I'll admit it up front - I'm not a huge fan of the TV Star Trek, but I've watched enough when I was younger and recently to know what's up in that series. I've never seen an episode of the original 60's Star Trek, but I know enough from being familiar with pop culture to know the main characters. With this disclaimer, I'll continue. If you haven't seen the film yet, I'm going to discuss plot points and spoilers so be warned.
I was really excited to see Star Trek and I can't quite put my finger on why, but when I saw the movie, I wasn't disappointed. As someone with little knowledge of the series before this, I enjoyed the plot, the introduction of characters, the action, and frankly, I'm finding it harder to turn down shows with my new favorite Zachary Quinto.
However, as is too common, I felt the women characters were lacking in some way.
The main female character in the film is Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana. She's a communications specialist on the bridge on the ship. She is clearly characterized as the brightest in her field, smart, talented and not afraid to speak her mind. Jha'Meia at Rebellious Jezebel Blogging comments that she displays a different kind of power, one not tied up in physical strength but in intellectual, emotional and social strength (see: her first scene in the bar). Additionally, as typical with the main female character, Uhura gets romantically paired with someone. Different from usual action films where the lead man persuades the lead female (note: usually not a lead character but the woman with the most screen time - there's a difference, if subtle), Star Trek pairs Uhura with Spock as opposed to Kirk. I found that move particularly interesting, especially since I personally admire intellectual skills over others.
People have said that Uhura has a lot more to do in the reboot than she did in the TV show, but honestly, she didn't do that much. True, one could argue that this is because of her peripheral role in the plot, perhaps on the same level as Chekov or Sulu. However, that just explains away her lack of action as opposed to addressing the fundamental flaw that women aren't in lead roles in the supposedly egalitarian society of the Enterprise. It critiques the symptoms as opposed to the core problem, a problem that remains rooted in the gender politics of 1960 due to the nature of the film as a reboot.
There's also a lot going on in the movie with women as motivation for a lot of the men's actions - Kirk's father saving his mother and the rest of the ship, Nero driven by his wife's death, Spock by his mother's death. I'm not quite sure what to do with that yet, but other people have addressed it to some extent.
All in all, it could have been a lot worse women-wise. I wasn't a big fan of the mini-skirt uniform. However, in the second-string role Uhura plays, her character does a great job. It's just that by rebooting the original, the film reinforces the structures holding her in that position and not advancing women to other roles of authority.
For more discussion of the women of Star Trek, look to Shakesville, the Hathor Legacy and Racialicious.
EDIT: In looking for pictures for this post, I found this gem from CNN:
Compared to the original on a CBS Consumer site:
Now there's a not-so-subtle way of erasing women and women's experiences. Thanks, CNN.