Mark Altman’s Review Of ‘Star Trek’

Two weeks ago TrekMovie presented the first official site review for the new Star Trek movie, but that was just the beginning. We will be presenting a number of reviews in total and today we have one from friend of the site and Free Enterprise writer/producer Mark Altman. [note review contains minor spoilers]



Beaming over Star Trek

By Mark A. Altman

When Star Trek opens on May 7th, Trek newbies should be energized and beaming with glee over this reboot of the venerable franchise…or, at least, that’s how those idiots will review it on the local news.  Conventional wisdom will say that J.J. Abrams Star Trek is a sprawling, epic thrill ride when they’re not simply co-opting Paramount marketing’s  tagline that “this isn’t your father’s Star Trek.” Well, the ironic thing is it sort of is your father’s Star Trek…and that’s not so bad. You see, Star Trek always was thrilling, sexy, groundbreaking and rousing, but after years of bland and boring contemporary Trek shows, people seemed to forget that. Kirk sleeping with a green Orion Slave Girl at Starfleet Academy would have fit right in with the original series and so would a lot of other things in the film (with the exception of some ham-handed comedy, including a silly Willie Wonka-esque scene with Simon Pegg’s Scotty). 

You see, the new Star Trek plays like a well-assembled, greatest hits album, retrofitting most of the elements that make Star Trek a great sci-fi franchise and giving them a spiffy, new re-mastered sheen. There’s a hearty helping of Star Trek II right down to a villain intent on revenge for the death of his wife – only this time he’s out for green blood instead of red, a scene straight out of “This Side of Paradise” in which Kirk and Spock go at it on the bridge, a little “Star Trek IV,” and even a dash of “Trek V” (a movie you would have liked a lot better if it had the caliber of this film’s visual effects).

To writers Kurtzman and Orci’s credit after the hundreds of hours of Trek, myriad books and comics, they still have a few neat twists on the conventional mythology, none moreso than those involving the perpetually underserviced Uhura (who remains underserviced no more in more ways than one). There’s also a refreshing dearth of technobabble, that annoying mumbo-science that cropped up in later Trek’s, although the scene in which the film’s macguffin is revealed is a little difficult to fathom (and seems like something out of Alias and not Trek).  At least, there weren’t any whales involved.

The movie is kinetically and adeptly directed by J.J. Abrams, whose MI:III was the best film in that franchise by far, warps into action with a magnificent teaser culminating in an operatic climax leading into the film’s title card. Most tech credits are equally outstanding. Costumes look great and pay homage to the original series, but it’s really composer Michael Giacchino’s score that shines the most. The only misstep is the inexplicable decision along the way (not Giacchino’s, from what I’m told) to drop Alexander Courage’s theme from the film’s title card. It’s like having a 007 film without using the Bond theme (which is even more the curious since it was Abrams who resurrected the classic Lalo Schifrin IMF team assembling cue from the TV series for his movie). I also would have liked had they retained the original design of the Enterprise (or something akin to ST: TMP, still the best, sleekest starship ever designed), but the new iteration is close enough to that aesthetic to be palatable.

The film looks far better than any Trek film since Star Trek: The Motion Picture (despite my reservations with the Enterprise’s engine room which looks like it’s powering the Titanic – or a brewery) although I hoped the movie would be a little more epic and galaxy-spanning. Not to mention, there’s really not an unforgettable action setpiece, although the fisticuffs on a Romulan mining platform comes the closest.  Numerous homages to the original show abound, small and large, ranging from a brief glimpse of a sign that reads Admiral Komack in the Federation Council Chambers to Kirk casually munching an apple during a pleasantly familiar moment. McCoy aphorisms abound and Karl Urban does a great job assuming the stethoscope (ok, hypo spray) of the late, great DeForest Kelley.  In fact, the cast is uniformly solid, particularly Bruce Greenwood as Pike (who figures prominently in one of the film’s best sequences – the barfight that leads to Kirk being recruited into Starfleet). My initial reservations about Zachary Quinto were ill-founded. He make s a very credible Spock although it’s Chris Pine who steals the show as Kirk perfectly capturing Shatner’s deft combination of heroism, humor and hubris. The only thing missing was a flying kick. Admittedly, I truly enjoyed seeing Leonard Nimoy on screen again as a Gandalf-ian Spock although his introduction does strain credulity and that’s the most I can say while remaining spoiler-free.

And for those who value continuity, don’t buy the spin – while the new timeline definitely can explain away some inconsistencies with the established mythology, it certainly doesn’t erase all of them so it’s up to you to either accept it…or not.  It’s hard to be a strict purist given the various inconsistencies of Trek’s first season though. There’s also an update on the old “we’re the only ship in the quadrant” chestnut which is even more credulity straining and puts a bunch of cadets into the action and the Federation off-screen somewhere in The Hunt for Red October apparently (you’ll get the reference when you see it, BTW), but as we say on earth, c’est la vie.

Is Star Trek a great movie? No. But it is a good one and a great set-up for a great Trek movie with the entire crew in place and now ready for a piece of the action. When the inevitable sequel is up and running, hopefully we can dispense with time travel, and instead embrace a little more philosophical subtext, metaphor, character development and a lot more going…boldly. And with the great wordsmith Damon Lindelof (who’s currently finishing off an amazing season of Lost) beaming onboard as a co-writer, I’m deeply optimistic that the best Trek film ever is yet to come.  With J.J. Abrams in the captain’s chair, the franchise finally has a capable steward at the helm – and hopefully it’s full thrusters ahead. Make it go.


Star Trek is new and yet back to where it started – right down to Orion babes
(Rachel Nichols as ‘Gaila’)
[NOTE: Image from Rittenhouse Star Trek movie card set]


P.S. If you haven’t already ordered it, run, don’t walk to your local DVD store today to pick up the Blu-Ray of Star Trek: Season One. It’s great and CBS/Paramount home video finally gets it right with easy-to-use navigation, discards the unwieldy packaging of previous versions and includes both versions of the series (original and extra crispy new visual effects) on the same disc and gorgeous transfers and lossless audio of such archival value that may very well be the last time you ever need to buy the series on disc.  May being the operative word.


Mark A. Altman is the writer/producer of the award winning film, Free Enterprise, and has been called “the world’s foremost Trekspert” by The Los Angeles Times. He has written and produced numerous films and TV shows and is founder of Geek Monthly magazine.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Always love to hear Mark’s reviews and thoughts as they often coincide with my own. The movie sounds about what I’m expecting, really good but not great. Looking forward to it and more to come.

I agree 100% about the new Enterprise. I still don’t love the new design. Nothing can compare to the ST:TMP refit Enterprise. Best ship ever. Period.

Mr. Altman,
Very well worded and thought out review. I can tell you’re being honest with us fans. And that’s what I want from my reviews, honesty.

i’m ready for this movie!

intersting, first time i have heard this reffered to goo not great

Yea, the whole “First” thing is pretty pathetic. If you ask me, I think those “First” people are only trying to make up for the many other difficiencies in their lives. So sad, isn’t it?

So Trek isn’t a great movie huh??

I would have to agree that the use of Alexander Courage’s theme was ill advised. It is way too dated and can’t be rebooted. I understand Superman Returns did it, but that should have been left out. Just using Michael Giacchino’s score was good enough. But great Review!!! Going to see it on IMAX in NC May 8th. Can’t Wait:-)

Has any one else noticed that every positive review has a bunch of jabs at all the other versions of Trek. I would love to read a review by some one who loves the whole series like I do.

“It’s like having a 007 film without using the Bond theme”

Actually, Casino Royale didn’t use the theme until the closing credits, and it worked very well.

“or a brewery”

What was the novel where a young Scotty actually does set up a still in Engineering?


Many Thanks for the honest assessment.

They can always use the Fanfare piece of the Courage theme, like the Bond theme is used in the Bond films. It doesn’t have to be used everywhere.

Yeah, I’m very pleased by the sheer number of positive reviews. I’m getting excited, and looking forward to what sounds like just a fun, big movie. Forget Trek, I’ve just been waiting for ANY movie that’s big and fun and (hopefully) a little uplifting.

I LOVED Dark Knight, but aside from the “movie within a movie” side story about the people on the boats (seriously, you can take that sequence right out of the movie and you’ve got an awesome short film) the darkness was almost too much.

If ST09 is as good as they say, I’ll be happy to go again and again …

I got a laugh at the comment that was made about the media in the first paragraph. Yeah, it will be funny and perhaps a little irritating with the Star Track and Dr Spock comments. Looking forward to finally see this movie in less than 2 weeks.

#6 … “I would have to agree that the use of Alexander Courage’s theme was ill advised. It is way too dated and can’t be rebooted.”

What are you talking about? You totally misread what Mark said. When the theme finally does kick in, during the end credits, it’s one of the best parts of the movie.

10# totally agree. At the end of Casino Royal when the second the Bond theme kicked in, I was ready for another film.
The only thing that worries me right now that may hurt the box office of the movie is the whole swine flu that is going around. Even though the movie does not come out for another week and a half. Hopefully by then everything will be under control by then or sooner.




“people seemed to forget that. Kirk sleeping with a green Orion Slave Girl at Starfleet Academy would have fit right in with the original series”


Once again, why are comments about the sound track being removed?

This is the 3rd message I’ve had removed. If I am breaking some rule it would be nice to be told what it is.

#17 … “DEAD WRONG”

How so?

Sorry 16, our messages are being removed without being told why. This is nuts. I have been on tis site for years and I have never had anything removed, ever. Now everything I am putting up is being censored.

Sorry has a problem with those of us who have heard the sound track?

What my Amazon tracking # that show that I got it today????

My comments got removed too Jim
Don’t know why

note: I do not want to see any discussion of anything illegally leaked on the internet (no the film hasn’t leaked), but we do not condone illegal leaks, nor do we want to be hosting any discussions of said leaks, real or otherwise.

Also I have been asked if the above image really is Rachel Nichols…yes it is. She is credited as Gaila (and that character is Gaila) in the official Paramount credits, which I have a copy of. MTV wrongly credited that image as Diora Baird. Diora actually does not appear in the credits, however she may be one of the green women seen at the academy who have no lines

I suspect it’s because someone is afraid that we have obtained the soundtrack via illegal means.

Thats a pretty broad and ill advised conclusion.

Well I have my LEGAL copy. Want the Amazon tracking number?

#8: Fail.

Good read. This sounds like a very honest review. I still find it hard to believe that Trek’s BEST movie is YET TO COME, but it’s nice to hear such a positive outlook on Trek’s future (especially the writing). Now with this and the new MMO coming out “soon”, it will put Trek back in the front of people’s minds in both movies AND games. Good times!

#1: “I agree 100% about the new Enterprise. I still don’t love the new design. Nothing can compare to the ST:TMP refit Enterprise. Best ship ever. Period.”

Amen to that. TMP’s 1701 ranks as my all-time favorite ENTERPRISE, with Matt’s design (TOS) a micron-width second.

I’m hoping I’ll like this new design once I see it in action but, man, could they have picked a worse shot for our first glimpse?

#26. I was unsure about the design myself, but I recently bought the LEGALLY RELEASED PLAYMATES TOY. And I have to say it took me about 10 seconds to warm up to it. From the aft, it can be nothing but the Enterprise. THe port and side views take a moment to get use to.

What is interesting is that you can see how the Enterprise Refit could more ligically flow from this ship as opposed from the TOS ship. Their are little details here and there that are echoed in the Enterprise -Refit. I really have come to love this ship.

Sounds good so far. Shame I can’t make the 7 PM show on the 7th.

Anyway for the sequal I’d love to see a plot like the Squire of Gothos type of story. He would be great to bring back.

Oh and I hope they shoot the entire next movie in IMAX to begin with.

#17 #19 The episode “Wink of an Eye” is a good example of the question does Kirk sleep around. If you remember, the episode implied that Kirk and Deela slept together. So, I think that a younger less desiplined Kirk sleeping with an Orion Slave Girl is completely believable.

#30 … Right on. I know it’s been “proven” that Kirk didn’t sleep around in TOS as much as people generally believe, yada yada yada, but I’ve still always thought of him as a fairly horny guy. :-) The younger Kirk would be even more so.

I’m watching it in four hours!


A Squire of Gothos story for the big screen?

What, you think Paramount needs more LARPy ren faire in their multi-million dollar tentpole franchises?

I recently found a box with all of my old issues of ‘Sci-Fi Universe.’ I’ve long found that his approach to Trek closely mirrored my own. Great to see what he thinks of the new movie.

Come on… Kirk was/is always a womaniser… it’s part of his character!

“(a movie you would have liked a lot better if it had the caliber of this film’s visual effects). ”

Sorry Mark, my issue with TFF was NEVER about the special effects.

Otherwise, nice review! Sounds like Star Trek will be Batman Begins and we’ll hopefully get a Dark Knight in 2011.


I just read in the Variety review of the movie that Spock doesn’t travel back in time, Kirk travels forward in time.

Did I just miss that detail or is that a revelation?

A very nice and thoughtful review. I do appreciate that you’ve taken care to be both balanced and objective in your analysis of the film — always the mark of a professional reviewer.

That said, I don’t know the last time I’ve been more excited for a film!

Hmmm…the only thing which is bothering me is the humor.
For me Star trek humor is about irony not slapstick.


That’s not Rachel Nichols, it’s Diona Baird.

I’ve noticed that the people who review ST as fans are more likely to be objective, point out their dislikes and likes, and have a hard time saying that this is the best ST movie yet.

The tone seems somewhat different coming from a non-fan reviewer, because they review the movie on a standalone basis rather than a comparative one.

I sure do hope Michael Giacchino’s score delivers. I thought his Incredibles score was amazing & inspired, but was very let down by his effort for Speed Racer. And based on Mark’s review, I’m worried Trek will get similar treatment. Hiding Alexander Courage’s theme in the credits is exactly what I feared. I certainly don’t want him to just regurgitate the original TV themes, but this movie really calls out for a bold reinvention and expansion of the original themes.
But of course, the absolute worst thing that could happen would be for the score to fade into the background. At least, it sounds like it’s not the case here. You can forgive a lot of strange musical choices (ie: STiV) if they at least help drive the action and emotion in the story. By far the worst Trek score was Generations. I sat through the whole movie, and I swear I couldn’t even hear it is was mixed so poorly.
Sounds like, inspired or not, at least the score is noticeable and plays a significant part in the movie.

36. Agreed. Improved Special Effect could not save STV.

But you have to admit, the effects in STV are by far the worst in all the Trek films. They really did stand out as terrible, in a terribly written and conceived film.

You guys be quiet about STV! I don’t want Closet to show up and say his favorite phrase!

Nice review honest and forward. Star Trek’s history touched everyone in different ways so what this film may or may not be lacking is truly a
Matter of opinion. A lot of opions of what people like and dislike and for me
Who has been a fan from day one, a good Star Trek will be a great one
For sure. It’s hard to do everything in a reboot and charactor development
Was mentioned. We know how these charactors develop so that’s not
Something that would be first on my list. Just the fact that some TLC
And atteintion was giving in the making of this films is leaps and bounds
For me.

NOT fare!

I say there should be a big Premiere day review article. And then we could all post out thoughts together.

Anyhow, i am shuire that will still happen.

Still limiting myself here for a another two weeks! Spoilers close to premiere day suck!

ps. Still hoping for Shatner’s appearance!

“even a dash of “Trek V” (a movie you would have liked a lot better if it had the caliber of this film’s visual effects).”

No. Nothing that I disliked about Star Trek 5 had anything to do with the effects. I know, though, that this has become the standard line of apology for the film. LOL

Orion Slave girl….OH MY!

#37 Does that make any sense whatsoever? Link, please?

#45 What does God need with a starship?

STV would have been improved by special effects not made in someone’s mother’s basement in New Jersey, no doubt at all. But even with a Big Rock Creature it wouldn’t have salvaged the unsalvageable script mistakes. Hhey, you got it in Galaxy Quest after all: did you really need to see 1988 Shatner with his shirt torn rolling around with a rock monster until the Klingons showed up for a kiss and hug?

Altman’s review is interesting. I can’t wait to hear ALL of the background music as I won’t be surprised to find Giacchino’s put musical easter eggs from TOS all over the place. The use of the Chinese stringed instrument erhu is a direct salute to the use of string for Vulcan and Spock themes in TOS, for example.

Hopefully, Anthony and trekmovie can ‘score’ a longer interview with Giacchino after the movie’s out and he’s free to discuss it. Asking him the question about how he’d originally incorporated the Courage riff into the opening titles would have been superb. But as it is in the “samples appropriately released to the web” the End Title sequence is already my favorite Trek music since TMP. Incorporating the new Giacchino Enterprising Young Man orchestral with the Courage original as he does is seemless and marvelous.