24 May 2009

Star Trek XI Movie Review: Kirk

Sometimes I suspect that the original James T Kirk was more a product of our own imaginations than of the series.

Orignally he was more of an everyman character, meant to represent ourselves so that experts, like Spock and McCoy, could explain the scientific stuff to him and hence to us. Then he would make a decision and save the day and we'd feel good. Sometimes it seemed odd that someone who knew how to captain a starship, had been to an academy and so on, didn't already know much about astro-physics. Still, we accepted the dramatic necessity for all this and looked over it and wondered what he was like as a person.

We could see he liked women. It was kind of odd, though, when he seemed embarrassed at having to talk about sex, when a slave woman, for instance, told him she had never known it could be like that. Instead of appearing happy for her, and maybe pleased with himself, he just seemed embarrassed.

Still, women liked him. Maybe they were plot driven, but we wouldn't be Trek fans if we didn't try to make sense of the character in terms of his own world. Given this, it made sense to feel that Kirk didn't merely like sex, but liked women, strengths and foibles and all and that it was this that gave him the charm that appealed to them.

It was this absoroption in women that became extended to a love of life. This took a while. In TOS (The Original Series) Kirk only had to be an everyman character. There was less than an hour for every thing to happen and then whatever had happened, even if he had met and lost the love of his life, again, had to be reset at the end. The status quo had to be returned to. In those days, TV shows could not have a story arc. Syndication meant that the episodes might be shown at any time in any order, so each one had to make complete sense on its own without any particular reference to any other episode, so status quo had to be maintained.

Another important thing to remember about those days was that TV was too puritanical to show casual relationships. Thus, Kirk had to be committed to each of his girlfriends, and the only way to get rid of her and return to the status quo was to kill her off at the end.

This made a sad life for poor old Kirk.

For a moment at the start of Star Trek XI, when Nero first appeared and I still thought I was looking at James' older brother and not his father, I thought we were about to see the reason for all the tragedy in his life: A time travelling enemy who was making it all happen.

However, to return to the story of Kirk's character development.

When the movies began to come out, it became necessary to develope Kirk's character. That was when we began to see his general love of life beome manifested.

The seeds were there. Kirk had a lot of friends. Not all of those relationships worked out well, as his best friend became a god and tried to kill him, and another tried to fake his own death and ruin Kirk's career by having him framed for the murder. Still, Kirk had friends, but had room for more. He had to go to some effort, a lot of time playing chess, and a lot of understanding that cultural differences existed, in order to make a friend of Spock. Spock, being unemotional, didn't really care if he had a friend or not.

Kirk, however, persisted and we all know how that worked out.

By the time he got himself killed, the character was fully realised. He died with his boots on, and he died hurling himself full tilt into the job at hand without regard for the cost. And he died saving the Enterprise on a day when he had taken joy in the smell of toast, in the taste of coffee, and a wild horse ride across the countryside that brought him back to reality.

That's the Kirk I would like to see in the future movies. I don't need odd phrasing of his sentences, just a deep and interested enthusiasm for whatever he is doing.

In Star Trek XI we see James T Kirk as a wild child wrecking and antique car, driving it over the edge of a cliff and hurling himself out barely in time. When he's older he's hanging around in bars trying to pick up girls, but when he joins Star Fleet, he must have become wholly committed to it because he does indeed complete in three years what is usually supposed to take four. How he learned to accept Star Fleet discipline we don't know. We don't get to see that. We do get to see him meet McCoy and be very accepting of McCoy as he is at that time. The possibility of being thrown up on, and a description of everything that might go wrong, that will indeed go wrong according to McCoy, doesn't get in the way of beautiful friendship. It's a terrific scene.

What we are seeing is someone who, when he's given command of a starship, will take it on wholeheartedly, hardware, liveware and all the connections in between, making of himself the nexus that makes it all work.


Part 1: What Do They Mean 'Reboot'?
Part 2: Parallel Worlds

Morva Shepley

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