So the trailer for the sequel to JJTrek is on the horizon, they’ve announced that they are going to release 9 minutes of IMAX footage before The Hobbit all Chris Nolan style, and I’ve had to have this conversation more times than I’ve ever wanted to. See, I used to be a Star Trek fan. My friends know this. They’ve come over to my house and seen my tricorder replica signed my Leonard Nimoy himself, my USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) model signed by the entire bridge crew and my Horga’hn signed by Sir Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Armin Shimerman.
They know about my Starfleet Battles gaming and attempts to run Artemis crew sessions. They know how I can quote whole passages of dialogue from memory and know the episodes by name. They are perplexed when I don’t really care about ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’. They ask, “Didn’t you like the 2009 Star Trek movie?” To them, it is the best Star Trek film ever made and is mana from heaven. My answer is always, “No, I didn’t like it.” To which I’m always dismissed as just an old hardcore fanboy set in his ways and unable to embrace the future. This always devolves into me trying to defend my viewpoint by trying to point out that the 2009 Trek, which I will heretofore reference as JJTrek, just isn’t Star Trek. I try to explain that if they actually paid attention to it they’d see that beneath the thin veneer of pew-pew-pew and shiny lens flares, the film isn’t very good.
Well, I’m tired of having that conversation. In fact, I’m making a promise to myself that after this blog post, I’ll never have that conversation again. Because it is like politics, I’ll never change their minds, and they’ll never change mine. Now some folks would argue that if folks like a movie why should I try to convince them otherwise After all, their enjoyment of a thing can’t lessen my enjoyment of a thing right? In most cases, yeah. I’m right there with you. Lots of people adore the film “Armageddon”. I think it is one of the worst offenses ever to be put on celluloid. But then I adore the original vision of Milius’ Conan the Barbarian, a film a lot of people dismiss as tripe. I’ll be the first to admit that I love a lot of bad stories and hate a lot of good ones. With Star Trek though, it is kind of different. Because JJTrek is not Star Trek. And let me get this out of the way quickly here, I don’t think that JJTrek is the worst thing to happen to Trek or the worst film or even episode. That dubious honor goes to Insurrection or The Final Frontier.
It brought new fans and breathed new life into the franchise!
A lot of folks always point out that the one in-arguably good thing that JJTrek did, is that it brought in new fans and brought new life into the franchise. It did. After Berman and Braga had sucked the last drop of life out of the older franchise and taken it off life support Star Trek needed new blood. The ugly truth a lot of Trekkies (myself among them) have a hard time admitting is that Star Trek hasn’t been good for a long time. It needed a boost. It needed new blood. But Star Trek, in all its incarnations has always been about science fiction, morality plays reflecting on the human condition (sometimes crude, sometimes deftly done), and about solid characters. JJTrek doesn’t have any of these. So JJTrek brought in new fans, but the new fans actually wouldn’t like the original franchise at all for the most part.
An atypical episode of Buffy
To make a strange analogy imagine that Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Glee were actually on the air at the same time. Fans will know that Buffy did a great episode that was done entirely as a musical. Only, in our altered timeline, Buffy is doing this episode in order to grab new audience members from Glee. The Glee audience tunes in and loves the musical Buffy episode. Original fans like it too, because it is different and fresh and quirky and funny. But the musical episode gets such a bump in ratings that the network now wants every single Buffy episode to be a musical. The Glee audience sticks around. But do you see what that does to the original Buffy fans? It changed their show. Sure a lot would stick around and watch. But a lot wouldn’t. Because while the Glee fans liked the musical episode of Buffy, the Buffy fans, although they liked the musical episode, didn’t watch Glee. So when Buffy turns into Glee that’s kind of a loss for them. (In my made up alternate timeline…Buffy fans don’t watch Glee. I have no idea what happens in real life.)
A more typical episode of Buffy
So to close up the analogy, I would argue that fans of JJTrek that came into Star Trek because of JJTrek, aren’t much going to like the older Star Trek episodes. You know, the ones that had plot and story and thinly veiled allegories about the human condition through tales of somewhat cerebral and sometimes campy science fiction.
But now since audiences have voted with their wallets and JJTrek has come out the victor, I don’t think we’re ever going to get those thoughtful science fiction stories that defined Star Trek while JJ is in the captain’s chair and Orci and Kurtzman are on the bridge crew. So yeah, it breathed in new life. But to me, it’s like JJTrek is the Star Trek that should have never been buried in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Because the Trek that came back from the dead is somehow…not Star Trek at all. While that team is in control, Trek will make lots of money. But that team is absolutely incapable of producing stories on the same level of City on the Edge of Forever, The Inner Light, or The Visitor.
When I originally envisioned this post it was going to be a laundry list of everything I thought was wrong with JJTrek. My friends are kind of expecting it, and dare I say, looking forward to it. It was going to be in full on fanboy nerd-rage mode. But a funny thing happened while I wrote the first draft. While I was reflecting on it, I found that I haven’t liked Star Trek for a long time. I have friends that are just getting into the fandom aspect of Trek now – post JJTrek. They want me to come down to conventions and signings and midnight shows. I can’t do that anymore. I got that out of my system decades ago. I still do that for other franchises (you can bet I’ll be there at 12:01 for “The Hobbit”) but not for Trek.
I really started to think about it and I stopped liking Trek about when DS9 had a huge buildup to a battle and then the creatures in the wormhole stopped it. It started a trend with me and Trek of anticipation and inevitable disappointment. While I liked TNG, I didn’t care for any of their films. I watched Voyager only sporadically and since the producers of Enterprise couldn’t be troubled to watch their own show, then neither could I. I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen The Wrath of Khan or The Search for Spock or even The Voyage Home and The Undiscovered Country. But I can tell you with certainty how many times I’ve seen all the other movies and they are all in the low single digits.
I thought it might just be because I’m growing older and I reflected with horror that I might have outgrown my beloved Star Trek. I went down to my prop collection and marveled at my Enterprise models and I wondered where my passion for the series went. Was it just a phase? Where had my love for Trek gone? I could almost hear Doctor McCoy saying, “Get it back before you turn into part of this collection. Before you really do grow old.” So I thought I would re-watch The Wrath of Khan to see how it held up. But then I thought that wasn’t a fair test. I’ve always loved that movie. I went with some old episodes.
I popped in The Enterprise Incident and quickly followed it up with A Piece of the Action. Great stuff! The first was as great as I remembered and the second was just as campy and goofy and fun as it had ever been. (I forgot about the part where Kirk bit his knuckle in consternation and it made me laugh spontaneously. It was a great surprise.) So yeah, I haven’t outgrown Trek. I still love TOS as much as I ever did. I still like the TNG episodes and a lot of DS9. JJTrek and it’s sequels can do nothing to stop that. But will I go see Star Trek Into Darkness? Nope. Turns out, it’s not the version of Star Trek that I like.
So if I have to like JJTrek to still be a Star Trek fan, then, I hate to say it, but I’m not a Star Trek fan anymore. I’m just a guy who loves The Original Series, The Next Generation, a lot of Deep Space 9, and the crew of a strange spaceship called Enterprise. I’m a fan of the crew of that ship exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations and boldly going where no one has gone before. I’m a fan of a science-fiction show that has great characters and fantastic stories.
I like this.
I’m not a fan of frenetic hyper-animated, plot-hole-ridden, superficial pew-pew nonsense where beloved characters are reduced to catchphrase spewing cardboard cutouts and where nothing makes sense the second you stop to think about it.
not this…(except when Willy Wonka is involved)
or this…(when it is supposed to be a starship engine room)
and especially not this…
Peace and Long Life.
Had to add this because they did it and it sums up most of what is wrong so succinctly: