A Federation starship is travelling through the galaxy when suddenly there is an anomaly in the area before them which is revealed to be a massive craft that fires upon them, disabling the operations and leaving the crew in severe danger. The Captain, Robau (Faran Tahir), orders an evacuation as a message appears on the screen from the second in command of a Romulan calling himself Nero (Eric Bana) who orders him to step aboard his ship. The Captain has no choice, and as he goes to board a shuttle craft he hands over the command to his first officer, George Kirk (Chris Hemsworth). Kirk's wife is going into labour as he remains behind, and the timeline that should have played out is drastically altered...
After the last Star Trek movie was a financial disappointment and for the first time in almost two decades there was no Trek series on television, Paramount looked to be in no hurry to begin afresh, but that was precisely what TV superproducer J.J. Abrams had in mind when he decided to reboot the franchise, as so many pop culture institutions had done since around the beginning of the twenty-first century. Never mind complaining that there were no new ideas in Hollywood when the movie powers that be could simply stick with the familiar, the tried and tested, the concepts that had already shown their mettle as enduring and more importantly, lucrative.
So while Doctor Who and James Bond and their ilk were making impressive comebacks, why not allow Star Trek to join the party? After all, there were still plenty of fans and even those with passing knowledge of the series had heard of Captain Kirk and Mr Spock, the latter in particular being one of the truly great characters that the sixties ever brought to television. But that distinction was important, as the film versions of the original which started in 1979 were very much big budget versions of the episodes, a little longer, but still operating in the same small screen universe no matter how expansive the plotting or advanced the special effects. So was what Abrams adopted any more cinematic? He was a producer who made his name on the box, after all.
And the truth is, the same feeling of dinky series in a flash suit affected the 2009 Star Trek as much as it did the movies throughout the eighties and nineties, but for the fans this was no obstacle for having something to champion once again as the film became one of the massive blockbuster successes of its summer. The "early years" concept is nothing that will surprise, but it's not about nasty shocks, it's about the warm familiar glow so in spite of a new cast in the roles, Abrams and his screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman stuck close to the template and detail fashioned by Gene Roddenberry all those years ago, with references and in-jokes that even casual viewers will pick up on, as well as more specialised indications that they knew what they were dealing with and were not simply upstarts.
What they did with the plot was clever, establishing a new set of adventures by the use of that old favourite, time travel. So Nero has gone back in time to wreak his vengeance on the Federation for not doing enough to stop the destruction of his home planet, but all is not lost as there's a certain Mr Spock being dragged through that temporal wormhole too, a much older version of the one we have been follwing, and Leonard Nimoy does indeed look a few centuries older than his replacement, Zachary Quinto. Chris Pine is our new Kirk, cockier than ever but promising and capable under pressure, and thankfully each of the cast offer up refreshing readings of what could have been simple impersonations. Some complained that the philosphical element had been jettisoned, but they seem to forget that this could often be the show's weakness with its pat conclusions, never mind that William Shatner got into a fistfight just about every week. It is jarring how much violence is used to solve the problems, yes, but action was what this was about, along with the feeling that you'd been reacquainted with old friends. Music by Michael Giacchino.