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Reader Challenge: Is A Successful Star Trek Reboot Good For Science Fiction?

The box office predictions were given, the early reviews were (and still are) outstanding and finally, finally!, the biggest movie of the summer season has been unleashed on the viewing public. Given the size of the actual box office over the weekend ($76 million total), it’s clear the J.J. Abrams has managed to excite not only Trekkies but also wow the a large portion of the general public.

It’s a given that we’ll see more Trek movies (they’ve already green lighted a sequel), probably several, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new TV series arise from the ashes of the old shows. But there’s a larger question here. One that touches on science fiction, at least in the visual form, as a whole. Pete Tzinski touched on in the last part of his Star Trek series last week, but I think it’s worth repeating here as a reader challenge.

Is the success of the Star Trek reboot a good thing for science fiction in general or will we just see more Star Trek and Star Trek rip-offs?

The obvious, and most likely realistic answer, is that we’ll see more Star Trek in the near future. This can be a good thing, as long as the rebooted Trek is vibrant, cool and interesting and not just a rehash of Treks past. I’m also convinced we’ll see a lot of knock-offs that will try to mimic the formula of Trek, after all, that’s successful, and won’t try to give us something new. I’m not optimistic that the SF field as a whole will be rejuvenated because of the success of the new Star Trek.

What say you?

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

25 Comments on Reader Challenge: Is A Successful Star Trek Reboot Good For Science Fiction?

  1. Not to sound like a broken record, but I don’t think the success of this film will be good for sci-fi.  I would love it if a new Trek series came out of it (and that could easily be very good), but let’s face it – the science part of sci-fi was severely lacking in this new Trek film.  Fun?  Sure.  But not something that is going to inspire new, original sci-fi.

  2. I think this will absolutely be great for sci-fi. The last few years have seen some great movies in the scifi/fantasy realm. It doesn’t hurt that “Harry Potter” is so popular among so many age groups. Movies that incorporate sci-fi, like “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man,” even if they aren’t space opera, have really increased interest in movies that bring fantastic elements to the table and I believe the fact that “Star Trek,” regardless of some minimal criticism, is such a huge success is going to bring a whole new generation to the table and they are going to want to see more space oriented films. When I was a teenager “Young Guns” was the big thing. It wasn’t a classic Western in any sense and blatantlly pandered to the younger demographic, but it created enough interest to allow production companies to make great movies like “Tombstone” and “Unforgiven.” I see “Star Trek” the same way. And even though you could make an argument that the cast is too young, I think there is huge potential there. I don’t believe that any sequels have to be popcorn flicks. I think this one was your basic foundation movie. It had to deliver action while it set up the backstory for an ensemble cast–not easy– and Abrams did it much better than what we saw in “Fantastic Four.” I’m fairly excited by this remake and I look forward to see what offspring it produces. 

  3. Those are good points, sgt.  Thanks, you’ve cheered me up πŸ™‚

  4. I’m cautiously optimistic. I don’t think the new Trek is going to cause a stampede of traditionally non-fans toward science fiction, but if it can pique the interest of a few people enough to get them to explore SF a little further, well that’s great. The same could be said about the possibility of Trek rip-offs hitting the theatres. I remember years ago when I knew a guy who wouldn’t have touched SF with a 10 foot pole, until he caught a couple of minutes of the chase at the end of Blade Runner one night on TV. He liked it so much he tracked down an old copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and devoured it a couple of days. It wasn’t something he would admit to in front of most of his friends, but when he mentioned it to me I recommended a couple of other titles. I don’t think he ever became a serious SF fan, but if that one scene in a movie opened his mind enough to get him to not only watch, but actually read a little SF from time to time, that’s pretty encouraging. I hope Trek has the same effect.

  5. Is the success of the Star Trek reboot a good thing for science fiction in general or will we just see more Star Trek and Star Trek rip-offs?

    I don’t see this as a binary choice, JP. I think its both.  I think this will help SF in general (a broader audience is in the long run a good thing). What it will mean, especially if this movie proves to have legs and run to $150 million or more, is that we’ll get more crappy Star Trek wanna be in the bargain.


    I’d go see a sequel to this movie, though.  Just less lens flares, please.



  6. Star Trek is not a success yet!

    It will need to rake in from internation and domestic about $375-450 million to be a theatrical success (that’s just breaking even).  Lots of movies (both Hulk movies come to mind) have strong first week sales and then drop like a rock.  Don’t forget, Star Trek opened in nearly 4,000 screens just in North America – that’s a huge amount of overhead to be reduced from the box office figures – substantially more overhead than most films can tolerate and still be profitable.

    Noone would wish on any movie what happened to Star Trek Nemisis when it went to DVD.  Paramount ended up destroying more than 2/3 of the DVD production to keep it out of 99 cent bins by the end of it’s first month in release.

    Angels & Demons is going to gut adult Trek ticket sales this coming week.  This is the problem with making a fun summer movie vs really terrific Sci-Fi/Trek – the adults aren’t going to come back again because the piece is inconsequential and the 12 year-olds will move on to the next thing (Wolverine held up very nicely as has 17 Again and Night At The Museum opens week after).

    Star Trek could still EASILY be a financial disaster for Paramount.  The $75 million from the four day opening is NOT the figure they were looking for – about $25-30mil less…

  7. The success of Star Trek by itself won’t be a huge bonus for SF.  It will help, but it won’t be a panacea.  What would really help is if Wolverine, Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation are all fininacial hits.  The bigger the better.  If all 3 films are solidly in the black by the time their theater run is over, SF could see a sizeable bump in Hollywood support.  I’m not talking about 10 new non-franchise SF movies per year, but the franchise successes might greenlight an extra 2-3 non-franchise SF movies per year.

  8. John Picacio // May 11, 2009 at 7:36 am //

    I largely agree with Sqt’s take that a bad, but financially-successful film can inadvertently open the door for good film to happen.

    I enjoyed the Abrams STAR TREK film. It was a fun ride and I walked out with a smile. There’s nothing wrong with sf adventure shoot ‘em ups, with very little depth (not to mention very little science). However, I’m not about to hold this film up as a template I want to see duplicated 20x over for the betterment of science fiction. The best I can hope for is that the box office success of this film encourages studios to widen their nets and greenlight more science fiction, and in that process, I’m hoping that there are at least a couple of truly transcendant, sf classics birthed amongst the inevitable sea of reboots, retreads, and forgettables.

    STAR WARS’ 1977 success caused studios to say “hey, there’s money in sf….let’s cash in.” The overall result was a wave of shallow, derivative sf films. However, we got a few gems out of the deal. We have ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER thanks to STAR WARS, and not because the studios wanted to make provocative sf film, but because the right visionary at the right time (Ridley Scott in both cases) slipped through that fragile window and pushed the medium with an eye toward originality and quality just as much as entertainment. Along with that comes a lot of cinematic crap though, but I’m hoping a couple of visionary works that we never saw coming will have this STAR TREK to thank when it’s all said and done. I’m rooting for TREK’s success not because I think it’s great to put a facelift on the 20th century and offer it as fresh material to the 21st, but because I’m hoping fresh, original sf film that’s NOT a reboot of an old franchise now has a better chance to exist than it did a week ago. 

  9. More is always better than less. And more of everything means more quality too, even if it means more crap. And the more boxoffice science fiction films make, the more the mainstream will warm to the idea that SF *is* mainstream.

  10. “More is always better than less.”

    Two words Lou: “Laser Books”.

    Did D&D cause more people to read fantasy? Or did it generate a lot of D&D fantasy pastiches? Did SW cause people to go out and read Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein? Or did everyone go out and read…SW books?

    There will be some crossover and cross-pollination. But it’s just as likely it’ll just generate more ST books.

    I’d rather they figure out the difference between a “solar system” and a “galaxy”.

  11. Anonymous // May 11, 2009 at 11:04 am //

    I hope that what Lou said comes to pass, but so far more SF in movies and TV has not really translated into more Science Fiction readers. The sticking point is the level of science that A_Z thought was lacking in the movie: The emphasis on science that many readers want is not what many movie-goers want. Plenty of people are willing to spend 90 minutes watching  SF adventure, but few of those people will venture down the same aisle in the bookstore. I can hope that I’m wrong, though. Maybe new media tie-ins will be the gateway for new readers to branch out into other kinds of Science Fiction.

    That being said, this trend toward “re-imaginging” with both the Battlestar Galactica and now the new Star Trek ventures is the path I hope more “remakes” take. Both were fresh and edgy updates, while so many remakes tend to be just rehashing the same old thing.

  12. I’m with A-Z in agreeing that the new Star Trek, as much as I LOVED it, will not in and of itself generate new/original science fiction.  Like many who have answered already, I do not believe this is an ‘either, or’ choice.  There will no doubt be rip-offs, there always are, but that doesn’t mean that the success of the new Star Trek will be bad for SF.  Like Lou said, more is always better than less. The cream will rise to the top and the crap will….always be with us, unfortunately.  If networks like the Sci Fi Channel, or whatever they are calling themselves, continue to see some monetary value in cranking out low budget dreck then there will always be more of that than quality sci fi.  We’ve just got to quit watching it!

    I have mixed feelings about where I want to see Star Trek go in the future.  I do know that I would love to see another series on TV.  I didn’t watch DS9 in its original run and will forever regret it because I fell hard for it on DVD.  I also didn’t watch Enterprise.  With my recent love affair with DS9 and the excitement this film generated in me personally, I hate that a series isn’t already lined up to go on the air.  And with the….


    alternate universe issue out there the potential for new series is certainly wide open.  Before seeing the film, I felt that doing something either with these characters or in the Starfleet Academy universe wuld be too redundant.  We already know the history of various alien races, etc….where does the drama come from?  But now they can actually spin off in a variety of directions if they chose to do a series like this.  The potential is as exciting to think about as it is worrisome…it is so easy to screw things up!

    Here’s hoping for a worthy Star Trek sequel that will delight those of us who loved this one and will meet the expectations of those who wanted, and didn’t feel like they received, more and for a series that will still feel like Star Trek but be new and exciting and will attract fans old and new.

    I’m not asking for much, am I?


  13. It will certainly do good things for (loosely defined) SF film.  Every pitchman from Bollywood to California is going to rolling out something they describe as “just like Star Trek” (except cheaper to produce).

    Fred hit the nail on the head; all this will really do is continue to convince the marketers that they know what “science fiction” is and they’ll be looking to push the cheapest crap they can find out through the channels.

    Sure it will be good – for the non-genre ‘alternate reality’ version of science fiction:  more toys, more cartoons, more comics, more tv shows, more ‘based on the movie/tv show’ crappy novels taking over shelf space at Borders, more Spock/Kirk slash fic, and a ton of emo amateur drawings of Zachary Quinto as Spock, naked, in the shower.  (Wonder if Zach knew that was going to be one of his lasting legacies…?)

    Ted Sturgeon isn’t rolling over – he’s muttering “that’s EXACTLY what I was talking about”

  14. Um…because, unlike some of you awful people, *I* have not yet seen the film…I have skipped all the way down here to this typing box and not read ANY comments, out of terror of spoilers. So if I just blithely repeat what everyone else has said…that’s why. πŸ™‚


    I think that the success of Star Trek has always been a very good thing for the rest of science fiction, in that after a while, STAR TREK just becomes a piece of wallpaper that you stop noticing and take for granted. By that I mean…you don’t think “…and this is all thanks to Star Trek!” when you sit down to watch Galaxy Quest, or Battlestar Galactica, or quite a lot of the science fiction of the past twenty years. Hell, neither Firefly, nor Babylon 5, would have been possible if it weren’t for the wallpaper of Star Trek already being in place. Star Trek establishes a huge body of norms and says “this stuff is all all right to get into.”

    It’s like the Lord of the Rings. Or Harry Potter. It’s so successful and widespread that suddenly, it’s not so laughable to do OTHER children’s books. So we get Coraline, just as a recent example. Harry Potter is, in a lot ofways, the wallpaper that lets that happen. (of course, it and the Lord of the Rings were the wallpaper that let Eragon happen…but we forgive and forget…)

    So the success of Star Trek, if it succeeds, it terrific. We want it to explode. We want it to make trillions of bucks and everyone sees it four times and adores it and goes “Yeah, all right, it’s Star Trek…but what the hell, I LOVED it anyway!”

    And that means that in a year, when some young writer with a brilliant story set aboard a spaceship approaches movie studios…well, we’ve got a chance to see it.

    I really like space opera. I like starship drama, along the lines of Star Trek. I want another Star Trek series…but I’d also like Star Trek to be relevant and interesting enough that it’s suddenly kind of cool to make things along those lines. I really miss the world of SF that has Star Trek as a wallpaper (as evidenced, clearly, by me babbling about it for a week’s worth of articles). I want that back damn it.

    Actually, I just want twenty bucks and a babysitter so I can go see the film and stop living in mortal terror of spoilers from Teh Internetz. πŸ˜‰

  15. Mark McSherry // May 11, 2009 at 1:16 pm //

    There is an unacknowledged SF giant in all this cinematical talk. And his name is A. E. van Vogt.

    Gene Roddenberry acknowledged that his STAR TREK franchise was hugely influenced by the ASTOUNDING writings of van Vogt.

    ALIEN was a van Vogt rip-off of “Discord in Scarlet”.

    Alfred Elton van Vogt had a huge influence on Philip K. Dick. In the 25+ years since Dick’s death his writings have been optioned by Hollywood with several turned into actual product. Like TOTAL RECALL and MINORITY REPORT. And there is BLADERUNNER.

    So here’s hoping that Hollywood, in seeking to mine the green from a successful STAR TREK reboot, will realize the actual fount of their SF filmic successes— The works of Mr van Vogt.  And those writers he greatly influenced. 

    Imagine in the next few years… Coming to a theater near you—- 



  16. You and me Pete vs. all the awful people who’ve already seen Star Trek!

    As I read the comments here, it is readily apparent to me that the question in this challenge is very much like the ‘Is media tie-in fiction good for SF?’ question. The arguments for and against sound very similar and considering Star Trek is a source of said media tie-in fiction, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise.

    I would love for the new movie to generate a new wave of good SF on TV/film. I hadn’t thought in Lou’s terms before I read his comment, but it makes sense. The one thing I think won’t happen is a bunch of new SF fans just because of Star Trek. Case in point: Our very own Kevin took his son and his son’s friends to the movie on Friday. The verdict: They liked it a lot. But I asked Kevin if the boys might now be more interested in SF and he said no, but more Star Trek probably.

    I’m sure in the long run there will be some Trek converts who become SF fans. We should find a way to reach the other and try to change their minds, as hard as that will be.

  17. This reboot will only be successful for me if it spawns a new successful Star Trek TV series.


    We are in uncharted territory actually.

    The usual cycle is TV series with specific cast. Then if TV series is a big hit you may get a a few movies out of it.

    This Abrams Star Trek reboot is starting at movies and then…..  what????? Another movie? A TV series? What? Dubious.


  18. Mark: It was Alfred Bester, not van Vogt, who wrote “The Stars my Destination.” Although both Bester and van Vogt are gods among men. I’d love to see them mined for good movies. GOOD movies. Ideally with very little Tom Cruise or Michael Bay in ’em.

    JP: It’s GOOD, though, if Kevin’s sons are interested in more STar Trek but not in SF. That’s fine! Because what’ll happen, if I’m any indication, is that they might rampantly get into the franchise, devour lots of Star Trek stuff…faster than it’s being produced. And then what? Well, maybe they’ll go off and read some Star Trek novels. And then they’ll really dig this Diane Duane person, or whomever they’re reading, and go off to see what else she’s done. And before they know it, wham, they’re wondering where to put THIS freshly-bought batch of classic SF books.

    Rampant Star TRek fans won’t STAY in Star Trek. I hope.

  19. Mark McSherry // May 11, 2009 at 4:45 pm //

    I agree Pete! I know that Alfred Bester wrote THE STARS MY DESTINATION. But there would not have been a STARS without van Vogt’s two NULL-A novels from the 1940’s.

    Van Vogt’s fix-up THE VOYAGE OF THE SPACE BEAGLE is often credited as the inspiration for the original STAR TREK. But his later fix-up MISSION TO THE STARS is even more Star-Trekky. With matter transmission, a female starship captain, human/robots, interstellar storms, and political intrigue all thrown into the mix!

  20. Mark: Ohhh, all right, I just misunderstood the Bester/van Vogt connection you were making. VERY true, though! And now I really, really want to find a copy of “Mission to the Stars”

    I’m already a van Vogt fan (he is seriously underappreciated), so I love the thought of a Van Vogt Star Trek story.

  21. I think that what Trek will generate will be more sf born of the optimism that IS Trek. I look at the people who came up on it, and we’re — dreamers. Believers.  I think what will happen is that we will cycle slowly away, at least for a while, from death and dystopias, and lift our eyes to the sky.

    That’s what I think. That’s what I hope. And what I *believe* is that it will be good for all of us.

  22. BlaqueSaber // May 11, 2009 at 9:48 pm //

    I would argue that, like many other Sci-Fi staples of the twentieth century, Star Trek has left its mark on Sci-Fi just as Sci-Fi has left its mark on Star Trek.  There’s a little Star Trek in lots of different science fiction projects.  In my opinion J.J. used this to his example by scaling down the Star Trek mythos just enough to make it new user friendly.

    Lots of different medias do this [Comic Books do it all the time].

    I think its good for both Star Trek and Sci-Fi.

  23. Weyland Yutani // May 11, 2009 at 11:12 pm //

    When the year is done, you also have to evaluate the success of films like Avitar, District 9, Surrogates, 9, Moon, Pandorium, and a few others.  To put it all on this Star Trek would be extremely narrow.

    Perhaps, as a composite of all of these films, a few movies that have been talked about for a while, will get a big push to enter production.  Instead of sitting on various properties that have already been optioned, studios will get a little more proactive.  If all of these films find some level of success, it can only secure better odds that we will someday see filmed versions of favorite stories.   All of a sudden Ender starts looking more attractive, Forever War gets pushed forward, Altered Carbon begins casting for Tak Kovacs, and Old Man’s War looks plenty attractive for box office.

    In older business plans, the success of SF may not have lead to more fans and more films, but it’s easy to see that when today’s Hollywood finds a magic formula (forget if it’s truly magical or not) they will run it as hard as possible.  Look no further than the treatment that comic superheros have gotten since the success of Spiderman and now, the Batman refresh.   Horror remakes?  Zing.  It’s easy to extrapolate where the stories may be coming from if the 2009 film slate pans out.  Science Fiction — big and little.

    The biggest question will be which potential universe should become the next big thing among all the little things that get made.

    Will my nephews start reading SF?  You never know, but one thing is certain, accesible science fiction will always be the stronger gateway drug.   Like any reader, it takes a lot of steps to get to the headier stuff as part of their entertainment.  Once “what” leads to “why”, the deeper stuff will have a window.

  24. Mark McSherry // May 12, 2009 at 12:48 am //

    Pete: Five dollars and a brief download will give you the three 1940’s ASTOUNDING stories that van Vogt would later “fix-up” (in 1952) as THE MIXED MEN aka MISSION TO THE STARS.

    One of the tales, “The Mixed Men”, was the featured cover art story for the January 1945 issue of Astounding. It shows a spacesuited man making a ‘space dive’ to the planet below— 

  25. sam davis // June 27, 2009 at 9:40 pm //

    Who cares if it’s good for SF as a whole.  As far as I’m concerned there’s only one SF anyway.  Star Trek.   Nothing else matters.   

    As you were.  That’s not totally true.  I’d like to see them do Superman again so that we can forget about the dismal failure that Superman Returns was.  The X-men series is fun,  I’d like to see a Justice League of America or Legion of Super heroes as well.   Ahhh, what the heck?   Any super hero movie works for me.

    But in this trekkie’s humble opinion,  you can never go wrong with Star Trek however it manifests.

    Live long and prosper.

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