So to sum up the fear that lurks within the talk about canon: the new movie could use these characters, imagery and technology to re-define Star Trek in ways that essentially separate the new movie and its sequels from the Star Trek canon, which is a threat to Star Trek, both old and new. If the new movie thumbs its nose at something essential about Star Trek, it thumbs its nose at what Star Trek became over those 40 years, and the fans who love it.
The filmmakers insist they have respected canon, but the anxiety won’t be fully over until the film comes out. And fans aren’t the only ones likely to share this anxiety. Ultimately it’s Paramount that is responsible for the canon, because it owns the rights to make Star Trek movies. The studio owns a “franchise” that didn’t do so well in its last few outings, so the owners decided change was needed. But the wrong sort of change could alienate the fan base. It might even put off those with less detailed knowledge of the canon, but sense that this movie, however thrilling on its own terms, is no longer Star Trek.
It’s not like Hollywood has a sterling record in reviving a saga. For every Batman, there are many Lone Rangers and Flash Gordons. And no such saga has the elaborate and carefully created canon that Star Trek has. So despite the current happy talk, there may be some nervousness at the studio, and in other places counting on revived interest in Star Trek’s past—and the attendant merchandise—as well as new interest in the new movie.
But in some ways the stakes are highest for those for whom Star Trek means something. A concern for canon isn’t expressed only as a kind of pedantry about every inessential detail mentioned in an obscure bit of dialogue. It can also be concern for the soul of Star Trek.
P.S. R.I.P. Joan Winston, who did so much for Star Trek and its fans.