Monday, December 28, 2015


Like half the world, I recently saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens (some spoilers ahead). Unlike much of that same group, however, I attended it with a great deal of trepidation because of its director, JJ Abrams. That concern stemed from the fact that I had yet to see an Abrams movie that I liked and had seen several I disliked and/or hated. This did not bode well for me (cue Vader's March).

Imagine my surprise, then, when I left the theater with a smile, rather than the scowl that usually accompanies an Abrams movie. While the movie was far from perfect – as many have pointed out, it's really a rehash of earlier Star Wars films rather than an all new story – as a remake it was pretty good. Most importantly, it was true to the nature of Star Wars and its well-established classic characters. While more originality would have been welcome, at least he didn't shit on what had come before.

Vader vs Spock byrhymesyndicate
Which brings me to the Star Trek part of this story. It's long been my belief that Abrams did indeed shit on Star Trek in both of his turns at the helm with Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. And most excessively in the later. Please understand that I don't think he was the head of some evil plot to destroy Star Trek, but rather that he did what he did out of plain ignorance – ignorance of both Star Trek and good science fiction movie-making. As a result, unlike Star Wars, he gave us a Star Trek that lost its original vision.

For instance, in Star Trek, he gave us a James Kirk that rose to his position as captain of the Starship Enterprise, not by any sort of hard work, perseverance and competence (as the original Kirk did), but rather through dumb luck. In a moment of crisis, Captain Pike takes the untried Cadet Kirk and, for some inexplicable reason, promotes him to First Officer. With no experience. NONE. Why? Because the plot needed it to happen, despite the total lack of logic in that decision. So instead of creating an actual reasonable impetus to promote him, we get – nothing, because creating a plot that makes sense is hard and definitely TOO hard for JJ and company. This approach would rear its ugly head again and again throughout JJ's Treks. And one of the most egregious ways that approach would manifest itself is through the total disregard for actual science in science fiction. Again and again, JJ would make the impossible happen by creating a piece of technology – no matter how silly or stupid – that would fix the problem at hand and (most importantly) MOVE THE PLOT ALONG, LOGIC BE DAMNED. Magic Transporters. Magic Khan Blood. The Enterprise as submarine. The Enterprise as helicopter. A mining ship that can destroy Starfleet. Red Matter that does...something...

What Abrams and company never understood was that Star Trek is rooted in science fiction. And not "Lost In Space" sci-fi but TRUE science fiction, wherein an event has to somehow be plausible within the extrapolated scientific limits of the real universe it inhabits. Transporters can't have an infinite range. Starships can't navigate in a planet's atmosphere (don't get me started about Voyager). Someone's blood can't cure death, and on and on. Over the years and different incarnations, Star Trek would often stretch the science (sometimes past the breaking point), but at its best, it never ignored it.

Star Wars, on the other hand has absolutely nothing to do with science fiction. Oh, I know it takes place in space and has all the trappings of science fiction, but that's all it has – the trappings. It's actually a fairy tale set in space. There is not one thing in Star Wars that acts as it would in a "real" world. The Death Star somehow moves through interplanetary space despite having no apparent means to do so. No engines are shown, no "jump" capability is hinted at. It simply lumbers along... because it does. X-Wings move through the vacuum of space like it was air – because it's cool. The Force manifests itself in the physical world as if by magic – because it IS magic! And it's incredibly fun! But it ain't science.

And that, in a nutshell, is why JJ Abrams should stick to fantasy (Star Wars) and leave science fiction (Star Trek) alone. Fantasy is easier in that it doesn't require any knowledge of science and how the universe actually works. You can have magic sword fights and call them light saber duels. You can have a magical ship and call it the Death Star. You can have magic powers and call them "The Force". And you never, ever, EVER have to worry about how any of that would actually work in the real world. Because it couldn't. And it doesn't matter.

But it ALL matters in real science fiction because it is SUPPOSED to be grounded in reality. Here's what the great Arthur C. Clarke had to say on the subject:

“Science Fiction is something that could happen – but usually you wouldn’t want it to. Fantasy is something that couldn’t happen, though often you only wish that it could.”
– Arthur C Clarke.

Apparently, JJ Abrams does not understand this basic concept. Which works in his favor for Star Wars, but most definitely does not work in Star Trek.



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