Entertainment Weekly has an in-depth look at the making of the new Star Trek movie, which is coming out next May. It’s a pretty nice read, though it doesn’t alleviate the ambivalence I have about the movie. I have no doubt that it can be a good movie, but I’m less certain whether it’ll be a good Star Trek movie, especially when Abrams said in the EW piece that he’s always been more of a Star Wars guy. If this Trek movie is going to be more like Star Wars, it had better be more like the first three Star Wars movies than the last three. The EW piece says Abrams’ goal is to make Star Trek more “pop”. Here’s hoping that doesn’t mean it becomes a mindless menagerie of special effects with an occasional classic Trek catchphrase thrown in.
One minor bone to pick with the EW article. At one point, it says:
But since the box office peak of the original film series in 1986 (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), the Trek brand has devolved into a near-irrelevant cultural joke, likely to inspire giggles and unprintable curses from even its most ardent supporters. After a succession of contrived TV spin-offs (the last, UPN’s Star Trek: Enterprise, mustered only a feeble 2 million viewers in its final season) and mediocre features based on the best of the bunch (Star Trek: The Next Generation), even people who’d built their entire careers around Trek could see the writing on the wall. ”Star Trek,” says Leonard Nimoy, ”had run its course.”
In my opinion, the Trek franchise didn’t peak until well after Star Trek IV. And those “contrived” TV spin-offs were anything but (well, ok, there was “Star Trek: Enterprise”). Without that series of spin-offs, Trek would’ve remained a short-lived, cheesy sci-fi show from the 60s that somehow drew enough of a cult following to warrant a series of movies. But thanks to the subsequent TV series, it became a full-fledged cultural phenomenon. Trekkies can debate till they are blue in the face about which is better, The Original Series or The Next Generation, but no one can deny that without TNG, the franchise would have never reached the height it did from the late 80s to the late-90s. My favorite series was Deep Space 9, which, after a slow start the first two or three seasons, offered some of the best stuff I’ve ever seen, not just in the Star Trek sphere, not just in sci-fi shows, but in all of television at that time. I would put the last four seasons of DS9 up against just about anything on TV. In some ways, it also broke away from a lot of the Trek mythos like Abrams is trying to do with the new movie. It set the the show in a new environment (a space station instead of a ship), introduced new faces, broke new boundaries in the kind of stories that a Trek show can do, and even got away from the idea that every storyline should be nicely wrapped up in one or (occasionally) two episodes. Yet it still held on to the right things that still made it quintessential Trek. That’s my hope for the new movie.