After half a dozen TV series, 10 movies, countless books, and untold numbers of fan-fiction and slash-fiction stories, you’d have thought there wouldn’t be any material left to mine in the saga of the initial crew of the starship Enterprise. And you’d have been delightfully astonished and even shocked by J.J. Abrams’ franchise reboot, a sleek epic origin story of how the young Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and the rest first found their way to Starfleet Academy and onto the decks of the Enterprise. The film is that rare prequel that’s reverent enough to the source material to please some of the nitpickiest fans in the galaxy – and irreverent enough to risk their ire with some shocking deviations from Trek lore (RIP, Vulcan) – while also working as a stand-alone adventure that even Trek newbies who didn’t know a tribble from a tricorder could enjoy.
To be sure, clever casting helped a lot, from Zachary Quinto (an uncanny ringer for a young Leonard Nimoy as Spock) to Zoe Saldana (an Uhura for our time, just as Nichelle Nichols was an Uhura for the late ’60s). As this summer’s much-anticipated Star Trek: Into Darkness is likely to further prove, this is an Enterprise crew that can fly on its own dilithium crystals steam.