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Star Trek (2009) Review / Discussion

January 17, 2020

Star Trek (2009) directed by J.J. Abrams was a game changer for Star Trek, which had lain dormant since the cancellation of Enterprise. This movie brought it back to our screens. It was an exciting time. The decision to do a "soft reboot" in canon using time travel and an alternate timeline was a clever concept and brought in a new generation of fans. But what does this movie have to do with the new Star Trek Picard, which will be set back in the original prime timeline? Plenty. The inciting incident of this movie takes place in the prime timeline, and this event will have a profound effect on the life of Jean-Luc Picard. Join us as we conclude our countdown of the 10 episodes and movies you should watch before Star Trek Picard. Next week, we look at the first episode of Picard! 

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Welcome to Nerd Heaven.

I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of the stars.

And I am a nerd.

This is episode 10 of the podcast. Today we finish our look at the 10 episodes and movies that you should watch before Star Trek Picard.

Today, we’re looking at JJ Abram’s Star Trek 2009 movie, because although it creates a whole new Star Trek timeline, it’s inciting incident takes place in the prime universe, and its impact will have a profound effect on Jean-Luc Picard’s life.


The IMDB description for this movie reads

The brash James T. Kirk tries to live up to his father's legacy with Mr. Spock keeping him in check as a vengeful Romulan from the future creates black holes to destroy the Federation one planet at a time.

This movie first appeared in cinemas on the 6th of April 2009


Punch it.


I was very excited about the impending release of this movie. Star Trek was back! Ever since the cancellation of Enterprise, Star Trek had been dead. The franchise was off the air.

We didn’t know when or if we’d ever see it again.


Paramount decided to bring it back in the form of movies, and hired JJ Abrams to create the first one.

Some fans were very cautious about this movie. Claims that this movie would be more open to wider audiences, suggested it would lack the heart and soul of Star Trek.

I too was cautious, but optimistically so. I just wanted a good story. I wanted Star Trek back.


One of the first things you notice when this movie stars is the lens flare. A common trick to make CGI look more realistic is to add a little lens flare. To give the illusion that these computer-generated images were shot with a real camera. JJ wanted to go for a very realistic believable star Trek universe, so he added a lot of lens flare to his cgi. And so it didn’t look out of place, he also added a lot of lens flare to the live-action footage.

Except, in my opinion, he went way overboard. They actually had people on set with torches, (sorry, flashlights, for you American listeners) shining light into the lens of the camera. It’s a bit distracting. But, it’s his style.


The next big thing you notice is that the viewscreen is a window. And communication messages appear as translucent overlays on that window.

It could be argued that the bridge of the enterprise shouldn’t be right up the top of the saucer. It’s a vulnerable position. There’s no need for it. It’s not like they’re looking out a window.

JJ Abrams and his team were trying to provide a justification for the position of the bridge, and so, they made the viewscreen an actual window.

I wasn’t a fan of this approach and was disappointed when Star Trek Discovery followed suit.


But we get an epic space battle. Right up front, we realise this will be a much more action-packed star trek. And that was welcome. Star Trek movies had always fell a little flat on the action front. Even the borg battle in First Contact was over way too quickly.


I love the scene where someone gets blown out of the ship due to a hull breach and it suddenly goes silent, because, of course, there is no sound in the vacuum of space. Nice touch. Very atmospheric.


So this ship is the USS Kelvin. Named after JJ Abram’s father. It has been suggested, by some fans, that in-universe, this ship could be named after William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, after whom the kelvin unit of temperature is named. But to my knowledge, this isn’t canon.


The captain of the Kelvin is taken on board the Romulan ship. They ask what he knows of Ambassador Spock. I love that they call him Ambassador, linking back to the next generation.


There are some cool looking aliens on the Kelvin. Some nice creature effects on the bridge, and a midwife with funny eyes. It’s nice to see some more alien aliens on Star Trek. But the lack of any familiar races at all, kinda makes it feel a little more like Star Wars than Star Trek. It would have been nice to throw in an Andorian in the background somewhere.


We get some very emotional music during the birth scene. And there are little to no sound effects in this scene. We just hear hte music as Kirk’s mother gives birth, and the ships battle it out. This technique was sometimes used on Babylon 5, to amazing effect. I loved it there, and I love it here. Very effective. This whole sequence as George Kirk asks about his newborn son and says goodbye to his wife is fantastic.


I always give this movie a lot of credit for making me cry before the opening title even appears.

Powerful stuff.

I Love this teaser. Always have.


But one question. Where do the shuttles go? How do they escape the Narada? Do they have warp drive?


As as the title card comes up, we are treated to the new theme music. This film was scored by Michael Giacchino. He wrote quite different music, but it was great stuff.


I like the kid kirk driving sequence. I love how his communicator is a Nokia brand. Yes, this is product placement, but to me, these touches add elements of believability to the world.

The boy he passes on the street is supposed to be his older brother George. There was a deleted scene where he was leaving home because of their abusive stepfather. That scene was cut.

And yes, I like the rock music. Maybe it doesn’t fit star trek, but that’s ok. I also liked the Enterprise theme song and thought it gave the show a more contemporary feel, which was suitable since the show was set closer to present day.

Maybe it’s less suitable in the 23rd century.


Spock is wrestling with his identity as both Vulcan and human. At first, his father suggests that although he is half-human he should live his life fully Vulcan. But later tells him he should choose his own path.

Spock chooses the Vulcan way of life, and yet, he has concerns that his mother will consider this an insult against her. I like this.


Then the Vulcan leader insults his mother, referring to her as a disadvantage.

The way Spock says “Live long and prosper” speaks volumes. It carries a very different message. Nice acting by Zachery Quinto.


Kirk flirting with Uhura seems…...weird. But I can understand it. He’s a young guy, she’s an attractive woman, and she’s not an officer under his command.

Kirk isn’t even in Starfleet, just a very intelligent delinquent kid.


So we get Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike. And he does a good job of 



Pike gives that weird line about the Federation being a peacekeeping and humanitarian armada.

First of all, he’s confusing the Federation with Starfleet. The federation is a political coalition of planets. Starfleet is their “armada” if you want to call it that, although that word carries very military connotations. Starfleet both is and isn’t a military. It’s confusing, but yes, it’s focus is on peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, as well, of course, as exploration.


We see the Enterprise begin constructed on the ground in Iowa. Obviously something in this new timeline changed, causing it to be built here instead of at the San Francisco shipyards (which we assume are orbital)


This movie presents us with a very different Kirk.

In the original timeline, Kirk wasn’t a brash delinquent. He was a nerd. Constantly carrying books around. This, of course, is explainable, given he grew up without a father (he had a step father but he was a real deadbeat.)

And then we meet McCoy. I like how we finally get an explanation for Kirk’s nickname for him - Bones. Makes good sense. And it canonises that McCoy has been married but is now divorced.


The Romulans we see in this movie are not like any Romulans we’ve seen before. But these are not military officers. They’re labourers. And they’ve been through some really bad stuff, so again, I’m cool with all that.


It’s pretty cool that we get to see Kirk taking the Kobayashi maru test.

Notice he’s eating an apple, just like he is when he tells the story of this day in Star Trek 2.


Spock hits pretty low when he references Kirk’s father during the hearing.

And then we get the Paul McGillion cameo. At the time this movie was in production, Paul McGillion was playing Dr. Carson Becket on Stargate Atlantis, a character with a Scottish accent. A very popular character. And there was a fan movement to get him cast as Scotty in this movie. It would have been a nice choice. But JJ Abrams had worked with Simon Pegg on Mission Impossible and was determined to cast him as Scotty. He did, however, give McGillion a little role as the officer assigning people their posts as the cadets are called into active duty because of an emergency at Vulcan.


So we learn that Spock and Uhura have a relationship. This was a very odd choice, which somehow kind of works.

And we finally get our first proper full look at the enterprise.

And she looks pretty good.

Pretty close to the original version, and again, because this is a changed timeline, I’m willing to accept the differences.

It’s a pretty decent modern re-imagining of the original.

I can’t say the brewery engineering room quite works for me, but hey, they tried something.


I don’t have an issue with Checkov being on the bridge, even though we never saw him in TOS until season 2.

First of all, yes, that alternate timeline defence, and second, Checkov could have been on the ship during season 1, we just never saw him on screen.  In fact, we know that he must have been because Khan recognises him in Star Trek 2, canonising this theory.


I Love how Kirk is still flirting with every woman that passes him, even though he’s really sick. He reminds me of Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who.


So Vulcan is being attacked by a Romulan ship. The ship we first saw in the teaser. Nero’s ship. The Nerada

This ship looks really cool. It’s mean and it’s powerful.

But it’s supposed to be a mining ship. It makes no sense that it would be this powerful.

The non-canon countdown comic tries to explain this. I don’t quite buy into it.


The characters know a little too much about Romulans for the time when this movie is set. Remember, they don’t yet know that Romulans are related to the Vulcans. But they were probably pushed into closer investigation into them after the Kelvin incident.


We get some Awesome visuals as the Enterprise drops out of warp in the middle of a debris field from the attack.

It was very nice to see Star Trek with modern big-budget effects. This was a big step forward from Nemesis, the last time we’d seen Trek on the big screen.


So Nero demands pike come aboard, leaving Spock in command, and cadet Kirk is promoted to first officer. Quite unlikely, but I guess Pike sees something in Kirk.


So this movie kills a redshirt in true Star Trek tradition. Of course, he’s not wearing a red shirt because they’re in spacesuits. And he’s an aussie. But given his accent, I doubt the actor is Aussie. It’s a shame that one of the very few Australians to appear in Star Trek is such an idiot.


The battle on the drill is pretty thrilling.

And I do like Sulu’s fold-out sword.

Say what you will about this movie, it’s an effective action film.


They beam Kirk and Sulu from their freefall. They crash onto the platform.

But if they maintained the same velocity, shouldn’t that impact have killed them.

The new transporter effect is kinda cool. The way it swirls around each individual part of the body.


So Vulcan is being destroyed by creating a black hole at the centre of the planet.

So they beam up the Vulcan leadership and Spock’s family, but Spock’s mother, Amanda.

Doesn’t make it.

This shows without a shadow of a doubt that we’re in a new timeline. There are new rules. We can’t assume anyone will survive.

And they actually destroyed Vulcan.

That was bold.


I was torn about this. I didn’t want Vulcan to go, but we’d all been criticising star trek for using the almighty reset button. Finally, they were willing to make a major change in the Star Trek universe, and not backpedal it.


The scene with Uhura and Spock in the turbolift is WEIRD.

She goes in to comfort him. And ends up kissing him.

She asks him what he needs. She seems almost disappointed when he doesn’t ask for anything romantic.

Really really weird scene.


So Nero explains he is from the future, and that in his future, Romulus was destroyed. The federation did nothing. Spock failed to save their world.

I like the callback to the creatures Khan used to control people in Star Trek 2. They look ever so slightly different, but I’ve always taken them to be the same creature.


While Spock is right, he has very flimsy evidence to drive him to assume Nero is from the future.


Spock makes it clear that Nero has caused a new timeline. An alternate reality.


Spock’s choice to throw Kirk off the ship onto a planet where he’d likely die is extremely harsh and illogical. All he had to do was put him in the brig.


So this planet is supposed to be delta vega

But it’s way too close to Vulcan.

Now I’ll accept that planets don’t have uniform climate across the whole world. Earth certainly doesn’t. So I can accept that the desert planet we saw in “Where no man has gone before” could have frozen polar caps, and that’s where Kirk is.

But Delta Vega is near the rim of the universe. Nowhere near Vulcan.


I read that the writers of the movie thought fans would appreciate the callback.

But this shows a lack of understanding of fans.

No callback is preferable to a callback that blatantly breaks canon like this. They could have called this planet anything.


The alien animals we see on the planet are AWESOME.

Star Trek has needed a few good space monsters for a long time, so their inclusion was very welcome in my opinion.


And surprise surprise! We see old Spock. Played by Leonard Nimoy!

This is what really made this movie. Nimoy provided a link to the past. To old Star Trek.

This is the original Spock. Last seen on screen as Ambassador Spock in Star Trek The Next Generation.


So a star went supernova in the 24th century. Spock promised the Romulans he would help them save their planet.

But he failed. The supernova destroyed Romulus.

Spock and Nero were both pulled into the black hole and ended up in the 23rd century.

This event happened in the prime timeline. The original timeline. And this is the event that will be important when it comes to Star Trek Picard.


We get a nice little Spock/bones scene. These movies never quite reach the same levels of portraying the relationship between Kirk, Spock and bones as the original series, but little scenes like this give an inkling. There was another good scene with Bones and Spock in Star Trek Beyond.


Then we meet Scotty. Simon Pegg does a pretty good job in the role.

He’s mostly used for comic relief in this film. I’m not a huge fan of purely comic relief characters, but I was very amused by his line when he asks Spock if they have sandwiches in the future.

Scotty mentioned beaming admiral archer’s prize beagle to another planet.

This, obviously, can’t be Porthos. I can accept that maybe Archer is still alive as a very old man, but Porthos? No way. So clearly Archer’s love of beagles continues through his life.


And this is where we encounter the problem of transwarp beaming. The ability to beam long distances from one planet to another. This is a big issue in the JJ Abrams movies. It was a convenient plot device to get Kirk and Scotty back onto the Enterprise in this episode. But it’s used very badly in the next movie, Star Trek Into Darkness. I’m afraid I’m not a fan of transwarp beaming. Not at all. It makes starship virtually obsolete.


Spock knows the potential that kirk and young Spock have to do great things together.

He wants kirk to take over the Enterprise. Spock assures Kirk that he just saw his planet destroyed. He is emotionally compromised. Both of him.


Why does the Enterprise have water tubes running around that go into a big spinner choppy thing? Feels a bit too much like Galaxy Quest.


Spock’s emotional outburst is understandable, given what he’s just been through.

It’s a good thing Sulu was there to hear Pike promote Kirk to first officer. Otherwise, I doubt anyone would accept him as the new acting Captain.


So now we have a cadet in command of the ship. Giving orders to crew who all outrank him, who have more experience and seniority than him.

It’s a little absurd.


Then we have a nice emotional scene between Sarak and Spock.

Ben Cross probably plays a more believable Sarak here than James Frain does in discovery.


So Nero is now planning to destroy Earth the same way he destroyed Vulcan.

This movie is the first time we really see normal Starfleet hand phasers firing bolts instead of beams. Discovery continued this trend.

Now, when The Defiant first appeared in DS9, firing bolts out of its cluster phasers, I loved it. It was so much meaner and tougher than normal phasers.

But now that everything is bursts, I miss the beams, because they feel more star-trek-ey.


So they find Ambassador Spock’s ship from the future.

The computer voice is played, for one last time, by Majel Barret.

Although, to be honest, it really doesn’t sound like her to me.

But anyway.


For once, it actually makes sense why there are no ships protecting earth.

They all went to Vulcan and were destroyed by the Narada, leaving Earth defenceless.


So they save Earth, and a black hole forms around the Nerada.


Kirk tries to do the Starfleet thing, offering compassion to one’s enemy.

Even Spock wants him to blow Nero away.

When Nero refuses Kirk’s help, they gladly pummel it with phasers, destroying the ship.

Except now the Enterprise is stuck in the gravitational pull of the black hole.

Nice that Scotty threw in his life “I’m giving it all she’s got, captain”

The solution, of course, is to eject the warp core.

Which looks nothing like a warp core. In fact, it’s a whole lot of separate…..things.


This doesn’t make a lot of sense. The enterprise is now without its warp core. It should have virtually no power, 

But now it can power out of the black hole.


Apparently the destruction of the core did something technobabble-ish to disrupt the gravity or something.


We get a nice little scene where Spock and Spock meet.


Old Spock wanted Kirk and young Spock to find the friendship he knew that could have. A friendship that would define them both.


Spock tells his younger counterpart to forget logic and do what feels right.

This is kind of the culmination of his character journey, his increasing embracing of his human side was seen in both star trek 6 and tng unification.

It’s a nice book-end to this character.


So, Kirk, the cadet who has not yet even graduated the academy, who hasn’t even made ensign yet, is named captain and given command of the Enterprise.

This is completely illogical and ridiculous. It’s the thing that bugs me about this movie the most.

But anyway.


So now the crew of the enterprise are all together, on the ship, as they should be, with Kirk in the captain’s chair and Spock at his side. The glimmers of a potential friendship kindled between them.


We’re going to leave the Kelvin universe here and return to the prime timeline, because the event of this movie that really matters, is the destruction of Romulus by the singularity.


This event had a huge impact on the prime timeline, and on Captain Picard in particular.

The countdown to Picard comic book gives us some details on this.

At the time of recording, I’ve read the first instalment.


Well, that was star trek 2009

I still enjoy this movie.

It’s a very different kind of star trek, but it showed us a modern, high energy take on the franchise.


Next week, can you believe it? I’m very excited to announce that will be talking about the first episode of Star Trek Picard.

We’re almost there, people

And that’s very exciting.


See you next week on Nerd Heaven.


Until then, live long and prosper.

I’m Adam David Collings

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