Monday, August 01, 2005

TrekCheck: Another Possibility for Trek XI

A couple of additional rumors surfaced last week, again of dubious credibility. One quoted Brent Spiner as saying he’s ready to come back as Data for the new movie, the same week as Brent Spiner was quoted as saying he’s too old to play Data anymore. (The second was a more credibly sourced quote, though Spiner has been known to be on both sides of playing/not playing Data again within a brief span of time. The first quote also misused the term "maiden voyage" in a way that Spiner probably wouldn't.)

Designated writer Erik Jendresen was also quoted---though it sounded like an old quote—talking about a time frame of 80 years before Kirk. But something else he said suggested a possibility. He mentioned that he’d like this movie to get the audience to “feel something.” The context led me to think he could mean the kind of feelings inspired by death.

This---and maybe the new Harry Potter--led me to think about how Star Trek has handled the subject of death, especially heroic death for a cause. Fans didn’t react with great outpouring of feeling to the heroic death of Data in “Nemesis.” They seemed to have mixed feelings concerning Kirk’s death in “Generations” and Trip Tucker in the “These Are the Voyages” final episode of Enterprise, with one of the more prominent emotions being anger at the manner of their respective demises. Most fans found the death of Spock in Star Trek II to be emotionally moving, which ironically had something to do with bringing him back to life in the next movie.

Tasha Yar's death in TNG was unique, in that its effects were dramatized over many years, and that its point initially was that her death was "meaningless," that is, the more or less random death that could come to anyone serving on the Enterprise in the course of doing their duty and engaged in the dangerous mission of confronting the unknown.

But Trek XI has a different and so far unique opportunity, if it indeed becomes a unique movie: if it is a time period in which no other Trek stories were set, with new characters, and no old ones.

The filmmakers have the possibility of creating a set of characters---the crew of a starship, for example---that the audience comes to care about during the course of the movie. They can be placed in jeopardy in a very meaningful situation, perhaps one that no humans have faced before. What they decide to do, and why (and since it’s Star Trek, with emphasis on the why), will influence the future history of the Trek universe. The gravity of what they do would be emphasized if this time, the crew doesn't escape at the last second, but they do sacrifice their lives.

If we in the audience can be led to see---and to feel---the reasons and the importance of their heroic action, it becomes possible to create a powerful and emotional effect when these characters sacrifice their lives. But the key would be the reason: it’s not enough to repeat the usual war movie motivations, however realistic they might be: that they die for each other, or their action is motivated by payback for loss of comrades. It has to be an action and a reason unique to the Star Trek universe.

It could even involve treachery, betrayal or cowardice by comrades (although that couldn’t be the main or only reason for the heroic deaths. See J.K. Rowling for the right way to do it.) The point is that an entirely new cast means everything could be up for grabs.

I hesitate to suggest this possibility, because it is very risky: it can easily be done badly. There is the particular risk of pushing the same buttons, making it a warrior sacrifice, which would please those who want to see Star Trek become World War II (or, more likely, the Napoleonic wars) in space. Given how conventional this has become, especially in science fiction, there is no reason for people to pay money to see it again, and would divide Star Trek fans even further.

Still, the ultimate sacrifice is something that could not be done cleanly with major Trek characters the audience had come to know over many stories. It would mean that at least some of these characters would not be available for future films or TV, although subsidiary characters in this film could become major characters later on. It is a unique opportunity, something that Trek has never done. (Perhaps the Enterprise C crew in the TNG episode, "Yesterday's Enterprise" comes closest.) It would take a lot of thought, a lot of artistry, and a lot of nerve to do it. I'm not at all sure it's the best idea, or even a good idea. But these circumstances make it possible.

1 comment:

vavu2001 said...


Your idea is a very good one. That would make for a great movie. Having the crew (or most of the crew) give up their lives for a higher purpose, one that would turn out to be an even higher purpose than they might suspect (but the audience would know) is terrific. The example you gave is also a good one. In giving up their lives in the service of aiding Klingons, the Enterprise C crew showed the Klingons that the Federation has honor. That ended (or prevented, I haven't seen the episode in a while so I don't remember which) a war.

Unfortunately, what you are talking about may be too literate for Hollywood to pull off. As you stated, such a script could very well degenerate into a WWII kind of thing. In any case, it will take a few years before they can get ANYTHING together. SO we have plenty of time to hash it out.