A brown captain and an ewok-like thing

[warning: very very mild spoilers are contained in this post]

[warning: only a true sci-fi fan will understand all the references in this post]

Yesterday I got the chance to see Star Trek at the local IMAX theater. A little backstory about me: I am a Trekkie. I am not the kind of Trekkie that dresses up in Star Trek outfits and knows all the obscure little trivia, but I am still pretty hardcore (well, ok…only half of the previous statement is true). You see, the original Star Trek movie (which sucked by the way) is the first movie I have any memory of. I saw it at the drive-in theater in San Jose, CA in December of 1979 when I was three. I sat behind my dad and the audio was lousy but it must have made some sort of a subliminal impression on me given that I spent the next 30 years of my life quite literally trying to be Captain Kirk.

Captain Christopher Pike: [to Kirk] You can settle for less in ordinary life, or do you feel like you were meant for something better? Something special.


In any case, the new movie opens with the magnificent bald head (no, not Captain Picard) of Captain Robau of the Federation Starship Kelvin. Robau is played by Pakistani American actor Faran Tahir:

[It’s] a great thing,” Tahir said in an exclusive interview. “I have had conversations with J.J. about this, … because I knew the other people who were being considered for this role, and they were not [cast]. So one day over dinner I was, ‘So what was it, why?’ You know, just to get a window into it. And I think he–and I have to commend him on this–what he was trying to do was find a certain quality in the actor and just to set up the story, you know? And to me, that is refreshing, and it’s great to hear. … The biggest compliment is that he was looking for a certain quality. He could have found that in me, he could have found that in [anyone else]. And it just happened to be me, and … the added … layer to that is that, yeah, I happen to be of a certain descent, and … the casting was [in] the spirit of what Star Trek is about.” [Link]

Captain Robau has a very limited role, which is surprising considering he was wearing a blue uniform and not a red one. Tahir plays his role well and his character kind of reminded me of a young Captain Sisko, but with a desi accent. I think we will be seeing a lot more of Tahir.

And just to remind you all, Robau is NOT the first desi captain in Star Trek. There have been other small parts in previous Star Trek movies and episodes. And of course, don’t forget one of the most famous villains in sci-fi history: Khaaaaaaaaaannnnnn Noonien Singh. However, I was very disappointed by the lack of desi students at Starfleet Academy in the movie. For f*ck sake, Starfleet Academy is in San Francisco. It is a little hard to believe that an Academy so close to Silicon Valley has so few desi students.

Now to briefly comment on the other major “desi character” in Star Trek. It is a little…troll-like technician named “Keenser” played by actor and stuntman Deep Roy (who we have blogged about often before).

Keenser doesn’t have any lines. He is just there to add comic relief. I like director JJ Abrams. I was a huge fan of Alias and I never miss Lost. But seriously bro, nobody in the sci-fi world will give you an ounce of respect if you try to add an Ewok into your movie. It just doesn’t work.

So what did I think of the movie? I liked it overall. Decent story, good use of FX and pretty good acting. I had one HUGE problem with it however. Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want to see a tiny spoiler or if you don’t like geek speak.

The whole time travel plot which results in an alternate timeline bothers me. I don’t want everything I know and hold true to now be an “alternate reality” that may never happen. This movie potentially changes everything. Past time travel in Star Trek has always been to preserve the known timeline and not alter it irrevocably. I see this as lazy error in judgment by JJ Abrams. He could have made an origin story movie without ruining the future we enjoyed. Old Spock’s permanent presence in the past alone ruins everything. Think of the technology advances he can teach people in the past. Also, if I can beam aboard a ship moving at light speed why couldn’t I just beam a nuke aboard an enemy ship anywhere in the galaxy at anytime? You can tell this movie was written and directed by non-Star Trek fans.

[end rant]

Ok, so what did you all think of Tahir and Roy and the movie in general?

33 thoughts on “A brown captain and an ewok-like thing

  1. I was looking for articles on this guy to post in the news section ! Great post. Took my gf to this movie and she enjoyed it immensely even as a non-Trekkie/Trekker. Always preferred the character and story driven Star Trek over the space opera Star Wars (not trying to start a war here).

    spoilers I enjoyed the movie immensely – despite the alternate timeline thing, there was enough comedy, pacing, and great characters, to keep you watching intently. Checkov’s ‘weector weector’ line was great, as was the interplay between Bones and Kirk – and the Shatner swagger in the Kobayashi Maru scene was priceless. And of course, Scotty.

    I think they did a good job introducing the characters, but keeping it fresh with some surprises. The story was a bit smarter than expected (in terms of complexity) and the villian was great (if you check out the prologue comic Star Trek: Countdown – Nero actually tries to help Spock first: http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Star_Trek:_Countdown).

    But alas, they had to make it approachable for non-fans – and I think the timeline ploy was a way to say – yes, we have changed things, but it is a fresh slate.

    Nice to see that both fans and critics are enjoying the movie.

    And yes – when I first heard those lines in the preview – (meant for something better) my god they were haunting.

  2. There have been other small parts in previous Star Trek movies and episodes.

    Small parts? Persis Khambatta’s character was central to the long and slow plot of Star Tek: The Motion Picture. Or did you hate it so much that you downplayed her role?

  3. Congratulations to Faran Tahir! It’s nice to see Pakistanis being recognized for postive achievements, rather than as Taliban or terrorists.

    Btw, his father is Naeem Tahir, the chairman of Pakistan’s National Council of the Arts.

  4. Ha…I watched Star Trek…Didn’t know know abt Tahir and Roy. Tahir definitely looked desi but I have been fooled before by Alfred Molina in Spiderman-2 (who looked desi to me in the movie) so this time I didn’t look up after watching Star-Trek Overall I enjoyed the movie though.

  5. Thanks for the post, Abhi.


    I’ve been angling for a good discussion on Star Trek without the requisite nitpicking from dress-up variety trekkies . Considering all the alternative timelines we’ve seen i.e. TNG “All good things…”, and Tasha Yaar, I think we can live with this. The opening sequence with the semi still/slo mo of the escaping shuttlecraft was just epic. Awesome movie on the whole. The only thing that unsettled me was the destruction of Vulcan (which Spock prime curiously did not attempt to reset). Smart move to avoid endless continuity criticism and to gain ownership over the new timeline, but I don’t know, you gotta figure it will damn near erase rather than simply alter most of the prime timeline that we grew up with. I suppose it makes it more compelling, but will take some getting used to for long time fans I think. I wonder what they’ll name the sequel…

  6. The whole time travel plot which results in an alternate timeline bothers me. I don’t want everything I know and hold true to now be an “alternate reality” that may never happen. This movie potentially changes everything. Past time travel in Star Trek has always been to preserve the known timeline and not alter it irrevocably

    JJ must not have intended but you could imagine that Old Spock probably changed the future by beaming to the past of one reality/one world but maybe the other world/other reality probably was chugging along to its destiny unaltered. Many world theory/Parallel universe

  7. Good question, but no, The Kobayashi Maru is a simulation Star Fleet cadets take which is designed to be unwin-able but apparently teaches them about discipline and strength in the face of fear.

    Spoilers It involves a freighter which is adrift in the neutral zone (which is like a DMZ between the Federation and Klingon Empire) and needs assistance. The Cadet as Captain has to decide whether to violate the peace treaty and try and rescue the freighter, and risk being attacked by the Klingons – when an attempt is made, they are usually inevitably surrounded and attacked by the Klingons and lose.

    Young Kirk fails twice and then just hacks the simulation to win.

  8. Adding to #7 – Following many world interpretation

    ….since every possible outcome to every event defines or exists in its own “history” or “world.” In layman’s terms, this means that there is a very large, perhaps infinite, number of universes and that everything that could possibly happen, or could possibly have happened, in our universe (but doesn’t) does happen in some other universe(s)…..

    one can say that there is no fixed future/destiny/timeline; in spite of the trouble of time-travel maybe Old Spock was just changing influencing the destiny in one world.

  9. Abhi, I was really excited to see a Desi as the first captain of a starship we see. Overall though the general crowds had a decent amount of diversity, no? I don’t consider myself a Trekkie, so I think what Abrams did was brilliant in terms of restarting the franchise all together, bringing in new fans. I have no idea what happened in the last 9 or 10 films or whatever, and I’ve also been told by Trekkies that some of them really sucked. So I think that the movie did a brilliant move in changing everything, essentially restarting Star Trek.

    On a related time travel note, do you think that the way time travel and concepts of time in Star Trek should be taken as clues for Lost?

  10. Oh my god – that would be awesomely hilarious – the entire movie was one big clue for Lost.

    JJ Abrams did do a special edition of Wired this month which is pretty entertaining with many mysteries and puzzles everywhere (them of the month) and also did a Colbert Report interview with ‘hidden’ clues.

  11. Just saw the movie. I’m not a trekkie, but the movie had tons of differences with the canon, and as wry pointed out,time travel was a cool way to break free of the canon while capturing the spirit.

    (Spoiler alert) For example the death of Spock’s Mother was crucial to building the characacter of Spock, even though it goes completely against canon.

    As for the old spock thing… It was completely worth it to see Nimoy back again.

    BTW. 1. If you kinda liked the time travel bit, but feel the concept is a bit off, check out the new Doctor Who series and you will realize how much fun it can be.

    1. A Star Wars reference in a Star Trek review, and that too characters from the Return of the Jedi?!!! Thank god I’m no geek, or I would have thrown up at that…oh well at least mesa happy it was not a Jar Jar binks reference.
  12. If you check out the trivia page on imdb, they state that they were heavily influenced by Star Wars


    yep, Abrams was a star wars fan. It was interesting cause i thought Chris Pine’s Kirk was the breakaway performance and walked away thinking he was like the young indiana jones of star trek (getting the crap kicked out of him while plugging along). Turns out he was specifically going for that and a bit of Han Solo. As for Abhi’s point about this being written and directed by non-trek fans, apparently the writers are huge trekkies, which is why I still don’t get how they were cool with wiping out a founding federation planet and 6 billion people to damn near destroy the prime timeline…Sybok, I weep for thee…

  13. i liked the film. i have say that i liked that the owned up to the fact that time travel creates discontinuities. perhaps they’ll abandon the trope in future movies, it got really, really, old. zoe saldana was a great asset. quinto played spock with aplomb.

  14. Vijay Amritraj played a starship captain in 1984’s “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”. It too was a brief role…

  15. Isn’t Tahir the bad guy in Ironman with whom The Dude (sans hair) spoke passable Hindi with while killing him?

    Ewoks – what happens when you let Industrial Smoke & Mirrors a country mile near your film. My husband says it’s the marketing department’s fault.

  16. Yeah but the desis always get killed at the beginning – The Chief Engineer in TNG was killed in one of the early episodes, Vijay Amritraj was a captain in one of the movies (and gets killed at the beginning of course).. Now this desi captain gets killed.. No wonder there are no desis in Starfleet Academy. They know to keep away:D

  17. Just remember Michael Wincott (Top Dollar in The Crow) was the first to go in Alien Resurrection. Not the black guy or the brown(ish) chick, but Michael Wincott. Yeah, that movie sucked, but that’s not the point.

  18. It had to be an alternate reality. Thing about Star Trek is that everything is “canonical”. What happens in the movies affects the TV shows and the books and the comics and video games (As opposed to, say, Batman where the movies and comic books have no affect on each other). So the only way to do an entire series reboot is to do the time travel. It is a huge conceit but one i am willing to let JJ get away with because he is one of the few that can and did pull it off amazingly.

  19. Small parts? Persis Khambatta’s character was central to the long and slow plot of Star Tek: The Motion Picture. Or did you hate it so much that you downplayed her role?

    Another bald beauty! I fell in love with her when I saw this movie. You too, pingpong?

  20. many shows or movies which have 2 really close guys who have a great platonic friendship

    isnt this the entire premise of the overdone buddy comedy genre?

  21. ho says Kirk and Spock have a platonic relationship?

    exactly. what do you think “going where no man had ever gone before” means?

  22. Yes, there are buddy flicks but I mean really close, completely straight but still a great connection type platonic relationships. The type of friendships where you can totally be yourself and goofy without judgment. Buddy flicks are more gimmicky juxtapositions of odd couples. Sure, Kirk and Spock are an odd couple, but it is not done as a gimmick or one movie plot line.

    Slash fiction is fun, but not really canon 🙂

  23. GurMando, regarding bromances, you’re forgetting Boston Legal–another Shatner classic. So many trek alums/references on that show too.


    Satyajit Wry aka Denny Crane West…