Star Trek and the birth of the Kelvin Timeline
May 8 marks the 10 year anniversary since the birth of the Kelvin Timeline, so we take a look back at one of the best entries in the Star Trek filmography.
In February 2007 J.J. Abrams, the man behind the hugely successful Lost and Alias TV series as well found footage creature feature Cloverfield, accepted an offer from Paramount to direct a new vision of Star Trek.
Abrams, a self confessed Star Wars fan took on the mantle to direct the film because he “would be so agonizingly envious of whoever stepped in and directed the movie” after initially agreeing to produce what would be the 11th entry into the franchise’s big screen outings. At the time he accepted the offer, Abrams and his writing staff, Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, could not have know the impact the film would have not only on the franchise as a whole but with the fan base.
That impact was very divisive with many fans refusing to accept the new film as part of the canon of Star Trek while others embraced it as it was meant to be, a new vision and interpretation of the characters that we have known and loved over the course of 43 years (at the time of release).
It was a controversial announcement to recast The Original Series characters and set it during the early years of their Starfleet careers. However, it was the revelation that this entry would be set in a different timeline that really caused a stir, a decision that was the only one they could have made and which ended up creating a action packed, fun filled re-imagining of the Enterprise and her crew which drew in fresh audiences and generated a new enthusiasm for the franchise.
So why the need to change it all? Well when you consider that Star Trek‘s main bulk of action is set in 2255, this causes all kinds of issues relating to what has been established already in canon which Orci and Kurtzman needed to be free of in order to tell the underpinning element of their story; the crew coming together on the Enterprise.
Let’s focus on Kirk for a moment. In the Prime Timeline Kirk has a relationship with his father who he has cited as being his inspiration on joining Starfleet, which he did three years prior to when the reboot film is set. Kirk has a whole history before joining Starfleet including surviving the mass murder of starving colonists by Governor Kodos on Tarsus IV. During his Academy days he is promoted to ensign within three years and assigned to serve on the USS Republic andby 2257 Kirk is Lieutenant and exploring space on the USS Farragut.
For Bad Robot, J.J. Abrams’ production company, to set a Star Trek film within these years they would need to fit it around the already established canon which does indeed restrict the stories that they can tell. And this is just Kirk! When you factor in the whereabouts of the other bridge crew it becomes even more complicated and it’s not for another ten years before they are all due to arrive on the Enterprise under Kirk’s command.
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An easy route they could have taken would have been to focus on one or two characters and create an origin type story, maybe focus on Kirk during those years at the academy and his early assignments. But let’s be honest, Star Trek is not just Kirk and is nothing without those characters all together.
Faced with this issue the guys at Bad Robot did what needed to be done and created a cataclysmic event that would change Trek forever and spawn a new timeline. A timeline in which Kirk was raised without his influential father, a timeline in which a pair of Russian lovers decide to have a child six years early (to allow Chekov to be 17 in 2255), a timeline that had an impact on all the core characters in one way or another, allowing Orci and Kurtzman to bring the crew together on the USS Enterprise a good ten years before canon.
What follows is an action packed 2 hours and 8 minutes of Star Trek action that never really seems to relent. From its opening sequence that spawns the alternative timeline, the death of George Kirk and the destruction of the USS Kelvin, to Spock and Kirk rebelling in their youth… and then rebelling in adult hood. Fist fights, tense space sky diving, sword fights on a giant laser beam, more fist fights, phaser battles and the USS Enterprise kicking some Romulan arse come together to create some fantastic set pieces and help develop our new look characters.
Yes I can agree it goes against type from the film’s predecessors but when you factor in that Star Trek: Nemesis, the last entry in the films series which followed Insurrection, are often mentioned as two of the least favorable features to come from the franchise, was it so bad to throw in a little more action? I also think it’s worth mentioning that at the time it was made in 2009 audiences had moved on. Don’t forget that Star Trek was now having to compete against the newly formed Marvel Cinematic Universe following the 2008 success of Iron Man.
The Star Trek 2009 reboot isn’t perfect, I get it, but lens flares, iBridge and the destruction of two major planets aside it helped bring Trek to a modern audience wrapping it up in a great onscreen adventure without taking anything away or impacting on what came before it.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for its sequel.