Friday, May 8, 2009

Star Trek: for Kids?

We took our 10 year old daughter to see the new Star Trek movie. She has a high tolerance for violence and so we weren't too worry (after all she has been through all three Lord of the Rings movies to interesting effect and the other week we watch Jurassic Park -- her take: don't hire criminals or at least pay them better and everything will be fine). Anyhow, the movie is great and my initial thoughts are here.

But what was her reaction? Well, let me start that she has seen plenty of Star Trek just not much of the original series. A while ago, she became a tad Borg-obsessed and so we cycled through those episodes. But her knowledge of original series Star Trek lore was lacking. So we decided to sit down the other night and watch "Balance of Terror." Now, while I can't imagine this, but if you didn't automatically nod your head and see what I was going for I guess I might have to spell it out. That is the episode where we first encounter the Romulans (who are in the new movie) and find out that they look like Vulcans (cue dramatic music). That is also a great episode where Kirk and the Romulan commander engage in some very game theoretic strategising and so I knew it would appeal to that part of my daughter's mind.

Now the episode, I recalled, had some very poor special effects so we watched the remastered version which was better. That said, her reaction was that it was somewhat underdone on that front. But it was enough to get the basics including the idea that racism was alive and well in the future and that displaying it on duty was an issue (let alone being thrown off the ship which is what we would expect these days). (Someone had family in the Earth-Romulan war a century earlier and some deep seated issues came bubbling back). We also learned that racism can be solved when just one of the minority (in this case, a Vulcan) does something heroic and saves the life of a discriminator even if that minority saw that act as just making sure skilled personnel would still be around to work another day. Of course, let alone the fact that the same minority person saved the entire ship!

All this is a nice counter-point to what we find in the movie. This time it is Kirk with the deep seated issues about Romulans but he doesn't seem to let that get in the way of just being extra-knowledgable. So there is no moral undertone -- hit over the head or otherwise -- but for the idea that it is a good idea to make something of your life and not just be a loser. Now, let's face it, that is pretty much the only message I am ever hoping for when I take a kid to the movies. And this is what you get.

Other than that, you'll be interested in the scary and other bits but Geekdad does a better job outlining that than I ever will. Suffice it to say, we might go again and I think I'll take the 8 year old along this time around. Then we will move on to Wrath of Kahn.

[Update: I took the 8 year old. Despite usually being quite sensitive he had no problem even with big insects that are all mouth. As he commented, "it looks like one of my Spore creatures."

And one other thing: on Jurassic Park, my daughter now asks why they aren't doing that now?

"Doing what?"

"Making dinosaurs out of the blood in ancient insects. It seems doable and a good theme park."

"You aren't concerned about the dinosaurs chomping people."

"Look just make one of them and put it in a cage."

Ohh I can hear the animal rights people now. Kids today.]