Before the End...
If it wasn't clear before, recent interviews with Leonard Nimoy and the screenwriters of the new Star Trek movie have made it absolutely certain: the Star Trek story universe that began in the 1960s will end with the new movie. The canon is now closed.
Though it could be said that the action in the new movie is a time travel story generated in the post-Nemesis 24th century, these interviews indicate that future movies will take place in a different timeline--a different story universe, with characters whose names we know, with similarities but also with different characteristics and events.
The Star Trek universe we have known so far is finished. Even the new movie's title--just "Star Trek"--appropriates ownership, and declares that the new regime has taken control. Rather than extend the existing Trek universe in time and space, this film will cannibalize Star Trek's past. This is smart commercially: the characters are pre-sold icons. It may also turn out to be integral to re-enlivening Star Trek as a popular storytelling vehicle. We'll see. But it inevitably will change and even destroy aspects of Star Trek's past.
In reading some of the interviews and reviews during this final spasm of immense hype, it's possible to get the impression that fans who have qualms or are queasy about this can be disdained and dismissed as angry, bitter losers. That's neither generous nor accurate. People who care about Star Trek have legitimate concerns.
Because this is a greater change than Star Trek has ever experienced before. It's a greater separation than the original series from the Next Generation (new cast and century, but Gene Roddenberry and some of his original co-creators choosing and shaping.) It's greater than Harv Bennett and Nick Meyer changing the film series (partly because GR was still a force, but mostly because the original cast was there, actively maintaining continuity in character and meaning, even when Bennett and Meyer wanted to change things.)
I believe it's appropriate to emphasize the separation now. After I've seen the movie, maybe I'll be emphasizing the connections. We'll see.
By starting again with these classic characters, this movie also reinforces Star Trek as a mythology. The texts of Homer were not the only tales of brave Ulysses. More stories were created and told afterwards, and there are many variants of every myth. Various superheroes with origins in comics and novels have gone through this as well. This process has always been part of Trek, since the first fan fictions and commercial novels that weren't based on the TV episodes. The fan films--the independent films--that cast other actors as these classic characters really paved the way for the new feature. There will be no new canon, no new canonized Star Trek.
But more than some mythologies (from ancient times or comic books), Star Trek has always had a distinct core, a vision that may be ambiguous, but is at least emotionally clear enough to have rallied millions around it. How this film and those that follow will be regarded in relationship to what has come before depends in large part, not only on whether the new regime maintains the spirit of what came before, but whether they have anything new to say to make the vision relevant to today.
Let me make my position clear, before seeing the movie. I am neither "for" nor "against" this movie. My concerns on this site are not commercial. I don't cover or care about Burger King promotions or toys. ( That doesn't mean I'm against Star Trek stuff either--as I write these words I happen to be wearing a Starfleet Academy cap.)
What I care about and try to write about is the soul of Star Trek, and what Star Trek can illuminate about the soul of the future, especially the qualities and attitudes needed now to make a better future. Yes, it's a movie, and is to enjoyed and judged as a movie. But it is not "just" a movie. If that were so, we wouldn't have been talking about and caring about Star Trek for more than forty years.
Judging from the preview snippets and the visuals and music on the movie's official site one effect this film may well have--at least temporarily--is to make previous Trek seem slow and thin, outmoded and possibly even irrelevant. So before that happens, I feel it's both an honor and a duty to pay tribute to what has gone before, and some of the people who made it so--specifically, those who were there at the beginning, and who, for a few more hours at least, are the sole proprietors of the characters they created, in the last story they created together.