Monday, July 24, 2006

TrekCheck: The Latest From J.J. (and other matters)

First a bit of site news. The post on the TNG episode "Inner Light" got a long comment here from Morgan Grendel, who wrote the episode. He provides more history, confirms the title's source, and suggests a follow-up episode he pitched but which was never made. Check it out.

Also old business: I saw the rest of the 2005 Eccleston Doctor Who episodes I'd missed, and viewed several again I'd seen before. My admiration has only grown. But I also noted two Trek references. In "The Empty Child," Rose has to explain who the Doctor is to Captain Jack, and is befuddled because he doesn't give a name. Just the Doctor--"what is that about? Doctor who?" So what is the name Rose chose for the Doctor? "Mr. Spock."

So Rose is a Trek fan, which pays off in the second episode in this two-parter, "The Doctor Dances," when Rose volunteers to distract a soldier but Jack tells her he's the one to do the distracting. His any-gender sexuality, the Doctor says, is the way humans are in the 51st century, only it's also any-alien. Rose says something to the effect that is this what humans do? "Seek out new life and..." mate with it is the jist. The Doctor confirms it. So it looks like Captain Kirk had the right idea all along.

Okay, J.J. Abrams. A number of interviews have recently been published, with slightly different things to say. Some of the difference may reflect the time elapsed since the interview was given. But in what is likely to be the most recent, in TV Guide, Abrams says the writing is surprisingly far along--they must have the basic story--and he may be ready to go with the movie before Paramount is. None of the interviews deal with the rumor that Matt Damon is preferred to play the young James T. Kirk (although how much younger is Damon than Shatner was when he played Kirk? The answer: he isn't. Shatner was 35 when he started playing Kirk in 1966. At the scheduled release of Star Trek XI in 2008, Damon will be 38.)

Abrams is not confirming the Paramount announcement of a story about Kirk and Spock at the Academy, but the first poster released on, with the original series style and the gold and blue of that series' command and science uniforms, tends to support it. But as some fans wrote on the Trekweb board, that doesn't mean we won't see a TNG-style poster added in the coming months. That would really start people talking.

In answering the all-important question of what makes Star Trek special, he told TV Guide:
"It was incredibly smart television. The original series and Next Generation were about something - human nature and the idea of coming up against the unexpected and the often terrifying. It was a good story that happened to be science fiction. When I watch episodes with my 7-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter and see them so vitally respond to a show that was made the year I was born - it's not because it takes place on a spaceship. What endures isn't a genre, it's character and emotional connection. "

This tends to support the impression that the movie is going to deal with something "unexpected and terrifying," which he's mentioned as what he liked in the original series but what he found missing in Trek movies. As he told Variety: "[Trek] was always my favorite when it was a little bit scary, when they would deal with beaming something on the ship that was an incredible mystery or there was a clear threat.

He also told Variety: Star Trek to me was always about infinite possibility and the incredible imagination that Gene Roddenberry brought to that core of characters," he says. "It was a show about purpose, about faith vs. logic, about science vs. emotion, about us vs. them. It was its own world, and yet it was our world.

The "us vs. them" concerns me. Dealing with those issues is one thing, but re-starting Star Trek with a simplistic us vs. them story would be contrary to the real achievement of the saga, the part of GR's vision most important to him, and a real disappointment. Trek began at a time that Us vs. Them was the plot of the usual science fiction film, and when it was a time of Us vs. Them conflicts in America and involving the U.S. abroad. Trek was able to create strong stories and conflicts, without resorting to the brutalizing oversimplifcations of Us vs. Them.

We're in another period like that now. We need the vision of another way reconfirmed for this generation. The diversity on the Enterprise bridge, including the "Thems" of racial, ethnic and gender stereotypes, as well as the sci-fi "Them" of the alien, was the key to Trek's soul. I'd like to see this infused with fresh meaning for our time.

Fans will be reassured that Abrams and others on his team are insisting they know the Star Trek universe and the "canon" of previous stories, and will respect them in their story. They confirm that they respect the fans as a key to their success. Abrams has apparently talked with William Shatner about the project, and he's said very laudatory things about Leonard Nimoy. He went so far as to menton that Nicholas Meyer attended his bar mitzvah.

It seems Star Trek XI will be true to Star Trek's history. I'm hoping it will also be true to its soul.


Tony P said...

some very good points. I like all Trek fans hope that Abrams and his team capture the 'soul' as you say of Trek. When you take all he has said in the many interviews and look at his body of work, there is more to be hopeful than concerned over.

In addition it seems to me that many of the themes of TOS have become relevent again, especially those from Gene Coons (the other TOS 'Gene'). America is again faced with the dilemas of when and when not to intervene...our own prime directive if you will, in a universe that is becoming more hostile. The questions posed by episodes like The Apple and A Private Little War are very relevent today.

By the way, I have been a longtime reader to this blog and have created a new blog specifically for Trek XI.

The Trek XI Report

Feel free to drop by

Captain Future said...

Hey Tony, thanks for the comment. Your site looks great (two d's in Roddenberry, though.) Hope you're right about J.J. and the soul of Star Trek. I don't know if our universe is becoming more hostile, or some are just choosing to see it that way, and adding to the violence in the process.

Tony P said...

thanks for the spelling tip

I would love for you to send me an 'tips' on my site. I am going to be doing an article about the issues of relevence for Trek XI and would love to get your input.

btw, I am not sure if you saw 'cultural theorist' Eric Greene talk at ComicCon but I will be talking to him as well for the piece


for info on him and his upcoming book on Trek and its place in culture

Anonymous said...

I love the old Trek series, I hope J.J's film can live up to the glory of the old Trek series. For a laugh check out this spoof of the series posted on Steven Spielberg's new reality T.V. show "the lot":