to get from here to there, because now you can transport lightyears in a snap. And like that metaphorical gorilla, this fact is totally ignored.
And therein lies the problem that I have with these movies. Director JJ Abrams and his writers invented the TT just to fill a plot hole and in so doing Abrams negates the very premise upon which Star Trek is built – exploration of the Galaxy aboard the Starship Enterprise – and is either not aware of it or simply doesn't care. There are no other options.
But despite the TT being a game-changer in our fictional universe, after each time it is used, there's no acknowledgement that the basics of Trek science and warp physics have been redefined by this miraculous device. But how can that be? If we suddenly had a device that could send us from our homes to the other side of the planet (or anywhere else) in an instant, we wouldn't need cars anymore. Trains and planes would cease to be used, and our civilization would forever be changed, right? THIS WOULD BE A BIG DEAL!!!
Alas, apparently in the world of new Star Trek, everyone forgets about this ground-breaking technology until such a time as they need it to perform yet another miracle. And that is simply lousy storytelling, whether you're talking Star Trek, Sherlock Holmes, or Hamlet.
By needlessly introducing this magical device we are left with nothing but a non sequitur: if the world of Star Trek has Transwarp Transporters then we don't need the Enterprise, but if we don't need the Enterprise, we can't tell very interesting stories, so we can't have Transwarp Transporters, but we DO have Transwarp Transporters, but that means...
And on and on and on.
Unfortunately, the Transwarp Transporter is only a symptom, not the real disease. The true sickness with STID is the willingness to trade-off true, emotional storytelling with expediency. What's next – a hand phaser that can incinerate a planet? Don't laugh – to JJ it's just another plot device to make a situation easy to resolve.
Star Trek shouldn't be easy. Our heroes shouldn't be able to get out of situations via magic technology or magic blood or magic screenplays. They should win because they are smarter, more capable and more determined than their opponent. Trick transporters bely that.
Star Trek has always been about the human condition and aspiring to be better. The action part has always, ALWAYS been subordinate to the story, just as it was with the original Star Wars, for instance. I need Star Trek to be better than Armageddon and Transformers. I need it to aspire to greatness, not settle for being popcorn fodder. Copying Wrath of Khan or simply mentioning the word "family" does not make for truly emotional connections. I need more depth than duplication.
A friend of mine recently said that he'd rather have bad Star Trek than no Trek at all. I'm exactly the opposite. If Star Trek aspires to be something greater than mindless entertainment and fails, so be it. But to set the bar so low as ID does is selling Star Trek short. I hope the next Trek is turned over to someone who is fundamentally a better storyteller. A person that understands that the story is the most important part of any movie and that to settle for stitching together a series of action scenes that make no sense lacks vision.
It's HARD to make a good movie. So we need better, smarter people making them. My favorite Trek film, Wrath of Khan, is not flawless, but it has no deal breakers – moments so incredulous as to pull me out of the story. I don't need a perfect movie – just one that doesn't insult my intelligence.