I have mixed emotions about the new Star Trek movie. I’ll lead with the positive. I’ve been a Trekkie for twenty-plus years, and I have a healthy respect for the concept and for the franchise. Gene Roddenberry deserves a lot of credit for his positive vision of the future, where humanity has not just survived, but thrived.
I was born during the run of the original series, so I have only been able to appreciate it in reruns, but I absolutely loved Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). I bought fanzines, consulted episode guides, bought action figures, read the paperbacks, bought the comic books - the whole works. The characters were rich, the writing was spot-on, and the production values were high.
TNG segued smoothly into StarTrek: Deep Space 9 (DS9), which I enjoyed for a while, though I didn’t follow that series to the end. I never got into Star Trek: Voyager, and I lost interest in the Trek world for a while. However, I really liked Enterprise, especially in high-definition. I caught seasons 3 and 4 in first-run, and then I saw Seasons 1 and 2 in HD on my big screen. Very nice.
Enterprise was a good reboot of the TV franchise, which by 2001 had gotten a bit long in the tooth, a bit too familiar. After all, how many series can you really build around the same concept, no matter how good it is? Even the CSI and Law and Order guys seem to agree that three is the max before the series start to blur together.
Nonetheless, for a fifth Trek TV series, Enterprise captured my imagination. This was largely because it was a good prequel. The producers made the wise decision to step out of the progression of Trek universe time and look at how the Federation came to be. This freshening worked because it offered something new and gave us a sense that we were witnessing history. There was something cute and charming about seeing these early spacemen, knowing that they were going to pass the baton to Kirk a few generations later and then to Picard a few more generations after that. Alas, not enough people shared my enthusiasm, and Enterprise barely got renewed for its fourth and final season, which ended in 2005. After having a first-run Trek series broadcast each year from 1987 to 2005, no new Trek series will air on TV for the foreseeable future.
The movies, likewise, have suffered with age. The first six were pretty easy to keep track of, as they had the original series’ cast, and the often-heard aphorism about the even-numbered ones being the best was pretty accurate. Once those actors got too old to continue, the movies turned to the cast of TNG, which was coming off of its successful seven-year TV run. However, after 4 Next Generation Trek movies of worsening quality, it was clear that, if another movie was going to be made, it would have to undergo some kind of makeover like the TV series did.
Recent reboots of movie franchises such as Batman and James Bond have worked in a big way, so it’s only logical to hope that the Trek creative team can succeed as well. The trailers look promising, with action and visuals that trump anything the Trek world has ever seen. And, on the one hand, the prequel strategy that worked on TV is clearly where Paramount has placed its bet.
Here’s where my main beef comes in. Call me old, but since when was a fleet’s flagship vessel run entirely by twenty-somethings? These guys (and gals) look like they should be sneaking a horse into the dean’s office, not seeking out new civilizations. The only First Contact they look ready for is with their significant others’ parents.
This is a reboot on steroids. A reboot that goes to eleven. A reboot that is hard to take seriously, when I stop and think. As my friend Bren asked, “Is this the Star Trek version of Muppet Babies?” I’m going to have to take a big swig of Suspension of Disbelief when I buy my ticket or, more likely, wait for the Blu-ray so I can see it in my home theater. Here’s to holding out hope for some more Trek magic.