I would say I am loathe to nitpick the science and plot of Star Trek, but anyone who knows me would say its not true. I love to nitpick, even though I often keep it to myself. Because nitpicking does not normally reduce my enjoyment of a film, I can happily accept outrageous coincidences and remarkable magical science. I just wish I didn’t have to.

So Star Trek is Star Trek, so I start with a basic boatload of premises from the original series. Warp Speed. Transporters which only work when they don’t spoil the plot. Alien civilizations all living within a mile of each other on their home planet. I can get that Vulcan, say, is just one city on a planet (which since Earth is only ever represented as San Francisco* is I suppose only fair). All of this I knew before I walked through the door, so instead my nitpicks are more based on the STAGGERING CONSPICUOUS COINCIDENCES which occur from the already established conveniently coincidence heavy Star Trek universe.

So lets play with a bit of probability here. Let’s say that each of the staggering coincidences that occur have a probability of one half. This clearly is not the case, the likelihood of Kirk being abandoned on a planet less than a mile away from Spock, is so staggeringly huge that assigning it a probability of a half is insulting. But lets do it anyway, just to show how unlikely the the storyline is, even if all the coincidences have the same probability of turning up a head in a coin toss. Ever coincidence/unlikely event in the plot shall be marked with a C or a U.

Note, to discuss this requires spoilering the ENTIRE FILM.

Start: Romulus star going supernova (not a coincidence, this is the films motivating factor). Spock is assigned to help (C and U – because assigning a really old admiral rather than anyone who may be better suited seem unlikely). Spock is late, Romulus is destroyed, Spock makes a black hole to eat the supernova, Nero and Spock get sent back in time (C/U – and no-one else?). Nero arrives at the exact place in space and time where the USS Kelvin is (C), and Kirk’s Dad is first officer (C) and the precise instance Kirk is being born (C). Birth takes place without complications and he is born fine as his Dad and the ship is blown up for no good reason (U!!!!)

Kirk and Spock grow up without dying (possibly a U in Kirk’s case!). Kirk goes to a bar – OK that bit is likely as is cracking on Uhura (but its Uhura so its a C) and bumps into Captain Pike, who was an ensign on the Kelvin (C). Kirk joins up to Star Fleet, FIRST PERSON HE MEETS IS MCCOY (C). Three years later he is shagging Uhura’s room-mate (C – especially when he hears her talking about the Klingon distress signals). Cheating on the Kobiashi Maru is neither a coincidence or unlikely, however Spock’s time-travel appearance in space on EXACTLY THE SAME DAY certainly is (C) as is Nero being able to predict when and where it will happen (U). And then the biggie: McCoy being assigned to the Enterprise (C), with Sulu (C), Captain Pike (C) and Chekov (C). I’ll give Uhura a bye here because she forced her way on cos she was shagging Spock. And then there is the slightly unlikihood of the Enterprise making it to the battlefield last with the key information from Uhuru who up until this point had kept the Klingon distress signals to herself (U). And thus it is Enterprise with Spock and Kirk on board that Nero does not instantly blow out of the sky (U) and realises he can do something with.

I will allow the entire samurai space battle on the drilling platform a pass here, as whilst it is unlikely that such a battle or scenario could take place, it is an action film and it is a given that our heroes will survive (and indeed the red shirt will die). However it is hugely unlikely that Chekov could beam two plummeting people off of the planet, since it NEVER HAPPENED IN THE SERIES AND THIS IS SET WELL BEFORE (U). It is also a pretty big coincidence that the only people Spock can save are the council of Vulcan’s, but since he doesn’t save his milfy mum, we’ll spare his the pain of a C here. It is not unlikely that Kirk and Spock argue about what to do next, but it was hugely unlikely that Captain Pike made Kirk first officer in the first place, so that causes the problem (U). It is also unlikely that rather than courtmartial and put Kirk in the brig, Spock would jettison Kirk at Warp speed on to a dangerous planet (U). A mile away from Old Spock (U). another mile away from Scotty (U). It is also a huge coincidence that the two people Kirk would be stranded with would be the inventor on a technique to beam on to a ship at warp speed, and someone from the future who can remember all the science of how to do it (I could barely invent a radio!) (C). It is also hugely unlikely that it would work as successfully as it does without any testing, that both participants survive AND THAT THEY COULD DO THIS OVER A FAIR FEW LIGHT YEARS. There is almost certainly some sort of prime directive nonsense going on here too.

The rest of the film oddly relies on very few coincidences, and is only unlikely in the way action movie endings are. Perhaps the chances of Kirk in charge and his first officer deciding to do all the work in beating up the baddies is pretty unlikely, but it happened all the time in original Star Trek so no quibbles here. I’ll give Nero a (C) for drilling right next to the Golden Gate Bridge, which as previously noted is the only landmark left on Earth, but the whole chase and pursuit is de riguer in space opera. Again I could give Scotty an U for working out how to escape the black hole but he used to do stuff like that all the time in the TV series so he gets a pass. I will say that it is hugely unlikely that Kirk would be given the USS Enterprise, with exactly the same crew ever again however, since the film seems to be predicated on the destiny of this crew getting together, ten years before it would have happened normally.

So lets do the maths. Bearing in mind I have been generous in a number of places, and very generous in the case of the actual probability (the Kirk / Spock / Scotty planet coincidence must be of an order of winning the lottery). But if all of these things had a probability of only a half, we have TWENTY FIVE COINCIDENCES / HIGHLY UNLIKELY EVENTS. Which makes the events of Star Trek, even within the confines of an action movie / Star Trek movie having the eventual probability of 0.0000000298, or two in a billion.

Considering that the likelihood of Star Trek turning out to be a good movie is almost IDENTICAL TO THIS, it is incredible that despite all of this, I really, really enjoyed it!

*We actually get a bit of Iowa in this one too, but luckily Iowa appears to be a generic one bar desert kind of place, so could easily be the planet Luke Skywalker is from.