The “Star Trek” television series was always something of a hybrid beast: part swashbuckling action-adventure, part intellectual exercise. Conceived by its creator, Gene Roddenberry, as way of exploring such social issues of the day as racism and U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, it was just as comfortable showing a scene of bare-knuckled, hand-to-hand combat between Kirk and some alien dude as it was allowing his character to speechify about the beauty of the U.S. Constitution (“The Omega Glory”).
Both of those elements survive intact in the Abrams films.
Trekkies — excuse me, Trekkers — will be delighted to see that “Star Trek Into Darkness” features a lengthy sequence of mixed-martial-arts-style action between Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the film’s villain (Benedict Cumberbatch), who opens the fight by knocking the Pointy-Eared One’s phaser from his hand. But the new movie also boasts a highly topical plotline that involves terrorism, as well as the suggestion that those who fight evil run the risk of becoming evil themselves.
The presence of that ripped-from-the-headlines plot point is pure “Star Trek.” The fact that it’s handled with a degree of subtlety is not. The old “Star Trek” could be terribly preachy at times.
Abrams, of course, has been praised for bringing back a Kirk with a libido, in stories by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who were joined by Damon Lindelof of “Lost” on “Into Darkness”). Their films honor the original characters, while allowing them room to grow.
There will always be those who complain that the Abrams films have ruined the franchise by allowing too much room to grow. The time-travel plot of the 2009 film helps explain why a number of things about the Abrams movies don’t line up — at all — with the sacred “Star Trek” canon.
The complainers would be wrong.
While time travel is a favored trope of Abrams, it’s also a beloved “Star Trek” plot device, from such episodes of the original TV series as 1967’s “The City on the Edge of Forever” to the 1986 “Star Trek” film, “The Voyage Home.”
In fact, the prevalence of time travel in “Star Trek” explains the existence of the Temporal Prime Directive. That, as any good Trekker knows, is the rule forbidding interference with events of the past, in order to avoid changing future outcomes. It’s a rule that applies to all Starfleet crews.
Open-minded fans will have to make an exception in the case of Abrams, who, like Kirk, is something of a rule-breaker.
May he — and his “Star Trek” reboot — live long and prosper.
‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: Why, at heart, it’s a ‘Star Wars’ movie
Graphic: ‘Star Trek’ meets ‘Star Wars’
Review: ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’: A cast of young stars advances franchise with smarts, flair