PROBE UNIVERSE (liviapenn) wrote,

Kirk, Spock, Bones & Uhura: the new OT4

What does the red spectrum tell us about quasars? .... There are various words that need to be defined: what is a spectrum, what is a red one, why is it red, and why is it so frequently linked with quasars? ... What the hell is a quasar?

I was going to leave this as a comment over here in selenak's journal (ST2009 spoilers, obvs) but it got really long, so I expanded it out here...


So wee_warrior said: I felt the criticism of Uhura being "just a love interest" has been exaggerated in general. She does have a relationship with one of the leads, but she also is a skilled individual, whose expertise drives the plot, and who clearly has more prospects in her life than her relationship with Spock.

And it made me think of this bit from this meta post of butterfly's that I thought was fascinating:

Kirk & Spock are our primary protagonists -- we get childhood scenes and scenes with each of them that is entirely about their own emotional journey. They are mirrored -- Kirk loses his father and Spock loses his mother. The movie takes them from an antagonistic relationship to one with mutual respect.

Bones & Uhura each have a primary supportive connection with either Kirk or Spock and a mildly antagonist working relationship with the other one. Both have some plot-relative use (Bones gets Kirk on the ship; Uhura finds the transmission that lets Kirk know what's going on), but their primary purpose in the plot is for Kirk/Spock to have someone to connect to emotionally.


I think *this* is key to why I love Uhura and why her role in the movie feels (to me) like it's actually a step up from her role in the original series and the movies (and *not* just because she's suddenly Spock's girlfriend.) Because, yes. In the original series, you pretty much had The Platonic OT3 of Kirk, Spock and McCoy as the main characters-- they were constantly getting the Holy Trinity analogies: "id, ego and superego," or "logic, emotion and intuition," or whatever else. They were the big three in terms of whose emotional dynamics *drove the stories* and everyone else was just sort of there to do their jobs. And then over the years McCoy slipped a little bit out of the spotlight as the canon started being influenced more by the fandom, and back and forth-- and by this time when you say "Star Trek" people really do think mostly of the K/S OTP first in terms of character relationships.

So now in the reboot, they've sort of (1) restored and (2) balanced out that OT3 by *moving Uhura up* and making it into a two-level OT4. You have Kirk and Spock, who have their rivalry and their Weird About Each Other dynamic, and then the *new* development is that they *each* have a character "on their side" who's devoted to them, who'll always want to give them what they need, and *also* a character who antagonizes and challenges them, makes them "work for it." On the level of the story that's all about the characters, Uhura challenges Kirk and supports Spock; Bones challenges Spock and supports Kirk.

I am fascinated by this realization to a ridiculous level-- just the neat way it fits together like a puzzle. It actually kind of reminds me of Red Dwarf and how the addition of Kryten to the cast all of a sudden made all the relationships just *click*, because it wasn't just Lister and the Cat ganging up on Rimmer all the time; now Rimmer had Kryten, who was just as much like him (but also frustrating to him) as the Cat was to Lister, and the Cat's massive ego was balanced out by Kryten's massive neurotic self-abasement. (Um, and now I need a Spock icon that says "Over the years, I have come to regard you as... people I... met.")

And I feel like I totally should have picked up on it earlier, actually. Because as much as the Spock/Uhura being in a relationship changes canon, guess what? *So does Jim and Bones being BFF at Starfleet Academy*. They were never BFF at Starfleet Academy! Not at all! Kirk knew *Spock* first, and they served together for like a year before Bones even came aboard the Enterprise. So the new Kirk-Bones epic bromance is just as much a wrench to canon as the new Spock-Uhura romantic relationship.

And it makes the Kirk-hits-on-Uhura thing make so much more sense too, because it puts Kirk and Uhura into a situation that mirrors Bones and Spock-- now Uhura can be the one who's all "I hope you know what you're doing, jackass Captain" the same way Bones is the one who goes "Are you outta your Vulcan mind?" Same dynamic, same deal. And then by the end of the movie (and presumably in their post-movie future) they've both mellowed a little and kind of respect the guy instead of wanting to beat him with a shovel, but that urge to *make him earn it* and not get away with that golden boy hero/Vulcan logic bullshit and occasionally be like "look, I respect you and all, but what is your PROBLEM"-- that's still gonna be there, and I LOVE IT.

Anyway. The point I was going to make to wee_warrior, though, is that if you watched the movie and came away thinking of Uhura as "just a love interest" then you totally missed out on her dynamic with *Kirk*, which is now right up there with the classic Spock-Bones relationship in terms of being important to the franchise.

And the thing is? If you dismiss Uhura as "just a love interest" then you absolutely need to also dismiss Bones as "just a BFF" who is only there to emotionally support Kirk during the Kobayashi Maru, sneak Kirk aboard the Enterprise, and defend Kirk to Spock when he's not there to do it himself. So basically, he literally does nothing, either on a character OR a plot-related level, that isn't about serving Kirk's emotional or plot-related needs in some way.

Whereas at least Uhura contributed something to the *plot* by using her professional skills (without hilarious unintentional comedy results.) I mean, guys, by all indications, in the reboot McCoy is a crappy doctor! The only time we actually see him doing anything medical at all, he practically kills Kirk with random hilarious side effects. We didn't even get *lip service* to him being a good doctor! ... I mean, this basically puts him right down there with Sulu, who left the parking brake on, and Scotty, who killed the best character on Enterprise A PUPPY... but at least they also got to contribute stuff from their specialties as well. As a doctor, in this movie? Bones is not very impressive. ("What do you call the guy who graduated last in his class from Starfleet Medical?" "Doctor.")

But I have not seen a single comment-- not ONE-- complaining "aw, why was Bones such a loser in this, we didn't get to see his SKILLS, he never got to do anything but emotionally support Kirk." When there actually would be serious grounds for complaint there. He didn't get to perform surgery or figure out some cool cure for a disease or anything like that. He was "reduced" to being "just" Kirk's best friend. (Please note the extremely ironic "".)

ETA: I just made this comment to pearl_o but I feel like there's a point here that deserves to be up in the main body of the post:

I saw someone comment the other day that Uhura "played the girlfriend card" to get assigned to the Enterprise-- and I was like, "Um, no. *Spock* was the one letting their relationship affect his professional judgement, thus forcing Uhura to play the I'M ACTUALLY THE MOST TALENTED, OVER-QUALIFIED, SMARTEST PERSON AND I DESERVE IT" card.

And looking at it from this new perspective, I'm like, wait. Wait. Actually? If you want to argue about who played the "personal relationship" card to get on the Enterprise.......?

*POINTS AT JIM* That's the *only* reason he was on board the Enterprise! Because Bones COULDN'T SAY NO TO HIS LITTLE BRAVE SAD PUPPY FACE. Uhura didn't play the personal relationship card, she *earned* her way on. But Jim? If he hadn't been on probation, we don't even know if he would have been assigned to the Enterprise or not! Like, if Bones had been assigned to the Farragut or the Newton, he'd have snuck Jim on *there* and the whole movie would be over, basically. So, yeah.

(Although actually, now that I think about *that*, Bones getting assigned to the Enterprise is actually an indication that he's a strong student/good doctor. So there's actually one *slight* nod to his professional skills in the movie.)


I think that's why all the "why was Uhura's role reduced" meta was rubbing me the wrong way. Because by becoming a mirror-character to Bones, by becoming Kirk's *prod* and Spock's support the way Bones always was (except the other way around) she's actually getting a promotion, in terms of her role in the character-driven parts of the plot, if that makes any sense. (And I think the part where there's a mini-arc of Kirk *earning* Uhura's respect by becoming less of a jackass is a subtle but really important part of the movie, seriously. *Uhura*, almost even more than Pike, is the one who's set up as the person whose respect it would be *really significant* for Kirk to actually earn. I like that.)

Anyway. I hope this doesn't come across as Bones-bashing because it's totally not-- I love him, I'm writing Bones fic, I suddenly think Karl Urban is cute for the first time ever, blahblahblah. I'm just sayin', if you are all "baww I wish I could like Uhura but I can't 'cause she's just the girlfriend" then you need to apply that to Bones as well, because he actually gets the worst of it in Star Trek 2009, as far as being "just the BFF!" So be fair, or else I am coming to your house and taking away all your action figures.
Tags: fandom: star trek
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