Star Trek got rebooted in 2009, and I have to say that it was one of the best reboots I’ve ever seen given to a franchise. The newest film stayed remarkably true to its roots, containing all of the elements of the franchise that fans have come to expect. Bones is a doctor, damn it, not a bricklayer. Spock says, “Live long and prosper.” A red-shirted ensign dies on the away mission. And so on. What really makes me respect the film, though, is that director J.J. Abrams managed to tap into one of the oft-overlooked aspects of the franchise: the blatantly homosexual relationship between Kirk and Spock. Because Abrams is not away to shy away from such an important piece of the characters, the resulting movie is something that can easily be considered the best romantic comedy of the decade.
The sexual tension between Kirk and Spock is something as important to the Star Trek franchise as transporter malfunctions. The on-screen chemistry between William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy is something that spin-off shows have often tried to duplicate, but to no avail (Captain Picard and Data, I’m looking at you). But this movie finally brings that relationship to the forefront to wonderful effect.
The characters have all the makings of an odd couple. James Kirk is a womanizing wild child who respects no authority but his own. Spock is an emotionally distant half-Vulcan torn between two worlds. Only when they are together can Spock’s penchant for logic calm Kirk’s passionate soul, while Kirk’s raw emotion is enough to melt even Spock’s icy heart. Why more people haven’t gone in-depth with this relationship is a mystery to me. The new film not only explores this relationship, but adds some new twists. On film, the obvious love between Kirk and Spock is sometimes as subtle as a simple camera technique – using a close-up shot of the actors’ faces that is usually reserved for a romantic couple about to kiss. Other times, it’s far more blatant, such as when Spock’s alternate future self admits that he didn’t interfere in the events of the film because of the valuable “friendship” that the mission formed between Kirk and Spock.
This film also keeps intact the sexual confusion that defines the two characters. Growing up in the conservative Midwest, Kirk desperately tries to hide his feelings for other men by flirting with every female he sees and sleeping with vast quantities of green-skinned women. As a new twist, we also get to see some of Spock’s romantic trysts through his complex relationship with Ohura. At first a mere teacher-pupil relationship, Ohura begins making advances on Spock following the traumatic event of his planet’s demise. Spock responds to her, but remains distant throughout the brief scenes. Only when Kirk is on the screen do the half-Vulcan’s emotions come to the forefront.
I applaud this approach to the franchise, and I look forward to seeing Abrams pay homage to more classic scenes from Star Trek canon:
Okay, that last one didn’t happen…yet. But you can make it so, Mr. Abrams!