Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Captain's Log: Lost in Hype-rspace

When all is said and done, I won't be surprised if it turns out that Paramount spends more on promoting Star Trek XI than they spent on making and promoting Star Trek X. The hype is incredible. I haven't seen the movie (though I may be the only Star Trek blogger who hasn't) but the hype has certainly been professionally done.

In retrospect, the pattern emerges: first, seduce the fan base. Leonard Nimoy may be crucial to the movie, but he was certainly essential to gaining the confidence of the fan base. Actors from other Treks, perhaps hoping that a rising Trek tide raises all boatloads of Trek past, quickly got with the program. But when the major hype kicked in, it was all about the non-fans, expanding the market, etc. A laudable goal, but fans had to try to keep from wincing as director J.J. Abrams kept insisting he'd known nothing about Star Trek and hasn't seen the other movies.

Well, we'll know the result soon enough. Right now the hype is overwhelming.

Having said that, I may or may not become part of it: I have a piece pending for the Trek Movie site: a tribute to the original cast and their final movie together, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. It may appear some Sunday, but if not, I'll post it here before the new movie opens.

War and Trek

I was beginning to feel that my misgivings were generational until I heard from a current college student, not a fanboy but someone for whom Star Trek has been important. He's seen the commercials (who can avoid them?) and dismisses this as another summer sensationalist action film, the antithesis of what he valued in Trek. Trek wasn't about war but about the hard journey of making peace.

The filmmakers seem to feel they're being truer to the Trek spirit than that--at least in these interview excerpts--but since the hype is accenting the thrills and superficial appropriations of the original series, we don't really know yet.

It did remind me however that war and the galactic version of geopolitics (mostly a mix of Cold War and 19th or even 18th century geopolitics) had already been dominating the Trek story universe, beginning with the Dominion War years of DS9, and then in the past several years of Trek novels. For me, it's gotten so bad--and so boring--that I have no interest in reading the post-Nemesis novels. I prefer to imagine my own post-Nemesis 24th century, and what the TNG crew in particular is up to.

Part of the problem may have been that the Bush years and that administration's shameful culture of violence seeped into the imaginations of Trek novelists. So it's maybe a bit ironic that in its cover story Newsweek suggests that the return of Star Trek is well timed because we have a Vulcan in the White House.

Real Space

In other news around the galaxy, scientists have discovered a couple of new planets outside our solar system: one that's about the size of Earth, and another that's in about the same relative location to its sun.

But an article in the New York Times threw cold water on the prospect of exploring such planets in person any time soon. Earth's glaciers may be melting, but the pace of space vehicle development is glacial--the article is titled "Boldly Going Nowhere." And speaking of melting glaciers, that's a real world reason why we're unlikely to devote resources to space travel: we'll be too busy coping with the effects of a Climate Crisis that could last centuries.

But that's the great thing about Star Trek: it piques imagination by giving the amazing prospect of exploring space a physical "reality" within its storytelling. But it told stories about today, and dealt with personal, interpersonal, ethical, political, conceptual issues that bear on our real future, even if it is an earthbound one.


Anonymous said...

"Trek wasn't about war but about the hard journey of making peace."
Please. We all know drama requires conflict and the best Trek epsiodes/movies are about war. From what I've seen the new movie looks pretty good.

Captain Future said...

I don't agree at all that the best Trek stories are about war, as opposed to the "hard journey of making peace"-- and a lot else. That Star Trek wasn't about war is precisely what made it different from other popular science fiction, and what made it so important to so many.

I'm not prejudging the new movie. But I'm wary of the hype, and the nature of some of the enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

Ha - I love your "I prefer to imagine my own post-Nemesis 24th century, and what the TNG crew in particular is up to."

I was so horrified by Nemesis that I refuse to accept it as canon.

I share your concerns about the new film; I fear the loss of those things that made Star Trek special: realistic characters, tough ethical questions, shades of gray, and a positive illustration of our future.