The 'Star Trek' Trailer: Geek Nip or Geek Slip?

Startrek_lI’m sure you all know that the teaser for J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie unspooled before Cloverfield and is now available online right ovah heah. And while it is short, it’s completely effective in stoking the kind of geek awe one needs in order to resuscitate this flagging franchise. After all, love him or hate him, the stoking is one of the things Abrams is best at. (Witness this other site, which offers "security cam" footage of those same workers building the Enterprise.)

But aside from the awesomeness of watching the construction of the ol’ NCC-1701, this teaser did raise one big geek question for me: Why would anyone build a starship on Earth itself? Because that’s what those welders are doing. I get that it’s a cooler image, seeing the grimy faces of the workers as the sparks reflect off their safety goggles — as opposed to dudes floating around in space suits. But it just doesn’t make any sense. If a vessel is never going to operate inside the gravity well of a planetary body, then why subject it to the stresses of that same gravity well during construction? And isn’t it easier to maneuver the raw materials in a weightless atmosphere? One dude, all by himself, could slide a warp nacelle into position if he was in zero-g orbit. You’d need massive, massive machinery to do the same thing on Earth. Besides, according to Star Trek lore, Starfleet built the Utopia Planitia Fleet Yards — in orbit around Mars — expressly for ship construction. Because Starfleet ain’t stupid.

Writer-producer Roberto Orci attempts to explain away some of these issues, but I’m not even remotely convinced. What about you? Do you buy it? Or do you not particularly care?

Okay, I’m closing the geek hailing frequencies now. Carry on.

Comments (53 total) Add your comment
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  • Broadway Baby

    Love this! Marc Bernardin is quickly becoming ‘must read immediately’ status.

  • Anonymous

    One thing to keep in mind – Star Trek operates in a world of its own in the sci-fi universe. There are certain terms and ideas that are common across the board. Star Trek has always chosen to rename those things. So they’re operating on a different playing field from what normal sci-fi viewers are used to. Not saying it’s right or wrong, it’s just different.

  • Nat X

    Ugh, I hate it when they leave the science out of science fiction. I think most sci-fi movie makers are just lazy. One of the best things about Firefly was that Joss Whedon made a conscious decision to make space silent instead of adding “whooshes” or “bangs” for the sake of people with no imagination or attention spans.

  • OCab

    Why couldnt they be building the body of the ship on earth then send it to space for completion?

  • Eric

    I don’t know if your points are being too geeky, or if they’re valid criticisms.
    What I do know is the teaser was powerful because it evoked my real-world sense of the awe of space exploration, something I’ve lost after watching so many fantastical space dramas for so many years.
    It wouldn’t have worked the same way in space – by showing earth, it represented the passing from one frontier to the other.

  • Tim Lade

    I’m sorry there Marc, I have nothing but respect for you as an author but let’s just throw something out there. Would it not be easier to build something, especially of that size and scale on a planet with gravity and air as opposed to floating in a spacesuit. Not that I expect a reply or that you’ll even notice I rebutted your point but let’s be honest…the space shuttle was built on earth but it’s primary function is to be in space…but I dunno…maybe they just start repairing them at the space station.

  • Kevin

    I seems to me that the original concept of Star Trek was to mimick the adventures of an oceanic explorer but in space. The old wooden ships were made on land so why wouldn’t their space travelling brethren?

  • Anonymous

    It make sense that parts of the ship would be constructed on earth and tehn put together in space. I think it makes complete sense.

  • jcarla

    You have to remember that we have no choice to build the space shuttle on earth and because of this compromises and restrictons are in place, such as weight of payloads and time in orbit, to just launch the shuttle. If you can take launch and rentry out of the equation, things open up.

  • Jane

    I know that interview with Roberto Orci said they were building it on earth, but it was the interviewer who thought that, and Orci went along with it. He didn’t make hte statement himself. Maybe they are building at Utopia Planetia, but like all space stations on Star Trek, it has artificial atmosphere, so they could still be welding (fire requiring oxygen) and they could be wearing magnetic boots like during the murder scene in Star Trek VI, so that they could still be building in zero-g. It’s not like there were such clear shots of the background that you could tell specifically where the ship was being built.

  • Jason in MI

    The real beef is this: That ain’t the way it’s supposed to be.
    The creators of Trek made different decisions. A film maker of real talent could have made his vision in line with the original. That’s the burden you accept when you say “yes” to a project like this.

  • Ep Sato

    The only way Abrams and Co can get away with taking so much liberty with the franchise is if they make a good movie.
    As for their half assed attempts to explain their sudden change in lore that’s now more than 40 years old, it’s insulting but no worse than Eon Productions claiming Bond had a female boss on his very first assignment (as shown in Casino Royale). As Eon proved with Casino Royale, you can rewrite the lore and history of a series if your product is good. Episodes 1,2 and 3 of star wars on the other hand, demonstrate what changing the lore of a classic will do if the movie’s not that good. To me this all seems like a BIIIG Gamble to restart an already past its prime series that’s already had 10 movies and 5 tv series. To top it off, they plan to make all these changes in an odd numbered trek movie? I smell a potential stinker.

  • T-Rex

    I’m in the “build it on Earth, assemble it in space” crowd. It makes no sense to have guys in puffy spacesuits floating around trying to do spot welds. Furthermore, The franchise was dead or dying, Abrams was brought on specifically to breathe new life into it. If he has to break with Star Trek lore in order to do so, so be it. Has it occurred to you that this could be a warning shot across the bow of the geekship lollipop that things are changing and Mr. Abrams isn’t beholden to your lore?

  • Marc B

    I’m fine with the new Powers That Be making changes to the Star Trek universe. Really I am. I’m just trying to apply a little internal logic. (Granted, that, too, may be a futile endeavor given that we’re dealing with a wholly fictional world.) But, yes, I would like my science fiction to have a little science in it. Otherwise, it’s just fantasy.

  • Rich

    Funny how Orci comments that they needed to update the franchise because his iPhone is more advanced than Kirk’s communicator…and then they show the Enterprise being built using very 20th century welding techniques. It’s a good trailer, but kind of silly.

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