Saturday, September 13, 2008

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.


Anonymous said...

Interesting essay. It seems to me that the canon of Star Trek is already somewhat fluid. In the case of the Romulans, if I remember "Balance of Terror" accurately, Spock did not seem to know for a fact that the Romulans were related to Vulcans, he only seemed to be guessing or forming a theory from the evidence they had. Later episodes (Next Gen an on) showed that the Vulcans had always known about the history of their Romulan cousins. So later episodes did not remain consistent with the original episode in this respect.

If the movie shows Kirk and company involved in some sort of contact with the Romulans, it will change the established continuity, particularly if they see the Romulans face to face. "Balance of Terror" established two things--Starfleet had never seen a Romulan, and so did not know they were related to Vulcans, and there had been no contact between Starfleet and the Romulans since the Romulan war 100 years earlier. The new movie seems likely to contradict these "facts." (Although it already has been shown that the no knowledge of the Romulan identity is not true in the case of Vulcan members of Starfleet.)

Bottom line for me is whether or not the movie is good and whether the characters on the screen match my understanding of the characters as already established. If the movie is good, I can forgive a lot of continuity lapses. I don't mind if Kirk and company see the Romulans if the story we get is a good one. I'm fine with Chris Pine playing Kirk if the Kirk he plays is the Kirk we saw in TOS. One of my least favorite episodes of the series is "And the Children Shall Lead" largely because the characters are "off" in that episode. The captain Kirk we know would not be sobbing in a turbolift because he thought he lost his ability to command. No matter what you think of Shatner's acting, the scene is unbelievable, because the character would not do such a thing. Likewise, no matter how good or bad an actor Chris Pine turns out to be, the key is whether or not the writers get the character of Kirk right.

Just my thoughts about the subject.


Captain Future said...

Thanks for your perceptive comment, Jim. Of course, nobody will know anyone's reaction to the new movie until it's out, but I am suggesting that the change of command and the decision to do a prequel story with the original characters but not the actors who created them may have complex consequences. For some viewers it's just an entertainment franchise to hang a movie on, but for others the credibility of the Star Trek universe is important. So we'll see what happens.

Barb said...

I'm really hoping that Hollywood gets this new Star Trek right. I agree that it doesn't have to be perfect as far as continuity is concerned, because a good story can make up for all of that, but sequels and prequels are not always treated with respect or done well in movies.

Star Trek has a long history, and it would be terrible if this tarnished it.

David Brown said...

Captain Future, you have a great blog and I have enjoyed reading it over the last few years.

If you read through the gossip and plot tidbits floating around about the new movie one possibility seems to be that they are creating a new time line parallel to the "real" canon time line. The comic book analogy is the Marvel Ultimate universe where Spider-man is a teenager again and everything has been rebooted for the 21st century. The original Marvel Universe continues uninterrupted. This plot device actually was started in the 60s with DC Comics multiverse.

Would a Star Trek multiverse with at least 2 parallel canons satisfy people? Will be interesting to see if this is actually what develops. Of course with the Mirror Universe there is already a Star Trek prototype for this...