The announcement that Quentin Tarantino’s proposed Star Trek movie would be rated R sent shock waves throughout the space-time continuum of the Trek fandom universe. As a long time Trekkie myself, my initial reaction was equally negative. Mention of the name “Tarantino” summoned images of the beloved crew of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701, exchanging an endless cascade of F-bombs between stylish puffs of cigarettes while dancing on the ship’s bridge, hopefully, to something other than the Beastie Boys. However, upon reflection, I have come to realize my feelings were too simplistic.
Star Trek has provided its share of death and drama, but considering the full scope of opportunity and dangers offered by space travel, its cinematic representation has been closer to The Longest Day than Saving Private Ryan. I am not saying this is a bad thing. The Longest Day (1962) is one of my all time favorite films and recommended viewing. It is just since Star Trek (2009) took the bold step of destroying Vulcan and rewriting decades of history, there has been an apparent lack of vision on what Star Trek represents in today’s world. Based on Star Trek Beyond‘s (2016) $158M US box office performance, it is clear it does not represent Captain Kirk playing fast and furious on a motorcycle along with another poor excuse to destroy the USS Enterprise. And just so there is no confusion, the only time destroying one of the most magnificent ships in science-fiction history was justified was Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). Maybe after 53 years, it is time to try something new and truly go where the franchise has not gone before.
I have not watched Star Trek: Discovery, past the initial broadcast episode, but I read they already crossed the F-bomb Rubicon ahead of Tarantino. Of all the ways Star Trek can earn an R rating, the usage of profanity is the laziest and least logical. Bad words have been a means of written expression since the Middle Ages, and probably earlier in verbal form. We can expect their use to continue into the future, but I don’t think many of our current slurs would survive the Trek timeline. Why would they? Star Trek offers multitudes of advanced alien civilizations with whom we easily communicate. Why drop an eight-hundred year old F-bomb when you spit some hardcore Klingon insults in someone’s face? Who knows what Gorn or Tholian obscenities sound like but I bet they are pretty damn harsh to our ears and sure to earn a warning from mom, and isn’t that why we learn to curse in the first place? Perhaps Quentin feels the same way and goes easy on the language, though I do not think the same can be said about sex in space.
Captain James T. Kirk’s close encounter exploits are legendary. With the freedom afforded by an R rating, why not take the opportunity to put them on the big screen for all to enjoy? I think it is even money we will see a green Orion dancing girl in all her naked glory straddling Captain Kirk at some point. If this was 1996, the casting would be Salma Hayek and George Clooney and it would be magical to behold. Perhaps we will be treated to other crew members being intimate with aliens involving tentacles and various other bizarre appendages. I realize I am crossing the line into silliness, but that would be the intent, to ease the horror from watching the Enterprise crew travel to a whole new realm of graphic violence.
Genetic contamination. Parasitic infestation. Transporter malfunction. Exotic disease. Disintegration. Klingon Bat’leth. These are but a few of the ways to die on Star Trek, and considering Quentin’s freewheeling use of bloodshed in his movies, we can expect to see these and many other terrors taken to extreme measure. I remember an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where a Klingon bragged of cutting open a Starfleet officer’s rib cage and pulling out his lungs. Can you imagine what that looks like? Well, if there are Klingons in his script, you will be able to watch it happen in glorious 3D, and don’t think brutality ends with technology. Star Trek: The Next Generation’s 25th episode, “Conspiracy” included arguably the most graphic scene in Trek history, when Picard and Riker’s phasers burned the flesh off an alien-controlled officers face and then blew apart his torso, allowing the alien worm queen to rise out of the bloody remains. Shocked audience push back insured such scenes would not be repeated, but I wonder what level the show’s wetworks would have reached if the reaction was more muted.
At the end of the day, I don’t care how many F-bombs, green boobs, or dislocated spleens Tarantino splashes across the screen. What I’m want from my Star Trek is a solid script, with believable characters, exciting sequences, and thought provoking themes that haunt me when the end credits fade to black. Give me that, Mr. Tarantino, and I will happily dance along with the crew on the bridge.
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