May 29, 2009

Captain Kirk = part Sioux

Winona KirkWinona Kirk was the wife of George Samuel Kirk Sr., and the mother of George Samuel Kirk Jr. and James T. Kirk. She was born circa 2210 and was of Sioux descent. (TOS novels: Enterprise: The First Adventure, Final Frontier, and Best Destiny; TOS comic: "Who's Who in Star Trek" #1)Comment:  I knew I had read something about Kirk's Indian heritage, but I couldn't remember where. It was in these novels, all of which I've read. Thanks to correspondent DMarks for bringing this matter to my attention.

Memory Alpha and Memory Beta both claimed author Diane Carey named Kirk's mother Winona in Final Frontier. Not so: Vonda N. McIntyre mentioned Winona and Kirk's Sioux ancestry two years earlier in Enterprise: The First Adventure. I don't know if McIntyre was the first to use Winona, but she preceded Carey.

I'm guessing McIntyre knew that "Winona" is a Sioux name meaning "first-born daughter" or "eldest daughter." We learned a bit about a previous Winona in The Myth of Princess Wenonah. Clearly someone knew Indian lore in making Kirk's mother part Indian.

Review of Star Trek

This discussion is a good excuse for reviewing the new Star Trek movie, which I saw this afternoon. Alas, it was good but not great. A lot of fun, but not what I'd call real Trek. I'd say it resembled a young tribute band pretending to be rock legends.

For Trek fans, the movie had a ton of problems. Almost every one of the criticisms in these reviews is spot-on:

Star Trek (PG-13)There’s an inescapable sense of watching kids playing dress-up throughout—a kind of Muppet Babies aura.Movie Review Star Trek: Where No Man Should Go at AllFar from being in the spirit of the original "Star Trek," the new film is more in line with "The Terminator," in which drama and character are really only contrivances set up to get action sequences in motion.Star Trek (2009)[W]hy was a decision made to craft an alternate reality for the show, altering key figure storylines, altering inner-personal conflicts and infuse it with enough action to choke a vole? The answer is quite simple: J.J. Abrams is a Star Wars fan, not a Star Trek fan.Star TrekThe Gene Roddenberry years, when stories might play with questions of science, ideals or philosophy, have been replaced by stories reduced to loud and colorful action. Like so many franchises, it’s more concerned with repeating a successful formula than going boldly where no “Star Trek” has gone before.Star Trek (2009)Chris Pine's take on James Tiberius Kirk is a textbook example of what's wrong: his Kirk is a cocky, smartass ruffian who may be an expert strategist but has clearly never thought anything deeper than how to get alien babes into his bed.Two Spocks?  That would be highly illogical, captainUnfortunately, what started out as an energetic, fun, lively and respectful imagining of the Star Trek saga then ferments into a tangle of tired cliches about time travel and intergalactic revenge.More reviews

In The Racialicious Roundtable For ‘Star Trek’, several young critics note how "hot" the young actors are. Among these critical chestnuts are a few gems:Elton wrote:

The Star Wars/Star Trek divide stems from how Star Wars is a space opera fantasy, emphasizing mythological and supernatural elements, and how Star Trek is science fiction, with allegorical statements about real world politics, race relations, and morality.

Unfortunately, Trek XI is more space opera than science fiction. The obviousness of Abrams’ desire to make the franchise more Lucas than Roddenberry is pretty appalling to someone who has actually watched the five TV series.

I don’t see that Abrams Trek is Star Trek in any sense deeper than the characters, places, and ship have the same names. Whatever we see of the original series–whether it be that clichéd optimism about the future of humanity non-fans are always harping on, the *essence* of the Enterprise and her crew, Starfleet, Starfleet Academy, the Federation, 23rd/24th century Earth and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant, or the made-for-TV allegories Roddenberry so loved–Star Trek fans are projecting onto this movie.

This is Trek legacy, and Abrams hasn’t earned any of it–he outright rejects it. His contribution was to reimagine the origins of Kirk and Spock, getting a lot of details not only different, but wrong. Mere revision of canon is not necessarily wrong, but incoherent and illogical plot, uncharacteristic behavior and situations, and ignorance of Trek beyond the superficial *is* wrong.

EB wrote:

I do agree with Elton, this movie got a lot of the Star Trek details wrong which made it hard for me, as a Star Trek fan, to fit this movie into the established Star Trek Universe. I can accept a complete reboot, but I also just found the movie full of holes--

What rubs me wrong about Kirk is not that he’s the athlete among the nerds, but that he’s the white American guy whose been advanced over everyone else without merit (literally it’s a--“you showed up against orders, you’re first officer while I’m gone”).

Somehow, Kirk is so special that he doesn’t need to earn his place, it’s given to him and accepted that because of his gender and origins he’s supposed to be the natural leader and any other power structure in which he has to answer to someone else is unnatural.

jsb16 wrote:

To be honest, I couldn’t take this Star Trek at all seriously. It was so obviously fanfiction, from the time-travel conceit that underlies it to the shot of Iowa that might as well have been Tatooine to the plot holes large enough to hit warp speed in…

pololly wrote:

[T]hinking it through, I really liked Star Trek because I honestly felt like it was a big fun dumb movie.
Rob's review [spoiler alert]

You can find plenty of reviews that tell you what was good about the movie, including some of the above. The first third of movie that introduced the characters was fine. Once they boarded the Enterprise, however, problems started cropping up.

Here are some of the movie's worse flaws:

  • The elimination of Captain Pike's voyages on the Enterprise, the Vulcan homeworld, and Spock's mother.

  • Uhura as a sex object, Chekov's over-the-top accent, and Scotty's transformation from an old-fashioned gentleman into a scruffy punk. (For more on Uhura, see my comments here and here.)

  • The ultra-industrial look of the Enterprise's interior, which made Jonathan Archer's Enterprise look like a cruise ship.

  • The "stardates" that were merely years with decimal points.

  • The new swirly transporter effect. I swear every version of Trek makes the transporter look worse, not better.

  • Kirk's instant promotion from stowaway to first officer to captain despite the other qualified personnel on board.

  • Spock's marooning Kirk on a Vulcan ice moon. Starfleet doesn't send people to their probable deaths for rules violations, idiots!

  • Kirk's happening to meet both old Spock and Scotty in exile on the ice moon. Holy coincidence, Batman!

  • Scotty's trip through the indoor plumbing. Cute in a Willy Wonka movie, stupid in Star Trek.

  • Kirk hung by his fingers three times and was choked at least twice. These are silly, clichéd ways of putting someone in danger. If Kirk could survive dangling over molten lava in The Search for Spock, we knew he could survive this.

  • The complete lack of explanation for why the pseudo-Romulans were different from before, with no sense of duty or honor.

  • The unfortunate changes to the real continuity, as opposed to this fake continuity: no more Spock or Romulan Empire in Star Trek's 23rd-century "present."

  • As for the characters...not only was Karl Urban's McCoy the best, but he was the only actor doing the right thing. Everyone else was doing their (or Abrams's) impression of how the characters should be. E.g., Spock as an angry young man whose logic barely masks his emotions. Only Urban was trying to give us the, er, real McCoy--i.e., the characters brought to life by the old cast members.

    For the first third of the movie, I was thinking it could be an 8.5. Second third, maybe a 7.5. Third third, a 6.5. Overall rating: 7.5 of 10. Which puts it well behind most of the Trek movies.

    For more on the subject, see The Indian-Star Trek Connection.

    Below:  The real Kirk acting out his Sioux side.


    dmarks said...

    Kirk's mother's Sioux descent is perhaps considered to be ephemeral information. In any case, it obviously was not considered in casting Winona Kirk in the new movie. But they did keep her Sioux-derived first name.

    Anonymous said...

    Trek XI is so much like Star Wars that Collegehumor made a video comparing the two.

    Star Trek and Star Wars shouldn't cross. When they do, you get The Crystal Star.

    dmarks said...

    The problem with the "Death Star" comparisons is that you have a lot of precedent in "Star Trek" itself, with multiple doomsday ships/devices in the movies and even the old-series TV episodes.

    Likewise, there is precedent for Kirk getting angry over a bad guy killing his relative.

    Rob said...

    I think most of the old Star Trek villains were better conceived than Captain Nero. He went back in time to Kirk's birth, then sat around for two decades to get revenge on Spock? Ridiculous.

    What about all the times Spock saved the entire galaxy, including the Romulans? If Nero kills Spock, maybe Khan or the Kelvans or the Borg conquer the Romulan Empire. It's stupid to tamper with two centuries of history for the sake of vengeance.

    It's not as if Spock destroyed Romulus. Rather, he singlehandedly tried to save it. How about blaming everyone who didn't try rather than the one person who did try?