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Deciding one's destiny

Dino Virgilio Monzon III (The Philippine Star) - November 21, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - 2011 marks the 45th anniversary of Gene Roddenberry’s classic science fiction program Star Trek. And I’m proud to say that I’m a big Star Trek fan.

While most sci-fi fans tend to prefer George Lucas’ Star Wars, I’ve come to prefer Star Trek. My first viewing of this show was during the late ’70s when GMA 7 broadcast the classic Star Trek series starring William Shatner as Captain James Tiberius Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as First Officer Mr. Spock of the USS Enterprise on Wednesday evenings at 7:30.

I always watched Star Trek and its various spin-offs on TV and always made it a point to watch the Star Trek films when they are shown here in the Philippines.

Star Wars may appeal to the kid inside a person, but I’ve always liked Star Trek’s thematic scope in its movies, focusing on characters and their stories, and not just relying on special effects to make an impact. The USS Enterprise’s mission of space exploration is a trojan horse to present stories that spotlight the human condition. It challenges viewers to think.

When I first heard that the 11th Star Trek film was going to be a revised version of the original TV series, I was wary because trying to revive any classic is a risky venture. All the moreso given how hardcore Star Trek fans regard the original series.

Still, J. J. Abrams (of Lost and Alias fame) knew his business when he did just that in the summer of 2009 and had Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman (the writers who wrote the Transformers film franchise for Michael Bay) write the 11th Star Trek film.

On the surface, Star Trek XI seems a Trek take on the classic tale of cadets who are thrown into a crisis situation and must become a united crew to confront a threat.

In a way, it’s that, but it’s also a coming-of-age story for the then young James T. Kirk as essayed by Chris Pine.

Pine did his homework and played Kirk much like Harrison Ford played Han Solo in Star Wars: As a reluctant hero who has to temper his own ambitions, learn to discipline his passions and be part of a crew, demonstrate able leadership and accept the need for rules and regulations. His interaction with Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban), Capt. Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Hikaru Sulu (John Cho — by the way, according to the book The Making of Star Trek, Sulu is of Japanese-Filipino descent), Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and, of course, Mr. Spock (played by both Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy) helped make him into the legendary heroic figure he would eventually become.

Star Trek always focused on the characters and the new film didn’t disappoint. Whereas the original films as seen in the late ’70s to the early ’90s focused on the trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, the new film gives all the characters a chance to shine, remaining true to what fans know of them (Sulu’s proficiency with a sword, for example, or Kirk’s reputation as a womanizer) while presenting it in a way that even new converts to Star Trek would get. When Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) is introduced, not only do we see his talents as an engineer, true-blue Star Trek fans are even given a reference to Capt. (Now Admiral) Jonathan Archer (Scott Bakula’s character on Star Trek: Enterprise, a prequel TV series set before classic Star Trek). That’s attention to detail.

Of course, a good set of heroes requires a deserving villain and Eric Bana’s obsessed, half-insane Romulan Capt. Nero provides that. In true Star Trek fashion, he is presented as a sympathetic antagonist whose motivations are clear and in some ways, understandable. He swerves between reason and vengeance so well, he’s equal to Ricardo Montalban’s Khan Noonien Singh from Star Trek II in 1982 and Christopher Plummer’s General Chang in 1991’s Star Trek VI.

Star Trek films rarely get much buzz here in the Philippines because Star Trek requires its audience to pay attention to the story and make them think.

In Star Trek XI, the theme is essentially coming-of-age: How James T. Kirk began to earn his name as a hero, of how the original classic crew came together for the first time, and how Kirk’s legendary friendship with Mr. Spock began.

That’s the surface message.

The real thrust came rather early in the film with Ambassador Sarek (Ben Cross) telling a young Spock that he will always be a child of two worlds and only he can determine where his life can go; no one can make it for him. This is paralleled in James Kirk’s first meeting with Christopher Pike and he tells him: “Don’t you feel you deserve something better?”

The 11th Star Trek film’s real theme is that one’s life is made by what one decides to do and on what path an individual takes. And that as good a person is, without structure, discipline and effort to strike a balance between logic and emotion, he won’t be able to learn and know his/her best destiny. Or to accept the best of both worlds.

Star Trek XII is due next year and I know I want to know what happens next for this intrepid crew.

May Star Trek continue to “live long and prosper.”

(The author is a graduate of the University of the East. He’s into sci-fi, creative writing and animé. His favorite authors are Ian Fleming and Tom Clancy.)

 (Editor’s Note: Contributions to this section are accepted. Published pieces will be paid. But we don’t return rejected articles. Contributors are requested to submit a photo and a bio-data.)

AMBASSADOR SAREK ANTON YELCHIN BEN CROSS CHRISTOPHER PIKE KIRK MR. SPOCK STAR STAR TREK STAR WARS TREK
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