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Bad Astronomy’s Review of the Science of ‘Star Trek’ May 9, 2009

by Phil Plait , Filed under: Review,Science/Technology,Star Trek (2009 film) , trackback

Today TrekMovie continues our series of reviews with a very special perspective from a guest reviewer. Astronomer and author Philip Plait, who runs the famed Bad Astronomy Blog, presents a review of the new Star Trek movie, from a scientific (and nitpick lover’s) point of view. [note: this review contains major spoilers].


Scientific Review of "Star Trek"
by Phillip Plait    [cross-posted at Bad Astronomy]

OK, here’s the deal: I’m a big Trek fan. I watched the original series as a kid and into reruns a bazillion times. I loved the movies, and was thrilled when TNG was on the air. And while I lost it for a while with DS9 and Voyager (and with the exception of the finale, the last season of Enterprise was pretty good, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), I am still a fan.

I was ready to be disappointed with this revision of Trek. But I wasn’t. I loved it. I was very unsure if this would resemble to Star Trek I grew up with, and incredibly, J. J. Abrams, without being a fan, was able to take what made the show Trek — it’s heart, if you will — and bring it up-to-date.

But I am here to review the science of the movie. I won’t worry about warp drive, transporter tech, or time travel; I’ll concentrate on the real stuff. And never fear: I am not going to reveal the overall plot here. I avoided as many spoilers as I could before watching it, and I’m glad I did. It really made the movie more exciting and fun to watch.

But I do have to do what I do, so do it I will. While I won’t reveal the plot, I have to reveal some details to write a review. So:


If you haven’t seen the movie yet, then I suggest evasive maneuvers.



The Scene:

The USS Kelvin is under attack! Firing weapons of unprecedented power, a Romulan ship is pounding the Federation wessel. We hear explosions, bulkheads torn apart, screams… and then a torpedo rips open the hull, and a crewmember is blown out into space. The camera follows her as she tumbles out, and when we pass through the hull breach into space there is sudden silence.

The Science:

I could kiss J. J. Abrams right on the mouth for this one. In space, without air, there is no way for sound to be transmitted. What we think of as sound is actually a compression and rarefaction (thinning) of a medium of some sort, whether it’s a solid, liquid or gas. Without a medium, there’s nothing to vibrate, and all your sound and fury signifies nothing (c’mon, it’s Trek, there has to be a Bard reference).

Sure, in the scene there’s air rushing out the airlock, but that would expand violently as it leaves the ship, rapidly becoming too thin to transmit sound.

And yeah, we do hear ships whoosh as they go to warp and all that, but that’s what we expect to hear, having evolved in an atmosphere which whooshes when things fly past us. I’d prefer that we hear nothing, but I accept that as a filmmaker’s prerogative to make the audience comfortable.

But I’ll add that for years I have complained about sounds in space, saying that done correctly, making things silent can add drama. That sentiment was proven here; the sudden silence as we leave the ship and fly into space with the doomed crewmember is really eerie and unsettling.



The Scene:

We pan across the alien planet Vulcan, with its blue skies and puffy white clouds.

The Science:

Hey, wait a second! I saw "Amok Time". Vulcan’s sky is red! Well, maybe. Sky color is a difficult topic. The Earth’s sky is blue because the nitrogen molecules in our air take the blue light from the Sun and scatter it every which-way, so we see blue light coming at us no matter where we look in the sky.

Other molecules can change that color — if we had a lot of smog in our air, for example, the sky would look reddish-brown. Methane absorbs red light, again making a planet look blue (which is why Neptune has a — pardon the expression — sky-blue visage). Mars has a lot of airborne dust, making its sky look yellow, or reddish, or even butterscotch colored. Our own sky can change color dramatically depending on the weather or whether you’re looking near the horizon or the zenith.

So maybe there had just been a dust storm before Spock gets all Pon-farr on Kirk’s butt in the original series (or when Spock rejects the Kohlinar ceremony in the first movie). Or maybe it’s a nitpicky detail only a fanboy would gripe about — note that the planet’s color changes in practically every series of the show. But it does give me an excuse to talk about why we have blue skies here on good ol’ Earth.



The Scene:

Kirk and McCoy are on a shuttle about to head up to orbit. McCoy, true to form, gripes about space travel, saying that if there’s a hull breach, "… our blood will boil in 12 seconds."

The Science:

I swear, every movie ever gets this all wrong — the craptacular "Mission to Mars" comes to mind right away. To the immediate point about blood boiling, it wouldn’t happen. The temperature at which a liquid boils depends on the atmospheric pressure; at lower pressures liquids boil at lower temperatures. That’s why there are high-altitude variations for some recipes; water boils at a lower temperature, so you might have to bake something longer to actually cook it (I live in Boulder at an altitude of 1700 meters, so I live this fact every day).

This effect is so strong that in a vacuum, water boils at room temperature! Blood has things dissolved in it, which raises its boiling point, but even with that, at a body temperature of 37 Celsius blood would boil in a vacuum.

But if you’re blown into space, your blood’s not exposed to a vacuum! It’s in a nice air-tight system, your circulatory system. The pressure inside your arteries and veins is kept relatively constant (unless I watch the news or Oprah, and then it skyrockets), so your blood won’t boil.

There are many other nasty effects if you’re exposed to vacuum — sudden decompression of all the air in your lungs and intestines (yeah, you outgas at both ends), the damage to soft tissue after a few minutes as they dehydrate, the exposure to the raw UV light from the Sun, and, of course, dying in about two minutes from hypoxia — but boiling blood ain’t one of ’em. McCoy was training to be a doctor and should’ve known better.

Or maybe he was just whining for emphasis. He is McCoy, after all.



The Scene:

Kirk, Sulu, and Officer Red Shirt (srsly! His suit is red!) jump from a shuttle to attack the mining drill when it’s lowered from the Romulan ship over Earth. Wearing space suits, they fall from orbit, land on the drill, fight the Romulans, and destroy the drill.

The Science:

Well, there’s lots of bad and good science here. Strap in.

First off, something they got right once I thought about it some. The shuttle left Enterprise to go to the Romulan ship. At first I thought both ships were in orbit, but that’s not true! The Romulan ship had lowered the mining drill from above the atmosphere, but it had to be hovering above the ground to do that, not orbiting the planet, or else they wouldn’t be stationary over one spot (true, there is a geosynchronous orbit that keeps you over one spot, but it’s tens of thousands of kilometers over the surface, and the ships were clearly just above Earth’s atmosphere).

So when the trio jump from the shuttle, my first thought was that they’d still be in orbit; to deorbit means they’d need to change their velocity by several km/sec, which is clearly not possible. But they weren’t in orbit, so they just fell. OK, +1 internets for the movie.

They would fall fast. And they did! Their speed was a little less than a kilometer per second, which sounds about right. At their altitude there wouldn’t be much if any air to slow them, so they’d free fall; as they plunged deeper air resistance would slow them down. At first I thought they’d actually burn like meteors, but in reality (ha! Reality!) they weren’t going that fast.

Of course, I have to wonder why Officer Red Shirt waited so long to pull his chute. But then, he was a red shirt.



The Scene:

Hovering over Vulcan, the Romulan ship lowers a mining drill, which blasts an intense beam into the surface. It drills into the planet’s core, where a "red matter" bomb is injected.

The Science:

Drilling a hole to the center of a planet is not a simple matter! Planets tend to be thousands of kilometers in radius so that’s a heckuva hole. A problem with deep mines is that the pressure of the overlying rocks tends to collapse the hole. A cubic meter of rock weighs in at about 2-3 tons, and there are billions of cubic meters of rock above such a hole. You could try to use a beam weapon to vaporize a hole, but the rock to the side would keep flowing in. You’d never get anywhere.

And assuming Vulcan has a crust floating on a mantle (like Earth does), even if the drill gets through the crust, now you’re trying to drill a hole through a fluid! (In reality, the rock in the mantle is not like a liquid that can flow easily, it’s more like a very thick plastic that flows incredibly slowly. But in the end the effect is the same as with the crust; as material is vaporized more would flow in, making the drill ineffective.) So that doesn’t work well either. I suppose you can get around this by saying Vulcan is an old planet and has solidified all the way down to the core, but you still have the rock pressure problem. For the record, some people claim that Vulcan orbits the star 40 Eridanus A, which is at least as old as the Sun, so it’s possible Vulcan has solidified. But 40 Eri is a triple star system. Where are the other two suns?

Don’t try to retcon a retconner.



The Scene:

The Romulans drop a "red matter" bomb into the hole made by the drill. It triggers the formation of a black hole, which collapses the planet and wipes out the Vulcans.


The Science:

Um. "Red matter"? OK, I’ll give them that McGuffin. But still, to make a black hole, it takes mass. A lot of it, or a little bit squeezed into a very tiny volume.

If the mass came from the planet itself, there’s a problem: as the mass compresses and falls into the black hole, it gets hot. Really hot. Millions of degrees hot. It emits X-rays and other types of radiation, and would probably pile up outside the event horizon — the Point of No Return — and prevent more matter from falling in. This is what happens when a black hole orbits a star; we can detect those systems due to their incredibly strong emission of X-rays.

Assuming they could overcome that problem (they could invert the decyon field for one, or polarize the transverse array) it would still only create a teeny tiny black hole. If you turned the entire Earth into a black hole it would only be about a centimeter across, the size of a marble. Initially, the red matter black hole would be incredibly small, probably smaller than an atom, and that would make it hard to gobble down enough mass to grow rapidly.

Assuming they could overcome that, and assuming this magic red matter stuff, well then, yeah, they could create a black hole.

Incidentally, the gravitational force you feel from an object depends on two things: the mass of the object, and how far away you are (for a sphere like a planet, you measure from the object’s center). So, weirdly, once Vulcan collapsed into a black hole, the gravity felt by the orbiting ships didn’t change! A lot of people think that black holes have infinitely strong gravity, or they can reach across space and grab stuff. But really, they’re just gravity, and as long as you’re far enough away, you’re OK.

But who knows what happens if you make a [cue creeeeeepy music] RED MATTER black hole. Maybe in those all kinds of weird things can happen, like Firefly was never canceled and the finale of Battlestar made sense. Crazy!



The Scene:

On Delta Vega, "our" Spock watches sadly as Vulcan collapses into a black hole.

The Science:

OK, so Delta Vega is no longer the planet home to the dilithium cracking plant from the second Trek pilot. But is it a moon of Vulcan? That’s the only way Spock could have had such a view of Vulcan; even from a nearby planet Vulcan would have been a tiny dot in the sky. We see the Moon as a disk because it’s close, but Venus is the closest planet to Earth (40 million km at perigee, its closest approach to Earth) and it is never more than a barely resolved dot to our eyes. You’d have to be close to a planet, a few hundred thousand kilometers at most, to get the view in the movie.

OK, so maybe it’s a moon. But if so, why is there a lonely outpost on it? In fact, that’s true if Delta Vega is any planet in Vulcan’s system. Why would there be a little-traveled base manned by one guy and one Oompa-Loompa with bad acne so close to one of the home planets of the Federation?

However, I love that in that scene they reference "Admiral Archer’s beagle". Nice touch!


The Scene:

In the scene where Spock explains the plot to the audience during a mind meld with Kirk, he says a supernova went off that "threatened the galaxy". We see a giant yellow star explode, and it destroys Romulus.

The Science:

That scene physically pained me; I just wrote a book with an entire chapter devoted to the damage supernovae can cause, and the movie pretty much screwed it all up.

First off, supernovae are exploding stars, and are incredibly violent events. They emit trillions of times as much energy as the Sun does, and can outshine entire galaxies. But for all that, the damage they do is local; you have to be within about 50 light years for them to physically hurt a planet. Past that, and they can’t even bruise our fragile ozone layer.

For one to destroy a planet, physically vaporize it, the planet would have to be orbiting the star that explodes! Even from a light year away a supernova can’t wipe out a planet like that. And remember, our galaxy is 100,000 light years across. A supernova is nowhere near strong enough to take out a whole galaxy.

Also, a supernova happens when a very massive star at the end of its life explodes. Stars like this are supergiants that are either red (like Betelgeuse) or blue-white (like Deneb). The star in the movie was yellow. I can’t say that would never happen, but as far as we know, yellow stars can’t blow.

Now, had Abrams called me, I would’ve told him to use a gamma-ray burst, not a supernova. GRBs are like super-supernovae, where instead of the explosion moving outward in a spherical shell, the energy is focused into twin beams of cosmic fury. These Blowtorches of Doom could easily set a plane aflame from even hundreds of light years away, and the special effect for it would’ve been a bazillion times cooler in the movie.

J. J., babe, call me next time!

Incidentally, Spock says he tried to stop the supernova by using red matter to create a black hole to absorb the explosion. That wouldn’t work; in fact in the center of many supernovae the star’s core collapses to a black hole. The outer layers of the stars have so much energy they easily explode outwards even though at the heart of the explosion sits a black hole. So either Spock was mistaken in his calculations (gasp! horror!), he was lying about trying to stop the explosion (hmmm, sequel anyone?), or the writers just screwed up this bit of science.

Place your bets here.



The Scene:

On Chekov’s suggestion, the Enterprise hides in Titan’s thick atmosphere, where it’s hidden visually from the Romulan ship, and the magnetic field from Saturn’s rings would disrupt other sensors. With Saturn and its magnificent rings as a dramatic backdrop we see the Enterprise dramatically lift out of the thick reddish air surrounding the moon and dramatically attack the Romulans!

The Science:

Erf. OK, let me say that this scene was inspired by suggestions from none other than Dr. Carolyn Porco, who leads the Cassini spacecraft imaging science team. That’s the probe that’s been orbiting the ringed planet since 2004 and returned some of the most amazing pictures from space ever taken. I chatted with her about this scene, and what she said was scientifically plausible, but it sounds like the special effects guys took some liberties.

First, Titan orbits Saturn in the same plane as the rings do. So from Titan, the rings would appear edge-on (in the image here, the rings are very nearly edge-on and you can see Titan behind them, as well as the tiny moon Epimetheus). The rings are incredibly thin, and would look like nothing more than a line across the sky. In the movie, we see them from well above the ring plane. But I gotta say, I can easily forgive them that mistake; the rings are just plain cool and gorgeous, and showing them as a thin line would have been a sin. Still, they could’ve shown the view from Titan as the Big E lifts out of the air, then we could’ve zoomed along with it up and away from Saturn and Titan, and shown the rings then. That would’ve been cool.

See? In good science there is always better stuff to do for movies.

They did get the color of Titan’s atmosphere correct (again, check the image above); it’s a reddish-yellow from a thick organic haze that is made when the methane in the atmosphere is broken down by sunlight and recombines to form complex molecules. And Titan’s air is very thick; the surface pressure is twice Earth’s! But, like Earth, Titan’s atmosphere gradually thins with height, so it’s not like the Enterprise would suddenly surface when it hits the top. They were clearly going for a "submarine breaching the sea surface" feel. Still, it was pretty cool.


The Scene:

During The Final Battle, Spock creates a black hole using red matter that sucks down the Romulan ship. Half-in and half-out of the hole, the Romulan commander says he’d rather die than surrender.

The Science:

Good choice. Because in reality he wouldn’t have one. A choice that is.

The thing about black holes is, they’re small. The gravity far away from one is the same as any object with that mass — if the Sun were to turn into a black hole, we’d still orbit it happy as you please (though it would get cold quickly). But because black holes are small, you can get close to them. And when you get close the gravitational force goes up. A lot.

But here’s the funny thing: a black hole with the mass of, say, a planet would be small, smaller than a golf ball. You could get right up next to it. But gravity gets stronger the closer you get, so if you fell in your feet would be a lot closer than your head. The difference in gravity between your feet and head could be millions of times the Earth’s gravity! You’d be torn apart by this difference in the force (what we call tides). You’d be stretched out in a process astronomers call spaghettification.

So in reality, the Romulan ship would’ve been ripped not just to shreds, but into little tiny bite-sized quantum bits of subatomic particles.

Black holes are not to be trifled with. They really suck.



The Scene:

After The Final Battle, the Enterprise gets too close to the black hole! They’re getting drawn in, and Scotty says that if they eject the warp core and blow it up, the explosion might propel them to safety.

The Science:

Simply put, that won’t work. Sorry Scotty!

On Earth, detonating a bomb creates a shock wave, an expanding wave of pressure as the force from the explosion propagates through the air. In space — wait for it, wait for it… — there’s no air! So you don’t get a shock wave. When the matter and antimatter in the core combine, you get a fierce blast of electromagnetic radiation (fancy science-talk for light) in the form of gamma rays, and an expanding very thin shell of vaporized atoms from the material in the warp core itself.

To propel the Big E to safety, the bomb would have to transfer momentum to the ship. This is like hitting a pool ball with another one; the moving ball has momentum, which it then gives to the other one, causing it to move. Detonating the warp core would generate a lot of light, but only a tiny bit of mass would explode outward, so the momentum transfer would be minimal.

What would really happen is the ship would be vaporized from the massive release of energy. Oops! That would’ve made for a dramatic ending to the movie, but not a terribly satisfying one.


I’m a nitpicking dork.

Maybe you figured that out on your own. If so, I apologize for only stating it here at the end.

But I actually did really enjoy this movie. Yes, it doesn’t follow canon. But I have news for you: Star Trek never did! It’s incredibly inconsistent, and no matter how much you spin, fold, mutilate, and retcon your way through the series, it contradicts itself. If you are the kind of person who gets mortally offended when Trek defies its own history, then you should really just let it go.

Because this movie rocked.

People were worried about the Hollywoodification of Trek. Well sure, there is a lot more action here, and yes Spock actually has a love interest. But we know that Spock had emotions, and we know that given the right circumstances they would surface. Why accept an angry Spock — which we saw all the time in the original series — but not a lovestruck one?

I didn’t think I’d like the casting, but in fact it worked well. Zoë Saldana’s Uhura is more than merely a phone operator, she’s an accomplished linguist (though her character could’ve been stronger yet). Karl Urban’s McCoy was spot-on, and he even kinda sorta looks like a young DeForest Kelley. Quinto played Spock quite well, and Pine was also good as Kirk; while it wasn’t Shatneresque, I can easily see him as a younger, brassier Kirk (and the womanizing slayed me; the homages to the original series that were overplayed generated a lot of laughs).

The other stuff was great too: the effects (though a little overdone with the panning and complicated explosions) truly were spectacular, as were the direction and the music. I loved the inside jokes, which were in there aplenty but not too many to get tiresome.

I would love to see more movies made like this, or even (egads!) a new series with this cast. There’s a rich history here, and the way the plot was handled there is a rich parallel history, too.

I’d love to see that history unfold boldly once again.


More TrekMovie Reviews of Star Trek:

Anthony Pascale’s [spoiler free]

Mark Altman’s [minor spoilers]

Jeff Bond’s [spoilers]



Star Trek image credits: Paramount Pictures. Saturn/Titan images credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. GRB image credit: Dana Berry, Skyworks Digital. Thanks to Carolyn Porco and Anthony Pascale for interesting conversations that helped this review, though of course I’m responsible for its content.




1. thorsten - May 9, 2009

You are a nitpicking dork.
But an excellent researcher!

2. Locutus of Alberni - May 9, 2009

“I’m a nitpicking dork.”

Greatest line in the history of reviews.

Thanks for taking the time for this article. It was great!

3. Lance_HBomb - May 9, 2009

The best nitpicking researcher with awesome education.

4. Sci-Fi Bri - May 9, 2009


the countdown comic book goes into more detail about the science of the threat to the galaxy. the supernova of the super giant yellow star caused a chain reaction of more supernovas. Romulas was evaporated by its own star going supernova during its main sequence because of the supernova of the super giant yellow star.

…something about red matter…

yes, that is even worse science, right? the time required for supernovas to travel across the galaxy cannot exceed c, so there would be many thousands of years forewarning, not weeks as stated in the comic.

…maybe red matter can solve this…

yea, they played fast and loose with the science here.

5. 8 of 12 - May 9, 2009

We may all be nitpicking dorks here *raises hand* but indeed identifying the fact that the movie rocked anyway, is the most important part. Cheers! Great review.

6. Robert Saint John - May 9, 2009

What a great article, thanks so much. As much as I love, absolutely love this movie, the sloppy science in the fiction did nag at me. The problem with Delta Vega being a moon is that the computer tells Kirk he’s on an “M-Class planet.” I can accept it’s not the DV we know, but the concept of Spock Prime watching from DV is hard to swallow. The ” supernova that threatened the galaxy” and ultimately destroys Romulus really bugged me ever since it was worded like that in “Countdown”. I was hoping it was just bad comic book writers, but it was bad Bob and Alex (bad, guys, bad!). It just bugs me when writers confuse the terms solar system/galaxy/universe, or don’t realize that the effects of any stellar event would take YEARS to reach another system at best. But I DO like your GRB solution… that’s what I’ll use to retcon this!


7. Pat Payne - May 9, 2009

Great overview… though for most of us, yeah, the “rule of cool” trumps the hard science. This IS Trek, after all. As for the blood boiling, I tend to agree with theory 2 — McCoy seemingly did NOT want to go into space (even after Kirk reminded him that it’s part of the job title for a STARfleet…) and so was grasping at any straw for justification.

8. German Trek Fan - May 9, 2009

hey, this new Star Trek movie is set in an alternative universe.
there are alternative natural laws!
so the did everything right.

9. I Am Morg Not Eymorg - May 9, 2009

Well as we saw in The Motion Picture, Vulcan had two smaller heavenly bodies in the sky. As it was stated by Spock in TOS that Vulcan has no Moon, it has been speculated that these were planetoids. Seems to resolved the issue. One could be Delta Vega. As to why there is a Starfleet station there, perhaps in this reality that is as close as they will let Starfleet come or it served some purpose as an outpost or something.


10. thorsten - May 9, 2009

All the orciverse’s a stage…

excellent text, Phil,
with the perfect Trek formula mix of science and humor.

11. deanH - May 9, 2009

I saw the movie twice on Friday. I know… get a life, right? But I agree with you, it was great fun. I’m no physicist, but I did wonder about how accurate some of the scenes were. I thought they would burn up in the free fall, so now I’m happy that it wasn’t too absurd. The dead silence during the fall, with only sounds of respiration was dramatic. JJ paying homage to Clarke’s 2001 I suppose?

All the other stuff that was so far off base doesn’t matter as long as the movie was fun to watch, and man… it IS!

Thanks for the interesting read on the real science. I hope JJ does call you next time… some of the scenes you described would have been better indeed… and more real.
In any case, Star Trek is back on the map.

12. Sputnik - May 9, 2009

I believe that “supernova threatening the galaxy” was meant metaphorically. Like in “if Romulus gets destroyed, the Romulans will be very pissed”.

13. Andy - May 9, 2009

That was a very objectified review. I enjoyed reading it.

14. DavidJ - May 9, 2009


Yeah I loved the movie, but damn, this had some of the WORST science I’ve seen in Trek in a long while.

Earlier Trek definitely stretched things, but at least everything was usually explained in a fairly plausible and consistent way, and had some kind of INTERNAL logic.

I mean seriously, if they wanted to have Spock watch the destruction of Vulcan in person, why not just say he was marooned on one of Vulcan’s moons??? It’s not that hard.

I’m just amazed at how little the writers and Abrams seemed to think these basic things through.

15. ucdom - May 9, 2009

Thanks, great analysis.

By the way, the BBC News Channel’s Mark Kermode is on Film 24 saying that Star Trek is great fun and we should all go and watch it.

I’m going again in about…. an hour. Mainly because it went by so damned fast when I saw it on Thursday.

Agree about Delta Vega. I’m trying to remember if the Enterprise warped out of Vulcan orbit before reaching DV, because it CANNOT be more than a few hundred thousand km from Vulcan. When Spock watches from the surface of DV, the disc of Vulcan appears very large in the sky. The distance must be comparable to – or less than – the distance between the Earth and the Moon.
Not sure I can figure out what Porco did on this movie, except suggest a scene and then not see that it was executed properly.

16. Scott - May 9, 2009

Bah! .. we watch movies to be entertained .. not educated :P If I had wanted schooling I’d have gone to school. Trek Rocks!!

17. Carlos Teran - May 9, 2009

Excellent review. :)

18. That Nutty Fanboy - May 9, 2009

[Trek Technobabble Dork] Hey.. what’s the matter with Red Matter? It can after all cause some kind of strange subspace-realspace effect that causes all that commotion, including supermassive black holes and all that jazz. Same thing goes for the Hobus Supernova. [/Trek Technobabble Dork]

Film was fun. Great fun. Super fun. The audience cheered at the credits, they LOVED it! :)

19. Ciarán - May 9, 2009

A nit-picking dork you may be, dude, but you seem to really enjoy the movie and that’s really all that matters. We know that Star Trek has tried to emulate real scientific theory to the best of it’s ability. But sometimes, for storymaking purposes, the idea of something working more dramatically than it would in reality (i.e. your analysis of Scotty’s escape plan for the Enterprise) is more exciting.

I enjoyed reading your analysis of the science that the movie offered. Thanks!

20. darrksan - May 9, 2009

“Spock gets all Pon-farr on Kirk’s butt”

can people see the humor in that line.

21. T. Jordan - May 9, 2009

Just remember one thing. It’s just a movie!!!

22. Hawaiowa - May 9, 2009

Interesting science perspectives, but then again one must always suspend science in ‘science fiction’ unless they’re reading Robert Forward or the ilk.

As this is an astronomical review, I’ll apply the basic geological perspective we all got in junior high to bear upon the cinematic simulation of the destruction of planet Vulcan. A key consideration is that planets are cool and solid only on the outside, and are liqueous and superheated on the inside. This kind of ‘liquid’ is similar to fresh lava out of an erupting volcano; you’ll notice that it is bright orange. If you’ve ever seen movies of actual volcanoes with flying blobs of orange molten rock, that’s what 75% of a planet’s interior looks like. An exploding planet would have a huge number of these glowing orange blobs.

Thus, every cinematic depiction of an exploding/imploding planet to date has been inaccurate. A planet in a G-sequence star that is capable of sustaining life within the humanoid range (not xeno-extreme lifeforms) would generally be 90% liquid/molten solids in mass and volume.

Thus, when it is destroyed, the planet’s external lithosphere (crust and peripheral mantle) would visibly fragment, creating the ‘peeling off’ or ‘breakage’ effects commonly depicted in cinema. But the interior aesthenosphere (upper mantle) is plastic and ductile, with completely different properties than the crust. In space, this superheated section would have many properties similar to a lava lamp, with chunky/globular ejecta similar to plutonic diapir. The sudden exposure to space vacuum will not ‘instant freeze’ these ejecta, cooling them down to temperature ranges common to the crust. Rheological attributes such as flowing, bending, deforming would occur. In fact, the surface of the Earth is melted mantle, cooled over the millennia to produce crust. Temperatures of interior mantle masses range from 500-4200 Kelvin, and core masses range from 4200-7000K (for reference, the surface of the Sun is 6000K). The innermost core is solid or near-solid, but also so superheated that it would glow like metal poured from a kiln.

The destruction of Vulcan, if depicted properly, would have the exterior peeling and flaking off and then being ingressed inwards towards the event horizon, exposing an glowing interior similar to what what used to depict the collapse of the Hobus nova event. As mentioned by Dr. Plait the singularity would already be extremely thermic, so the inward sucking would not be a brown crust being sucked into a black mass, but by virtue of the planet’s interior elements alone, would be sucked into a bright molten mass. Also the ships would be displaced simply by the removal of the interior’s electromagnetic field; this would occur even without a black hole, because the ‘gravity’ created by the planet would cease to exist. Of course, in a black hole, this loss would more than be compensated by the extreme concentration of mass.

23. Trek-Inspired Astrophysicophile - May 9, 2009

“On Earth, detonating a bomb creates a shock wave, an expanding wave of pressure as the force from the explosion propagates through the air. In space — wait for it, wait for it… — there’s no air! So you don’t get a shock wave. When the matter and antimatter in the core combine, you get a fierce blast of electromagnetic radiation (fancy science-talk for light) in the form of gamma rays, and an expanding very thin shell of vaporized atoms from the material in the warp core itself.

To propel the Big E to safety, the bomb would have to transfer momentum to the ship. This is like hitting a pool ball with another one; the moving ball has momentum, which it then gives to the other one, causing it to move. Detonating the warp core would generate a lot of light, but only a tiny bit of mass would explode outward, so the momentum transfer would be minimal.

What would really happen is the ship would be vaporized from the massive release of energy.”

Thank you, Phil, for your article. The matter and antimatter in the warp core is supposed to be in the form of deuterium and antideuterium. So the bomb should also have produced other kinds of particles that could have reached the Enterprise, albeit particles of decay, particles like electrons and neutrinos. However, these particles would not have helped very much either. Since the warp core probably did not have humungous amounts of deuterium and antideuterium to produce a humungous amount of electrons, and the particles were not focused into a beam on the ship, then the particles probably did no more damage than to irradiate the ship. The neutrinos would almost all pass through the ship.

However, a warp core is supposed to contain dilithium crystals, so perhaps the bomb created a subspace shock wave, a la STVI, or maybe a controlled implosion that caused the ship to travel, perhaps, faster than is possible in normal space and thus backwards in time, a la TOS: “The Naked Time”. Scotty did spend some time with Spock Prime, after all.

24. samwiseb - May 9, 2009

This is kinda off topic, but when Checkov transported Kirk and Sulu in free-fall, I couldn’t help but wonder… wouldn’t that be just as *fatal* as leaving them be? Once they’ve rematerialized, what happens to all that kinetic energy they’ve built up?

25. thorsten - May 9, 2009

On a physics sidenote: ILM actually created new effects for the explosions in space, in which the fire is sucked back pretty fast back into the ship’s hull after an impact, not blooming out into the vacuum as in earlier movies.

26. The Gorn Identity - May 9, 2009

To #24…

I’d say the transporter beam “caught” them and absorbed the effect. When they rematerialized on the transporter pad it placed them just above the floor…as a dramatic effect on the filmmaker’s part.

27. thorsten - May 9, 2009

The Transporter has biofilters, and inertia dampers too!

28. mscottr - May 9, 2009

I’ve been a big fan of Bad Astronomy for years now, and it was great to read Phil Plait on this site as well! Wonderful review!

29. Holger - May 9, 2009

Great review!
Concerning Vulcan’s sky: In ENT: Strange New World T’Pol remarked that the sky on Vulcan is blue “sometimes”. Suggesting that red is the normal color, which was always seen through the Vulcan Trilogy in Season 4.

30. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

My question is how the Narada came to confront Spock Prime in the Prime Universe immediately after the black hole formed from the supernova. (Remember that the Narada was sucked into the black hole along with the Jellyfish shortly afterward; this is how the two ships came to be 25 years apart.) Had the Narada been stalking Spock, or was some kind of time travel involved there, too? If the supernova had just exploded when the Narada first encountered the Jellyfish, how could Nero have so quickly decided to convert his oil rig into a weapon of planetary destruction? Exactly how much time did Nero have to stew over the death of his wife, if the supernova had just exploded (as it must have for Spock to be able to contain it within a reasonable length of time from the time he had originally planned to do so)?

Help, please?

BTW, saw the movie again last evening, and it was fantastic (again).

31. DCM - May 9, 2009

This was a COOL article! Thanks for the info and BTW-I LOVED the flick!!!

32. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

22, quite interesting. However, shouldn’t the mass of the planet still exist, albeit in the black hole itself?

The black hole — and I realize Dr. Plait has mentioned the problem with aggregation of mass — should, as depicted in the movie, still have the mass of the planet within it. I am informed by reading various sources that the gravitational pull of a black hole is not particularly immense — only that it is infinite (or nearly so) very close to its “surface.” That is, the event horizon exists for a black hole as an implication or manifestation of the extreme nature of the curvature of spacetime close to the black hole itself, but this wouldn’t mean that objects farther away from the black hole would experience extraordinary gravitational pull. As i recall reading, a starship orbiting a black hole from a suitable distance would not necessary experience any effect (absent tidal effects) different from that experienced from orbitng a body of the same mass.

(As an aside, the extreme curvature of spacetime caused by the (obviously fictional) black hole created as a result of the aggregation of mass as small as a terrestrial-type (or “rocky”) planet, of the kind Vulcan appears to be, would seem to explain why the Narada was destroyed by the black hole rather than simply transported into another point in spacetime through some kind of presumed wormhole, as stated in the movie to have occurred during the Horus event. The Horus event involved a far larger mass — a star capable of going supernova. The tidal effects would have been substantially less at various points because the mass of the Horus black hole would have been that much greater.)

However, I am no expert in these matters.

33. CmdrR - May 9, 2009

You didn’t mention the recoil on the phasers.

34. Michael aka Amujan - May 9, 2009

Well maybe watch the movie again. Got some chronology all wrong. The whole part of spacediving to the platform was over Vulcan not above Earth and the platform didn’t fall into the San Francisco Bay as a result of them firing at, but because of young Spock using the Jellyfish – again much later. The tether was used TWICE remember? Sulu and Kirk were too late with their sabotage, thus the Red Matter Bomb was dropped and Vulcan imploded.

I’m always bummed out when an exploding planet just consists of “dirt” which was also the case with Meridian III in Generations, remember that one? I guess the closest-to-the-truth depiction we ever saw was actually in “Enterprise” were the Xindi were able to reach the Earth in time before the NX-01 and actually used their sphere. Vulcan simply can not be a completely “solidified” planet, bec. every habitable world, like Earth, needs a generator for a magnetic field, to keep out cosmic radiation. Without a liquid rotating outer core the planet would be inhabitable soon. Like Mars.

Other than that: The two companion stars to 40 Eridani A are actually two dwarfs which would appear on a planet in the system’s green zone (like Vulcan) as bright stars only, they are on orbits too far out, small and dim to really be seen as “suns” on Vulcan. See the Wikipedia entry for 40 Eri – something all of the ARG-players did and know about.

Delta Vega is supposed to be a planet on a close orbit to Vulcan around 40 Eri. And it just so happens (bec. of Movie Magic!) that Delta Vega and Vulcan are pretty close on Doomsday.

The whole Red Matter and Hobus star stuff is a plot device obviously and it was constructed that way, that the Hobus star is some kind of fluctuating supernova, that will get more violent on every burst (without explaning where the enrgy is supposed to come from) thus threatening the entire sector/quadrant. Spock arrives at the star AFTER the first shockwave of the star – too late to rescue Romulus but in time to stop the star from emanating any more shockwaves. So Romulus and its star are closest to the Hobus system and got destroyed first. Red Matter is some kind of catalyst that sucks up the stars energy/matter creating that singularity.

35. NCC-73515 - May 9, 2009

Okay, so that’s the astronomy. What about the biology? The monsters on Delta Vega? ;)
And are centaurian slugs related to the Conspiracy parasites from TNG?

36. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

22, I meant to say that the mass of the planet still existed, and therefore the gravitational effect of that mass would still exist, as well. This was to address the question of whether there would be substantial changes as noted in your statement, “Also the ships would be displaced simply by the removal of the interior’s electromagnetic field; this would occur even without a black hole, because the ‘gravity’ created by the planet would cease to exist.”

Further, I am unclear as to whether you meant to say that the planet’s electromagnetic field sustained an effect on orbiting ships, as it would appear to me, a layman, that orbits are determined by gravity rather than electromagnetic fields. (Naturally, this would not be so strange to me if by the reference to EM fields one intends to include (theoretical) gravitons, but I am unsure if this is so.) I tend to see gravity as the curvature of spacetime and therefore do not associate it with EM fields.

37. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

Sorry for the repeated postings, but I just realized a major mistake in my own postings. I referenced, “(As an aside, the extreme curvature of spacetime caused by the (obviously fictional) black hole created as a result of the aggregation of mass as small as a terrestrial-type (or “rocky”) planet, of the kind Vulcan appears to be, would seem to explain why the Narada was destroyed by the black hole rather than simply transported into another point in spacetime through some kind of presumed wormhole, as stated in the movie to have occurred during the Horus event. The Horus event involved a far larger mass — a star capable of going supernova. The tidal effects would have been substantially less at various points because the mass of the Horus black hole would have been that much greater.)”

This was the result of a misremembering of the movie that I just realized moments ago. The destruction of the Narada was caused by the creation of the black hole within the Narada itself, and not as a result of the destruction of Vulcan (or any other planet).

This, interestingly, raises the question of whether the gravitational pull of the Narada black hole would be sufficient to affect the Enterprise, and why this would be so, if the Narada itself in its pre-BH form wouldn’t. (Even a ship several miles long would have negligible gravity.) Perhaps it was the tidal effect of the Narada BH, or some kind of “movie magic” effect of red matter-induced BH’s.

38. thorsten - May 9, 2009


Sorry, Off topic Rick, but “Perhaps it was the tidal effect of the Narada BH, or some kind of “movie magic” effect of red matter-induced BH’s.” is awfully funny when you speak german ;))

39. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

38, I was once told that “Canadian Mist” whisky was hiliarious for similar reasons! :-)

40. thorsten - May 9, 2009


haha, exactly.
Let’s just say that in Germany BH’s are used to fight gravity…

41. fred - May 9, 2009

I can’t forgive JJ for not making the sky red on Vulcan, it was a no-brainer, but I’ll go anyway, begrudgingly… and laugh and cry and get goose-bumos.. but when I see no red sky I’ll inwardly protest.

42. Matt Wright - May 9, 2009

Thanks for the great write up. It brings back memories of the astronomy classes I took a couple of times as an undergrad. I love the term “spaghettification” because that’s pretty much what it would be like! It’s fun when science has a sort of dry sense of humor about things like that.

43. Ripped Shirt Kirk - May 9, 2009

I think that the explanation for Spock having seen the Vulcan destruction wasn’t Delta Vega be a near moon or planet, but that scene was an holographic representation of the earlier Vulcan destruction made by Nero to torment Spock.

44. JWWright - May 9, 2009

us nitpicking dorks are in good company.

cant wait for the next movie, and a new series would be great.

45. Andy - May 9, 2009

If you liked this review you really should star following his [the bad astronomer] blog. It’s really one of the best on the net.

46. 750 Mang - May 9, 2009

Delta Vega bugs me.

47. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

The altered timeline (or Alternate Reality) need not match the prime timeline in all respects. Assuming that the “Many Worlds” interpretation of quantum physics is correct, the Alternate Reality could be different in an number of ways, and not just in the ways affected by Nero’s temporal intrusion.

There is a vision of Alternate Reality that seems promoted in connection with this movie that specifically states that this is that timeline that is similar in all respects to the prime timeline, with the sole exceptions being those events in any way caused, directly or not, by Nero’s and Spock’s actions, or the events they are associated with. However, if there are, in fact, an almost infinite number of timelines, this particular Alternate Reality could be one in which not only such exceptions, but other differences, are manifest. Such differences could also explain why Kirk (Alternate) looks like Chris Pine rather than William Shatner. In fact, if we were to take this new movie to be an exact historical record, such an altered reality (one in which there are non-Nero/Spock created differences) would be the only logical explanation for such changes.

The existence of various kinds of near-parallel, as well as near-exact parallel, universes, and “mirror” universes, is well hinted at or laid out in several Trek episodes (e.g., “Parallels,” (TNG)).

Such a different universe could explain the Delta Vega moon/planet thing.

48. Mr. "There are always possibilities" - May 9, 2009

This was extremely educational!

I always enjoy the “Bad Astronomy” website.

Here’s my one comment.

When Spock was “looking” at the destruction of Vulcan on Delta Vega, I did not get the impression he was looking at an organic image, like looking up at our moon in the afternoon sky. Knowing that Delta Vega is in another system, I thought that it was a projection of some sort set up by Nero in order for Spock to “feel his pain”. Also, now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I was thinking that as it was told as a narrative in “Flashback” it was simply an artistic representation, not wedded to how Spock actually viewed the destruction.

Oh, well, my two cents for what its worth!

Live Long and Prosper, and Boldy Go!

49. Baaahhhh'd Science - May 9, 2009

Of course, you’re assuming there is only 1 Delta Vega.

How many Springfield’s are there in the U.S.?

50. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

As a follow-on to 47, there would be some puzzlement as to why Spock Prime would recognize Chris Pine’s Kirk as a young Kirk if what I said is taken to be an assumption. I chalk that up to either “movie magic,” or the fact that Spock, in his wisdom, was perceptive enough to recognize Kirk despite physiognomic differences.

Montgomery Scott, of course, could have given himself simply by his accent.

51. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

48, I had the feeling that the intent of the writers was that the destruction of Vulcan sub 2 (alternate Vulcan) Spock Prime saw on Delta Vega was direct, and not through holography. That’s why he was marooned there, rather than made to watch on Narada’s ship or elsewhere. But I could be wrong.

52. mntrekfan - May 9, 2009

If Delta Vega orbits Vulcan, shouldn’t something have happened to DV now that Vulcan is gone? No gravational pull and all that? Remember Ceti Alpha 5 in TWOK?

53. Doodler - May 9, 2009

The ever popular warp core ejection escape could be justified, if you consider that the warp core is creating a reaction that works on more than just three dimensions. If the ripple effect the ship is riding isn’t the flashbang, but also local spacetime, its not the visible explosion pushing the ship, then you’re escape isn’t a function of simple kinetic energy.

Its more like surfing a wave generated by a monster depth charge, than jumping on a landmine trying to take flight.

54. Derf - May 9, 2009

“…and firefly was never canceled.”

word :(

55. Snowy Brighton - May 9, 2009

I think nitpicking comes with the job description of being a Star Trek fan doesn’t it? I love picking away at the little things that don’t make sense, or the scenes that contradict previous events or comments…but I never let it detract from my enjoyment of Star Trek! Great Article, am definitely gonna be checking out the blog…

56. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

53, that explanation seems reasonable.

One more follow-on: The idea of having “prime timeline” seems primarily (pun intended) for the purposes of canon. In the real world, if the Many Worlds explanation of quantum mechanics is correct, there really isn’t any such thing as a “prime timeline” except in the sense that, for anyone and anything that exists within it, it is, and remains, THEIR timeline.

In other words, the timeline in which Kirk looks like Pine (and Spock looks more like Quinto than Nimoy) is, in fact, the prime timeline of those characters. In fact, if you take this one step further, from a certainly point of view, this new has always had Neros’s incursion.

From the multiversal standpoint, Nero’s (and Spock’s) time travel from the “‘prime’ timeline” to the “past” simply meant that they disappeared from that timeline (i.e., that particular spacetime continuum). Vulcan still exists in the prime timeline.

This has to be reconciled with the idea on the part of some that these are “our” Kirk and Spock. I don’t have any difficulty with that considering that, if Trek is taken to be future history, any of the various timelines, from the standpoint of 2009, could still be our timelines, depending on your preference.

57. Christopher L. Bennett - May 9, 2009

I agree with post 48: Since the scene of Spock watching Vulcan’s destruction in the sky was part of a mind meld, I interpret it as mental symbolism, a figurative image representing Spock’s emotional experience, rather than a literal depiction. The same fix can be used for the shot of Romulus being disintegrated by the supernova.

And to post 52: As Phil says in the review, if Vulcan’s mass was compressed into a black hole, its gravity would still be the same.

58. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

57, this raises in my mind the following question: If Spock Prime couldn’t see Vulcan’s destruction, and the image was just a telepathic creation, why would he have been marooned on Delta Vega by Nero in the first place?

59. Follow the Trekker - May 9, 2009

How many vulcans did Spock say survived the destruction of his planet? 10 000?

That’s unrealistically too few. Of several billions of vulcans, one may assume that several millions were living elsewhere. They’re probably working, studying and travelling.

I mean, there is always a certain number of the citizens in our own countries that are residing abroad. I’m swedish myself and approx. 100 000 of our 9 million people are not living in the country. Today you’ll find almost 10 000 american citizens in the Czech republic alone, the same number, I think, that survived out of 6-7 billion vulcans in total?

Well, at least 10 millions ought to have made it. What do you think?

60. Robert - May 9, 2009

Didn’t read Countdown but perhaps the Hobus star possessed a property that allowed it to exist partially in subspace and it’s location is fairly close to the Romulus-Remus star system. The subspace shockwave created by the supernova would be the force that destroys Romulus, not the normalspace blast effects because Romulus would be too far away if it were a star completely situated in normalspace. Think ST IV and the Excelsior.

Now for the warp core ejection nitpick. There is precedence for detonating a warp core in ST Insurrection against the Son’a Isolytic Subspace weapon. The actual blast effect would be minimal because of the vacuum of space but warp technology manipulates subspace and again we have seen subspace shockwaves physically hurl a starship (Excelsior),and destroy planets (Romulus). We can deduce subspace has vastly different properties than normalspace.

Detonating a warp core at the event horizon of a black hole could very well cause subspace disruptions at that exact point which would distort the hole’s normalspace gravitational forces long enough for the Enterprise to escape. And in DS9’s 1st episode, Chief O’Brian used the station’s subspace generators to create a low level pseudo-warp field to reduce the station’s mass enough to enable the maneuvering thrusters to move DS9 halfway across the Bajoran star system. And in ST Generations, the warp core detonation basically threw the Enterprise-D’s saucer section into Veridian III’s atmosphere.

I can easily see in prior ST canon the precedence for subspace distortions from a warp core detonation’s to affect objects in normal space.


61. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

59, I agree that 10,000 seems to be too low a number, for the reasons you stated.

60, good call.

62. hmich176 - May 9, 2009

I thought Spock watched Vulcan be destroyed via a holoimage on Delta Vega. That’s what it looked like anyway.

63. Paulaner - May 9, 2009


Maybe Spock was referring to the number of Vulcans evacuated from the planet. I don’t remember the exact line.

64. thorsten - May 9, 2009


The When Worlds Collide Spock comic in WIRED 17.05 shows Vulcan visible from DV… it may be not canon, but is cowritten by Bob and Alex…

65. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

64, then it would seem possible that Spock Prime did directly see Vulcan’s destruction rather than having done so by holographic representation.

66. illogical - May 9, 2009

Man, I love Phil Plait. Anyone who doesn’t read his blog at is missing out. His books are also really entertaining, and I highly recommend them.

67. harley3k - May 9, 2009

I Finally saw it last night.

Aside from the digital projector being slightly out of focus..grrr…

Boborci, JJ, Alex, 2 words: Thank You!

I will be seeing it again, and like the Matrix in ’99 as my first DVD purchase, this movie will be my first BLU-RAY purchase. So Bring On those deleted scenes please ;)

68. TREKKIE369 - May 9, 2009

@#30–I’m assuming that you didn’t read Countdown. In Countdown, Spock Prime promised Nero that he would save Romulus, and enlisted his help. Due to the idiots of the Romulan and Vulcan High Commands, Spock wasn’t able to help in time to save Romulus. Nero then blamed Spock for the destruction of his wife, unborn son, and all of Romulus.

@#35–The Centaurian slug is a cousin to the Ceti eel that was used on Chekov in TWOK.

@#47–Alternate timelines and alternate realities are very different things with different properties. Alternate timelines are when one or more events from the past are changed, thus creating an alternate present and future. This is what happened in the movie when Nero and Prime Spock came back. Alternate realities are mirror universes where the same people and places exist on a different plane of reality, and have nevver and will never be directly linked to the Prime reality. This is what happened with all the Mirror Universe episodes.

Based on this, the only differences between the Prime timeline and the Alternate timeline would start at the time Nero came through the Space/Time anomaly and would continue on indefinitely. Before Nero came through the Space/Time anomaly, the Prime timeline and the alternate timeline would be the one and the same.

69. Izbot - May 9, 2009

“However, I love that in that scene they reference “Admiral Archer’s beagle”. Nice touch! ”

Uh, except our Archer’s beagle Porthos would have to be 100 years old for Scotty to beam him anywhere. I guess an 150 year old Jonathan Archer could still be a Starfleet Admiral at the time but any ‘prize-winning beagle’ of his could not likely be Porthos.

70. Colorado_Gamer - May 9, 2009

Red-Matter, Proto-Matter they do not matter; the characters matter! As a matter of fact the characters (and actors) are perfect.

71. Izbot - May 9, 2009

It was sort of a shame that Nimoy-Spock got to explain some of the worst ‘science’ in the movie. Many of the people in the audience I saw the movie with made a lot of confused noise when he mentioned a supernova that threatened the galaxy. That was a really, really embarrassing gaff.

72. Chadwick - May 9, 2009

@ 69 I doubt its the Archer we know, might be his grand or great grand son. If you look at the Enterprise episode in the parallel universe when the evil Archer and Hoshi are looking at Archers records from the “normal” universe you can see archer became Admiral, then ambassador to Andoria, then Federation council member than president of the UFP. How many times have humans argued that we do not have the life spans of Vulcans, not until at least the TNG era where bones is what…134 years old. So who knows, but still it was a nice touch.

73. Chadwick - May 9, 2009

What I want to know is how Orci got past the temporal accords. If Orci is a huge trek fan he know that the character Daniels and his people are able to monitor the timeline, I bet some of them can exist outside the space-time continuum and monitor events without being affect by them, and your telling me they let Nero slip by and alter everything!? This is the only thing that that didn’t sit right with me. The temporal agents would have definitely stopped Nero, so how did this slip by? I am not opposed to it, but I am opposed to it without an explanation. If Orci has an explanation I am willing to accept it.

74. andrew c - May 9, 2009

I’m a nitpicking dork too, whichbis why I have to point out the correct spelling of the names Saldana and Kelley.

75. andrew c - May 9, 2009

Sorry, shoddy blackberry typing skills

76. Commander K - May 9, 2009

I cant believe the movie is already on youtube! Hope they take it down!

77. RoxyMack - May 9, 2009

those things you mentioned … Vulcan sky etc, I seriously chalk it up to this being an AU of what we know and love of Trek. The second Kirks father died and then confirmed with Spocks mom dying, I knew they were messing with time lines. This is the way it should have been rebooted and Abrams better not go anywhere, he needs to stick around.

78. Paulaner - May 9, 2009


Slighly OT, I loved the wide-eyed alien nurse taking care of Kirk’s mother during labor. When she stared at the camera, chills ran down my spine. The first real alien-looking humanoid in years.

79. EnsignJulka - May 9, 2009

I’m a cinema goer, not a scientist! Seriously, no matter how accurate or inaccurate the science was in this film, it ROCKED!!!

80. Follow the Trekker - May 9, 2009

In the Prime timeline, Romulus does no longer exist – but Vulcan does. And in the Alternate timeline Vulcan is no more, but Romulus remains.

Two worlds related to one another, but now forever separated by the fabric of space and time. I find that wonderfully tragic, and it bothers me as much as it fascinates me.

If, someday, they give us another film or TV series, they will have to choose between either of these two worlds unless the plot involves travelling back and forth through time.

So, whereas both Romulus and Vulcan still exist, they have deprived themselves and future Star Trek writers countless of scenarios involving two of the most exciting civilization in the Star Trek universe.

81. WVTrekker - May 9, 2009

Overall an excellent movie! I have my own nitpick, beyond the Spock/Uhura relationship. The could have done far better with the Kobiashi Maru. Kirk turned it into a joke. I would like to have seen it as Kirk outwits/outfights the Klingons and rescues the ship. Not childishly sit in the seat going “wait for it.” That was too cheap.

82. Pizza - May 9, 2009

Black Holes really suck and Uhura’s a linguist.

These two statements could really be taken out of context.

Great read Phil!

Yes JJ, talk to Phil for the next movie and add some REAL science 100%

83. LCARS 24 - May 9, 2009

It is possible to remain geostationary just above a planet’s atmosphere. With chemical rockets, it just takes a lot of fuel, out of the question for NASA, etc. With impulse engines, it’s a matter of orienting the driver coils properly and applying the right amount of power (to counteract whatever the acceleration of gravity is at that altitude), constantly adjusting both as needed. That’s hovering, not really orbiting as we generally think of it.

The movie hasn’t opened in Japan yet.

84. thorsten - May 9, 2009


The Kobayashi too easy?
I cheat like this all the time ;))

85. hey star trek! - May 9, 2009

Regarding DELTA VEGA.

In Where No Man Has Gone Before, the planet is Delta Vega… II :)

So I’m wondering if this ain’t Delta Vega I or III. As long as it’s not Veridian III.

gotchoo RED MATTER!?

86. Lorak - May 9, 2009

Even though you say ejecting the warp core into the black hole wouldn’t have worked, I loved that it was the same solution that Riker & LaForge used to seal the subspace gravity weapons in Insurrection. They ejected the core and detonated it in the subspace rift when they were getting sucked in. Same thing here. Loved it!

87. Scott Gammans - May 9, 2009

Great review! Thanks!

88. Capt Krunch - May 9, 2009

Thank for explaining the red sky of Vulcan..that is my only nitpick…
though….Vulcan has no moon Miss Uhura….
and unless Admiral Archer is 140 + years old..or maybe Capt Archer’s son..I don’t see how Scotty have had any action with the 100 + year old Porthos… nitpicking nitpicking….It was totally awesome!!!! Going again today!!

89. Matias47 - May 9, 2009

Re: Boiling blood — too bad Spock wasn’t there to correct McCoy’s hyperbole.

90. sean - May 9, 2009

Hey, Star Trek’s always been full of bad science, that’s nothing new. Didn’t read the detailed explanations (so not sure if it’s been brought up) as I’m seeing the movie in IMAX tomorrow, but aren’t we forgetting about ‘subspace shockwaves’? They seem to travel FTL (they definitely do in TUC) and might account for the otherwise implausible elements.

But hey, I like the attitude displayed in this article – if it’s a good movie, exact science be damned! :)

91. Sara - May 9, 2009

“Spock gets all Pon-farr on Kirk’s butt”

Do you realize how filthy that sounds? You just made a lot of slashy fic writers very, very happy.

What if you had an open wound when you were exposed to space? Would your blood boil then? What if you had cut yourself shaving or had a popped pimple, would that be enough of a not-closed system to allow your blood to boil?

The black hole stuff bothered me too, but I tried to ignore it for the sake of enjoying the movie.

92. Voltaire - May 9, 2009

When I saw the movie, I interpreted Spock watching Vulcan be destroyed as a literal, visual interpretation of what he saw in his mind’s eye as he “sensed” the death of the planet and six billion Vulcans, in the same way he sensed the death of the Vulcan crew in “The Immunity Syndrome”.

93. Daoud - May 9, 2009

Spock watching from Delta Vega was during a Mind Meld Sequence.

Spock may have been “mentalling” metaphorically. He might actually have seen it on a viewscreen i.r.l., and not in the sky…

Red matter is a convenient excuse… of course had they used “proto-matter” instead, they would have made me much happier. All of us recall David Marcus’s poor choice of using it in STIII:TSFS! :) Plus, it would have been a great in-reference. Maybe they could have said “red proto-matter”. I realize JJ wanted a red ball in there. It’s a JJ thing.

Great review Phil. Good call on McCoy just being McCoy and not really being serious. After all, a-VIGH-aphobia is fear of dying. ay-vee-aphobia is fear of birds. :)

94. Brad - May 9, 2009

86 – Maybe they set the shield frequency to a phased inverse frequency shift of the wavelegth of the core rupture shockwave frequency, which allowed the shockwave to push against the shield bubble? This may be enough to push the Enterprise to safety…. theortically. Of course, their chansed of survival would only be four hundred thousand fifty eight to one.

95. Adam Cohen - May 9, 2009

Fantastic article- truly great commentary on the science (or lack thereof). “Star Trek” has often ignored the laws of physics to get through a plot device or some sort of outcome. And there’s a certain kitsch value to that in my opinion. As long as it doesn’t truly offend the average viewer, then I see no harm done. And I’m glad you enjoyed the movie as well- great work.

96. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

68, thanks for the explanations!

I wanted to comment that I am not as familiar with Alternate Reality in the sense you explained. I can somewhat rationalize Alternate Reality as “alternate timeline,” but not as existence in a different “plane of existence,” but this is probably because I’m far too inured to the idea of timelines as specifically referenced in TNG’s “Parallels,” the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, etc.

I can see your explanation as valid, however, by using metaphors (or similes): Our reality is like the events depicted in a book sitting on a shelf, or a program on a disk. Another reality, or another “plane of reality,” is like the events depicted in a slightly different book by a slightly different author (or, again, a slightly different program by a slightly different programmer). One could also make the comparison by using differing screenplays, or differing holodeck programs.

My initial difficulty arises from the scientific (or pseudo-scientific) basis of alternate “planes of reality.” One could explain this as being some permutation of “dimensions,” but in scientific or pseudo-scientifc, terms, this finds a limited basis of support, since dimensions would not “split off” in quite the way implied. (For example, in real physics, and specifically the theoretical physics known as superstring theory, there are supposedly up to 11 dimensions in existence, with most of them curled up in the several that we experience. Changes to Dimensions 1 through 4 or 5, for example, would not result in changes in the hidden dimensions that were NOT fully implied in Dimensions 4 (or 5) through 11 — all dimensions are in the same “reality.”

Two other difficulties I have include: (1.) why the events of alternate “reality” must exactly that of prime “reality,” and (2.) whether this isn’t simply another way of saying “timeline that is the same as the prime timeline.” From a scientific or pseudo-scientific standpoint, I don’t see an advantage to conferring the prime timeline (or any other timeline) the status of prime “reality” (or, therefore its alteration, altered “reality”) if the characters in no reality are able to perceive the existence of any other. Isn’t “reality,” in that case, just a different word for “timeline”?

97. Christopher - May 9, 2009

Great review. The novelist I saw the movie with (James Rollins) suggested that after the credits they should have shown a clip of Admiral Archer’s beagle materializing in some random location.

With respect to the planet’s gravity being the same even if compressed into a black hole, why then would the planet collapse inward at all? It seems to me that to get that effect you’d have to actually add mass. Maybe red matter becomes supermassive when ignited or something.

98. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

One reason is that the red matter might somehow destroy the nuclear bonds giving material their inner strength. In a real black hole, gravity becomes so great that even the degeneracy pressures of the most basic particles are exceeded, leading to the creation of a singularity at the core. Red matter, on a pseudo-scientific basis, may cause all degeneracy pressure to cease to exist by at first affecting a small piece of matter in that way, creating a zero-degeneracy core that creates a cascade effect rendering all matter it touches to be that form of exotic matter.

I recall seeing several globules of red matter coalesce during the Narada destruction scene, and when they did, the matter seemed to lose color. Perhaps that implied that it reacted with the Narada’s atoms on a subatomic basis, causing a kind of critical mass, cascading reaction.

99. father-of-three - May 9, 2009

I have not yet seen Star Trek. I’ve always considered shows like Doctor Who to be a continuity nightmare and have questionable science, which I attribute to the concept of science fiction and telling good, if not great stories. Looks like Star Trek may still be competing for the top spot! The red matter-black hole-supernova stuff seems a bit confusing given how fast-paced I have heard that the movie is.
I guess I’ll find out in a few days!

100. L W - May 9, 2009

Okay, you know better than I do, no doubt, but…

WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT ‘BLACK HOLES’ IN THIS MOVIE BASICALLY BEHAVED HOWEVER THE SCENE NEEDED THEM TO? I mean, they travel through them as time portals in the beginning, then later, they rip Nero’s ship apart.

101. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

LW, I’m no expert, but the black hole formed by the Hobus event was obviously far more massive than that formed by the Narada. There is something of a scientific explanation for the differences in behavior, therefore, in that a very small black hole would generate different tidal forces from a very massive one.

Most wormhole theories I’ve read seem to say that only a very large black hole could even theoretically allow them to be traveled through.

102. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

A layman’s commentary on Dr. Plait’s statement: He wrote, “Incidentally, Spock says he tried to stop the supernova by using red matter to create a black hole to absorb the explosion. That wouldn’t work; in fact in the center of many supernovae the star’s core collapses to a black hole.”

I think that the way to get around this in a sci-fi sense is to render the belief (rationalization) that red matter causes the cascade zero-degeneracy effect I posited in one of the above postings. That is, once a small core of exotic, zero-degeneracy pressure matter is created, a chain reaction causes all matter in contact with the exotic matter to lose nuclear or subnuclear pressure, allowing it to be absorbed into a singularity. In this sense, “black hole” might be vernacular, and not a bad one, for a singularity formed by just such a reaction. If so, the energy of the outlying supernova gases might be enervated just in the same way that the nuclear or subnuclear bonds have been weakened by such mysterious process.

We could theorize (rationalize) that most of this mysterious cascade occurs at the sub-quark level and that all the energy that is sapped is directed into some kind of (theoretical) zero-point field.

However, other than by positing the theory that the Hobus star had some strange “subspace” effect, I do have some difficulty rationalizing how Romulus could be destroyed. One could theorize that Romulus was, in fact, within the 50 LY radius of the supernova that Dr. Plait mentioned. Or, one could theorize that the Romulan system was situated, or happened to be ain transit through, some kind of subspace “fault zone” such that the effect of a more distant supernova had a disproportionate effect on it. (This could also explain why calculations by even an advanced civilization like the Vulcans might have been erroneous as to when or how the destruction was to occur.)

Of course, “subspace” itself is mainly a Trekkian construct.

103. bijillm shkatnerirk - May 9, 2009

The thing about science in the last hundred years it has changed and evolved astronomically and to expect the science of “the future” to match our science today ( in the case of the unknowns) doesn’t make sense.

No matter what you know or do not know about the science behind the trek, let your imagination do the rest.

Imagination is the birthplace of all science so just go with it.

Which I did!

104. JACathcart - May 9, 2009

To Phil Plait:

You sir are an anomaly. A man gifted in scientific analysis and rhetoric, AND a darned funny and clever writer. I love science, but most of it’s proponents are so dry that they bore me to tears. If I had had you in science class in school, I may have winded up wearing blue shirts rather than gold.

And P.S. How refreshing to hear a positive critique. One does not have to love everything about this movie, but how could you not have a blast watching it? It was a fantastic movie, and a thrilling addition to the Trek lore.

105. John Sullivan - May 9, 2009

Not quite SCIENCE FRIDAY, but I always enjoy e-mails from Phil and honestly I never knew that’s how his last name is supposed to be spelled. One thing that I did NOT enjoy about the movie so much was the constantly ungrounded hand-held camera. This was done not only on a Bridge scene when everyone’s calm, cool, and collected – perhaps only to express the nervousness of the cameraman that this was “Star Trek” they were messing with here … but on external space shots as well, all in the vacuum of space. I agree with Phil’s take on the impossibility of escaping a black hole by throwing bombs down it, by simply asking the question … once you throw away your engine and/or fuel tank so that your car will be light enough on Mass to climb that icy slippery hill, how are you going to do it once you throw away your engine and/or fuel? But I did appreciate the (implied) missing line … “full Impulse, too!” I think a lot of fans have an outdated view of Black Holes, and the latest science about these things and wormholes underestimates their fury and power, and overestimates any possibility of transiting one alive.

106. John Sullivan - May 9, 2009

… rude to answer my own post but I’ve alreasy spoken of a a relatively new “Nova” that talked about the latest science about black holes. According to the NOVA program, a flashlight pointed 45 degrees up would react like water out of a water hose, arching and then falling straight down (into the Black Hole). If your ship got as close as the Enteprrise did, the ship would be torn apart like the molecules of a sugar cube dropped into a rapidly spinning cup of hot coffee. One big difference is if the molecules get right on the edge of making it our and being pulled in – they would swirl together into a tornado and then leave as a jet not unlike the “gamma Ray” burst described above. Phil is right about those things – gamma ray bursts. If one came from Sirius not only would everything in line – of – sight of that star be vaporized, but the rays would travel all the way through the planet unimpeded and also wipe out everything and everyone on the back side. Real space observatories are picking up faint Gamma Ray bursts all the time – on the order of decades between them, and thankfully, they all have origins from long ago in a galaxy far, far away. I think Phil and I would agree that the science in this film reflected an appreciation for science, but certainly not an understanding of it. They are usually biproducts of, and not the same as Supernovas, and I think that’s what Phil was trying to say. On the other hand, this is one of my appreciations of the new Warp “jump,” because one of the most dangerous things about the old way of accelerating up to a jump speed is that you cause a Doppler effect so dangerous that once you get going fast enough, ordinary light and radio waves get shifted up into the effective wavelengths of gamma radiation – killing everyone on the ship before they get anywhere close to Warp Speed. I like the new way much better. The entire invonvenience of “the old way” is avoided altogether.

107. Garovorkin - May 9, 2009

I say the Film I think Abrams pulled it off rather nicely. I look forward to the sequel whichis what 2 years away? Anyway it was worth the wait.

108. John Sullivan - May 9, 2009

… oh yeah, and the coolest thing about Black Holes as we now understand them … things moving at the speed of light, if they go in at the right (correct) angle … such as light itself can actually achieve a “standard orbit” around the center of the black hole. The light can never escape to be seen by anyone, but it just goes round and round in a circular or elliptical orbit, forever. Joining other light-speed photons and radiations, collisions always take place, and what’s left is pulled into a lower orbit to join the incredibly dense ball of incredibly crushed atoms at the center. The light show circling above the center would be incredible to see, in all sorts of hues. But, it would also kill anyone being dragged towards a black hole – for the second time – long after your molecules would literally be ripped apart by the crushing pull of gravity. If you were to go in feet first, your toes would weigh more than your head just because of the difference in gravitational forces between your head and your toes, and you would be stretched like a rubber band to be enormously tall – many miles tall – for a few seconds – until your whole body would just be turned into molecular powder. So, so sorry. No light show for you, or Captain Sisco. If you survived long enough to see it, it would be the last thing you’d see before the radiations would kill you.

109. kingdinosaur - May 9, 2009

One science question I was looking for wasn’t answered: At the speed Kirk and Sulu were in freefall, prior to the teleportation, wouldn’t the impact on the transporter pad have killed them?

Considering the distance the two fell without a parachute, until Scotty beamed them onboard the Enterprise, the velocity would be too great to survive a sudden impact with the transporter pad.

110. The Optimist - May 9, 2009

I personally don’t by the alternate universe plot. To me what happened was suppose to happen. The vulcan that we see in Amok Time, The Motion Picture, and Star Trek III is actually the “new” vulcan that will most likely to be established for the remaining vulcans. Perhaps the only planet in the same system that they could colonize was a geologically violent world with a red sky and volcanos.

111. dep1701 - May 9, 2009

Hey Phil! It’s David, your roomie from Main Mission 2000 in NY! Great review, and great to hear your take on the movie.

BTW: bad science involving shockwaves in space….being used to keep objects apart… to prevent a “COLLISION COURSE” of sorts. Where have i heard that before? it sounds so familiar :)

112. thorsten - May 9, 2009


Chekov managed to finally beam Sulu and Kirk aboard, but they were saved by the transporter technology. The transporter is smart enough to understand that no beamed object is supposed to crash into the platform with 60 mph…

113. Bussani - May 9, 2009

Interesting thoughts. Just some of my own;

Didn’t they call the ‘black hole’ a singularity at first? Well, yes, a black hole is a singularity, but in Star Trek it isn’t the only type. And this one did send Spock and Nero through time, so can we really be sure it’s a normal black hole, and not some sort of breach in the space-time continuum? So maybe Vulcan now exists as bite size chunks in another time period, or another universe even.

As for the warp core explosion…that really did seem like nonsense to me. But uh…maybe the explosion caused some sort of…subspace shockwave, and vibrated space ITSELF (lol Treknobabble)? In other words, as Scotty said at one point in the movie, maybe it was space that was moving rather than the ship. When Praxis exploded in Star Trek VI it caused a similar subspace shockwave that tossed the Excelsior around.

So in conclusion; does it all make sense using real science? Nope. Can you explain it away with Treknobabble? Probably. Thank god for the invention of subspace — it’s like a magical realm that lets you get away with anything.

114. McCoy's Gall Bladder - May 9, 2009


I had tons of issues with the movie, including every thing listed here.

The Red Matter is described as a byproduct of Deca-Lithium, lithium times 10, an isotope of lithium, of which dilithium is also one. BUT you’ll only learn that if you read the comic.

The STORY is incomplete without the comic, but the MOVIE is compete as an episode of Star Trek.

And as a two-hour episode, it’s not bad. As a movie, it sucks. It simply doesn’t have the substance. It ranks up there with Transfarmers and Judge Dredd/Demolition Man. It’s all action, no thought. No exploration of the human condition, no exploration of modern politics, no social commentary. It really is summer blockbuster fun.

Star Trek 2009 will end up in rerun hell on Spike and FX just like Batman Begins and Hellboy.

Hopefully DC Fontana will write the next one, and Harve Bennet will direct.


115. Jack - May 9, 2009

Okay — so back from the second viewing — WHY was the fleet in the Laurention sector in the first place? Was it because of the Klingon ship thing? Why wasn’t Pike notified of the destruction of all the Klingon ships? Was Starfleet notified that Nero was coming to Earth? Did communications simply take too long, a la TOS — so that all those ships knew nothing about Nero. Isn’t Vulcan three days from Earth (TMP)? I would have liked to see a bit more of Nero’s backstory. And I’m assuming the encounter with the Kelvin twigged Starfleet to the Vulcan/Romulan connection. But how did they know Nero was Romulan in the first place? Oh, do good denturists not exist on Romulus in Spock Prime’s 24/5th century? Did Nero give Spock a matching fur-trimmed coat/pant suit on Delta Vega before he dropped him off? Why didn’t Scotty pick up the destruction of Vulcan, the Enterprise in orbit or the space pod nearby? Why do some of the E’s displays use the same LED numbers as my 1982 clock radio? Where did the wood for the fire come from? Why doesn’t young Spock raise his eyebrows more? Why do officers where different uniforms when on board ship? Why does the Nokia future phone look lamer than my first gen iPhone? Did Nero manage to blow up the star that would go supernova and later blow up Romulus (or did the black hole blow it up back in time, therefore preventing the destruction in the first place)?

I loved this movie, by the way.

116. spockatatic - May 9, 2009

Haha, now we know why the sky is blue!
Yes, the movie rocks! I’m going to seeing it again this Tuesday. I loved how Kirk kept saying stuff like “heeeyyy, baby,” to pretty much every girl he met.
I didn’t see the tribble, but I’ll look for it next time. Thanks for the science! I am a total science nerd. The Red Matter thing kind of made me mad, but I could live with it. And when I heard about the nova and watched, I was just like, no. No. That’s not right. It’s not supposed to be freaking YELLOW! But that’s okay, because the movie totally rocked.

117. Daniel - May 9, 2009

Star Trek has always played “fast and loose” with the science. I also noticed a lot of the scientific inaccuracies that Plait mentioned, but ignored them for the sake of enjoying a good story. Trek was always about character development, friendship, courage and loyalty and facing up to challenges. And this film provided a strong serving of these things.

…and yes, the running gags about Uhura’s first name and Kirk’s womanizing made me snicker.

But I was actually quite annoyed at the destruction of Vulcan, because there is no way to reconcile that with events that occurred in TNG.

118. Linda - May 9, 2009

The science confused me, made the plot more difficult. your explanation helped. Bones was really dead on, wasn’t he & I missed the “red” suit. I liked the Uhura/Spock connection. And what about 2 “spocks” in the same time, doesn’t work on “Lost.”.

119. ML31 - May 9, 2009

I suspend disbelief quite a bit for Trek, of course. But there were really four things that bugged me. Scotty’s core bomb I was right there with you. And the fact is, that could have been fixed by just one line of dialog.
The others had to do with geography. First, I thought Vulcan was just too close to Earth. For all the TV shows and movies inconsistencies, Vulcan was never a mere hour away from Earth at maximum warp. But, that one is puny and completely acceptable compared to the others…
Spock watching Vulcan collapse FROM Delta Vega was just stupid and makes no sense.
As was transporting from Delta Vega to the moving at warp Enterprise. The Big E had to have been gone for a few hours at least, if the 14KM distance to the Federation station is to be believed. There has never been an incarnation of Trek where the Transporter had the range to transport over a single light year, let along God knows how many there were in this situation! This could have been fixed by just giving Scotty a multi warp ship at his disposal so they could get closer! Of how about Saying the Big E needed warp repair that would take a few hours. They leave, Kirk, Spock Prime and Scotty follow. Now they beam over.

But other than those things, I was totally engrossed with the story.

120. Patrick - May 9, 2009

Please tell me I wasn’t the only one hoping Kurt Russel would be the guy manning that station on Delta Vega.

121. Billman - May 9, 2009

All I’ve got to say is:

Bounce a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish,
that’s the way we do things lad, we’re makin sh*t up, as we wish,
the klingons and the romulans are no threat to us
cause if we find we’re in a bind,
we just make some sh*t up.

122. Billman - May 9, 2009

And if you’re at a party on the starship Enterprise,
and the Karoke player just plain old up and dies,
set up a neutrino field inside a can of peas,
then grab on to Geordi’s visor and sing into Data’s knee.

(I’m done now. Kudos to you if you’ve heard this song and know what I’m ripping off here.)

123. Dr. Image - May 9, 2009

In other words, using a science advisor the next time around REALLY wouldn’t hurt!

124. S. John Ross - May 9, 2009

#73: Orci has already explained it, I believe (or come as close as we’re likely to get) … The Prime timeline hasn’t been changed at all, and therefore is all hunky-dory with no need for any temporal agents to look up from their space dougnuts. Turns out time travel doesn’t alter timelines at all … it just creates (or moves you to) an alternate universe where B happens instead of A, and the universe where A happens is still there (which is why it’s still available on DVD and Blu-Ray).

Of course, far more important than the science (which we’re assured is very successful and tested, so no need to worry) is the way this sort of thinking muddies moral concerns (“I’m not really strangling you to death; I’m just transporting _myself_ to the alternate reality where I didn’t _refrain_ from strangling you to death; you’re still hale and hearty back in Prime … and you were going to be strangled in _this_ reality anyway, so no harm no foul! Heck, _I’m_ still back in Prime, too, wishing I had strangled you. What a sucker I am! Sucks to be me, but it’s MUCH better to be ME!”)

125. Mickey Hands Kirk - May 9, 2009

They could have blown up the cable and spare us the useless parachute jump/ninja sword fight on the platform. See, I’m a nitpicking dork too!

126. otto38dd - May 9, 2009

#102. A very old and wise Spock would have known that a young Kirk likely lacked a strong astrophysics background. It is possible that Spock Prime used generic “black hole” and “supernova” references during the mind meld to simplify the explanation for him.

Also, the destruction of a starship with over 800 StarFleet personnel could definitely change the outcome of things over the next 25 years including the potential for Spock to want a love interest.

As for the number of Vulcans offworld, I was always under the impression that the number was relatively small, especially early in Federation history as Vulcans tended to be isolationists and didn’t want to interact with emotionally dependant species. That could be construed during the movie based on the Science Council’s comments about Spock.

127. Bussani - May 9, 2009

I’ve always thought that may the method of time travel changes the effect. Maybe singularities created by Red Matter cause you to branch off and create an alternate timeline which runs independent to the original timeline, while other methods of time travel result in changing the original timeline instead?

…Wibbly Wobbly Timey Whimey stuff.

128. Baroner - May 9, 2009

126 – would the destruction of a starship with over 800 people on it change the fact that no 3rd year cadet, no matter how heroic, would ever be handed the captaincy (a sevenfold automatic promotion) of the fleet’s newest capital ship? Or any capital ship for that matter??? This to me is such a huge problem with the movie (even though I liked it).

I’m a broken record on this one – it’s driving me nuts. It’s not even scientific nitpicking, the stuff of which I’ve never had a problem with in any ST show/movie (the science is all fiction, even if based on theoretical possibilies at times). It’s common sense – something that ST has done better than most other shows. Why’d they have to do this? Why couldn’t they just give Kirk a medal, promote him heavily and send him off to his first starship assignment??? Someone help me here.

129. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

Question: How did George Kirk manage to save 800 lives? Were there 800 passengers and crew on board the Kelvin? That’s quite a lot, considering that the TOS Enterprise had a crew of only about 400. (Perhaps that was because only about 400 was needed for the 5-year voyage; in theory, you could fit a lot more than 400 crew on board a ship the size of the TOS Enterprise. A modern supercarrier in the U.S. Navy has a crew of about 5,000, including the air wing on board.)

Also, aren’t the shuttles a bit small and few to have been able to transport 800 passengers one sortie?

If each shuttle transported 20 passengers, it would require 40 shuttles to save 800 lives without going and forth. (There was no “forth” to go back from.) Even if, in emergency conditions, 40 passengers could have been transported in single shuttle, that still requires 20 shuttles. Did the Kelvin carry so many shuttles, or were there also escape pods that we never saw?

130. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

I must say that, in my several repeat viewings, I have grown to appreciate how detailed the attention has been in this movie.

I noticed in the second viewing, for example, that a torpedo headed toward Medical Shuttle 37 was specifically destroyed by a blast from the Kelvin’s phasers. Quite good.

131. Commodore Kor'Tar - May 9, 2009

The sciene may have been way off in alot of scenes , but when has Star Trek gotten the science exactly right? LOL!

I still enjoyed every moment in this film!

Just need to see some Klingons next time and I’ll be happy as a targ in a rug! LOL!

132. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

Someone wrote that Vulcan’s collapse was too “dirty” — i.e., that there was a lot of dirt that seemed to be falling in on itself, versus the reality that it would actually have to have a liquid core, and so forth.

As I saw the picture a third time, I specifically looked for evidence of magma during the collapse, and lo and behold, it was there. When Vulcan falls in on itself, you do, in fact, see cracks in in the mantle where glowing light the color of magma appears.

What I posit happens in the process is that the energy, including the heat, of the planet and as generated by the collapse itself is simply diverted away, either to “subspace” or to another part of the universe through the (very small) wormhole created by the singularity.

133. lestatdelc - May 9, 2009

Ahhhh… “canon” went out the window because the plot hook is that this is a completely altered time-line from Nero coming back right when Kirk is born. So any of the events and character interactions can be 100% different and it will still work within canon, because this is a different reality than the one we have watched unfold in the Trek universe the last 40 years. The movie says this directly, but seems to have sailed right past everyone.

The “undefined” technobable/properties of red matter makes the entire “black hole” nit-picking misguided. It could easily be that the properties of this unknown matter can cause singularities which have some resemblance to black-holes but are not the stellar type. After all, we know form the TNC timeframe series that Romulans have artificial singularities that power their warbirds. Spock could have built off of the Romulan knowledge he would be exposed to for years since within the TNG series he is shown to be living clandestinely on Romulus to help work with an underground movement to bring about Vulcan/Romulian unification. This also explains how he could be viewed as a “traitor” by some Romanians (such as Nero) for screwing up stopping the supernova destruction of Romulus since the ruling faction of the Romulian empire are opposed to the minority efforts to bring about reunification.

Your points about the misnaming misstatements of Delta Vega being a planet as said by old Spock as opposed to a Vulcan moon are correct. As is old Spock saying a super nova threatened the galaxy. If he has said the several star systems nearby, which included the Romulian home world system, that would have been kosher. Granted it is a total post-rationalization conjecture to explain it away, but perhaps old Spock is begining to suffer Bendii Syndrome which is like Vulcan Alzheimer’s disease which we know is what afflicts Sarek in The TNG episode “Sarek” and what presumably kills eventually which occurs two Stardate years later as revealed in the TNG episodes Unification I & II.

134. Hat Rick - May 9, 2009

Great points, 133.

We could also posit that the supernova could have had a strange effect on “subspace.” (For those who say that “subspace” doesn’t exist in our reality, that would mean that Star Trek’s reality cannot be hours, since Trek is highly dependent on the existence of subspace. Let’s just assume that subspace exists but 21st Century science and technology is too backward to perceive or understand it.) There could be, as I noted, subspace faultlines or fault zones through which planets travel such that Romulus (and other planets along or in the same faultlines or zones) could be especially hard-hit.

Also, two additional benefits to this possibility: If such faults exist, various parts of the galaxy could, theoretically, be under threat despite being located far away from the supernova. We could even say that the Hobus star was located right at the worst possible “subspace” location for a supernova explosion to occur — sort of as if an thermonuclear bomb were detonated on the San Andreas fault.

The other benefit is that we don’t have to theorize that Spock is beginning to experience Bendii Syndrome.

135. SciFiFan - May 10, 2009

I agree with lestatdeic. I don’t’ see how people have missed that this new movie is set in a different time-line, the old (prime) time-line it still there. I haven’t even seen the movie and I know this from character qoutes, what the writers have said etc..If they ever wanted to go back and make shows/movies there they can, heck they can do that with both universes at once. Heck the new star trek MMORPG takes place around 20 years after Nemesis,and from what I have read is still consider to be part of the main time line unless they ever make another show set in the main time line.

Only thing bothering me about the new movie is if you don’t love it you will get attacked. I haven’t seen it myself, I hate going to movies in the first place and never go during the premier weekend but I will see this in a week or so. I don’t consider my self a Trekkie or trekker but I do feel sorry for them in away.

136. lestatdelc - May 10, 2009

My take on Spock prime witnessing Vulcan implode, this is “shown” as a mind-meld “flashback” for Spock prime to impart what the deal is to Alt-Newbie Kirk. Note the echoing, disjointed “dream-like” audio voice-over floating through it all as well. The vignette of Spock turning to go on his supernova stopping flight, the flashes of “seeing” the Narada and Jellyfish get sucked back to the 23rd century via the red-matter created Nova sucking singularity, etc.

The “vision” of Vulcan imploding ghosted over the sky of Delta Vega is a “mind vision” not and easily explained that this is mind-meld visual montage “i.e. a mind vision” and not an actual Kodak moments of Spock standing there watching Vulcan implode form the sky of DV. Don’t be so literal about the visual metaphors in a mind-meld.

That was a haunting image of Vulcan imploding intruding on the vision of Spock then being stranded on DV. This is a disjointed “visual representation” of a mind-meld not cinéma vérité of seeing Spock watch Vulcan go poof (or foop as the case may be).

137. MC1 Doug - May 10, 2009

#69: “Uh, except our Archer’s beagle Porthos would have to be 100 years old for Scotty to beam him anywhere. I guess an 150 year old Jonathan Archer could still be a Starfleet Admiral at the time but any ‘prize-winning beagle’ of his could not likely be Porthos.”

Nowhere in the movie was Adm. Archer’s beagle mentioned by name. Of course, Porthos would have been long dead by the time of the movie’s events, but who’s to say he didn’t raise other beagles.. or that he was raising one of Porthos’s offspring.

Saw the movie again today.. soon will see it a third time on an IMAX screen. Loved it still.

138. Hat Rick - May 10, 2009

137’s post brought forth an interesting question: Did Jonathan Archer ever have time to settle down and have kids? Because there could be more than one Admiral Archer in Starfleet, whether related to Jonathan or not. (Just as there are more than one Captain Kirk serving aboard commercial airliners in the real world — including one that, as a younger man, served aboard the Navy’s USS Enterprise supercarrier (CVN 65).)

See, e.g., Interestingly, it has a photo of an airliner “Captain Kirk” wearing a Starfleet uniform….

139. MC1 Doug - May 10, 2009

#81: “Overall an excellent movie! I have my own nitpick, beyond the Spock/Uhura relationship. The could have done far better with the Kobiashi Maru. Kirk turned it into a joke.”

Of course, Kirk turned it into a joke. That was the whole point behind the incomplete courtmartial prior to the Vulcan rescue attempt.

Personally, I liked the Spock/Uhura development, though I didn’t believe either would have acted as the two did on the transporter pad just prior to beaming over to the Romulan vessel.

Finally!! Uhura officially has a first name!

140. Mr_1nvisib1e - May 10, 2009

Boiling Blood: I forgive McCoy’s “…blood boils in 13 seconds” remark, as he admits later in the film, “Damn it man, I’m a doctor, not a physicist!”.

141. Hat Rick - May 10, 2009

I’ve been thinking about and researching the concepts of parallel universes, prime reality, alternate reality, alternative timelines, alternative history, time travel, and related concepts on various websites in the last hour, and I have come to the conclusion that much of the discussion on such subjects is confused because of an actual lack of consensus over what these terms are supposed to mean. The confusion is compounded by the fact that none of these terms are actually well-grounded in science; much of the discussion over them is literary rather than scientific or even philosophical. For a science fiction franchise, this seeming chaos could be a bit annoying and create dissension where none need be.

My own conclusion is that whatever you call the new Star Trek movie’s setting, nothing in it suggests that the timeline (or reality) of the Star Trek universe of the last several decades has been changed. The most convincing evidence of this is, as someone else has already stated, the fact that Spock Prime can remember the events that occurred after the events of the movie. (For the sake of clarity, I will refer to the current movie as “ST2009.”) For example, he remembers that Jim Kirk and Spock (he, himself), were longtime friends — something that had not happened in the movie. You cannot even in theory actually remember things that haven’t happened. Further, if something happened, it cannot “unhappen” (unless one subscribes to a completely different theory of time travel than is clearly indicated in the movie). Therefore, those things that Spock Prime remembers still happened. If the hadn’t, he wouldn’t remember them.

Now, if, on the other hand, the pre-ST2009 timeline (or so-called “prime reality”) had been erased, so, too, would Spock Prime’s memory of the things that happened in it that had not happened in ST2009, since they would not have happened at all. Spock Prime would not be able to remember that he and Kirk had been friends for decades, since it would not have occurred. (The neural synapses in Spock Prime’s brain would simply not be configured to carry the information. Spock Prime would also have no knowledge even of the fact that he did not have such memory.) But, in fact, he did remember.

Further, there is nothing at all to suggest that anything that happened in ST2009 changed anything in any way affecting events after Spock Prime’s departure from the pre-ST2009 timeline, with the sole exception that Spock Prime, Nero, the Jellyfish, and the Narada all disappeared from it when they fell into the Hobus black hole.

The fact that Spock Prime remembers anything at all from the pre-ST2009 is, to me, conclusive proof that the so-called “prime reality” continues to exist. Nor, in any persuasive sense, is it necessary for it to be otherwise. The fact that the audience and the camera now follows the events of ST2009 is, to me, insufficient reason on any real level to deny that.

Finally, the existence of the so-called “alternate reality” seen in ST2009 is no more indicative of the disappearance of the so-called “prime reality” than would be the existence of the thousands of events in the hundreds of books written in the Trek universe and published by Pocket Books. To the extent that those events in literary Trek are inconsistent with the “prime reality,” the “prime reality” is not the least negated (nor, for that matter, all other things being equal, does the “prime reality” negate the events in literary Trek).

If one desires, one can simply consider the events in ST2009 to be in one of the Trekverses described in a Trek book, albeit in movie form.

142. jEBUS - May 10, 2009


Dr. McCoy looks like Al Gore.

I was pissed off since there were no little extra scenes after the credits have rolled!! I was hoping for it: A Shatner scene or a Priceline negotiator COMMERCIAL!!!

Cpt Robau is the evil guy in Iron man – Raza


143. NickKh - May 10, 2009

Why are you all talking about the black hole as if you actually have any idea about it? Scientists simply DO NOT have facts, but theories about black holes! We don’t know bleep about a lot of stuff in space. All scientists have discovered so far is just a tip of the iceberg. What if in the next 20 years we discover that there are 100 types of different supernovas, and we only knew one of them. What if we discover that the black holes can form differently depending on the circumstances?

If there are no shock-waves in space, then how can the radiation from the Sun be shock-waved all around our planet? If the sound cannot be transmitted in space, then how did the men on the moon communicate with Earth?

What really peaces me off about you guys, is that many assume that this new movie is an alternate timeline, blah, blah, blah. I get it. You are not willing to give up your beloved William Shattner, but I am not willing to give up the idea that THIS and not William Shatner version of Star Trek is from OUR timeline. Because this movie makes a bit more sense as far as the way the ship looks and operates, since even we are more advanced as a lot of technologies were in the past Star Trek, I have all the rights to assume that THIS new movie is in OUR timeline!!!

Whatever you want to think of it, do not go out there and spread the word that this is really not a real star trek, but a version of star trek from another timeline. New fans do not wanna hear that and they will not welcome your nerdy fanatism over William Shattner! Just trying to be honest!

144. Hat Rick - May 10, 2009

Hey, calm down there, will you? For one, I, for one, am not spreading the word that this is not real Star Trek …

Because, Paramount’s marketing is. It’s NOT your father’s Star Trek.

And, while I am dealing with various timeline issues, because it’s sorta fun to play with ideas, at least for me, I am doing the exact opposite of what you seem to believe: I actually want more people to see this flick regardless of whether this has Shatner in it, or is in the “prime reality,” or whatever the hell else is allegedly “wrong” with the movie.

There’s NOTHING wrong with the movie — ESPECIALLY if it’s about a different reality.

I’ve said to everyone I know and some I don’t: Go see the movie. It rocks.

145. Hat Rick - May 10, 2009

Also, I’ve specifically said, almost in exactly the way you have put it, that for all we know, the current movie IS our timeline.

146. otto38dd - May 10, 2009

128. There were several recorded battlefield promotions during WW1, WW2, and even the Korean war where enlisted (usually a corporal or sgt) were promoted to lieutenant on the field due to death of a superior officer. I had an uncle that was promoted that way. It is not implausable that a cadet assigned to his first mission being promoted to “second in command” at the discretion of the Captain when caught in a now battlefield situation. It is also well docuemented in the “Mirror, Mirror” universe that ascension is aided by assassination or other means, in this case, forcing the acting captain to be relieved of duty.

147. Forrest - May 10, 2009

The picture & debunking thereof remind me of the old SUPERFRIENDS cartoon:

“Superman, we’ve just received a distress call from the planet Skyron!”
“Skyron?! That’s a hundred billion light years away — we’d better leave immediately!”

148. Holger - May 10, 2009

143 NickKh: “Because this movie makes a bit more sense as far as the way the ship looks and operates, since even we are more advanced as a lot of technologies were in the past Star Trek”

Excuse me? You think a ship with a concrete-walled (!) oil refinery on the inside which appears larger than the outer dimensions of the ship allow for, and which is a tremendous waste of precious space in any case, makes more sense than the prime Enterprise? And a Galaxy-Quest-like water shredder? And a huge vulnerable window on the bridge makes more sense than a closed bridge dome with a viewscreen?

And in what ways are we more advanced? Do we have Warp Drive, androids, beaming, fusion reactors, replicators?
Only our user interfaces of today are flashier, that seems to be it. And I’m not aware our cellphones send messages through subspace.

149. cagmar - May 10, 2009

Hehe.. nice article Phil!

I guess it’s about astronomy, but maybe someone should talk about those stupid phasers. Why are they firing in segmented beams? And why do they recoil?

It would have been nice if they got more right than wrong.

150. NickKh - May 10, 2009

Holger, what in the world are you talking about? I said that this movie seems a lot more advanced than TOS. With all these iPods we have and other technologies, this movie makes more sense as OUR timeline, rather than the one version from the 60s! That’s all I said! I am not saying that we have warp technology! You are reading into this way too much!

151. NickKh - May 10, 2009

Hat Rig, I wasn’t addressing you in particular. I was just trying to say to all of those people who claim to be Scientifically advanced to talk about what Space can do and what it cannot. I highly doubt we even scratched a surface of what Space is all about in modern Science. Science in itself is very young. We are still debating THEORIES! Also, I have went to Trekweb and fans there also assume that this new movie is an alternate timeline. They claim that Trek as they know it, with Shattner, is our timeline, where as this new movie is not. I disagree with this as a newly made fan of Star Trek, because if you look at TOS the technology they use there, except of course for the ship, warp and transporters, is laughable comparing to our century. That’s why I think this new movie makes more sense as a continuation of our universe and our timeline, not TOS.

152. Hat Rick - May 10, 2009

151, acknowledged, and thank you for clarifying your message. I think everyone is entitled to his opinion, and as I said, it’s just as likely that this movie’s timeline is ours as is Shatner-as-Kirk’s.

153. Holger - May 10, 2009

150: NickKh, exactly, we don’t have Warp Drive etc. and I know that you haven’t said that we have. But you have said “even we are more advanced as a lot of technologies were in the past Star Trek”. So I was asking what technologies you had in mind. Because I think the only thing which is more advanced in today’s reality than in the Trek fiction of the past is the flashiness of display screens.

154. Ted - May 10, 2009

Nice article. I know it’s star trek and sci fi and all but yah there were some moments in the movie that were completely beyond belief… Escaping a massive explosion after blowing up a blackhole with their warp core? Then surviving the massive blastwave? Quick everyone into the fridge it’ll protect us. As for Red matter? Who invented that? Professor Farnsworth? Good news everyone… I’ve invented a plot device that will blow up Vulcan. Now you have to be very careful with this red matter for a mere drop of it could destroy a star with a powerful and destructive blackhole which is why I’m filling up your ship with it :P

155. warptrek - May 10, 2009

He’s right. When I was much younger and far less knowledgeable, one of the things that struck me in ‘Balance of Terror’ is why didn’t the Enterprise get vaporized in a multi-megaton explosion when the Romulan ship ejected one of the those ‘old fashioned’ nuclear devices and detonated it right next to the E? Well, much later I knew why. Actually, the way it was presented in the episode was kind of over the top as well but I know it was there to make a dramatic point.

156. lestatdelc - May 10, 2009

153 My iPhone is more advanced than the TOS communicators for a start. TOS refers to “computer tapes” which is already surpassed dead-technology back in the very early 80s, and magnetic storage is already being supplanted by solid=state memory right now (again witness my iPhone). Of course most of the TOS tech is still way more advanced. Everything from food replicators, space vehicles and transportation technology, power sources, computing power, etc.

157. Hat Rick - May 10, 2009

Just a quick observation: While the iPhone seems flashier and can do video and other things a TOS communicator cannot do, the iPhone cannot communicate with an orbiting spaceship. Assuming that a standard orbit could be geosynchronous around an Earth-sized terrestrial planet, a standard TOS communicator had a range of over 22,000 miles. I estimate that a cell phone cannot reasonably be expected to perform well, or at all, at a range of anything over about 5 to 10 miles from the nearest cell site even in open terrain. Most cell phone towers are located around one to two miles apart at the most.

A handheld satcom phone can communicate with orbiting satellites that are no more than a few hundred miles away. The range of TOS communicators is at least 100 times greater than that of a satellite phone, and far smaller.

158. NickKh - May 10, 2009

Good point Hat Rick. I just wish TOS weren’t still using phones to communicate with each other at all. I like those Star Trek symbol communicating pins they created later in TNG and DS9. Also, the tapes, the humongous computers, the tiny screens with data typed in like on some old apple computer, all simply look too cheesy to buy into as futuristic. That’s why I like this new reboot of Star Trek a lot more. It just makes more sense to me. However, I do like the point you made that looks are not everything.

159. Hat Rick - May 10, 2009

Thanks, Nick. It’s really nice to have a reasonable conversation with a fellow fan. :-)

About the computers: Supercomputers these days look a lot less user-friendly than consumers might think. They actually do look like large edifices, and their input devices are sometimes no more than a simple terminal — not too different from what we see in TOS.

Here’s an example of a modern military supercomputer, which looks pretty bulky:

The computers in TOS may not be very user-friendly, but they are capable of pinpointing the quantum states of living beings so accurately that they can be safetly teleported hundreds or thousands of miles on a routine basis. Even our most advanced supercomputers would take — it is estimated — more than the age of the entire universe to accomplish just one instance of this task.

160. Andreas -horn- Hornig - May 10, 2009

hi Phil,

very nice article! :) did you ever heared of “Cinema and Science”? they’re trying to use movies for examples in scholar lectures. unfortunally it’s in germany, but It’s the same as you did. taking bits and pieces ot of movies analyzing them and showing the real “magic”behingfilm magic.

luckiely German channel “Kabel 1″ rerun ENT “Strange New Worlds” and Archer asks T’pol if they have blue skies on vulcan as well, because the planet has clear ble sky at the beginning (before starting the storm ;)). She replies, that they have blue sky on vulcan from time to time.

the best thing about science is, that current conclusions can be wrong and perhaps fit to what we see in that movie and expected wrong firstly ;). anything can happen, unlikely, but never say never ;)

161. Forrest - May 10, 2009

“We are still debating THEORIES!”

And theories are tested hypotheses.

162. Trip - May 10, 2009

Thanks for standing up for the Enterprise series. I agree it was good and the finale was bad. Liked the reference to Admiral Archer and his beagle in the movie.

163. Baroner - May 10, 2009

146: thanks for trying, but I think you’ve proven my point. There has never been a promotion on the order of a cadet to an O-6, much less to an O-6 command position in a fleet capital ship. We’re not in a situation where all (or even close to a majority of) veteran, qualified officers have been wiped out. Starfleet is bigger than 7 or so ships, I presume, and what’s more, the Enterprise’s crew didn’t even get killed – there were obviously some career officers on board in addition to cadets. Ditto for every other ship in the fleet. So where’s the rationale for making a cadet the new captain???

Even in the relatively early years of starfleet when Kirk was a cadet, the organization is not small. Even if it was the same size as the US Navy is today (which I can’t imagine it would be – it’s an interstellar fleet), is it remotely plausible that an Annapolis midshipman would be given command of the USS Gerald Ford (the newest carrier) under any circumstances (other than every veteran officer being wiped out in a nuclear holocaust or something)??? WWI and WWII certainly don’t give us any analogous situations either.

The movie was good up until this ridiculousness. I was even able to suspend disbelief and roll with Kirk being appointed as first officer by Pike, and then later assuming command once Spoke went ape. But ending the movie this way was insulting, I thought. A cheesy, weak, B-movie script choice.

I still liked the movie overall, though. I do admit that I want the timeline “restored” in the sequel, perhaps by Shatner in the “future” as old-Kirk from the new timeline swooping in to correct the problem (much like Picard did at Guinan’s urging inYesterday’s Enterprise. Hey, maybe it can be Guinan who urges the old Shatner Kirk to do it). I just want more stories built upon what we’ve come to know and love over the past 40+ years. There’s so much that can be done “anew” in this context – you don’t need to create a whole new timeline and wipe all that away to do new/fresh stories.

164. NickKh - May 10, 2009

Forrest, oops, you got me! =) I meant that we are still debating hypothesis, not theories! lol

Hat Rick, very nice information about the modern military super computers and the capabilities of the computers from TOS! Pretty cool!

165. Holger - May 11, 2009

Right, mention of computer tapes in TOS is anachronistic today.
But on the other hand we still don’t have computers with which you can interface by talking normal, unrestricted language. And computer linguists tell me that today no one knows how to make a computer understand the full range of a natural language (and I’m not even talking about such subtleties as idioms and metaphors, just plain, literal speech).

154 Ted: “Red matter? Who invented that? Professor Farnsworth? Good news everyone… I’ve invented a plot device that will blow up Vulcan.”

166. Hat Rick - May 11, 2009

Thanks, Nick! Trek tech is always something I’ve liked, and I’m not even an engineer!

167. John in Canada, eh? - May 11, 2009

Great reviews on the site!
But I’d hardly call Anthony’s review “Spoiler Free”. Maybe there’s little new information that hasn’t been gathered on this site over the last 15 months, but some of us have stayed away from every trailer, picture, poster, and advanced review for a year. Any details about the movie that are in a review constitute a ‘spoiler’, I’d say.

(A good review nonetheless.)

168. Peter Scholz - May 11, 2009

Whenever a sci-fi has so much action and genocide that you have trouble following the plot, chances are the plot has more holes than – well, a black hole. This movie had a lot of promise that had me pretty keen, and wasted all of them, leaving me enormously disappointed. The work is consistent with the other fast-paced illogical stuff that the writers, Kurtzman and Orci, have produced in the past. Here are a few of the inconsistencies:

Why didn’t Spock offer to use his Black Hole maker machine on the star that would eventually go Nova and destroy Romulus, when he was captured by the Romulans?

Why do Romulan mining ships have more and fancier missiles than Romulan warships?

Why did the planetary defense systems on both Vulcan and Terra just let a giant mining ship come into orbit and start blasting things away?

How did the mining ship manage to blast away 5 Federation warships in a few seconds but take forever to blast away the Kelvin?

Why didn’t the antimatter containment in the Kelvin explode when the Kelvin rammed the mining ship?

Why wasn’t Scotty aware of a planet destruction and genocide next door?

Why are humans manning ice planets in the Vulcan system? Especially since Vulcans have been space-faring for millenia?

Why is Vulcan, a hot planet that is too close to its star, next to an ice planet?

Why was the black hole that sucked in the supernova good for time travel, but the blackhole used on Vulcan was not, nor the black hole used on the mining ship?

After Vulcan was destroyed, why not outfit a military fleet, send it out at near-light speed (ergo, into the future), to destroy the mining ship? Travel to the future is very easy…it is travelling into the past which has pretty much been proven impossible by physicists.

The Enterprise was at warp when Kirk was evicted. The ice planet he ended up at was within view of Vulcan. He should have been many light-years away by then.

If a drop of “red matter” is enough to create a black hole to suck in a planet, why did a tank-full of the stuff take such a long time to suck in a mining ship?

Why did Spock tell the Romulans how to use “red matter”?

Why could the younger Spock out-maneuver the Romulan ship but the older Spock could not?

In terms of consistency of story, this is the third-worst Star Trek movie. The acting is very good, but this is bad science fiction.

There is no excuse for bad science. Hollywood can afford scientific advice…or spend a couple hours reading an intro to physics book. There is less excuse for inconsistent storyline…you just need to keep the story straight from beinning to end.

169. NickKh - May 11, 2009

Spock did use the red manner on the supernova, but it didn’t work.

Romulan mining ships do not have “fancier” missiles. They just look rougher because they are for mining.

Nero comes from the future, so he probably knew how to outsmart the Vulcan defense system. They could have elaborated on that, but the movie would have been a lot longer.

What 5 federation warships are you talking about? Did I miss something?

The antimatter in Kelvin did explode. I for one remember seeing the explosions on the screen.

Scotty was preoccupied with his own stuff. I doubt he even ever got out of that hole until Kirk.

The fact that humans mine in Vulcan system is not surprise. Humans and Vulcans have close ends on science.

For a planet to be hot, it also has to have a core. Perhaps the ice planet doesn’t have one. Whatever the reason, there is probably a scientific explanation of which you simply don’t know yet.

The supernova is a lot bigger than a planet. For a black hole to suck in a ship without damaging it, it has to be at least made of supernova. The Vulcan might have time traveled, but in broken pieces.

Who is going to care about the mining ship when the whole planet is gone? Not only that, but not too many people even knew why Vulcan was destroyed. Besides, don’t forget that the Romulan mining ship did get destroyed eventually.

Don’t forget that we didn’t see exact details as to how they got Kirk off the ship and where they sent him to. They obviously turned around and set course to the ice planet.

Spock told Romulans about the red manner because he needed them to trust him that he can save their planet.

The younger Spock out-maneuvered the Romulan ship because he is younger. LOL

In terms of consistency of the story, you obviously jump too quickly to conclusions and assumptions to say that this movie is the third worst Star Trek movie made. Lay your critical mind aside for a sec, and give it a chance to explain itself to you! People who worked on this film are not stupid. They knew what they were doing. Once again, just because things weren’t expanded or explained in more details, like they were in previous Star Trek films, or just because you didn’t get enough of technoblahbler, doesn’t mean they got everything wrong on there. And it certainly doesn’t mean they owe you any explanations.

170. vladdytrout - May 11, 2009

I loved this movie. Man, it was great. The only nit-pick I have (and it’s minor) is that whole warp -core ejecting bit. Come on, that was done in Nemesis and in a dozen or so episodes of Voyager.

But, overall, this movie is perfect. Way to go JJ Abrams and crew, now you guys have a heck of a job topping yourselves for the sequel.

171. GraniteTrek - May 11, 2009

This was a great review – objective, yet told with heart and humor – and educational. Thank you for a great read!

172. astrodeb - May 11, 2009

Nice review, Phil, although IMO you are far too kind to this movie. Here are some additional comments aimed at common sense and past inspiration than science.
1) First scene is cribbed from the emotional climax of “Deep Impact”, albeit filmed in a brewery with a camcorder. Hand held approach ruins composition of all scenes (and gives me a headache).
2) Romulan ship design extremely similar to Babylon 5 planet killer ship
3) What numbskull would let a cadet retake a psychological test (Kobiyashi Maru) which requires ignorance of the test conditions to elicit a true response? Hacking the Academy computer system is presumably illegal regardless of any cheating on the test. Kirk is toast.
4) Around this time, the problems increased dramatically as the writers demanded that trainees become command crew. Suffice it to say that the chain of command in the military is not equivalent to selecting players for dodge ball. Why are there no career officers on board the Enterprise other than the Captain? At least STII had babysitters on board! If you give Chris Pike a hot tip, he will make you acting captain even if you are a student under academic suspension. It’s not what you know, it’s who your Dad knew…
6) Skydiving – as noted before, the transporter better have some great inertial dampers. Otherwise, Kirk and Sulu go right through the deck.
5) Spock freaks out – abandoning your post in an emergency and marooning an officer (even a cadet) should be ample evidence that he is emotionally disturbed. This isn’t the Black Pearl (or is it?). Other officer-trainees just stand around staring. Is anyone on this ship competent? Older McCoy would have been on him like a duck on a june bug.
6) Delta-Vega; um, why reuse a planet name for no reason. The previous moniker was near the galactic “edge” and wasn’t an ice ball with a balcony view of Vulcan. These writers have no imagination whatsoever.
7) Why would hairless bugs evolve on an ice ball? Someone in FX was just playing with their computer in this scene. Frozen bugs might be attracted to heat rather than repelled ;). Coincidence alert – Spock is conveniently in the same cave??
8) OK, by the time Kirk and Old Spock meet and make their way to the base, Enterprise should be long gone from the Vulcan and/or Delta Vega system (incidently, why didn’t Spock walk there before now?). Transwarp beaming shouldn’t allow you to beam across the galaxy. Otherwise, they don’t need starships anymore (except for the McCoys…).
9) Blender in brewery/engine room = “chompers” in GalaxyQuest (or fat kid sucked into pipe in Willy Wonka). Now we know why the Oompa-Loompa was with Scotty. Nasty little jab at Scotty being interested in food…
10) Will somebody with an earned degree and a little experience please take over this ship? We have fistfights on the bridge, and a literally wet-behind-the-ears stowaway assuming command of engineering. Geez, Sarek would not have put up with this nonsense. Pull the car keys until some adults come happen along.
11) Someone comes up with the plan to intercept the Romulan ship as it passes Saturn. Of course, it could approach the Sol system from a wide variety of orientation angles, but logic dictates that the best approach includes the research subject of your technical advisor (who apparently didn’t actually review the rest of the screenplay). This was the only point in the movie where I said, “Now that was cool.” Unfortunately, the preceding scene shows that Nero is already deploying his drill over Earth. Continuity error? I’m afraid the Enterprise also needs hovering angels to explain why it has zero velocity relative to Titan’s atmosphere and yet does not fall toward its surface.
12) No one on Earth or Vulcan has planetary defenses (or even a simple missile) to shoot down a space tether drill? Cadets in a shuttle could ram the damn thing.
13) Ramming ship saved by last minute interception straight from B5.
14) Give Kirk a medal, but not a starship!! This organization is too dumb to survive. No wonder the astro-cetaceans nearly take them out.
15) As a scientist inspired by the original show, I felt that trashing Vulcan was symbolically aimed at divesting the fan base of intelligent life. Mission accomplished, in my case.
Thanks again for the review!

173. Jack - May 11, 2009

Interesting post (not by me) on Rotten Tomatoes:
Ged2012 writes:
on May 11 2009 08:55 AM

“The supernova plot hole is not a plot hole at all. We a star named SN2006gy, whose mass is 150 times the size of our sun, which turned supernova. If it had planets surrounding it, it would have vaporized all its planets and destroyed the atmospheres of planets found in surrounding solar systems within a few thousand light years.
Federation space, according to Star Trek Contact, is within a range of 8,000 light years.
As for those who argue that stars which explode into supernovae become black holes, SN2006gy did not leave a black hole at all-to everyone’s surprise. This proves there is still many things about supernovas we don’t know.
The supernova in Star Trek is unique. Read the Countdown comics, and you’ll know what I mean. That’s why we call the movie sci-fi. Scientific fiction. It deals with a lot more guesses than actual scientific fact.”

My question — if this was the case, would it take years for this all to happen? It’s funny how we’re all supernova/black hole experts here all of a sudden (bad astronomy guy excluded, I’m assuming he knows a bit). I guess the star could have been really close to Romulus. Fine, it could eventually destroy the federation — but the whole galaxy? Is that possible? Astronomers?

174. Jack - May 11, 2009


I like it.

175. Donn - May 11, 2009

I always enjoy the Bad Astronomer, and his review was great. If anything, it made me appreciate the film more; they got more right than they got wrong, and what they got wrong can either be technobabbled together enough for my taste, or was a reasonable compromise for the sake of drama.

Computer tapes as anachronistic: Oh I don’t know. I know lots of people who call recording shown on their DVR “taping.” Regardless of the true nature of TOS’s “computer tapes”–solid state? isolinear? Holographic?–perhaps there was a recent enough technology that relied on spools of recording medium that people were still calling a module of stored data a “tape.”

Transporters with inertial dampers: We KNOW that transporters must have outstanding and very sophisticated inertial dampers, because even a person standing on the surface of the planet below has crazy motion relative to the transporter pad in orbit–way more of a delta than the difference between someone standing still and someone in freefall. If anything, if we take as given that beaming a “stationary” person up is no big deal, then the movie got it “wrong” by showing it was somehow way more difficult just because Kirk and Sulu were falling.

114: Um, which movie were you watching? “No social commentary”? How about the prejudice Spock faces due to his human mother? How about Kirk’s death-wish behavior due to the absence of the inspiration of his father? And though it was largely cut from the film, Nero’s ill-fated need for revenge?

176. Donn - May 11, 2009

173. Again, read Countdown. It deals with (or at least acknowledges) the fact that ordinarily, yes, it would take many years for the effects of a supernova to be known in other systems. In fact, in Countdown, Romulan scientists are denying that there is any threat to them based on just that!

177. sean - May 11, 2009


I’d say the biggest difference is one was an outside event and the other was 10000x more powerful (given the amount of red matter ignited) and INSIDE the ship. Massive difference.

178. Keith Roberts - May 11, 2009

You state, “Kirk, Sulu, and Officer Red Shirt (srsly! His suit is red!) jump from a shuttle to attack the mining drill when it’s lowered from the Romulan ship over Earth. Wearing space suits, they fall from orbit, land on the drill, fight the Romulans, and destroy the drill”
The space jump took place over Vulcan, NOT earth.

179. Keith Roberts - May 11, 2009

Oops, my bad – please disregard my previous post.

180. Bill - May 11, 2009

Absolutely no need to tie in the old Spock in this movie, really weakened the script IMO, especially that handwaving mindmeld scene with Kirk…talk about pulling a story from your rear!

The skydive scene really bothered me, both ships and the shuttle craft they skydived from would need hover capability….unlikely. IMO the writers were thinking of the space elevator concept which would require the ships be at a geosynchronous orbit and therefore would-be “skydivers” would be in orbit also….poorly researched. Next time give the script to a college physics major before shooting

181. NickKh - May 11, 2009

astrodeb, the mining ship could look like something from Babylon 5 if it wanted to. Why do you let the prevent you from enjoying the film? Other things such as Vulcan being a balcony view from the ice planet, have you been to that ice planet? Have you seen what Vulcan really looks like? I disagree with all of your ideas to put down the film, except one. I also think that the coincidence that Spock was at the cave at the same time is too much…

182. Jack - May 12, 2009

Surprisingly, on third viewing I thought I may hate it because of all these issues (or at least be too distracted to enjoy it) but I found that I liked it even more. There’s nothing in the film that prevents logical offscreen explanations for almost all these things.

And maybe Spock wasn’t in the cave, maybe he came running when he saw the escape pod land. Maybe Nero dropped him off relatively near the fed outpost because the location had the best view at the time… or maybe because he wanted Spock to find the feds so he could survive and be miserable.

Above all — it’s a smart, funny movie. The only real weak parts were the Nero scenes. There just wasn’t enough there, there. But there are, of course, deleted scenes.

183. Jack - May 12, 2009

#100, #177 — The Enterprise fires like crazy at the Narada as the Black Hole/Singularity is happening inside of it. So between that and the force of the bh INSIDE the ship, would do a fair bit of damage. And the Narada/ Spock’s ship travelled into the singularity/bh’s event horizon after it had formed (rather than having it form around them).

Another aside — Interestingly, no one in the Kelvin identifies them as Romulan, so presumably the were assumed to be Romulans later — after the data from the Kelvin was analysed, perhaps. Although it would have been nice to have a crewmember on the bridge say “are they Vulcan?” Having the Romulans appear after a 75-or-so year absence and be so damned advanced would have a huge impact on the timeline, especially because it was 30 plus years before Balance of Terror…. it would change Federation research, ship placement and priorities (much like the also fictional Borg did in TNG). And who knows what else Nero’s crew was doing (secretly destroying federation outposts, sharing technology with Romulus, changing history in 1000 other ways) during those 25 years.

I do wish they’d been a bit clearer about the communication issues — why they couldn’t contact the fleet or Earth… and I still don’t see the point of the torture scene (unless it’s a setup for a sequel… my lame theory that they’re the same boring worms from TNG Conspiracy) other than presumably putting Pike in a wheelchair (could the yes and no lights and a cheaper actor in bad makeup be on their way?)

184. Pete - May 12, 2009

You are much more forgiving than I am.
The more I think about this move, the less I like it.

Star Trek is dead to me now.

185. RD - May 12, 2009

How come nobody noticed that “Delta Vega” is the least likely name the Vulcan’s would give a planet or moon in their system.

“Delta Vega” sounds like a place I ate bad Mexican food in Mississippi.

Shouldn’t it be something more like “Kal Rekk”, or “T’Plana-Hath”

This whole Delta Vega thing was just one in a series of sloppy choices by the team that represented themselves as the “care-takers” of Star Trek.

All these basic scientific mistakes makes it all the more silly their earnest presentation of alternate realities created by Quantum mechanics that justifies their story, as if we were all idiots.

186. Holger - May 13, 2009

185: Sorry, I haven’t read through all the posts, so maybe this has already been brought up. But anyway,
the shot where Spock watches the explosion of Vulcan is a mental image transfered by a mindmeld. Probably it’s the way Kirk sees the image. It needn’t have any astronomical accuracy (I believe it would if it were Spock’s mental image), it could be just a symbol for the fact Spock comes to know that Vulcan is destroyed.
Still cheesy, this option, but at least not totally unbelievable like Delta Vega being close to Vulcan and surviving the explosion.

187. Charles - May 13, 2009

Wouldnt the explosion of the warp core cause some sort of sub space turbulance that could cause the enterprise to break free?

188. drunken plots - May 13, 2009

I’d like to point out that in The Search For Spock, flesh and soul can be rejoined on Vulcan.
So if there is no Vulcan, there is no rejoined Spock. No rejoined Spock, No Spock to be late. No Spock to be late, no mess, No fuss.

Spock is DEAD in this movie!!
If Spock is DEAD, how can he be late?
If this universe happened, the other movies never did.

189. Astrophysicophile - May 13, 2009

“OK, so Delta Vega is no longer the planet home to the dilithium cracking plant from the second Trek pilot. But is it a moon of Vulcan? That’s the only way Spock could have had such a view of Vulcan; even from a nearby planet Vulcan would have been a tiny dot in the sky. We see the Moon as a disk because it’s close, but Venus is the closest planet to Earth (40 million km at perigee, its closest approach to Earth) and it is never more than a barely resolved dot to our eyes. You’d have to be close to a planet, a few hundred thousand kilometers at most, to get the view in the movie.

OK, so maybe it’s a moon. But if so, why is there a lonely outpost on it? In fact, that’s true if Delta Vega is any planet in Vulcan’s system. Why would there be a little-traveled base manned by one guy and one Oompa-Loompa with bad acne so close to one of the home planets of the Federation?”

I think there are two possible explanations for Spock seeing Vulcan from Delta Vega. One is that Delta Vega is in another star system, either near Vulcan or at the edge of the Galaxy, and Spock, who has demonstrated the psychic remote sensing abilities of Vulcans before (TOS: “The Immunity Syndrome” and STTMP), is, as 92 suggested, remotely viewing Vulcan psychically, or is, as 48, 57, 93, 136, and 186 suggested, seeing, through the mind meld that he established with Kirk, what Kirk is seeing.

The other explanation is that Delta Vega is the twin planet of Vulcan shown in TAS: “Yesteryear” and the original edition of STTMP. In this case, the name Delta Vega, like the name Vulcan, is an anglicization of the Vulcan name for Delta Vega – in the Vulcan language, Vulcan is called Vulkanfi (ENT: “Home”). And despite the brightness of the Vulcan sun, Delta Vega’s glacial climate may be due to differences between the two planets, differences in size and in the history of asteroidal and cometary impacts (for an interesting article on the differences between the atmospheres of planets and moons in our solar system, please read the article “Our Planet’s Leaky Atmosphere” in the current issue of Scientific American Magazine.)

190. Forrest - May 14, 2009

“People who worked on this film are not stupid. They knew what they were doing.”

See also Rumsfeld, Donald.

191. RD - May 14, 2009

#186, I have less of a problem with the fact that he is on a moon or a planet. There are many “Trek” explanations for that.

The bigger problem is recycling the name “Delta Vega” for a celestial body in the Vulcan system. They simply would never name anything in their system with such a Greco-Roman sounding name.

192. Astrophysicophile - May 15, 2009

191. The name “Vulcan” is also Greco-Roman sounding. In 189, I suggested that “Delta Vega” is an anglicization of the actual Vulcan name, just as “Vulcan” is an anglicization of “Vulkanfi”.

The Vulcans may also have named the Delta Vega at the edge of the Galaxy, after the Delta Vega in the Vulcan star system (since they have been colonizing the Galaxy off and on for thousands of years (TOS: ”Balance of Terror”, TNG: “The Gambit”, ENT: “The Andorian Incident”, and ENT: “The Forge”), they may also have discovered the Delta Vega at the Galaxy’s edge.

193. RD - May 15, 2009

#192. That’s what I love about Star Trek, there’s an explanation for everything! LOL

Indeed Vulcan is INDEED of ROMAN origin, and you have a pretty good explanation why it sounds just like the name of a Roman God. Interesting they avoided that when filming Bread and CIrcuses and others. ;-)

I would have still preferred an actual Vulcan name more in keeping with the established canon of the culture, however, rather than a pandering nod to the fans. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter any more since Vulcan no longer exists, nor will Delta Vega for long if there’s a black hole in orbit so close to it.

I don’t recall, did either Spock actually call it Delta Vega? Not that it matters, I presume they would use the Federation nomenclature rather than the original Vulcan.

194. Astrophysicophile - May 15, 2009

193. That’s one of the reasonI love about Star Trek, too!

In cases like the Roman planet in “Bread and Circuses”, I guess it was the result of transplantation by the Preservers, like the Native American planet in “The Paradise Syndrome” (The Communist and Yankee planet in “The Omega Glory” may have been too. However, the other Earth in “Miri” may have been the result of terraforming and seeding by the Ancient Humanoids from TNG: “The Chase” or the result of some unknown natural phenomenon.)

As for an actual Vulcan name for Delta Vega, if that planet is indeed Vulcan’s twin planet, then the name “Delta Vega” is actually Vulcan, only anglicized.

By the way, in TOS: “All Our Yesterdays”, Vulcans of 5000 years ago could withstand a glacial climate better than humans can. Perhaps, that many years ago, Vulcan was glacial like Delta Vega, despite the brightness of the Vulcan sun.

195. Sehr seltsam! - Seite 3 - SciFi-Forum - May 18, 2009

[…] von MFB Hier gibt es brigens auf ein Review aus wissentschaftlicher Sicht: Bad Astronomys Review of the Science of Star Trek | Ich mag die Reviews von Bad Astronomy. Sehr unterhaltsam. Aber vor allem nimmt sich der Autor […]

196. What I’m Reading: Things You Should Read, Too « Fastidious - May 26, 2009

[…] finally, for all you nerds: ‘Bad Astronomy’ writer assesses the astronomical accuracy the new Star Trek [BEWARE – spoilers ahead with that link].  I, too, was happy to see that a space film finally got […]

197. Kenneth - June 9, 2009

Wait… why does the pressure from billions of cubic meters of rock have to close the hole?

If the hole is perfectly spherical, then theoretically there is equal pressure on all sides of the hole, which would prevent collapse. The material (rock or whatever) should hold up to it, since it was already under that kind of pressure before the whole was dug.

I assume the difference here is between a solid core and liquid core planet. On our planet there is uneven force on the hole due to plate shift forces and other gravitational forces such as the moon. If Vulcan doesn’t have either of these, i say a hole to the center is possible.

Though if there is no fluid core movement, whats to create the field that stops the solar wind?

198. david - June 14, 2009

i liked the green chick at the beginning at the movie.

199. James - July 3, 2009

Sorry Kenneth (9 June), not 100% right about the hole to the core. The planet is a sphere. Even on a solid planet, in order to preserve an equal downward force on all edges of the hole the hole must be a cone shape (a very very slightly sloped cone) not a circular “column” because the “straight down” force towards the centre on the planet is actually NOT perpendicular. At a depth, you start to get a little bit of the upper surface which has no support under it, the huge thickness of earth under that tiny piece which is not supported adds up to a huge amount of mass that is unsupported, thus it collapses into the hole (trying to make a cone you could say). The deeper you go, the more falls into the hole … as Phil stated.

Terrible diagram below (hope html ascii works)

– –
– – . . – . –
– – . . – . –
– – . . – . –
– – . . – . –
– – . . -. –
– – . . .- –

200. James - July 3, 2009

The answer is “No, html ascii doesn’t work.”

201. Jeff Sauer - September 4, 2009

Concerning the Movie:
Has ANYBODY mentioned that the ALL IMPORTANT Space -Time Continuim was and IS, broken by actions in the movie ?
The “Parallel Universe” is “OFF”… The movie ends O F F …
The 2 Spock’s CANNOT Meet in/at the same time ? Remember ?
Why did Kirk “happen’ to land on a planet where Spock “Happens” to be stranded ?
There is a Federation Space Station on the Planet; Why thru all of these years has Spock not gone there Himself ?
Didn’t in “Real” Trek History, Ensign Kirk lead a Landing Party from the Farragut where he didn’t shoot at the “Murderous” gasious cloud while several members of the team died. Only after he is Promoted to Captain of Enterprise does he deal with that “Being” and his personal demons.
What are all of the more than slight “Hints” that something iss wrong. ? Old Spock smiling like a Billionaire at meeting his younger self? – Using Kirk’s famous line: “Trust Your Gut?” – And giving the Vulcan hand greeting and saying with a huge grin; Good Luck” ???
Why does the movie end with Elder Spock looking very ominously over the Promotion and crowd at Kirk’s promotion ? He almost turns full fledged into our eye frames with concerned look om his face… Why is nobody mentioning these and even more “hints’ that ’something’ is VERY WRONG in the ALL Important Timeline of TIME ?
Spock nearly tells us at the very end of the show!

202. Damien - October 25, 2009

I enjoyed your scientific review of the movie :)

I have a couple of things to add, though (I didn’t have time to read comments, sorry if there are duplicates):

Space jump
– why does the drill have spikes? Spikes would only make sense if the drill was physically drilling through the planet.
– why did they have to drill? Wouldn’t it be enough to just launch the “red matter” towards the planet?

Delta Vega
– what are the odds of Kirk’s pod dropping exactly on that in-the-middle-of-nowhere planet/moon and run right into Spock’s cave? It’s a classic “Casablanca” scene (“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”) :)
– was Enterprise already on course to Earth? Did they make a detour to drop him off?
– a little off topic issue: the creature’s anatomy is extremely weird and not at all appropriate – I would expect some kind of space-penguin or a walrus, not a side-headed mantis…

– just one thing – speed of light! The blast wave cannot possibly travel faster than light. Since Milky way is 100 000 ly across, even if the star was in the (geometrically) best location (center of the galaxy), it would still take at least 50 000 years for it to destroy the entire galaxy. If Romulus was orbiting that star, the destruction would be very swift (couple of minutes) and nobody could even realize it in time (unless they predicted the explosion – like noticing the star has expanded several times :))). Otherwise, it would take years (if not hundreds or thousands) for it to even reach Romulus, so it’s pretty hard to “be late”
p.s. in the “trying to save Romulus” scene, Spock is near the blast wave, and he can see it – therefore, it’s much slower than c – so, we’re talking tens or hundreds of years before it reaches the CLOSEST planetary system…Romulus could have been easily evacuated…

– another way to hide is just to be BEHIND the moon. The only way to detect them would be to search for some kind of EM reflection on the clouds of Saturn, and that sounds pretty improbable…Of course, emerging through Titan’s clouds is much more cool :D

Nero’s choice
– what happened with that black hole? Did it stay in the Solar System? I guess it would be a worse problem than Nero :D


203. Damien - October 25, 2009

I didn’t want to go into time travel related issues, but I have to state the most problematic one:

Nero returns 154 years in the past – why doesn’t he go back to Romulus and tell them about the supernova? They would have 154 years to think of a solution or to evacuate!
Narada would also give Romulans a huge technological advantage – probably enough to defeat the Federation…

204. Dan - December 29, 2009

Because this movie has the depth of a baby pool. This article is so amazingly well written but sadly about such a terrible terrible movie.

There were no geniuses creating this movie, only hacks. Take the time travel question in post 203. Perfectly reasonable yet totally untouched by the movie. Why is this? Because time travel was used as a very simplistic vehicle to serve two purposes. #1 is to provide a scary monster, the big bad future ship with big mean spikes on it and punk romulans with bad attitudes. A very lazy bad guy out of the bad guys 101 movies book. #2 is to provide another lazy tool for the reboot. Instead of trying to fit into the original cannon which would take actual intelligence and skill just wave a magic wand and say “hey time travel, we don’t have to fit into an already established cannon”. Since they used time travel simply as a device to provide these two things they stopped there. They didn’t care to ask what kinds of other questions time travel of this nature creates.

There are so many things horribly wrong with this movie that it would take many more articles. It’s just so sad to see how many people actually enjoyed this mindless romp. This is why we are given movies like Transformers2 and GI Joe that have no intelligence at all to them. But then that was the point of this reboot, to make Star Trek likable to the new generation of young non-thinkers.

205. DCI - January 27, 2010

On a physiological note.

The blood may not boil in a temperature/boiling sort of way, however your blood carries a lot of gasses in solution. When you drop the surrounding pressure the gasses come out of solution. Think of the CO2 coming out of solution when you open a soda that you shook up. Something very similar would happen to your blood as it quickly turns to foam.

Maybe Bones was just trying to describe it in a way that Kirk would understand?

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