Federation Follies: Rank Amateurs

Star Trek's John Cho

I want to make sure I start this column off by making one thing perfectly clear: I LOVED JJ Abrams 2009 Star Trek film. It was a fun, it was fast-paced, and it was, in my opinion, true to the sense of adventure that so many of us respond to in Star Trek. I always tell people about dragging my dad down to the theater on opening day and seeing how excited he was after; he never gets into movies like that, and the last few Star Trek films had left him a bit cold. Not this one, though. This one he could get behind.

Most folks agree with him. I think.

That being said, the film is still far from perfect. The out-of-left-field Spock/Uhura romance. The overly busy starship interiors. The lens flares. I forgive all of that, though, because the movie is THAT GOOD. Still, there’s one thing about the movie that is nigh unforgivable:

The complete and utter disregard for rank. Holy cripes.

I think most of you already know what I’m griping about, but for those who don’t: aboard this starship Enterprise is basically being run by a bunch of college kids. There is ONE seasoned veteran on that bridge, and he disappears partway through! I get that there’s some crazy business in the Laurentian system and that most of remaining ships get sent to the big Risa In The Sky while defending Vulcan, but… seriously? We’re going to just hand the ship over to the rookies?

Let’s look at the command crew of the Enterprise here, the ship named for the historic vessel that helped found the United Federation of Planets and is Starfleet’s “brand new” flagship:

• Captain James Kirk: I know there was a ceremony at the end and Tyler Perry was there and everybody was happy… but they were going to kick this kid out a few days ago?

• Chief Science Officer Spock: Okay, the OTHER seasoned veteran… who should be in COUNSELING. He watched his mother die… if he had been younger, he would have been halfway to Batman status.

• Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy: Rank of commander because why not? Heck, we never even see her onscreen, but you kind of get the impression Nurse Chapel has more field experience than he does.

• Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott: Had been banished to some backwater facility on Hoth, basically. Suddenly learns to do Impossible Transportations, and is thus given command over each and every surviving engineer already on the ship.

If I were Sulu I would be seriously cranky every darn day at work. Really, shouldn’t he have been next in line? I’ve got his officially-licensed movie action figure and I know that little stripe on his sleeves says he was a lieutenant. Don’t even get me started on Uhura, and how nobody can decide if she’s a lieutenant or a cadet for most of the movie. They never released her action figure in a duty uniform, so the jury is out on this end.

Again, I loved this movie and we all know that the crew needed to end up assembled as it is. I just think it’s worth keeping in mind the next time you watch: Sulu should be at the helm of that ship! Forget Starfleet or the chain of command (everybody else sure did); Hikaru Sulu gave Kirk that bad boy. “Oh my,” indeed.
 

“Federation Follies” is a weekly humor column by Willie Laundrie, taking a look at the lighter side of Star Trek.

Columnist — Federation Follies
Willie is a long-time aficionado of cartoons, comic book superheroes, games, and science fiction. He’s a big fan of Stark Trek in general and the 24th Century in particular, and plans to move there as soon as he can afford to slingshot himself around the sun. In the meantime, he spends his time drawing comics and cartoons.

4 Comments Join the Conversation →


  • Tom

    I noticed there were a lot of canon mistakes in this movie. Granted, I get the whole travel back in time, change the course of history tidbit, but there are some things they just shouldn’t violate.

    I remember the bar scene where Uhurua orders a Cardassian Sunrise. The Federation never made first contact with the Cardassians until the TNG era, so how could they have any knowedge of Cardassia to make a drink like that?

    And there was the subtle, but grave violation in the beginning when the USS Kelvin encounters Nero’s ship. Shouldn’t the captain and George Kirk be surprised to find that, of ALL people, the Romulans look like VULCANS!!!???!!! During the Earth-Romulan War a few decades earlier, the humans had never seen what Romulans looked like. So they should at least have been as surprised and appalled as Kirk and the helmsman were on the TOS episode “Balance of Terror” when they finally get to see Romulans for the first time.

    • Willie

      Yeah, that stuff got to me as well. I appreciated that they were making an effort to tie all of Trek together, but the bit about the Cardassian Sunrise was REALLY weird. The bit with the Romulans also threw me… plus later, when Pike is talking to Nero and telling them that Romulus is fine: how would he know?!?

      Again, I LOVE the new movie. There are many things that (I think) constitute the “feel” of Star Trek, and this movie really nailed the sense of adventure and wonder. The details and the canon, though… not so much.

  • Safasdf

    The film was an abomination and a travesty. I question the intelligence of anyone who liked it.

  • Leo Windcatcher

    Considering that most folks get the TOS uniforms wrong, I’m not sure I can blame Abrams on this one.
    TNG, & later shows, introduced the idea of a “command color”, & somehow this got retrofitted into TOS; this is erroneous. In TOS yellow is the color for ship operations (Kirk was trained as a Navigator), yet on screen we see several command rank individuals wearing other color tunics. Even in the rank pictures above you can clearly see “redshirt” Commodores (at least 2 of which appeared on the show), in the episode “Court Martial” there is another starship captain who wears science-blue; as does Mr. Spock who is both First Officer & science Officer, from a military viewpoint his duties as first officer would take precedent & he would wear yellow.if that were an actual “command color”.