Star Trek (dir. J. J. Abrams, 2009)

As you know, I love all things Trek, so of course I love this movie. I could live without the random, Star Wars-esque giant ice planet monster. And I have an ongoing argument over whether the alternate timeline presented here replaces the original, or runs parallel to it. But otherwise, it's perfect.

The plot revolves around the destruction of the planet Romulus, and the bad guys are a group of Romulans. When Romulans were first introduced, way back in the original series, their military set-up bore some superficial resemblances to ancient Rome, and their Romanness was part of a wider use of the Roman Empire as a parallel for both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia (sometimes both at the same time). In later appearances, individual writers or directors could choose whether or not to play up the 'Roman' elements of their culture, depending on what they wanted to do with their story.

The Romulans seen in the new film have, like the originals, a relationship to Vulcans, with pointy ears and a similar language. However, whereas in their first appearance this similarity was part of the point, here the visual similarity is played down, as the particular group of Romulans we're dealing with are tattooed and clothed very differently from Vulcans (and they're quite emotional too!). Their 'Romanness', likewise, is not really emphasised in their culture, costumes, hierarchy or ship, except in one respect - the name of their leader, Nero.

The new film is not especially interested in drawing a parallel between the entire Romulan race and ancient Rome, but it is interested in likening its main villain to one specific Roman, the emperor Nero. This Nero is far from an emperor, being the captain of a mining ship, a tough guy and a survivor rather than a pampered young ruler. He does share some traits with the emperor, mainly in his cruelty and vicious punishment of anyone who crosses him.

The main point of the Nero parallel, though, is an inversion of Nero's most famous (supposed) act, fiddling while Rome burnt. In the emperor, this was (supposedly - the evidence is not that great) an act of utter callousness and self-absorption, caring nothing at all for the fire destroying the city (which some authors imply he may have started) and more interested in his own composition of a song on the subject. This is the vital difference between him and the Romulan Nero, for this Nero cares. He viciously destroys an entire planet, and tries to destroy another, to avenge the perceived wrong to his own, but you certainly couldn't accuse him of not caring. Like (according to the somewhat gossipy sources) the emperor Nero, he burns worlds for his own purposes, but not out of callousness - rather, because he cares so much about his own home, he is driven to complete disregard for others.

Rumours abound about who the villain will be in the next movie. I don't think I want Khan to show up - Montalban is such a perfect Khan, and The Wrath of Khan such a fantastic movie, I don't really feel the need to see a re-boot of that. I'd like to see some Klingons, if only to see which variety of make-up the film-makers decide to use, but of course, my no. 1 choice would be more Romulans, because then I could blog a review of it...

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  1. Seen this?

    (Can't remember whether you are into Sherlock or not, sowwy...)

  2. Saw it on Facebook this morning - v exciting! And yes, I love Sherlock. And I love Benedict Cumberbatch anyway, ever since he was the captain of the Bristol University Challenge team in Starter for Ten and wore a sweatshirt that matched mine!

  3. Hi Juliette! Happy New Year :)

    I've always wondered about the origin of the 'fiddling' story - do you know it? Did violins exist in Ancient Rome?! And isn't there also evidence that Nero helped put out the fires and allowed homeless citizens to stay on palace grounds after the fire? Seems like theres more than one version of Nero being portrayed in popular culture.


  4. Funny coincidence(?) that his ship, the Narada is named after a prophet who could travel between planets, and who carried a stringed instrument which he played to accompany his hymns (a la Nero).

  5. Happy New Year All!

    I went to a very interesting paper on the fiddling story once, almost none of which I can remember unfortunately. All of the 'evidence' in this case comes from Roman historians writing between 30-40 and 150-200 years after the event, and they vary in their levels of criticism - Suetonius and Tacitus are probably the most hostile and Suetonius outright claims that Nero started the fire. I think one of them does mention Nero helping out and letting people stay in the palace grounds, but I can't remember which one - Cassius Dio maybe.

  6. GAAAAHHH! The cat just walked across the keyboard and erased like 3 long paragraphs. Ummm, I didn't like the film, bad science even by Trek standards, Chris Pine's Kirk is an asshole and they wrecked the Kobiyashi Maru.

    Also these Romulans are too much like those in Nemesis, which is bad. Then the cat came and somehow managed to reload the page.

    I also don't want to see a new Khan. Klingons would be OK, but maybe a problem that's a little more Trek oriented and not just a big bad guy with lots of explosions.

    As for Nero, I think it was Tacitus who said he provided shelter for those who lost their homes in the fire. IIRC, he also points out that Nero basically paid for the rebuilding out of the imperial funds. Of course, a lot of the rebuilding turned into the Domus Aurea, which is why Nero is sometimes blamed for starting the fire in the first place. Supposedly it was just a plot to clear out the area so he could build what he wanted.

  7. I loved this one too (ice monster notwithstanding)! I was a bit worried about how it would turn out when I first heard about it... but since I'm more a TNG girl I wasn't too worried about the recasting of such iconic characters. And I'm perfectly fine with this being a parallel timeline!

    All that talk of Sherlock on Facebook today had me look it up so I saw and LOVED the first episode! :o)


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