Saw the new “Star Trek” film yesterday. Those of you who have seen it know it’s a delightful movie – a real rip roaring ride. The new film also contains a huge number of brilliantly clever thematic shout outs to the original series, none of which get in the way of the story.
The film contains so many knowing homages to the original, ranging from extremely subtle (the older Spock making a winking dig at the absurd conventions of parallel universe stories) to laugh out loud overt, such as the particular way that Scotty ends up saving the day in five seconds of insanely inspired engineering – one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.
But I think my favorite inside reference was the casting of Ben Cross, of all people, to play the Jewish patriarch. Yes, I know, he’s supposed to be a Vulcan, but anybody who remembers the dynamic between Mark Lenard and Leonard Nimoy in the original series knows exactly what Roddenberry was up to back in 1966. The back story here is clearly about the complexities of love between a devout Jew and a woman not of the faith – shades of “The Jazz Singer”.
Who better to take over for Mark Lenard than the man who iconically played a proud Jew who married a non-Jewish woman and then, with her by his side, took on the whole world? Watching Cross channel Sarek, I could almost hear the theme song of “Chariots of Fire” blend into Al Jolson singing “Kol Nidre”.
Which sets up one of the best of the film’s many surprising plot twists. In a lovely departure from the original series, this dynamic is continued into the next generation, in the romantic heart of Spock himself.