Director: JJ Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy and Simon Pegg
2009, 127 Minutes
Re-evaluating The Reboot
‘Star Trek’ (2009) is a film that is unique to Star Trek. Not only due to a new cast and new creative control but the most striking and jarring aspect is that ‘Star Trek’ did not feel like it was made for Star Trek fans. I had mixed feelings about this incarnation. I felt there was too much glossing over of story details and that there were too many contrived plot devices for one film. There was ‘Red-Matter’, the ‘Kobayashi Maru’, ‘Spock Prime’, there was also Scottty’s warp flight transport from the other side of the alpha quadrant (may be an exaggeration) and a truly bizarre coincidence that most mainstream cinema-goers had no problem with.
Until recently I considered each of these plot points to be only plot points that were there to move the film forward to rewrite the history of Star Trek while never providing any real meaning or adding anything to the characters. I thought they just wanted to get the ‘Kobayashi Maru’ test out of the way as a reference point to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This was a metaphor for Kirk’s inability to face his own mortality and finally facing his personal ‘Kobayashi Maru’ thirty years later. Kirk’s mortality was addressed in each film that followed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and gave the Captain Kirk helmed films a gravitas that was sorely lacking in the Captain Picard films. This is why the ‘Kobayashi Maru’ is so integral to Kirk’s character and to the Star Trek film series. This event defined the latter day Kirk that we find in the film series. In ‘Star Trek’ (2009) I felt that they did not get to the point of the ‘Kobayashi Maru’ beyond some explanatory dialogue, some references to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and setting up a conflict between Kirk and Spock. I thought it was a shallow and contrived usage of such an important part of Star Trek history.
‘Kobayashi Maru’ as used in the 2009 film became clear during a recent revisit. The ‘Kobayashi Maru’ was integral to Spock’s story arc and ties Kirk and Spock together on a deeper level than realized. The point of the test according to Spock is “Not to win, but to face fear and accept the possibility of death”. The No-Win situation of the ‘Kobayashi Maru’ becomes the real life test of Spock through the second act where he has to face death and mortality. He witnesses his mother’s death and the destruction of his home world leaving his people at the mercy of ‘The Federation’. Spock’s response to this is to lash out in aggression towards Kirk and abandon him to a barren ice planet.
Looking at the ‘Kobayashi Maru’ from the perspective of Spock not only makes this a better film but also strengthens and adds further depth to the usage of The ‘Kobashi Maru’ in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This is because Spock faces his personal Kobayashi Maru at the hands of Nero and with the destruction of Vulcan while Kirk’s personal ‘Kobayashi Maru’ is in the loss of Spock.
While the film is flawed and there are some contrivances the character moments of Spock, Kirk and the ‘Kobayashi Maru’ are not the contrived plot devices I once thought. Despite the flaws of the story telling devices, there is more depth to ‘Star Trek’ (2009) than you may have initially thought. The ‘Kobayashi Maru’ was and still is one of the most important character moments in the Star Trek film series.