To boldly go…

Whats the future of Star Trek after “Into Darkness?”.

For the record I really enjoyed STID, much more than ST09. ST09, while I eventually warmed up to it, did not feel like Star Trek to me (and I still really haven’t gotten over the whole business about them not bothering to actually build an engineering set – I mean, come on, you go to the trouble to cast Simon Pegg as Scotty, which was a great casting move, and then all you can do about an engineering set is stick some decals on some tanks in a Budweiser brewery?). STID was much more Star Trekkie, as far as I’m concerned, but I do agree with the central point of criticism in the piece above – What’s up with a Star Trek story that mostly takes place on earth?

On a very cynical movie studio level I get it. The biggest money maker in the old Trek franchise was The Voyage Home, which was all about Kirk, Spock, etc. traveling back in time to save Earth from destruction by some impossibly powerful probe that had come to talk to some whales, who were extinct (Honestly, I get annoyed when I call someone and they don’t answer, but I’ve seriously never considered blowing up their house over it.). The thing is, while that movie is fun, it’s the least cinematic of all the Trek films. It’s an episode of a TV show that was blown up into a film. Search For Spock had the same problem.

Here’s the breakdown on the original cast ST films:

  • ST:TMP – Too cinematic. It’s a beautiful film, and utterly confusing and boring. 
  • ST:TWOK – Almost no one will argue that this is anything but a perfect Star Trek film. It’s cinematic, it’s fun and it bears rewatching because the performances of the actors are perfect and the story just plain works.
  • ST:TSFS – It’s an episode, and the plot is almost entirely an excuse to resurrect Spock after he’s killed off in Khan.
  • ST:TVH – It’s an episode that works on the same level as Trouble With Tribbles or Shore Leave. Lots of humor, dumb story, but well made and worth seeing.
  • ST:TFF – Ugh. Just ugh. Dumb story, and everyone looks awful. Not to mention so many continuity problems it just gets embarrassing.
  • ST:TUC – Lots of people disagree with me, but I thought The Undiscovered Country picked up right where Wrath of Khan left off. Well cast, well acted, well directed and it felt like a movie, not an episode.

Here’s the interesting thing – what felt particularly Star Trekkie about STID wasn’t the story. That seemed like it was a generic Hollywood action flick that could have been a vehicle for ST or Iron Man or Jason Bourne. What felt Star Trekkie about STID was the way the actors handled their characters and their interactions with each other.

I think Paramount has made an error in judgement about the Star Trek franchise. The secret to success with it isn’t to make it not be a Star Trek movie, but to make it be a great Star Trek movie. Wrath of Khan was a very successful film that utterly and completely lived within the lore of Star Trek. Likewise of the TNG film, First Contact. And that doesn’t mean you bring back a well known character from the old TV series or get involved in stunt casting.

Star Trek, at its best, has always been about bigger ideas. Wrath of Khan was about growing old. The Undiscovered Country was about letting go of hate and prejudice and being able to embrace change. What was STID about? Bad guy blows stuff up, kills some people, gets caught, turns out he’s not the only bad guy. Really? Here’s the funny thing – we’ve already seen that movie, last year. It was called Skyfall, and it was much more interesting then because even the silly trope of how M made Mr. Silver into a villain had tremendous depth to it.

So, I do hope that Paramount makes another ST movie with this cast (and not a TV show – because I really don’t think another ST series can compete on a quality level with the likes of present day TV drama), but I’m equally glad JJ Abrams will be too busy with Star Wars (he really cannot make that franchise any worse) and can only hope a director and writers are engaged who respect the source material – and who don’t think their audience is as dumb as Paramount thinks we are.

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