Saturday, September 02, 2006

TrekCheck: The Continuing Adventures

UPDATE: Countdown to 40: Star Trek as Sci-Fi Redefined now follows.

This past week the outline of Star Trek continuity from the original series to the upcoming feature film became a little clearer.

The ties were strengthened by two bits of real news. The first was the announcement that Star Trek original series episodes will begin returning to syndication this month in High Definition, with new CGI and audio enhancements. (Details are here at startrek.com.)

Anyone who has seen what fans have done by just replacing old ship, viewscreen and planet shots with their own models or animation or computer graphics will probably be excited by the prospect of seeing similar new shots of professional quality. We can hope they will take care to match the new and the old so they still look like they belong together, which may be especially difficult in high definition. The same establishing Enterprise shots used repeatedly on the series look especially grainy on DVD, but what made them seem worse was the difference in quality of the images.

Also last week, Leonard Nimoy mentioned in an interview that his contract with Paramount gives him casting approval of anyone else who plays Spock, and Paramount confirmed this and added that William Shatner also has approval of any new Kirk ( though this apparently escaped Shatner’s notice.) Nimoy also mentioned that Paramount has called him and Shatner to tell them the studio would like them to participate in the new movie project, without saying what that participation might be.

That, along with doubt cast on the rumor that the movie won’t be about Kirk and Spock (Anthony Pascale at trekmovie.com swears that’s exactly what it will be about), suggests that Paramount is going to try to keep peace with old fans. The old series will be honored (and more revenues obtained from it) with its pride of place in the Star Trek saga secure. Paramount and Abrams will get Shatner and Nimoy on their side, probably with “consultations” on the story as well as actor approvals, perhaps even cameos in the film.

In part this shows respect, and in part it’s realism: Trek fans cannot be controlled, and no official entity is going to successfully banish the original cast or the original series from conventions, and so on.

Still, there is likely to be some major break of continuity with the people who created and made Star Trek up until now, including the Next Generation actors and everyone in the Berman era. And if any past Trek era is revisited, it will be with a new look. Some anonymous benefactor left an enlightening comment on an earlier post here at Soul of Star Trek:

…anyone who registered with Christie's auction coming up in October, can see from the lots that they are auctioning off, that Paramount really wants to get rid of EVERYTHING that isn't already part of the Star Trek Experience exhibit in Vegas.Every prop, set dressing, costume and model imaginable are part of this auction. In sharp contrast to what Paramount is doing, take for example George Lucas - he keeps EVERYTHING from all of his movies archived and preserved. Paramount is letting the models of NCC 1701-A, NCC 1701-D, NCC 1701-E, Deep Space Nine and Voyager walk out the door to the highest bidder.While it's a great time to be a fan w/money and the ability to try to get a piece of the past 40 years, these are not exactly the actions of a studio that feels ANYTHING that was created in those past 40 years is even remotely valid or important to how it tells stories set in that same future on an ongoing basis.

I’m not willing to go quite that far, but it is one of a number of signs that a new generation is eager to put its stamp on Star Trek future. Nothing wrong with that, but it also needs to be connected to the integrity of its past, and there are plenty of people around who can provide them with that continuity. That needs to be part of the mix.

I’ve seen the comparisons of J.J. Abrams as the new Nick Meyer, but for all his invigorating ideas, Meyer had lots of people around him—like Nimoy and Shatner and the other original series actors, not to mention an unofficial but still powerful Gene Roddenberry for most of the time—to keep him from going too far astray from the essence of Star Trek. Harv Bennett also re-invigorated Trek for the glory days of its famous feature trilogy (Trek films 2, 3 and 4) but again he was kept from making not-Trek in Trek clothing by these others. Even he finally had to admit that it was Roddenberry’s Star Trek, not his. (To see how important this interplay was--even to the extent of DeForrest Kelley explaining the Kirk-Spock-McCoy relationship to Bennett--see my essay on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.)

Personally I’ll rest easier when I hear that creative people who learned Star Trek from Roddenberry himself are involved in some meaningful way in this project, such as Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton or others from TNG, as well as Shatner and Nimoy in more than a symbolic nod to public relations.


As for this neck of cyberspace, there will be two more “Countdown to 40” posts. I’m not sure when the next one will be up but it will be posted at this date. Then the last one, plus a 40th anniversary commentary on the Soul of Star Trek, will be up during the week, before I leave for the Seattle convention on Thursday.

5 comments:

PeterJohn0 said...

Thanks for referencing my original anonymous comment re: the Christie's auction, Captain Future.

Perhaps my comments were/are a bit harsh, but it's hard NOT to ignore such a theory when you read through the Christie's catalogue.

For me, it all boils down to this:

The folks behind the scenes at Star Trek were VERY good at re-using/re-purposing stuff for other episodes in a series or even cross-use between series.

Examples:

1) In the Voyager section of the catalogue they show numerous Vulcan artifacts that were used to dress Tuvok's quarters. In the description of these items the Okudas go on to explain that not only were these Vulcan props used on Voyager, but they were used in Vulcan temples and homes on Star Trek: Enterprise.

2) In the Star Trek: Enterprise section they have the Captain's Chair that Archer got in Season 4 which was actually the chair built for Picard to use on the Enterprise E at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis (that scene was eventually cut from the film).

3) A Viking chandelier from the Beowulf holodeck episode on Voyager that was re-purposed for use as a Klingon chandelier in other episodes across other series.

4) The USS Jenolan from the TNG episode "Relics" is up for auction, yet it has a completely different NCC registry number and name on the model evidence of use in other Trek episodes.

5) The Captain Picard Space Suit from Star Trek: First Contact is labelled as such for the auction, but the footnote to the item indicates the same outfit was also worn by crew members from both DS9 and Voyager.

And there are hundreds of other references from set furniture to costumes to props to models that all indicate repeated re-use in order to (a) keep production costs down and (b) keep the look-and-feel of the show consistent.

Releasing all of these pieces out into the world can really only mean ONE THING. While they may stay true to the design of Trek it will be done with new CGI graphics, new sets, new props and new costumes.

Captain Future said...

Thanks for the additional comment. I agree with your conclusions.

And I didn't know that the 4th season Enterprise chair was Picard's in the last Nemesis scene (a scene that never should have been cut, in my opinon.) I sat in that chair on the set! A touch with two moments in Trek history.

Gregg Allinson said...

*Hal* Bennett?!

Captain Future said...

Corrected. Sorry.

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":
http://films.thelot.com/films/21427