Overthinking Star Trek

My Patient Husband posted a bit of a discussion we had about the recent Star Trek movie. The question: what’s the point of creating an alternate universe if you’re only going to return it to the state of the original universe at the end of the story?

My take on things comes from a Gatchaman-centric perspective. A lot of internal tension in Gatchaman (and outright conflict in Battle of the Planets) arises from the interactions of Ken/Mark and Joe/Jason, the #1 and #2 guys on the team. They both want to do the right thing, and they both have no problem with breaking a few rules in order to do it, but Ken (and moreso Mark) feels a strong imperative to do right by everyone. Joe (and Jason) don’t feel that urge as strongly, and want to act to get things done.

Star Trek inverts this structure. What you have in Gatchaman becomes this:
Heroic Leader: We need to act, but I’m not sure what.
Impulsive 2nd in Command: Well, let’s do THIS THING, which is risky.
Heroic Leader: No, it’s too risky. Let’s think of more options.

This creates tension. Inverting that structure creates:
2nd In Command: We should do something.
Heroic Leader: Let’s do THIS THING.
2nd In Command: It’s risky.
Heroic Leader: Like I care. Do it.

And then it works out right, with Kirk-Luck. (Condor-Luck isn’t always so good; someone he loves always ends up dead.)

Goodbye, tension.

So anyhow, head over to my Patient Husband’s weblog and take a look and weigh in with your opinions. 🙂


  1. Ivy

    To be fair, Miramani dies. Edith dies. Ruth dies. Kirk has such a run of dead lovers, there’s a filk about it. I only remember the end well.

    I love them and I lose them
    and too many times they die.
    I come home broken-hearted and
    back to my stars I fly.

    My steel and star-drive lady
    I keep no love but you
    and when this mission’s over I
    suspect you’ll leave me too.

    I guess you’ll leave me too.

    The thing is, Kirk wasn’t the leader at the start–he was the outcast upstart. He pulled himself to the top by his own bootstraps, and the tension wasn’t so much “can these two put aside their differences long enough to get stuff done?” as “can this group of A-type people, few of whom get along, pull together and become a team?”

  2. Diinzumo


    More so BotP than Gatchaman. Ken was very much the Bad Boy there because he could get away with it, so we had conversations like this:

    Mech attacks.
    Joe: Let’s shoot it!
    Ken: No, we have to find its base/have orders/other excuse.
    Jun: What’ll we do, Ken?
    Ken: Let’s do this.
    Joe: That’s really risky.
    Ken: I don’t care. Do it.

    Then, through Eagle Luck or sheer capriciousness, the team destroys the Mech of the Week and flies into the sunset. They don’t always leave victorious, or unscathed, which was something you didn’t often see in the original Star Trek series.