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Revisiting Star Trek [Part 7 of 7]: The New Trek Reboot

[NOTE: This is the seventh essay in Pete Tzinski’s 7-part series leading up to the premiere of the new Star Trek film. See also: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.]

(It’s the final countdown! Well, the rest of the week was the final countdown. It’s counted down now. The new film is upon us. There are lines outside of the theater, my cereal box has a cutout Star Trek poster on it (yes, I am cutting it out), I cannot go thirty seconds without seeing a commercial for the film, and I’ve been whistling the theme to The Next Generation all day. It’s make or break time. Let’s talk about the final piece of this week-long puzzle…)

It’s a big deal, this new Star Trek film, and one doesn’t have to be any sort of Trekkie to realize that. It’s a big deal that we’re starting over from scratch, replacing all the classic characters with new actors, changing how the Enterprise NCC-1701 looks, and rebuilding it all from the ground up, with a director who is a bit of a celebrity-director right now. It’s being treated as a big summer movie meant for everyone rather than just Star Trek fans.

It’s a big deal.

Some people are being put off by the trailers and bits of information that have leaked. Some people are unsure of these new actors, stepping into the shoes of familiar characters. Are unsure of the inside of the Enterprise (someone described it, memorably, as the USS Apple Store, and I chuckle and see why). Some people worry that it’s going to be “Mission Impossible in Space.”

Truthfully, the only concern I share is that last one. I do worry, from the trailers I’ve seen, that this one will be non-stop action from beginning to end. And the reason I worry about that is, if you don’t have the character moments, the human moments, then it loses any semblance of a Star Trek film.

I am all in favor of a functioning reboot of the franchise, if that’s what it needs. And it does need it. The basic formula hasn’t changed since The Next Generation, but the world around us has, and there’s no reason for Star Trek not to advance.

However, at the same time, it does have to keep hold of those human elements I mentioned. Otherwise, it’s a whole different creature running around with the same name.

What do I want to see this film do?

Succeed, mostly. And not be insular. I very much want people to say “I’m not a Trekkie or anything, but it looks good, so I want to go see it,” in much the same way that Christopher Nolan took Batman far beyond the realms of comic book geekery. I want a widespread popular audience, because if Star Trek appeals only to a closed-off crowd of fans, that’s no good for anyone. It should be a big deal, all across the board.

I want this film to do well enough that we get sequels. But also, I really want this film to do well enough that maybe someone says “let’s do another Star Trek TV series.” Because I really miss that. And furthermore, I want this film to do so astonishingly well that the theaters begin to fill up again with all sorts of Trek-rip-off films set on spaceships. Because I miss those too. They went away when Star Trek stopped being pertinent, stopped being a big enough deal that they could slip in around the edges. I love a whole range of science fiction, but I adore space operas and things set on starships in deep space, and I want more of that, damn it.

Mostly, I just hope that this film matters to people.

What are the odds of all this happening?

Well, I don’t know. It’s a horse race, really. I will point out a couple of things to bear in mind, though.

First of all: trailers are terribly deceptive things. They are taking a film and molding it down into a couple of minutes of sound bites, to appeal to the maximum possible audience. They don’t always have a lot of relation to the film.

An example of this is well outside of science fiction. To watch the trailer for Be Kind, Rewind leaves you thinking that this is going to be a goofy Jack Black film in which he spoofs other movies in a dumb, low-budget way. But watching the film, one is surprised to find that actually, it’s a quiet and touching story about a poor black neighborhood, and how it comes together. Jack Black is almost irrelevant to the story. So do you see what I mean? These trailers might be action-packed and yet actually show all the action sequences from the new film. It could wind up being a character study.

Second of all: A lot of my doubts went away when I went to the web-site and watched a handful of scenes that they have put online. There’s a scene in which Karl Urban, as Doctor Leonard McCoy, rants at Kirk about the dangers of outer space. And the most amazing thing was…he was an absolute spot-on Leonard McCoy. From the slight tremble in his voice, to the arched eyebrow, to the ranting. He was very, very good. Another scene shows us a very interesting Mister Spock, and a very enjoyable Scotty (played by Simon Pegg, who is always a delight). The only one I’m left unsure of is Chris Pine as James Kirk. But the fact that the other characters are being handled so well leaves me with a lot of faith.

And beyond that…all we can do is go see it. All other talk is just speculating and ruminating. We may as well wait to see the film and then form opinions.

And thus, there’s nothing left for me to say except thank you, for following me as I wandered through not only all of the pieces of Star Trek, but my own memories. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you go see the new film with as open a mind as possible. Look for the good bits, rather than dreading and expecting the bad bits. Encourage all your friends to go see it. Let’s try to make it a big enough splash that it gets us a new series, some new films, and all of that.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go stand in line. Now that I’ve finished cutting out this poster from the back of the cereal box.

About Peter Damien (33 Articles)
Peter Damien is a busy writer who lives in Minnesota because he just really likes frigid temperatures and mosquitoes. He lives in the crawl-spaces between heaps of books and can be seen scurrying out at dusk to search for food and ALL the TEA. His wife and two boys haven't figured out how to get him out of the house, so they put up with him. He as astonishing hair.

8 Comments on Revisiting Star Trek [Part 7 of 7]: The New Trek Reboot

  1. I’ve heaped hate on this movie from the first rumors of a reboot.

    It’s not because I think this will be a explosion-filled rollercoaster mockery of my fondest childhood memories (but it will be).

    It’s that Star Trek is so much bigger than Kirk and Spock, and that if this reboot has any kind of traction, those two will be sucking the life out of the rest of the universe — from San Francisco to the furthest reaches of the Gamma Quadrant — for the next six years.

  2. I’ve got a long personal history with Trek. Apart from growing up with it, I moved to LA after having dinner with Brannon Braga and being invited out to take his writers’ workshop, I worked for Star Trek Monthly for five years, I’ve spent hours on the sets of Deep Space Nine and Voyager and new most of the writer-producers and a lot of the actors from that time. And part of me is very sad at the idea of a reboot. One of the things that Trek shares in common with very few other properities (Star Wars and Doctor Who among them) is the huge history, the extended cast and storyline. It’s an enormous universe, and that universe is an asset that other science fiction properties don’t have, and I hate like Jeff above to see it chunked. Surely, Doctor Who has demonstrated that you can completely reboot a franchise, and broaden its appeal enormously, without chunking one bit of continuity.  (The only difference between old Who and new Who is quality – the quality of writing, acting, filming – because it’s straight continuity with the old show.) And part of me thinks that if JJ Abrams produced a Trek that looked just like this, with this level of action and special effects, but the young human captain and his Vulcan sidekick had different names – new names for a new ship – it would do just as well.

    But then I think about the utter absurdity of sending an away team down with nothing but limited radio contact, of early ship to ship communication that didn’t even have a visual component, of how my iPhone does more than Spock’s tricorder, and I realize that the future has caught up with Trek and surpassed it, and a square one reboot may not be such a bad thing. Add to this the way that Trek was limping along for so many years, from about the mid-point of Voyager onwards. It really was a dying franchise. And with the level of quality that is out there now (or at least perceived quality, in terms of the look/feel of things like Battlestar Galactica, etc…), the world really has moved past the look & feel of old Trek. That stuff still exists for me, but I’m not sure it’s going to hold much appeal to my son when he’s got so much that’s new to choose from. And as Roberto Orci said in a recent interview, you’ll notice your DVDs don’t disappear the day the new film opens.

    I think the new film looks amazing in the trailers. And everyone from Wil Wheaton to Robert J Sawyer to Andy Diggle are tweeting and blogging about how good it is. And I’m getting excited. And it would be a huge boon for science fiction if big, space opera films became mainstrean in the way that comic books have recently. If Star Trek, one of the most stigmatized properties out there, becomes cool – we’re going to see a huge flood of genuine SF on screens, and that’s a future I’m excited about living in.


  3. Much of the community’s initial reaction to any changes made to our beloved shows/books is one of shock, insult and prediction of failure.  (BSG, for example: “They’re remaking a third-rate Star Wars rip-off?  And Starbuck is a woman?!?” )  But to Lou’s point about accessibility (and not specifically restricted to Trek), I welcome the possibility of expanding science fiction to new audiences. 

    Look, when my son – who thinks Trek is for geeks – is excited about going to see the new Trek film, then I think the film has already done something that few scifi films do: it’s attracting a new audience.  Maybe this is a Trek a new generation.  But what’s so bad about that?  I can enjoy both old-school and new-school Trek.

  4. Matte Lozenge // May 7, 2009 at 6:16 pm //

    From the previews I’ve read, it’s about as good as Iron Man. And that means people will be entertained, and the film won’t really matter to people. That’s good enough for me — I’m going to see it.

  5. David B. // May 7, 2009 at 8:56 pm //

    I saw it – I wasn’t amazed by the look – I was amazed at how much the production design draws attention to itself… I was more amazed at how inconsiquential the whole thing was, espcially after the story derails early in the second act (like the worst of Enterprise) when an old-school actor appears for inexplicable reasons.

    It’s what I’d call a movie for the-rest-of-them.  It’s certainly very poor Star Trek and it’s not very good Sci-Fi – – just action, often simply for actions sake.  If Paramount wanted to make Mission Impossible: 2319, why didn’t they instead of bastardizing a well established creation?  This certainly isn’t going back to Star Trek‘s roots ala James Bond.

    It just really reminds me of Speed Racer with only slightly better writing and prettier actors – but it has the same soulless center. It lacks the inspiration and heart of the original in favor of flash, noise, and sequel-itis.  It has all the story and internal logic problems, and irrelevance I now expect from Abrams projects (science fantasy, no pretense of science fiction) in favor of senseless noise and violence and corporate greed.

    It’s an afront to Roddenberry and his vision of science fiction that had something optimistic to say about our future as individuals, a society, and a species.

    I think I’ll ride my motorcycle to a dust-pit where a star ship is under construction – who can speculate that science future much less write it down with any seriousness?  My five year old nephew, that’s who…

  6. John hit the nail on the head. I should have emphasized that point better. When the people who think Trek-is-for-geeks go “…but it looks pretty cool, so I’ll go see it,” then THAT is when the movie is a potential success.  Star Trek can previously have all the realism, coherency, deep writing, and whatever else it wants…but if it is insular to a level where no one’s going to come in, then it is completely useless.

    I want a Star Trek that grabs a wide audience. I want it to go beyond “Trekkies.” And if Abrahms can make it COOL again, triffic. If, as mentioned, a third-rate Star Wars knock-off SF series can be cool for everyone to watch without being declared a dweeb…likewise, LOST, likewise, Heroes (the idea stands, even if you have to be a vegetable to actually watch Heroes) or Fringe…if you can watch these and not be some sort of SF Trekkie dweeb…then there is no reason why Star Trek should not achieve the same.

    Frankly, I think we live in a strange and tricky enough time that we could really USE a Star Trek that optimistically talks about a better, brighter future. Because we’ve lost track of that.

    Mostly, I really want more Star Trek on my TV, damn it.

    Um. And a babysitter, so I can go see the new film.

    Um. And a bank loan so I can afford the eleven billion dollar movie ticket.

  7. Voidman // May 11, 2009 at 6:40 pm //

    I saw it last night and… not that my critical opinion matters in any way but still, my two cents. No sooner than a minute into the film a thought exploded in my head: “No friggin way they’ll use a ginormous Romulan super-death-star equivalent as a plot device!, Haven’t they just done it already?!” Shortly after I decided to just go with the flow and succumb to the action-fx-euphoria while the plot gradually disintegrated along the way.
    The most surprising of all is that despite that I enjoyed the whole romp tremendously.

    In between high-octane CGI magic I did my best to concentrate on the characters and while somewhat lacking and unpolished I liked their performance. Their attempts to emulate the original predecessors even if ridiculously forced at times (I’m thinking K.Urban’s rendering of McCoy trade-mark exasperation fun to watch nevertheless) were unobtrusive and I would go as far as to take their portrayal to be a worthy homage. I cannot decide if Quinto did a good job. I felt he looked a tad too hapless sometimes but maybe that was the idea. Yelchin as Checkov does a fine job providing an effortless comic relief. Same for Pegg who does a solid job no doubt about it, but Scotty he ain’t, lacking Doohan’s stature and charisma somewhat. Saldana’s Uhura brings a touch of grace and girl-power while batting her eyelashes in most remarkable fashion. Cho’s Sulu could have been given a tad more screen time but can’t be complaining here. Finally, Pine captures the bravado and cockiness and I want to like his work here, and I do. The crew is okay I’m buying this not feeling cheated. But, then there is the not so good. The biggest disappointment for me is Bana. He is clearly out of his element but I suspect that this IS the character he was given, I simply can’t see what they were trying to achieve there. I’m not a huge fan of his acting but the guy’s got potential in heaps and that is just wasted. While I’m at it, can somebody explain what the heck is with the Romulans these days? Where is the convoluted underhand, clandestine scheming villainy? Are they supposed to be the new Klingons or something? I just don’t get it.

    Anyhow, inconsistencies galore but the action hardly ever allows for a breather. In fact, I found it tricky to identify all the travesties being constantly bombarded with suspense. That’s probably why I left the cinema with a smile – that and a certain accompanying female who clearly over﷓indulged by the spectacle slipped a laconic remark: “It’s better then Star Wars.” Clearly too much for some minds that new Star Trek. I just about got my fix though and as long as one is prepared to ignore incoherent story it might even be considered very stimulating.

    I’m not deceived however and no SF follower should be either. Discard the grandeur and eye-candy to find that Star Trek 2009 appears to be a wasted opportunity. It is an attempt for this film to be Star Trek AND everything else. Perhaps it succeeds, but somehow deep in the Trekkie part of my soul, I feel that the STAR TREK bit got buried somewhere along the way never to blossom.

  8. I’m really not happy with this. I guess people will argue that since the film was successful it’s the best thing for the series, but I just couldn’t take this film at all. I really tried, but it absolutely destroyed me to watch this. First off, it’s a huge hurdle for me to accept the new actors.  I don’t like them.  It’s nothing personal, but they’re replacing Star Trek icons dating back 40 years, and they looked like a bunch of “myspacies”.  What I would have loved to have seen instead…  A daring, new Star Trek film with all new characters!  No cameos from Enterprise, no Spock Prime, no 7 of 9.  Just all new characters in a great new story.  They’ve never tried that.  All of the Trek films were spawned from the TV shows, and it would be great to see something original.  This of course brings me to the complaint of unoriginality, or the “prequel concept”.  Prequels have run amock in Hollywood due to a lack of creativity and an overabundance of greed.  I don’t know about everybody else, but when I hear “prequel”, I’m immediately disappointed.  Let’s face it, it’s like watching Titanic.  We already know the ending!  Unfortunately, the lack of forsight in Hollywood is also on the rise.  The new “sequel” to this “prequel” has already been announced, labeled Star Trek 2, no less!  I think I liked Star Trek 2 better the first time when it was called The Wrath of Kahn.  Round and round we spin.

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