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Star Trek: Into Cannon Darkness

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big closet Star Trek fan, but with the baby on the way it took a little more than a week to get into theaters and fulfill my Trekie obligation of seeing Into Darkness.  I left the movie mostly satisfied, but came to a realization: this movie is really tied down by mythos and cannon, and it definitely got in the way of the story.

I’ll admit that I was pretty excited to think that they were going to do a “Khan” story. I have a soft spot in my heart for “alternate histories” (a la the Age of Apocalypse, the New 52, or even Yesterday’s Enterprise), and I thought it would be interesting to see how Khan would be developed in this post-Vulcan Trek universe.  However it became pretty apparent that in the writers room went something like this:

“Ok, we’re going to remake the Wrath of Khan.”

“Wait a minute, who said we were going to remake the movie? I thought that we were telling a new story!”

“No, we are, but people expect to see Wrath of Kahn, so I made this list of nostalgic things from the Wrath of Khan that we need to see in this movie.  Let’s put these things in the movie – this is where we want to end up. Now figure out how we get there.”

“…”

I’m sure the remake checklist had the following items in it:

  • Someone needs to scream “KHHAAAAAAN!”
  • Spock Kirk needs to die, let’s get in the “needs of the many” line
    • In fact, let’s make sure the death involves getting the mains back on line
    • Also let’s get Scotty there talking about radiation flooding
  • Lets get 2 Marcus’ in there: Carol and preferably the son, but if the son’s not available – then her dad.
  • Don’t forget Section 31, because they weren’t so secret after all.

They started there, then filled in the blanks to round out the story, counting how many times they can wink to the audience with mentions of Harry Mudd and Tribbles.

Look, I appreciate the callbacks.  The older (and more married) I get, the less opportunities I have to watch Star Trek, so I love opportunities to geek out. That said: you can talk about “a reboot” all you want, but Star Trek now has even more baggage than ever.  At least before they had to worry about the mythos and history of Trek, but now they need to figure out how they can recycle the same stories and keep the interest of all the Trekies.  You’re letting it get in the way of good story-telling, and before you know it you’ll accomplish the very thing you wanted to avoid with a reboot – alienating casual fans. Right now I’m dreading the “Genesis” references that the next movie will bring.

Trek writers & producers: please don’t worry about ruining my childhood. Through Netflix and my DVD collection, I can go relive those moments when I yearn for nostalgic Trek. Instead, just write a good story. Use some or even no past Trek characters, but if you’re looking for somewhere to begin: start with a compelling villain.

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Star Trek is back!

Note: This post may consider some spoilers

Yesterday I managed to make some time to see the new Star Trek movie, and was completely blown away!  Over the last decade, Star Trek has endured black eye after black eye between the last two movies, as well as the way Enterprise sputtered into cancelation. When I heard the news of the movie, I was just grateful that we’d have some incarnation of Star Trek.  Essentially the bar was set very low, but Abrams not only met the bar, but raised it another mile!  With one movie Abrams accomplished something the makers of the other 10 movies could not: make Star Trek appeal to mainstream without sacrificing the principles that Trek fans hold so dear.

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Abrams accomplished this by rebooting the series, but in a way that bridged the connections between old Trek and this new Trek.  Unlike movies like Batman Begins and The Hulk which pretended those movies never existed, Abrams found a way to break the precious Star Trek continuity and paved the way to create new stories for our favorite characters.  Is this an alternate reality, or is the Trek timeline permanently altered?  This is an issue that I’ll let people geekier than I debate, but I am glad that Star Trek has cleared the canvas for future movies.

The decision to reboot an franchise as established as Trek was probably not one taken lightly, but was made respectfully.  This was made in the various ways that homage was paid to the staples of Star Trek.  I love how a guy got red-shirted, and how they incorporated the old sound effects from the original TV show.  There were also little pieces of nostalgia that were fed to fans (like Khan’s bug that wraps around cerebral cortex)

I thought the most difficult hurdle for the actors was going to be accepting the new actors as their beloved characters.  Initially I had difficulty in the adjustment, but half-way through the movie something clicked and they all started to work.  Chris Pine suddenly exhibited the Kirk-like characteristics, and the lines he spoke brought back memories of Kirk.  With the exception of Spock (which I’ll get to in one moment), all of the cast members did a wonderful job playing into the role of their characters.  When I watched Superman Returns, I thought that Brandon Routh didn’t play Superman as much as he played Christopher Reeve playing Superman.  In Star Trek, the actors went the opposite route: rather than try to portray the original actors, they portrayed the characters. Pine didn’t try to be William Shatner, he tried to be Captain Kirk.  I also thought McCoy was spot-on.  Spock was the exception however, and it’s no fault of Zachary Quinto’s acting ability – it has everything to do with his popularity.  Quinto’s role as Sylar in Heroes, a cult sci-fi series, simply makes it that much more difficult to disassociate the actor from the character.  Maybe Quinto should publish a book called I Am Not Sylar to help things along (a bad attempt at Trekie humor).  Still, we can warm up to Spock.

I’m already looking for a good excuse to go back and see Star Trek again, but the truth is that you don’t need a good reason to see the movie. Just go see it! However you feel about Star Trek, you’ll enjoy it!

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Sad News: Star Trek The Experience Closing

Got the sad news by reading Wil Wheaton’s blog (who got it from Wired):

Offering a sad commentary on the state of the Star Trek franchise, the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas will shut down Star Trek : The Experience this fall.

Part simulator, part environment, part museum and (of course) part gift shop/restaurant, the Experience opened 10 years ago during the height of popularity for the Star Trek: The Next Generation movies.

But, the exhibit isn’t drawing the fans it once did — just as the franchise is fading off the public radar. While J.J. Abrams is hustling to save Star Trek on the big screen, it’s too late to save it in Vegas.

I had the opportunity to go see Star Trek: the Experience last summer when I went to Vegas.  As a Trekie, I was basically a kid in a candy store.  If you get a chance to swing by Vegas before September 1, be sure to stop by the Hilton in Vegas and check this out.  I’m not sure what the Hilton is going to replace The Experience when it goes away. The Hilton is off the strip and aside from being close to the convention center, it doesn’t have much else going for it.

Just more signs that a franchise that’s such a big part of my life is on life support – Damn you Rick Berman!

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When Star Trek went wrong

You may know that I am a quasi-closet Trekie.  I’ve been a Star Trek fan since I was 10 years old and have watched all of the movies and episodes from all 5 different series countless times.  In fact, I pop in one of the DVD’s and kill at least 1 episode before bed-time each night (currently I’m bouncing back & forth between Season 6 of DS9 and Season 1 of Voyager).

While I am a big Star Trek fan, I’m not a Trek Koolaid drinker.  I would actually consider myself a skeptical Trek fan.  Not every episode is a great episode – in fact, there were some pretty crappy episodes.  I have respect for Rick Berman and what he means to Star Trek, but I also firmly believe he’s responsible for running the franchise into the ground and why there’s currently no Trek on TV.  I’m also glad that he’s nowhere near the 2009 movie project.

Some of these episodes were isolated, but then again some of them represented the point-of-no-return for the series, leading to a “ho-hum” burnout.  After watching as much Star Trek as I have, I think I have a good sense of possible indicators to the point of no return for many of the series.  This is completely subjective, and I actually would encourage anyone to offer their own opinions. Maybe you have a different opinion on the episode/season/timeframe, or you could disagree that the series made a turn for the worse.

TOS

SpocksBrain This one was most difficult for me, largely due to my relative unfamiliarity with the series.  We also have to take the fact that virtually all 60’s TV was campy into consideration as well.  I’m going to take the easy road out and take a swipe at “Spock’s Brain“.  While this episode is consensually considered the worst TOS ever, this pick is based on the fact it was the season 3 premier.  After reading the Star Trek Memories book that William Shatner wrote, this was the first episode after the circumstances that took place before the season: the move to bad time-slot, the budget cuts and the way Roddenberry’s hands were so tied he felt forced to leave the show.  The movies obviously rebounded the series, and while there was a roller-coaster of good and bad TOS movies, the series ultimately ended on a strong note with Undiscovered Country.

TNG

This is also difficult because the series was so good and arguably enabled the green light for the subsequent series’.  I don’t mean to sound like a TNG fanboy, but I don’t really think the show suffered any kind of downward spiral – at least not in their TV run.  The first season was a bit hokey, but you can’t hold any first season (of any series) to the fire.  The spiral did unfortunately met it’s demise on the big-screen, in the form of Insurrection.  The plot of the movie could have been passable, had it not been for the lame dialog.  Part of the reasons TNG movies struggled was because they were completely Picard-centric, to the detriment of all other characters.

DS9

CordiallyInvited This one is easy: Season 6 “You Are Cordially Invited…“.  It wasn’t that this episode necessarily bad, it was just the first episode that wasn’t good in DS9.  The Dominion was the best and worst thing that happened to DS9.  Many would argue that the Dominion gave DS9 a purpose, but at the same time it really pigeon-holed the whole series.  It seemed that after the writers had the crew return back to the station, they often wanted to forget that the show revolved around the war – implausible for a space station that was supposed to be in the thick of things.  True, the latter part of Season 6 brought us “In the Pale Moonlight” – one of the best episodes ever – but we still can’t forget that 9-episode mess that was the end of the 7th season.  The ending of the web site just seemed forced.

Voyager

Voyager did the roller-coaster for a majority of it’s run, but had more strong episodes than weak ones.  However, any episode that had to do with the Borg tarnished the Trek legacy.  It’s disappointing that the writers of Voyager took arguably the greatest foe in Trek and relegated them to mediocrity.  The episode that drove the nail into the Borg coffin was the finale: Endgame.  If there was anything more mistreated in Voyager than the Borg was temporal paradoxes, especially involving not-really-alternate-future-but-should-have-been-erased-from-time-after-altering-the-past Admiral Janeway.

Enterprise

Xindi The Xindi, which started the serialization of a once-promising series.  Serial dramas like Lost and 24 worked for a lot of shows, but not for Trek – DS9 taught us that.  At the same time, we saw this drastic change of the show, where Archer went from being a fledgling explorer to a crazed madman, shooting from the hip and basing all of his actions on revenge.  By the time everyone realized this in Season 4 it was too late and the series was already canceled.  It was a shame, as the 4th season offered compelling material. If left many Trekies wondering why they didn’t trot this stuff out during the troubled second and third seasons.  The problem with Enterprise was that Paramount placed it on the crappy UPN.  Voyager barely survived the removal from syndication that made TNG & DS9 popular.  I realize syndication is not what it once was, but part of me believes that Enterprise would still be on the air if it was syndicated or even on a cable network.

Where did I go wrong?  Please let me know!

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