Milking It: Star Trek cereal

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Star Trek cereal Kellogg's Rating: Three spoons out of four

Cereal description: Oat discs that resemble mini-cinnamon rolls, even though the designers insist that they represent spinning galaxies. (Maybe to someone who's never been to a bakery.) These bits are supplemented by marshmallows stamped into two primary shapes -- circles with a blend of either pink-and-white slashes (they're supposed to honor Planet Vulcan) or blue-and-white whorls (Planet Earth), plus yellow, pink or blue arrowheads that duplicate the Star Fleet insignia, pretty much. And did I mention that they're marshmallows?

Box description: The Star Trek logo on the cover appears in a silvery stamp/license plate holder announcing that the brand is a "Limited Edition" (damn it). Beneath it are the words "Only in Theaters," but that claim isn't quite accurate; I bought the cereal in a grocery store, not a concession stand. The main up-front image from the film isn't an actor's photo but the Starship Enterprise, with wavy lines behind its engines to imply that the craft is about to make the jump to warp speed. Also on view: the aforementioned insignia, colored as if it's about to implode. Mr. Scott will have to do something about that. A depiction of the cereal itself is consigned to the lower right-hand corner, below the typical "Enlarged to Show Texture" phrase (if the marshmallows were actually that size, you'd need a carving knife to eat them) -- and the product itself is described as "Sweetened Oat Cereal with Marshmallows: Naturally and Artificially Flavored." Thumbs up for artificiality! The panel opposite the nutrition information is devoted entirely to a pitch for the movie, not an explanation of how the stuff inside is an important part of a good breakfast (another relief), while the back finally gives some love to James Kirk (Chris Pine), Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana) by affixing their photos to a couple of games. The smaller of the two urges breakfasters to "Chart a Course" through linked pods -- it's a maze, essentially. And the main one invites folks to "Join the Crew" by following their favorite school subjects to the Starship job best suited for them. Bizarrely, pilots are supposed to be interested in newspapers -- as if such things might still exist decades from now, let alone centuries in the future. But gotta love that confidence!

Taste: I'm trying my best not to overrate Star Trek, but I can't ignore the possibility. After all, mighty few interesting new munches are being issued these days, and most of them put healthfulness ahead of entertainment value. Still, Star Trek actually stands up better than most quickie movie or TV show tie-ins. If it's not as good as the movie itself, which is far and away the most entertaining blockbuster of the pre-summer season, it's at least in the same star system. Although the cereal pieces aren't terribly distinctive, they're pleasant enough, and they hold their crunch in milk without being so hard that they beg for chisels. Same goes for the marshmallows. Kellogg's hasn't mastered the marshmallowing art at the level demonstrated by General Mills -- the firm's bits typically begin to dissolve in liquid too soon, giving the surface something of a slick feel. But these versions avoid complete deterioration, and they're wonderfully sweet and flavorful, especially compared to the nuts and clusters and God-knows-what that fill other brands I've reviewed lately.

Conclusion: I'd be happy if Star Trek's mission was extended.

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