Rough Roads and Star Trek in Kapolei

Went out to Kapolei this weekend to catch Star Trek at the Kapolei 16 and was a little surprised to find that the roads in the New City are almost as bad as the roads in old Honolulu. Kamokila Boulevard is pitted with potholes, plastered with patches and growls along beneath your car with a weathered surface resembling congealed gravel.

The experience reminded me, as reported recently by the Star-Bulletin, that Honolulu drivers spend nearly $700 a year on wear-and-tear repairs to their automobiles, thanks to the poor conditions of Hawaii roads—which are among the worst in the nation. These findings came from a report issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, available in full here. The AASHTO rated 27 percent of Hawaii’s roads as “poor,” 44 percent as “mediocre,” 19 percent as “fair” and just 10 percent as “good.”

To be fair, Kamokila was more mediocre than poor. And maybe my reaction has more to do with the passing of time than the erosion of roads. I’m old enough to remember the Leeward side without Kapolei, Waikele or the Gentry and Haseko developments in Ewa. I probably have these towns permanently filed under “Brand New,” and will spend the rest of my life being surprised by their progress and their aging. “When did you get so big?” I’ll ask, like an infrequently visiting uncle, and Kapolei will roll its eyes … 

What’s that? You want to know what I thought of the movie? Well, if you insist.

I thought it was terrific. It succeeded by going back to what worked in the original 1960s series—and I don’t mean just the characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. It delivered the experience of the old series, the good stuff that turned a network flop into a multigenerational pop culture phenomenon. Namely:

1) Actors with chemistry, portraying dramatic characters with exciting jobs in space. Shatner, Nimoy and company played (sometimes overplayed) their roles fairly straight, got on as if they really had been old friends from the first episode, and generally made their jobs look like something you’d dream of doing when you grew up, with people you would want by your side in an adventure.

2) Fun!

Yes, I know, the original Star Trek has been praised for taking on the urgent social issues of the 1960s—Racism! Communism! Hippies! But, let’s be honest, the serious, high-minded writing was often ham-fisted and obvious. (Remember this episode? “Lokai is white on the right side. All of his people are white on the right side.”) When Gene Roddenberry was struggling to keep Star Trek on the air, he knew to make it entertaining first, nutritious second. So, it had drama, conflict, monsters, action and miniskirts.

Most of the Star Trek spin-offs and movies since then have failed to deliver on either 1 or 2. Star Trek: The Next Generation was enough to put me off the whole franchise and I still can’t believe it lasted for seven seasons. That cast had no chemistry, and, except for Patrick Stewart as Capt. Picard, fairly low wattage as actors, let alone stars. They managed to make space exploration look like something that involved a lot of staff meetings. You know, like the job you already have. From ST:TNG on, most Trek has played as an in-joke, or an endless of procession of skits for a fan convention. To watch it was to be slightly embarrassed for all involved.

What a refreshing break to have director J.J. Abrams come along and clear the decks of all this dreck. And this is a turnaround for me. The last thing I thought I needed in my entertainment was more Star Trek. When I saw the previews for this one, I wrote it off as “Muppet Babies! Younger, cuter!” But now, I’d sooner serve aboard Abram’s Enterprise than anything I’ve seen in this franchise since I was 6, meeting Star Trek for the first time in a way so many people did—as an “old,” long-cancelled TV show running in syndication. Something discarded, but worth saving.

OK, then. Outraged traffic engineers and Next Generation fans? Comments are enabled. Fire phasers.