This is a touchy subject; however, I have to to clear something up. Trekkies are not going to enjoy every Star Trek “anything” ever made. Having said this, no one should assume that a Trekkie will like the not-so-new Star Trek movie (I started this article in 2009. Yikes!). Actually, you should assume the opposite and then just accept it when you find one that does like it.
Why wouldn’t Trekkies like it?
Well there are a whole host of reasons and I can not speak for everyone. However, as soon as I watched the previews, I felt the same as I did when I saw the previews for the second Star Trek: TNG movie. I knew this movie had nothing to do with Star Trek or about what Gene Roddenberry had to “say” (see below).
People seem to think that having the same characters, places, ships and anything with Star Trek in the title makes a movie a Star Trek movie. It does not. There is an essence to all visual media and Star Trek has always had a very distinctive essence. There is even a very distinctive essence between The original Star Trek and Star Trek: TNG (I do not acknowledge the existence of anything with the Star Trek name after the first Star Trek: TNG movie).
It’s pretty clear that Star Trek: TOS was simply out of this world (literally) for the time period in which it originally aired. It was an interesting and creative TV show. Star Trek: TOS was a great start for maturing a creative concept. However predictable some elements were, it was still a great show. Overacting, crazy costumes, great cheesy sets and a rather simplistic goal …to explore … what more could you want?
So, Star Trek: TOS was the bait. The most magnetic essence of Star Trek did not fully emerge and shine until Star Trek: TNG. If you watch Star Trek: TNG from the first episode to the last you will see a TV show and it’s character’s mature right before your eyes. It is truly amazing. While I didn’t like every episode (boy did I hate those episodes with “Q” and those “lets go to another time period” ones) but the majority of the episodes were fantastic. To me, Star Trek: TNG easily strengthened fan followings because it had character’s we could relate to on some level no matter how different they looked (and yes I think it was tragic the show lost Denise Crosby. She had a great character). There was also this incredible mix of personalities as well. Personally, I was hooked on Star Trek: TNG because it dealt with social issues. This is what separated Star Trek: TNG from any other Star Trek and is primarily why anything made after it has the essence of mindless, violent garbage.
Here are a few memorable episodes from Star Trek: TNG:
1. Half a Life – Elderly people are expected to commit suicide once they reach a certain age.
2. The Outcast – On a planet of androgynous (neither male or female) beings, whoever identified as being strictly male or strictly female were persecuted.
3. Galaxy’s Child – The Enterprise kills a space creature to save themselves; after which they discover the creature is pregnant and they must take responsibility for the offspring.
4. Darmok – The Enterprise encounters a ship of aliens who speak in metaphors. The aliens have previously been in battles because no one could understand their language. So in a desperate attempt to keep this from happening, the captain of the alien ship beamed himself and Captain Picard onto a planet with a dangerous entity where they had to work together to survive, forcing Captain Picard to learn to understand their language.
I think it’s also important to understand that Star Trek: TNG aired during a time period where people actually still cared about social issues. Even if you weren’t able to pick out the “real life” social issues in the episodes people were still pulled into them because of those themes and Trekkies loved it. Times were such that we had not yet gone down the path to Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome (“watch’em suffer” reality TV shows and “abandon good story telling for special effects” movies) that we currently find ourselves on.
I didn’t know Gene Roddenberry but I did have an opportunity shortly after the last episode of Star Trek: TNG to have a few e-mail conversations with his wife and son. I’d learned that Gene Roddenberry had written enough material for Star Trek to continue with the same essence for years to come but it was decided otherwise by those in control. I also learned that he did truly care about various social issues and this was reflected in his writing.
The relationship between writing, writers, visual media makers, audiences, emotions and creativity:
Wow, that was a mouthful! But this is the essence of the making of a Trekkie. This is how fan followings are created and kept. Most people who like the new Star Trek movies will like it and talk about it obsessively, then forget about it when the hype dies down. The biggest issue with running creative concepts into the ground is not understanding that once you’ve done a good job at creating fan followings, you can not deviate from the magic you’ve created that made your concept attractive in the first place (we also saw this very real tragedy unfold with the “Alien(s)” movies). You can improve upon it, i.e. from Star Trek: TOS to Star Trek: TNG, but you can not turn it into a completely different animal, i.e. from the second Star Trek: TNG movie and beyond.
I must first talk about writing and writers because this is where it all starts. I’d also like inform you that there is a delusion that writers are some kind of mindless entertainment machines who are incapable of incorporating any of their own beliefs, thoughts, morals and goals into their work. This is completely the opposite. No one is writing simply to “entertain”. Sure they want to entertain you but they are also trying to “tell you something”. With that having been said, we often find people become fans of visual media concepts where they like what they are being “told”. And their connection to that may very well reflect where they are emotionally or otherwise in their lives. Now, visual media with longevity are the ones that are “telling us” something that is a part of our core beliefs (even extremely entertaining visual media looses some “umf” after many years). This does not apply to all favorite visual media but typically does apply to series, such as Star Trek.
So you have this writer who comes up with an idea. I’ll use myself as an example. If I decide to write something, I know in order to be effective I can’t just write a bunch of seemingly connected random thoughts. I have to have a goal. I have to “say something”. So I decide what I’m going to “say”. Once I’ve done that, I start writing my story, book, movie/tv script in a way that will hold people’s attention long enough for them to hear what I have to “say”. It’s really that simple. What I have to say doesn’t have to be deep nor does it have to be simple. It can be anything; but trust me, I am trying to “say” something.
The same applies then to visual media makers. They could be the actual writers or they could be merely putting a writer’s work out in a visual media format. They will try to translate the writer’s message in the visual media so it “says” what the writer wanted it to say. Also, the visual media maker may make the media say what they want it to say, regardless of the writer.
This is to help you understand that you are being talked to when you watch visual media. It’s not a knitting activity that you can mindlessly do. It’s not a drug that makes you feel good due to its nature. Visual media is talking to you just as music does. This is also for people who think they are unaffected by visual media; believing it does not influence them in any way. But the millions of people who were upset about how the Sopranos ended is proof positive that you and many others are being emotionally handled by visual media (if only people would get as angry about child abuse as they did about how a TV series ended the world would be a better place…).
That brings us to audiences, emotions and creativity. When visual media creators create that magic voice that results in a following like “Trekkies”, they have captivated it’s audiences emotions and creativity. This can be in any form. For instance, many people think reality shows are not creative and they are correct but that doesn’t mean they don’t tap into the creativity and emotions of their viewers; good or bad.
The new Star Trek movie:
I can not delve into the contents of the movie because I have not seen it. However, I can tell you why I have not and will not see it. First, I no longer have faith in Hollywood’s storytelling abilities. The ability to tell a good story on film seems to have been traded in for bad to outstanding special effects. Second, based on what I saw in the previews, it does not have the essence of Star Trek and therefore does not appeal to me and will most likely not appeal to other Trekkies either. We must first establish that previews exist to entice viewers into watching the movie. So if the preview fails the Star Trek test, then you’ve lost your Trekkie audience.
In conclusion (*Smile), you simply can’t expect a fan of Star Trek to leap tall buildings in a single bound just to see this movie because Star Trek is in the title. We’ll leave that behavior to the Star Wars fans (jab). *Smile* Cheers!