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Star Trek: Terminology Rebooted

Cassie Ammerman, Publicity

I don’t usually go to movies on opening weekend. It takes a very special movie for me to brave the crowds, wait in line, and be up that late (I think I got home around 4:30 am). But Star Trek definitely qualified. I saw it Friday night with a group of friends at an Imax in New York. And if you haven’t seen it yet, I would definitely recommend seeing it at the Imax—the already explosive action is truly amazing.

A little while ago, I wrote a post on the OUPblog about my favorite terminology from Star Trek. I promised to do a follow up with how, if at all, those terms appear in the new movie. Because this is about the reboot, there will probably be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, go see it first and then come back and read!

There were several words that didn’t appear in the movie in any way, shape, or form. Surprisingly, tricorder wasn’t mentioned once. Or did I just miss it? I’m fairly sure tricorders were used, at least in the medical sense, but the word itself was not. Holodeck is a Next Generation term, so I wasn’t expecting it to appear, and sure enough, it didn’t. Neither did Prime Directive or cloaking device, although the Klingons had a brief off-screen role and the Romulans were the villains.

Despite having just knocked four words off my original list of ten (okay, eleven) words, there’s still plenty to talk about, starting with phasers. “Fire all phasers!” is one of the first clear phrases you hear in the opening sequence, as George Kirk battles a massive Romulan ship in order to save the fleeing crew of the USS Kelvin. As a weapon, the phaser is great: it comes in both a large format (on the ships themselves) and small format (pocket sized!); and there are no worries about reloading or recharging when Kirk and Spock get in a phaser battle on Nero’s ship. Spock utters one of my favorite phrases, “Set phasers to stun,” when telling the Enterprise security team to capture Kirk and Scotty. I’ll admit though, that my favorite weapon moment wasn’t using a phaser; it was when Kirk gasps “Got your gun!” as he shoots a Romulan who has been choking him. Such a Kirk moment!

The transporter plays a big role in the movie. When the Enterprise jumps into Vulcan space, they expect a trap. What they don’t expect is to have all their communications and transporter abilities shut down due to “signal interference,” necessitating Kirk, Sulu, and Olsen’s jump to the mining platform to save the day. (I’m not sure why they’re not expecting this. Doesn’t it seem fairly obvious? None of the other ships were able to communicate with the Enterprise before they were destroyed, so obviously communications were down, right?)

My favorite part about the transporter in the movie, however, was how it was portrayed, once again, as a difficult technology. It was a source of endless amusement in the original series (see the episode Mirror, Mirror for a great example). In this movie, the transporter has trouble locking on to anyone who is moving too quickly, which seems like a fairly realistic problem for a fantastic piece of technology. Kirk and Sulu almost splatter on the rocks of Vulcan before Chekov is able to save them, and Spock’s mother is lost as the cliff crumbles underneath her as they’re fleeing the exploding planet, leading to major internal conflict for poor Spock.

Stardate was actually my least favorite term on the original list, and it remains so now, because it’s just not nearly as glamorous. But it is a necessary device, because changing the dates from our own Gregorian calendar gives a sense of the future in ways beyond the technology of Star Trek. It shows a complete change from a system that has been known and accepted in our modern world since 1582.

I learned something new about the Vulcan mind-meld in this movie—it’s probably something everyone else already knew, but if I did, I had forgotten it. Not only can you use the mind-meld to give or take information, but if you’re sharing a sequence of events, as future Spock does with Kirk, the mind-meld also comes with emotional transference. I don’t know if I’d want to know the depth of pain Spock felt at watching his home planet blow up. Although, that transfer of emotion is what clued Kirk in to the fact that young Spock does, in fact, feel emotion, and must be in complete turmoil after seeing his home destroyed and his mother killed. Well, it hinted, anyway. Kirk also required a slightly more direct hint from future Spock.

Future Spock was there for more than just providing broad hints to Kirk, however. He also does a bit of time-tinkering when he gives Scotty an equation that, in a different time line, Scotty invented himself. The equation allows Kirk and Scotty to do what is supposedly impossible: transport themselves onto the Enterprise while it’s going at warp speed. It’s a nice showcase of how clueless, yet totally genius, Scotty is. The best warp scene, however, has to be when Sulu is trying to get the Enterprise underway on her maiden voyage. Captain Pike orders the ship to maximum warp, Sulu cranks it up… and nothing happens, until Spock reminds a slightly embarrassed Sulu to take off the external inertial dampeners. I have to say, Pike’s phrase “punch it” to take them into warp doesn’t stir my heart the way Picard’s calm “engage” does. But that’s a personal preference.

Last but most definitely not least, I loved the redshirt scene. Poor, poor Olsen. Now, I’ve heard some griping about this scene—that if the mining platform was so windy as to blow Olsen away, how could Kirk and Sulu then stand on it and engage in hand-to-hand combat? Well, if you watch the scene again, you’ll see that Olsen (handily visible in his bright red jump suit) pulls his parachute far too late, and doesn’t slow down enough to get hold of anything solid on the mining platform before he tumbles away. In true Star Trek redshirt fashion, not only is Olsen unknown and wearing red, he’s carrying one of the most important things required for the away team’s mission: the charges required to blow up the platform and restore communications and transporter functions. Of course, no one thinks to distribute these between all three men on the mission, just in case—but then, they couldn’t really do that and keep it a true redshirt moment. Olsen was doomed the minute we met him, and we all knew it.

Overall, I think the movie was fantastic. There are a ton of reviews out there now, if you want to check out what other people thought of the newest addition to the Star Trek cannon. I’m going to leave you with a few of the best phrases from the movie, courtesy of my favorite character, Dr. Bones McCoy. Not only does he manage to get the phrase “Damn it, man, I’m a doctor, not a physicist!” in there, he also calls Spock a “green-blooded hobgoblin,” which made me giggle like a schoolgirl. And I will swear up and down that he calls one of the nurses Nurse Chapel, which should please a lot of fans out there.

Oh, and did you spot the tribble?

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