CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

May 18, 2013

Stardate: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .

By Jen Chaney and Michael O'Sullivan
The Washington Post

— When President Obama used the term "Jedi mind meld" during a March press conference — accidentally mashing up the Vulcan mind meld of "Star Trek" lore with the manipulative Jedi mind trick of "Star Wars" fame — he committed what some considered to be an unforgivable sci-fi faux pas.

We, on the other hand, think he was showing his full embrace of the hybrid "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" world created by J.J. Abrams. Indeed, while watching both of Abrams' "Star Trek" films, a Trekker will likely see classic Enterprise-saga elements in various characters, themes and moments. But someone with a Rebel Alliance mind-set can also view those same characters, themes and moments and think, "Oh, that's totally 'Star Wars.' "

A few examples:

The depiction of characters

It's classic "Star Trek" because . . . although Zachary Quinto's Spock plays up the emotions of his half-Vulcan, half-human character, occasionally shedding tears and struggling with his feelings, there's a long-standing precedence for Spock as a character who laughs, loves and even loses it. The ever-logical Vulcan is a cliche that wasn't even true in the original series.

It's "Star Wars" because . . . as Chris Pine plays the always-arrogant James Kirk, he's basically Han Solo, firing off wisecracks and exuding a devil-may-care brashness that's reminiscent of the guy who shot Greedo (first!) during Episode IV's Mos Eisley Cantina scene. There's presumably no reason for Pine's Kirk to ever say, "Laugh it up, fuzzball," since he doesn't have a Wookiee best friend. But if he did say it, it wouldn't seem remotely out of character.



The fight scenes

They're classic "Star Trek" because . . . they often involve close-quarters wrasslin' between two unarmed pugilists. Violence in "Star Trek" typically resembles a Victorian boxing match more than a shootout between 23rd-century gunslingers.

They're "Star Wars" because . . . there may not be lightsabers involved, but these mano-a-mano showdowns often are staged at exceedingly high elevations, not unlike the epic Vader vs. Skywalker battles that took place on precarious footing at Cloud City ("The Empire Strikes Back") and on the second Death Star ("Return of the Jedi").



The romance

It's classic "Star Trek" because . . . Kirk has a well-established fondness for alien babes. Both Abrams films includes scenes of Kirk in bed with non-humans, including, in the first film, Uhura's green-skinned roommate Gaila (Rachel Nichols). That's an obvious nod to the Orion mental patient Marta (Yvonne Craig), who makes out with Kirk in the 1969 episode "Whom Gods Destroy."

It's "Star Wars" because . . . there's a classic Luke/Han/Leia-esque love triangle in Abrams' first "Trek" film and, to a lesser extent, "Into Darkness." Presumably (hopefully?) the romantic rivalry involving Kirk, Spock and Uhura won't be resolved when two of them realize they're actually siblings.



The scenes involving spaceships

They're classic "Star Trek" because . . . The way Abrams' camera reveals the Enterprise's famous call letters (NCC-1701) in the film's opening scene is almost a striptease. The fetishistic focus on the ship's iconic silhouette is also classic.

They're "Star Wars" because . . . the Enterprise and its ilk hit warp speed in a way that visually resembles the space navigation of the Millennium Falcon and other Rebel Alliance spacecrafts. There's a scene in the new film that's impossible to watch without flashing back to Luke Skywalker's X-wing starfighter flight through the Death Star's Meridian Trench.



The depiction of aliens

It's classic "Star Trek" because . . . Never known for lavish special effects, the original "Star Trek" often favored exotic face paint to depict aliens, instead of elaborate prosthetics. Although there are a few odd-looking critters from out of this world in the Abrams films, there are just as many who look like Cirque du Soleil performers with temporary facial tattoos.

It's "Star Wars" because . . . Abrams and Co. gave Simon Pegg's Scotty an alien sidekick named Keenser who serves as both target of and sounding board for Scotty's frustrations. He's neither as furry nor as vocal as Han Solo's best friend Chewbacca. On the plus side, the fact that he keeps his mouth shut allows us to assume he'll never say anything as annoying as Jar Jar Binks.



The target demographic

It's classic "Star Trek" because . . . it's for grown-ups. Notwithstanding the PG rating of nine of the first 10 films — and the undeniable fact that the original series attracted a lot of young viewers — "Star Trek" was always intended for adults, or at least mature viewers. If "Star Trek Into Darkness" is a kiddie cartoon, it's one that grown-ups can enjoy too.

It's "Star Wars" because . . . while the recent PG-13-rated "Star Trek" movies aren't as blatantly targeted toward elementary schoolers, it's easy to imagine little kids totally geeking out over all of the interplanetary action. Oh, and did we mention that, via an "Into Darkness" tie-in, Hasbro just released a "Star Trek" toy building sets, designed for ages 6 and up?