Thursday, January 22, 2004

The movie then goes into action mode, with a space battle pitting the Shakespeare-spouting Chang and the Enterprise, with Spock and McCoy astride a torpedo a la Dr. Strangelove, and Sulu’s Excelsior zooming in to the rescue. Notably, the solution for discovering the cloaked vessel comes from Uhura. (In the novel version, Kirk proposes it, which suggests that he did so in an earlier version of the script. If so, it’s a switch on an alleged notorious practice in original series lore—Shatner taking key lines from other actors so Kirk can say them.)

The action scenes at the peace conference lean heavily on similar scenes in the classic 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate. The assassination attempt on the Federation president is foiled, and the conspirators exposed. But the pivot to the reconciliation depends on Rosanna DeSoto, as the new Klingon chancellor. It works magnificently because of the light in her eyes, the incline of her head and expression on her face, and especially the softness in her voice as she speaks her realization, “You have restored my father’s faith.”

“And you have restored my son’s,” Kirk says, with more emotion than literal sense. But it’s enough to elicit the applause of the delegates of many worlds, and to round out the exploits of the original Enterprise crew with a Star Trek affirmation of hope.

As a political metaphor, this movie used elements of the recent past, and prefigured others. Though nobody tried to assassinate Gorbachev, there was a military coup attempt and he disappeared for days, causing many to fear for his life. But the military couldn’t get public support and the coup failed. Shortly afterwards, the Soviet Union itself dissolved.

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