Last night, weeks behind every else, I finally saw STAR TREK. I enjoyed seeing the old gang together again -- even if the old gang was played by a new gang -- and thought the visual effects were stunning. The movie was a lot of fun. I was not bored. But the film did raise in my mind some questions about science fiction as perceived by the larger public, who mostly knows it through movies.
The basic question is this: How plausible does SF have to be? Not in terms of "ideas," but in terms of human behavior. Because in that sense, this is a ridiculous movie. Young James Kirk, who has been caught cheating at Starfleet Academy, is being weighed by his superiors. let's see -- do we expel this kid or -- I know! -- we'll make him first officer of a starship instead! The lame excuse for this is that all other officers -- ALL! -- are off in another sector of space. This despite the fact that several older officers are sitting right there in the room, on the Board judging young Kirk. Perhaps they have no battle experience -- but does this hotheaded kid?
This is only one of the movie's plausibility issues in terms of how human beings behave and how human institutions are structured. However, nobody seems to mind: not the enthusiastic audience in the theater, not the critics, not anybody. Print SF, I'm told, is "of course" held to a higher standard. Writers are supposed to make minimal sense. But the number of people who know SF through print is minuscule compared to those who know it through movies, and for the latter, the idea seems to be that science fiction sacrifices even the most basic plausibility that thrillers and mysteries are held to. It's too bad, really. SF has so much more to offer.