Monday, July 25, 2005

Trek Check: What Was Once Imagined

by William S. Kowinski

The latest news about Star Trek's future hasn't exactly filled me with hope.

There was a new round of rumors on the next Star Trek movie, suggesting that it will be set in 2010 after a nuclear war on earth when "our saviors from the future arrive", and the movie will involve Spock, in a story to be told over two movies. Another claims that it will center on the Romulan war, and that Brannon Braga as well as Rick Berman are involved. Oh, and that Paramount is considering shooting it in Australia.

The best that can be extracted from this incoherent mess is that Paramount is considering shooting a Star Trek movie at all. In recent stories about changes at the studio, Trek is never mentioned in its future plans. It hasn't been disputed that Trek supporters within Paramount are gone, and if any remain they seem to be very quiet.

The two-movie rumor is typical (when Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" was announced, there was a rumor its story spanned two or maybe three movies.) The 2010 date is obviously bogus, and "saviors from the future" suggests a time travel movie, which is possible (since the two most successful Trek movies involved time travel) but unlikely since it's been done to death in the pre-Kirk era, with "First Contact" and the temporal Cold War premise on "Enterprise."

The Romulan War is a bit more credible, given that Enterprise avoided it, and it fits the post-TNG model of when imagination fails, start a war. It offers plenty of opportunity for vast CGI armadas and armies, but if any lessons were learned by the excessive use of them in recent movies, it is that audiences quickly tire of them, and they are more appropriate for video games than feature films.

That's not to say a good Trek movie couldn't be made about that era, but I have little confidence in the usual suspects making it in a way that is truly Trek, and not just another cliché-ridden war movie updated with phasers.

These rumors follow yet another call for a future Star Trek to be more like "the gritty new" Galactica. According to a San Diego writer, that was the consensus of a panel of "Star Trek experts" and enthusiasts at the San Diego Comic-Con. (Or at least, on why Enterprise failed.)

Robert Meyer Burnett, one of the makers of the "Free Enterprise" film, is quoted as saying: ""BATTLESTAR GALACTICA is basically a naval show set in space. It's World War II… "STAR TREK used to be about our world. Now, it's not 'real'."

What's wrong with this picture? For starters, World War II is over---it isn't "our world." Nor is it the world of the 23rd century on Star Trek. Star Trek often told stories that applied to our time, or to any time, including many in the original series that were almost poetic in their allegorical application. But they also showed us our world by using contrast, by taking a different perspective---for instance, ways of solving problems that in the 20th century, or the early 21st, seem "unrealistic."

This call for Star Trek to be another Galactica (which, interestingly, is not the position of Ron Moore, who created the new Galactica) is as easy to parrot as it was to devise it (since it's what every unimaginative and insecure studio executive has said about every project that's different from what is succeeding at that particular milisecond) and it is just as certain to be disastrous.

(more after the photo)

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