Star Trek (Into Darkness) Thoughts

On a geek note, I thought I’d delve into something a bit different with some thoughts on the latest Star Trek movie and Star Trek in general.

Spoilers abound.  If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading.

I’ve been a fan of Star Trek since I was very young, having watched every episode of the original series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise.  My favorite series is Deep Space Nine.

Star Trek, even when the Federation is getting beaten up, is about a positive future and has always been an “intelligent” show.  I never felt like the television series or the movies talked down to the audience or treated the audience like idiots.  In fact, some of my absolute favorite Star Trek episodes have been ones in which the human condition was explored, such as in the Next Generation episode entitled “The Inner Light.”  It was about a people who knew their race didn’t have long to live, so they created a messenger probe to tell the story of their people.

In Deep Space Nine, the producers realized that the audience could actually keep up with season-long and even series-long story arcs.  Deep Space Nine featured the most continuity and best storytelling of any of the shows.

And the movies, especially the ones with the original cast, are iconic, memorable, and eminently watchable.  It’s easy to fire up NetFlix and watch The Wrath of Khan and never get tired of it.  The original movies, and to a lesser extent, the Next Generation movies, have a timeless quality about them because they still embody what Star Trek set out to be.

But, all good things must come to an end.

Star Trek struggled to find its audience in the early/mid 2000’s, leading studios to move in a different direction.  The result of that move was J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek movie, which successfully rebooted the series with a new cast portraying our favorite original Star Trek characters.  It was a very good movie in its own right, but lacked that Star Trek “feel” I used to get.  Star Trek Into Darkness is an incredible summer action movie but, again, I feel like it could have been done with any characters and been just as good.  As I mentioned to s friend, it’s a fantastic movie that just happens to have Star Trek in the title.

It’s clear that the writers went out of their way to try to please hardcore Trek fans, with nods to Section 31, Tribbles, and so forth, but the writers also played the “Khan card” too soon.  The original Trek II is considered the epitome of the movie series (although I, personally, prefer The Undiscovered Country), and it is clear that the writers wanted to go for the kind of stakes that were present in that movie and even played it right down to a couple of iconic scenes.  To be fair, the scenes were fine and I enjoyed them, but they felt a bit forced and I’m not sure that these writers “earned” it quite yet, especially considering the possibilities that are out there story-wise.

I’m very happy that the new movies have brought a new audience to Trek, but there are some things missing:

  • Trek has always been about the future.  With a return to Kirk and company, we’ve jumped into the past.
  • Even after a reboot, the writers of Into Darkness went right to the most obvious storyline instead of mining the new alternate timeline for an original, unexpected story.  I’m worried that we’ll be facing Harcourt Fenton Mudd in the next outing.
  • Trek on TV.  Moviegoers expect explosions, fights, and all kinds of action.  It makes it tough to tell a smart story about the future. Star Trek has always been at its best when it’s been in TV.  Personally, I’d love to see a new Star Trek TV series set after the events of Nemesis – perhaps a few decades.
  • I don’t see the newer movies as having the longevity of the originals.

Don’t get me wrong.  I loved the movie, but miss the days when Star Trek was about exploring strange new worlds, discovering the riches in the gamma quadrant, and allying with the Romulans against the Dominion.

Maybe I’m an idealist.  I understand that, to studios, Star Trek is just another franchise to be milked, but I hope that, someday, someone sees the real potential and does the right thing with the property.

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