Star Trek (2009)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V-4; L-1; S/N-3. Length: 2 hours 6 min.

Two are better than one, because they have a
good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one
will lift up the other; but woe to one who is
alone and falls and does not have another to
help. Again, if two lie together, they keep
warm; but how can one keep warm alone?
And though one might prevail against another,
two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not
quickly broken
Proverbs 4:9-12

Kirk and Spock start out as enemies.

2009 Paramount Pictures

It is always dangerous to tinker with a well loved franchise, but Director J.J. Abrams and crew have ably pumped new life into the old series with their prequel. The new film begins with a bang, right smack in the middle of an attack on a Starfleet ship by a huge, strange shaped vessel captained by a Romulan renegade named Nero. Claiming that his planet was destroyed while the federation stood by and did nothing, Nero is bent on avenging the destruction of his planet. Overwhelmed by superior firepower, Captain George Kirk orders his ship to be abandoned. Among the evacuees is his wife Winona, about to give birth (don’t ask why she is aboard). Captain Kirk, seeing that the only way to keep Nero at bay, thus allowing the rest of the crew to escape, decides to stay with the ship and ram the attacker. He keeps in radio touch with his wife up to the last moment of impact. The baby boy emerges, they express their love, agree on the name of James—James Tiberius Kirk—and say farewell.

Thus is born the great hero of the Star Fleet, half-orphaned within a few minutes of his birth, and, as we see subsequently, a hellion of a kid raised in Iowa. As he grows older he becomes embroiled in a fight at a tavern where he meets the now Captain Pike, who was served with Kirk’s father. When the latter suggests that he is good Fleet material, Kirk turns him down. But of course, it will not be long before he is enrolled at the Academy, telling Pike that he will graduate in three, not the usual four years.

The film also provides a glimpse of the young Spock, a ridiculed outsider on Vulcan because his ambassador father had married an Earth woman. Vulcans might be ultra-rational, but they can also be subject to prejudice. Jump ahead in time to the Academy where, to our surprise, Spock and Kirk begin their relationship as enemies. Before long they are aboard the brand new Enterprise with the Vulcan as Captain, at odds with Kirk (who is not even supposed to be on board) over what to do about Nero and his immense ship that has just destroyed the planet Vulcan. Should they join the Starfleet (Spock) or give chase to Nero before his ship can reach Earth (his next target)?

Aboard also are the younger versions of the crew we have come to love, the young actors being wonderfully matched to their older characters. impetuous Kirk (Chris Pine), the ultra-rational Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the witty Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoë Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and an over-accented Chekov (Anton Yelchin).

There is the usual scientific gobbledygook necessary for this genre (including the beginning of what will become the beloved phrase “Beam me up, Scotty” ), wonderful special effects, and best of all, the beginning of the relationships that have always been at the heart of the series. It was great to see Leonard Nimoy as Spock Prime He is at the ripe age of 129 Earth years, who has somehow come from the future and speaks to the young Kirk who has been banished from the Enterprise and winds up in an ice cave of a frozen planet. Director J.J. Abrams and his crew have honored the original, producing what should be a box office winner.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. If you have been a longtime fan of Star Trek, what do you like best about it? Compare the new movie with earlier ones. More sex this time, isn’t there? What else?

2. Which of the characters do you especially like or relate to? How does each one contribute to the mission? What “message” from early days of the TV series do you see in the diversity of the crew members?

3. Were you surprised that Spock and Kirk started out as enemies? And that Spock was the first of the two to become captain of the Enterprise? What irony do you see in the reason for Spock giving up command of the ship?

4. How does Star trek, and science fiction in general, enlarge our view of the universe? Of God? Have you experienced difficulty in moving from the 3-story universe of the Bible to the expansive view of the cosmos brought about by science, and conveyed so well in science fiction? However, is Star Trek really about science—what do you think it is about? (There is a good hint in the passage from Ecclesiastes.)

5. What do you think of the brief episodes from the childhood of Kirk and Spock? Why would Kirk probably not want to enter the Academy? What do you think about there being prejudice against outsiders even in as rationalistic society as on Vulcan? How does Spock show the council that he is his own person?

6. Like most science fiction stories, we see no evidence that the church continues in the future: what do you think of this? No chaplain on the ship; no prayers or God talk. Why do you think this is usually the case? Why do you think many science fiction fans have a negative view of the church, or in the case of some fans whom I knew years ago, no view, believing only that the church is irrelevant? What can Christians do to change this?