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Star Trek: The Early Days of Kirk, Spock, Bones

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Jonathan Lane
Chief of Communications, STARFLEET, International Star Trek Fan Association, Inc.
Friday, May 8, 2009; 2:00 PM

PROGRAMMING NOTE: This discussion includes questions and answers about the plot. Many will be labeled SPOILER ALERT, so please be advised.

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Jonathan Lane, chief of communications for STARFLEET, the International Star Trek Fan Association, Inc., was online Friday, May 8, at 2 p.m. ET to discuss the new movie, a chronicle of the early days of James T. Kirk and his fellow USS Enterprise crew members, directed by J.J. Abrams, how it fares with its predecessors (six television series and 10 feature films) and whether it lives up to the hype.

Star Trek Movie Trailer (Paramount/YouTube)

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Jonathan Lane: Welcome, everyone!

I'm Commodore Jon Lane, Chief of Communications for STARFLEET, the International Star Trek Fan Association. I invite you all to check out our website at www.sfi.org and, if you like what you see, join up.

I've seen the new movie twice so far--once at the red carpet screening in Hollywood last Thursday and again on Sunday at Paramount as a guest of Rod Roddenberry. I work with the Roddenberry.com folks as a part-time Star Trek consultant, and I recommend that folks check out their site, too, for some great Star Trek and science fiction content.

And now, bring on those questions!

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Princeton, N.J.: Jonathan,

The movie didn't suck! I was thrilled by that fact alone.

Two questions -- I always thought Vulcan science ships were unarmed... Am I misremembering? Why I focus on that issue as opposed to all the other problems, I have no idea...

Also, do we know how Captain Pike got injured in the original timeline? I don't recall if The Managerie ever dwelt on "how" he ended up in wheelchair.

Jonathan Lane: Answer 1: If you buy the excellently-written prequel comic book "Star Trek: Countdown" from IDW publishing, you will discover that Spock's funky science ship was actually built by Geordi LaForge. So while the Vulcans commissioned it, they didn't actually build it.

Answer 2: In the original timeline, Pike was injured on an old Class-J cargo ship trying to rescue cadets when a baffle plate ruptured. The delta rays disfigured and disabled him.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I am just curious: did you ever see the William Shatner "get a life" skit on Saturday Night Live? If so, what was your reaction to it?

Jonathan Lane: Shatner had just done his first Trek convention in years in NYC (since Trek V was bombing and Paramount wanted him pushing the film...otherwise, Shatner avoided cons in those days). When I saw the skip, I was saddened to think that Bill might not have enjoyed the convention experience. On the other hand, he's not entirely wrong. Some of us do need to get a life. Others, however, have wonderful lives, families, jobs, etc. Trekkies and Trekkers are a lot like normal people...and some so-called "normal" people could stand to "get a life" too. :-)

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washingtonpost.com: STARFLEET

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Omaha, Neb.: This question includes SPOILERS.

I have heard some criticism of the film that mentions that Kirk was never this rebellious. I like the direction that the film goes in and think that it makes a lot of sense that in this time line Kirk is more rebellious. On some level this is social commentary about the effects of being raised in a single parent home. I saw this criticism explicitly cited in Ted Anthony's AP review and wanted your thoughts on this more "rebellious" Kirk.

'Star Trek' fans wary of new frontier (AP, May 8)

Jonathan Lane: Excellent point. In an unused portion of an interview I did with the Wall Street Journal last week, I gave them what I thought was an excellent sound byte: "This new Kirk is James Dean with a phaser." But we all knew Pine would play Kirk differently from Shatner, so this kinda gives them a reason why: no father while growing up.

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Richmond, Va.: I saw it last night. It was good, but hardly great.

I thought the character that had the best connection with his former actor in the role was Doc. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Brilliant redo! Who do you feel was the best past/present actor link?

Jonathan Lane: I'm right there with you. Karl Urban gave an amazing performance. He is now the real McCoy. Also, I was staggered at the performance given by Zoe Saldana as Uhura. That is one tough Communications Officer!

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McLean, Va.: SPOILER ALERT: What is the fan communities reaction to Spock resetting the future with his black-hole trip back through time? Did J.J. go too far?

Jonathan Lane: So far, the fans I've heard from are loving this movie. From California to New Jersey to Oklahoma to North Carolina to New Zealand, STARFLEET members are almost universally gushing about how much the enjoyed seeing the new Star Trek. So I think fandom is accepting the whole premise.

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Washington, D.C.: Is it true that William Shatner wanted some sort of role in the new Star Trek but was rebuffed? How come Leonard Nimoy got the nod? Is it because Nimoy's kept a "low profile" over the years and Shatner is a caricature of himself?

Jonathan Lane: Blame Shatner's agent. Bill held out for more money, Leonard didn't. At the time, Abrams didn't know how much of a budget he would get. The script didn't call for both Shatner and Nimoy, so they made the prudent financial decision.

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Chicago, Ill.: What do you think of turning Captain Kirk into this sort of young, aimless rebel, when the original series established pretty definitely that young Kirk was pretty straight-laced. Remember what Lt. Cmdr Gary Mitchell said, "The first thing I ever heard from an upperclassman was: 'Watch out for Lieutenant Kirk. In his class, you either think or sink.'"

Jonathan Lane: A walking stack of books with legs...

That said, this is the NEW Star Trek. This is a new Kirk. I still like my old Star Trek, but if I want to visit with the familiar, I've got 650 filmed hours of "old" Star Trek sitting on my DVD shelf.

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Kingstowne, Va.: Was the fan club "involved" in any aspect of the making of this film (the way a Lord of the Rings fan club was with Peter Jackson's films; the club members got credits at the end of the film)? Also, it's good to see that they didn't try to reinvent new uniform designs. So, why do you think they found it necessary to "update" the Enterprise design? Thanks.

Jonathan Lane: One of the local L.A. members of the USS Angeles, a fellow named Brian Nomi (who is currently serving in Iraq) managed to get a role as an extra in the new film (one of the workers in blue jumpsuits building the new ship). Aside from that, STARFLEET wasn't really involved.

As for the new Enterprise design, it's growing on me. But I still prefer the early movie refit version as my favorite. Why they redesigned it--I've got no idea.

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Washington, D.C.: Thank you for joining us today. I saw Star Trek a couple weeks ago at a press screening with friends who are fans.

Do you think that plot, which isn't quite an complete reimagining, will resonate with longtime fans?

When the movie ended, we couldn't stop talking about how they got so much right: the computer animation, the characterizations, the humor, even the sounds were good.

Jonathan Lane: As I said, the fans are loving this new movie. At my first viewing, I left conflicted. I enjoyed the movie immensely, but the fast pacing didn't feel like Star Trek to me. But this is the new Twitter generation, and fast is want they want. In order for Star Trek to remain relevant, this is the movie that had to be made. hen I saw it a second time, I turned off my brain and just enjoyed the roller coaster ride--and what a ride it is! Don't think, just enjoy. :-)

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New York, N.Y.: Is Starfleet a professional or semi-pro group? Do many others do work in Hollywood like you do?

Jonathan Lane: STARFLEET is 3,500 members around the world. About 60 of us are in Los Angeles. Of those, a few work in the industry. One of the members of the USS Angeles used to make props for the show. Another member was Mike Okuda's assistant doing all the scenic art (computer console graphics) for over ten years. But most of our members just watch the show, read the novels, wear the uniforms (sometimes), and enjoy getting together to talk Trek.

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Burke, Va.: How is it possible to reconcile the fact of Spock's mother dying on Vulcan when she's very much alive in movies that take place after the time portrayed in the new movie?

Jonathan Lane: Listen carefully to Uhura--this is now an alternate reality.

SPOLIER ALERT!!

Kirk's dad is dead. Vulcan is gone. Amanda is gone. The rules are being rewritten. Hit "reset" and see where this new altered timeline goes. But the old Trek is still "safe" as a different reality.

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Khan is da Man!: I read the reviews, and it seems that everybody likes this prequel. Is it possible to hope for a prequel of famous baddie Khan, which was played so well by Ricardo Montalban?

Live long and prosper!

Jonathan Lane: I'm not sure anyone could be Khan again. But the fact is that this new tapestry is completely blank right now. JJ and friends might prefer going where no one has gone before rather than trying to bring back old Trek characters (besides the current ones in the film). But we'll see. Paramount HAS announced a sequel already.

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Harrisburg, Pa.: Simon Pegg as Scotty...does it work? Haven't heard much yea or nay on his performance.

Jonathan Lane: I loved--LOVED--Simon Pegg's performance. Granted, all of the new cast have their little foibles. But Pegg's Scotty is an entirely new take on the character--a bit of an absent-minded genius with a lovable quality. I actually wish he'd had more screen time.

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Blame the Agents: How much money was Nimoy paid? How much did Shatner want? I thought it was due to the manner in which the Kirk character's story line was nicely tied up in Generations?

Jonathan Lane: I don't know the details of how much each actor was asking to be paid. I just listen tot he murmurings of agents in the industry. Don't take my word for anything--it's second-hand at best. I can only report what I heard through the grapevine...but I've got a pretty good grapevine. :-)

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South Riding, Va.: I like Star Trek. I have watched and enjoyed all of the series and movies. But, I know there are bigger fans who live and breathe Trek. Star Trek has been one franchise that has continued to make quality new series without feeling like a remake. It also hasn't been a letdown like the last three Star Wars movies. I know that Enterprise didn't do as well as the other Star Trek series, but it was a step back in time like this new movie.

Is this movie all new or is it based on ideas proposed years ago by Gene Roddenberry? Would they have been better off if they didn't try to follow Kirk, Spock, and the others who are so well known?

Are there other movies or TV series based on the Star Trek universe currently in the works? I guess I had expected that any new movies would have been based on the cast and crew from Next Generation, Voyager, or DS-9.

Jonathan Lane: The only new filmed Star Trek in the works right now is a proposed sequel from Paramount. But there are countless novels and comic books doing a fantastic job of keeping TNG, DS9 and Voyager alive.

While I'd love to see more of the old Trek, it just ain't gonna happen. This is the new card game in town, and it's the only one gettin' screen time at present.

Would Trek have been better off if they went in a direction other than backward? We'll never know at this point. But the franchise has had new life breathed into it.

It's funny, but during the late 80's and 90's, kids watching Star Trek were all about Picard, Data, and Worf--they had not idea who Kirk and Spock were. Now those kids have grown up and have kids of their own, and THOSE kids will have no idea who Picard, Data, and Worf are! For these new fans, Star Trek will be Kirk and Spock and the "old" crew!

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New Jersey: I'm very pleased this movie is getting good reviews. The Star Trek universe is so interesting because it has constantly grown by putting more and more detail into this imaginary future. Challenging, thoughtful details. There's the language work, of course, and technology speculation, but I've noticed some of the newer fiction venturing beyond Starfleet into political and diplomatic plotlines.

So much of this has been generated directly or indirectly by fans. What is the state of Star Trek fandom? Are we diminishing as we grow older? Is the ST franchise responding to the interests of its core fans? Supposing that the commercial side of ST withers away, is there enough of a fan base to keep it alive, as we did after TOS folded?

Jonathan Lane: Honestly, while even the mighty ranks of STARFLEET have dwindled a bit recently, we still have 3,500 members around the world--one four continents! (We even have a chapter in Iceland!) Yes, it's been challenging keeping up recruitment (so please join us--it's only $15/year...and we have a great newsletter).

But I really feel that this new movie will revive the patient. Like McCoy in Trek IV giving that dialysis patient a pill that grew her a new kidney, Star Trek has just gotten such a pill. Already, hits to the sfi.org website have doubled from April's numbers to May (and we're only one week into May!), so I'm actually very excited about the effect this new movie will have on fans.

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Chantilly, Va.: Is there any ... er ... sex on board?

Jonathan Lane: You'll be shocked at one particular scene between two crewmembers. And I'm not talking about the horizontal scene from the trailer. There is a fascinating new love relationship in this crew...and I'm eager to see where it goes.

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Powhatan, Va.: SPOILER WARNING: I liked the movie, but there were some hugely improbable scenarios. Kirk being kicked off the Enterprise and just happen to land on a planet, next to a cave, that housed the Future Spock? Or, if Spock in a small ship could destroy the "drill" why couldn't anyone else do it on Vulcan or Earth? Is it we are just not supposed to care about these things and just focus on the movie and character development?

Jonathan Lane: During my first viewing, I felt those same things. I certainly wouldn't waste an escape pod if I were going into battle. The ship does still have a brig, doesn't it?

But when I saw the movie a second time, I purposefully did not think. That isn't an insult. I just realized that this one particular movie is a thrill ride and should be experienced in that way. Think too much and you won't enjoy it. The fact is, the writers needed to get Kirk off the ship, and this was a way to do it.

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Omaha, Neb.: This question includes SPOILERS.

I love the film and think the actors did a wonderful job of capturing the "essence" of the characters without overreaching. The movie was so fast-paced, that you never really got a chance to see the interior of the ship very well. A friend mentioned that having Scotty in the water pipe reminded him of the Galaxy Quest bit where the Captain had to go through an absurd gauntlet to get to an engineering space.

Now that they have essentially "rebooted" the story line, they could really take Kirk, Spock and McCoy into very different directions in future films or another television show. What do you see as the future of the franchise?

It seems that the "reboot" has also dramatically changed everything. Since this was the maiden voyage of the Enterprise, Pike will never encounter the people of Tales IV. Captain Pike's old age will now not be spent in a virtual reality paradise. I also wonder if by having Kirk immediately on the Enterprise, if this cuts out the bit of his young adulthood spent with Carol Marcus (no David Marcus, no Genesis project, and no death/rebirth of Spock). I am sure that the Federation will still eventually come to peace with the Klingons, but you lose the "Nixon goes to China" bit by not having Kirk lose a son to the Klingons. What are your thoughts on the evolution of this new alternate timeline? In a minor note, with no planet Vulcan to visit, how will the Vulcan people endure Pon Farr, although it seems like there is now an interpersonal relationship between Spock and Uhura that wasn't there before.

Jonathan Lane: The truth is, this franchise will go on in new directions that none of us can predict--not even the writers and director. But I think there will be new story lines rather than wondering what happened to the Talosians or does the Genesis device ever get built.

The canvas is blank...let's see what new things get painted. The galaxy is pretty huge, I'm sure they'll find something interesting out there.

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Arlington, Va.: Hello, Cousin Jon. Which series and which episode are your favorites in the entire Star Trek universe?

Jonathan Lane: I'm a huge fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It looked at the Federation universe with a microscope to show us all the details you don't get to see when the Enterprise visits a different planet or anomaly each week.

My favorite episode of any series was DS9's "The Visitor"--I still cry whenever I see it. For TOS, "The Doomsday Machine." TNG, "The Inner Light" and "Cause and Effect." Voyager, "Blink of an Eye." And for Enterprise, "In a Mirror, Darkly" (the mirror universe 2-parter).

Now get back to work, Schachter.

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Herndon, Va.: With a universe as large as Star Trek, why try to recreate a well known set of characters instead of creating a new set? Couldn't they come up with another ship that was sent on a mission to boldly go where no man has gone before? Last time I checked, you could send ships off in any number or directions away from Earth.

Jonathan Lane: Peter David did just that with his New Frontier series. But I don't think Paramount wanted to take that risk with their new $150 million movie.

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Bridgeport, Conn.: I saw the movie last night with two moderate Trek fans, one non-fan, and one hardcore Trekkie. (I'd put myself in as intermediate level fan). Four of us loved it -- the hardcore Trekkie thought that not fixing the timeline at the end of the movie was a betrayal of the entire history of Trek. What's your take?

Jonathan Lane: I prefer the "City of the Edge of Forever" fix-the-timeline-or-else drama. But there was also the TNG episode "Parallels". So both precedents are there in Trek. At this point, I can't talk them out of doing it this way, so I'm just accepting the new rules and living with it. :-)

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Shirlington, Va.: Is the plot understandable by someone who doesn't know anything about the old Star Trek? Is is just a good overall sci-fi?

Jonathan Lane: As a matter of fact, yes. They put in enough "inside jokes" to keep the Trekkies happy, but anyone walking in from outside the obsession will be able to follow this movie easily and have a really good time.

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Kirk as rebel: I don't think that the "Kirk as rebel" take of the new movie is totally at odds with the original series Kirk. Remember, this is the same Kirk who reprogrammed the Kobiyashi Maru simulator at the Academy. Intelligence and rebelliousness are not mutually exclusive.

Jonathan Lane: True. But the original Kirk's history was a little contradictory. In some episodes he was painted as a serious cadet. But Trek II revealed the Kobayashi Maru incident. Maybe he's just complex.

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Syracuse, N.Y.: Having a movie every two or three years is much different from when we used to have an episode every week. Do you think there is any chance at all that this movie could act as the pilot for a new TV series? It has also been said that former Voyager producer and Pushing Daisies producer Bryan Fuller has an idea for a new series that is not in any way contradictory to the aims of Paramount with this new movie. We had Star Trek every week for so long, it's still strange not having it.

Jonathan Lane: True. And let's see what happens. Four years ago, Paramount canceled the last series in what seemed to them (and to many fans) to be an old, ailing, and tapped out franchise. Back in 2003, Star Trek: Nemesis (the tenth film) opened at number TWO at the box office behind "Maid in America" with Jennifer Lopez. NUMBER TWO!

So Paramount had every reason to believe the patient wouldn't recover. Nevertheless, they gave it their all by throwing a ton of money at a hot director and marketing the bloody blazes out of this movie.

And what has happened is an almost universal approval. Even Rotten Tomatoes gave this film 100%.

So now Paramount has everything they need to be confident about doing SOMETHING with Star Trek. What they'll do is up to them, but no longer do they see this franchise as old, irrelevant, or washed up. Yay, Star Trek!

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Madison, Wisc.: I saw the movie last night and loved it! I'm a huge Star Trek fan (all the series, and movies). I saw it with Trekkies, general action movie fans and a kid about 10 -- we all loved it.

I have two questions. 1) Why was Amanda played by Winona Ryder with dark eyes and hair, and 2) any word on the resurrection of a Star Trek experience in Las Vegas? I heard that Paramount was considering it . . .

Thanks so much for a great "resurrection of a wheezing, but beloved" series. I truly hope this represents a revitalization of the fan base.

Jonathan Lane: 1) I don't know why Winona was cast as Amanda, but I think she did well with the 97 seconds of screen time she received. :-)

2) The ST: Experience in Vegas was supposed to open this weekend. Instead, there is no hint of construction anywhere. Not a good sign. I heard a rumor yesterday that the building owner where the new attraction is to be built (in downtown Las Vegas) hasn't been paying his air conditioning bill, and other vendors have left the building because of it. Rumor, but bad sign #2.

In the meantime, the Star Trek museum exhibit is coming to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia next. Go and see it--their Enterprise-D bridge and engineering sets are awesome!

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To Powhatan, Va.: In the first Trek movie, the Enterprise flew through a worm hole. So there is precedent for viewers to not care about improbabilities (or impossibilities).

What I'd like to know is what the heck the Romulans could have done that would have altered the timeline so significantly that Chekov become so flippin' brilliant.

Jonathan Lane: LOL!

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I was staggered at the performance given by Zoe Saldana as Uhura: but she pronounced her name wrong! She said AH-hura.

Jonathan Lane: New reality...minor changes. :-)

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Georgetown, Washington, D.C.: Jonathan, since you stated you would like to see more of the old Trek, what do you think of the various fan films? Between Starship Exeter, Starship Farragut, Star Trek: Phase II (formerly ST: New Voyages), and several TNG-era fan productions, there is a lot of work in the old timeline.

Jonathan Lane: The fan-produced Internet Star Treks are truly amazing. I have some friends who make the Hidden Frontier episodes (I've been in a couple), and I know some of the folks behind Star Trek: Phase II. So kudos to all the fans keeping the dream alive!

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Jonathan Lane: And with that, my friends, I need to skedaddle. Believe it or not, I have a car waiting to drive me to MSNBC studios in Burbank to be interviewed at 4:15 p.m. Eastern Time.

In the meantime, thank you so much for your questions and listening to me ramble about my favorite subject. Star Trek is truly alive and well, and I again invite fans and proto-fans to visit sfi.org and sign up for STARFLEET the fan club. We've been around since 1974, and I myself have been a member for over 25 years! We've got chapters across the U.S. and the world, and hey, if there isn't a chapter near you, why not start one?

Oh, and a quick shameless plug: check out the T-shirts at www.iTrekShirts.com

Once again, thank you everybody. Live long and prosper...and keep on Trekking'!

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