Monday, April 24, 2006

When Kirk met Spock

Don't think I've written about Star Trek in any depth since James Doohan died, so it's no wonder my inner geek's been getting twitchy. Fortunately, from Jaquandor comes news that there are plans for a new Star Trek movie.

One featuring Kirk and Spock.

As young men.

Paramount's commissioned the Lost guy, J.J. Abrams, to produce and direct. Looking over his track record, Jaquandor doesn't see Abrams as a promising choice for reviving the Star Trek movie franchise. He'd rather Josh Whedon had the con. I don't watch Lost, don't watch Abarms' other hit show, Alias. I'm not going to see his movie, MI:3. I don't know if having Abrams at the helm will be good or bad. Obviously the hope is that he will find a way to appeal to the Lost demographic while still pulling in the Trek fans. Good luck to him. May he live long and prosper.

Jaquandor thinks Abrams has already launched himself off on the wrong foot at warp speed.

I don't care what the "official Trek timeline" says. I simply do not believe that Kirk and Spock were in the Academy together, at the same time. I just don't. If anyone can cite something from either a series episode or one of the films that contradicts me here, then fine, but I've never once had any other impression than that Spock is at least twenty years older than Kirk, or that Spock's been in Starfleet a lot longer than Kirk has.

There's no real problem here, timewise, that I can see. First of all, Kirk is something of a "wunderkind", one of the youngest Captains in Starfleet and a guy who's been driven by the idea of command his entire life. Spock is not driven by command at all; by the time he becomes a Captain, it's as the commander of a starship that's being used for training new cadets. And if we assume that the TOS episode "The Menagerie" happens early in Kirk's command of the Enterprise -- perhaps even in his first year -- then it's possible that Spock was already serving on the Enterprise, under Captain Pike, while Kirk was still at the Academy. (The events of "The Cage" are clearly stated to have taken place thirteen years earlier.

I've always had the impression that Spock was older than Kirk too. But not that much older. His mother Amanda was human, after all, and we've seen her, 60ish to his 30 something in the TV episode Journey to Babel, 80ish to his 50 in the fourth movie, The Voyage Home. Vulcans live longer, but that doesn't necessarily mean that their childhoods are extended proportionally. So Kirk and Spock could be near contemporaries and it's possible that they bumped into each other when they were cadets or very young officers.

The problem, I think, if the film is to stay true to the series, is that Kirk and Spock were not friends before they served together aboard the Enterprise. During the first season they were clearly still getting to know each other. And throughout the course of the series there were important facts about Spock that Kirk just did not know. He wasn't aware of the depth of Spock's loyalty to Captain Christopher Pike. He'd never heard that Spock's father was the famous diplomat Sarek. And in Amok Time he's shocked to find out that every seven years Vulcans go into heat. That means, assuming they're both in their mid-30s during the run of the original series, Spock 35 to Kirk's 32 or 33, they couldn't have spent time around each other when Spock was 21 or 28 and suffering through pon farr.

That gives Abrams a window of 6 or so years in which to set his movie though, and Kirk and Spock don't have to become fast friends. The plot of the movie can just be that this was the time when they got to know and respect each other, building the foundation for their later friendship.

On Spock's side: Before the episode Shore Leave, Spock didn't know about Finnegan, the upperclassman who used to haze the young plebe Jim Kirk at the Academy. And in The Menagerie, he doubted if he could trust Kirk enough to let him in on his plan to spacejack the Enterprise and carry the severely crippled Captain Pike to Talos IV.

It does seem implied in the second movie, The Wrath of Khan, however, that Spock knew Kirk reprogrammed the computer in order to beat the Kobayashi Moru Maneuver at the Academy. That could be a funny plot point in the movie. Kirk could cheat and think he'd gotten away with it, without knowing he owes Spock for not ratting him out.

Spock and Kirk might actually have a lot in common. Both are science nerds who for some reason devoted themselves to military careers. Comparisons between Kirk and Captain James Cook have been made and they are apt. But Gene Roddenberry had Horatio Hornblower in mind when he created Kirk/Pike, and Hornblower was an unlikely naval officer, an intellectual and a scientist more than a swashbuckler. (Patrick O'Brian divided Hornblower in two when he created Lucky Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Aubrey-Maturin fans, Tom Watson and Mr Shakes, can tell me if he also was thinking of Jim Kirk and Mr Spock, bringing the literary allusions of Star Trek back down to earth and the sea.) Kirk is like Hornblower in that he knows the science of his command almost as well as the officers who are there to advise him on it. He is almost as good an engineer as Mr Scott, almost as knowlegeable a practical scientist as Spock, a better navigator than Chekov, and as well versed in history, anthropology, and other fields as the various guest star specialists who are brought aboard, usually as love interests with a soft spot for the episode's villain.

Both of Kirk's former major love interests are scientists: Dr Carol Marcus, the warm-hearted inventor of the Genesis device in Wrath of Khan and, incidentally, the mother of Kirk's son, David, and Dr Janice Lester, the crazy one---Every guy with any kind of romantic past has a warm-hearted one and a crazy one.---who works a soul-swap on Kirk and steals his body in Turnabout Intruder, thereby allowing William Shatner to camp it up divinely as Lester can't stop being a femme fatale even while in a man's body.

So Kirk could have been a scientist himself.

But that's his older brother Sam's vocation

Becoming a Star Fleet officer might have been his way of separating himself from his brother, even of outdoing him at something.

A fraternal rivalry is a part of Spock's history too.

But suppose Kirk's joining Star Fleet wasn't just an act of rivalry. Suppose it was an act of rebellion as well.

Kirk never mentions his parents, that I recall. As far as we know, his brother's the only family he has. What if his big brother was a lot older? Enough older to have become responsible for the young Jim Kirk when their parents died?

Kirk's heading off to the Academy instead of Stanford or the Vulcan Institute of Technology doesn't have to have been a family-fracturing act of defiance. But it might have caused enough friction that the young Kirk was still smarting from it and he might have let off some steam to the pointy-eared cadet who was his lab partner.

And Spock's enrollment at the Academy we know estranged him from his father.

The two outsiders, two geeks among the military jocks, each a secret rebel, would have been drawn to each other, and this could be the dynamic behind a good movie, as long as Abrams remembers that on the surface it would have appeared one-sided, with Kirk doing all the talking and making all the moves towards starting a friendship---a friendship that Spock would have resisted and not admitted to after it was established.

Jaquandor's concerned that so far there appears to be no plan to introduce any of the other series regulars as characters. Of course, Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura would have been too young, but Scotty's kicking around Star Fleet somewhere and can show up easily enough. But the one Jaquander wants to see and who he thinks is essential is McCoy.

Making a movie centering on Kirk and Spock alone commits a serious error, misunderstanding the character dynamic that made the Star Trek: TOS so iconic that it spawned decades of spinoffs and sequels. It's not the Kirk-and-Spock dynamic that lies at the dramatic heart of Star Trek; it's the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic. It was the way McCoy's passions and Spock's cool logic, often set in conflict, informed Kirk's eventual decisions that made the original show work.

As far as the series is concerned, Spock and Kirk's history together doesn't appear to go back farther than the day Kirk assumed command of the Enterprise. But, depsite the difference in their ages, McCoy and Kirk go way back. McCoy very probably was a part of Kirk's life when he was beginning his career, but this causes a problem for any movie about those days.

McCoy is not a career Star Fleet officer. He had a medical practice that was, if not on Earth, then on the ground of some other planet. When he calls himself a simple country doctor, he's exaggerating for emphasis, but what he's emphasizing is that he is not a military man or an astronaut. He joined Star Fleet after his wife died. Don't tell me you didn't remember he was married? Did you forget he has a daughter too?

If the new movie sends Kirk and Spock off into space, and it has to or it won't be Star Trek---I see it ending with Spock heading off to his new assignment aboard the USS Enterprise, but they have to fight a few Klingons or Cardassians before that---they'll have to go without McCoy.

Assuming McCoy's practice was near the Academy, wherever that's supposed to be, and Kirk and McCoy met up when Kirk needed to have his first dose of the clap taken care of off the records, McCoy can only be around for the first third of the film at the most.

But there is a character who was there during Kirk's Academy days who can step into the place McCoy occupied in the triangulated relationship Kirk has with his executive officers.

In fact, she has to be there for what we know from The Wrath of Khan to make sense.

Kirk and Carol Marcus had to have had their big love affair when they were both very young in order for their son to be around 30 when they meet up again.

Which means that a subplot of the new movie has to be Kirk getting Carol knocked up.

Before the scene where Spock reports to his new captain on the Enterprise, there has to be a scene where kindly young Doc McCoy tells Carol that the rabbit died.

Carol, of course, refuses an abortion and makes McCoy promise not to tell Kirk she's pregnant.

McCoy: Dammit, Carol! I'm a doctor, not your father confessor! We're talking about your future here!

Carol: Please, Bones?

McCoy: He's the father, he should be told.

Carol: I won't have him throwing his career away for me.

McCoy: He loves you, Carol.

Carol: He thinks he does. What he loves is the service. He's married to Star Fleet now. I don't want to wake up some morning to disccover I'm competing for his love with a starship!

Heck. Now I want to see this movie.


At 1:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked your blog.I do not think they went to the academy together.Kirk's best friend was Gary Mitchell who was the helmsman before Sulu.But I do have one nitpick when you said Spock did not trust kirk with Pike.Kirk called him Chris implying a friendship to the former captain.Spock said he did not include kirk because kirk would also face the death penalty

At 10:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting, however Spock said that he hoped that he would be spared pon far, so I assume that he had not experienced one and hope that he never would.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger Nash's G'ma said...

All of the ST fiction I have read over the years (and that's a LOT) implies that Kirk and Spock did not meet until Kirk took over command of the Enterprise. I think the writers of this new movie are taking great liberties with "history" and I don't think it will go over well with true Trekkies.

At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Ryder said...

Well, I'm not sure about the whole Spock being 20 years older than Kirk thing. I'd say that they were around three years apart, considering that Spock went through his first pon farr on the enterprise. not when he was 21 years old. Vulcans have a longer life span, so it makes sense that they mature later in life. Saavik said that they have it every seven years from the beginning of their adult life. So their adult life starts later. I think it makes sense that they were at the academy together for awhile, but Spock enrolled earlier and stayed for perhaps 3 or 4 years before being assigned to the enterprise under captain pike, assuming that he entered the academy at age 18, and then served on the enterprise for 11 years before Kirk took over. Remember, Sarek and he didn't speak for 18 years, and if he did join the academy at 18, that would make him thirty-six when they spoke again. Like I said, I believe that Kirk and Spock are only about three years apart, making Spock about 31 or 32 when Kirk comes aboard, assuming that Kirk is only about 29 or 30 when he becomes captain. The youngest captain in the fleet. But I don't think they were friends. Maybe they stumbled upon each other once or twice, but like *you* said, they were just beginning to form a friendship on the enterprise, and it grew rapidly during those years. Plus Kirk's closest friend was Gary Mitchell unitl his death, and only after Mitchell died did he seem to take much interest in Spock. They
seemed to have it pretty rough during the first episode, which we assume was at the beginning of the five-year mission. If they had been friends at the academy, if they had known each other even a little bit, would they not be excited at being reunited during the first few months or so?
Anyway, that's my opinion. I don't think I'll be considering the new movie canon, though I'll probably enjoy it. It just doesn't fit in my books.


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