Wednesday, May 06, 2009

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.


toomanytribbles said...

star trek has proundly influenced my world view -- its main themes were a product of the age when it was born.

i'm going to see the film on saturday. i hope it conveys much of the original spirit to new viewers. i suspect it won't.

Matt Rashid said...

Very well said! I really appreciate your balanced approach.

Would you check out my thoughts on the new movie at my blog? I'd like to know what you think.

K said...

Reminds me of Marvel's attempts to unify its universes. Ultimately what matters is stories and characters. Those actors created the characters. Pretty damned good job.

Here's a piece I wrote about the inconsistencies between the new movie and the history of the Star Trek Universes. You might find it amusing.

Anonymous said...

I am so excited to see this tonight. Going to see it here in NYC. The cast looks amazing and though I'm not a big Trek fan, I am sure I can catch on quick with this one. I also saw this amazing interview online where the guys really just seem to get along so well, plus they look really hot, lol. Enjoy the Trek eye candy!

Also check out this gallery too of the entire cast, past and present and more!! So good….

Anonymous said...

I saw this movie last night, I thought it was good, but I also felt like it killed star trek, since this movie made, TOS, TNG, DS9, VOY, and all the movies null and void. For me part of star trek was its history and story, which was just completely undone, towards the end of the movie I was myself hoping they would undo what they did.

Anonymous said...

I just left the theater. Stunned is an understatement. I understand now, what I did not before, this is NOT my Star Trek. This is the same characters, different universe. Someone once posed the following possibility, that the alteration of the timeline in First Contact, in fact created the alternate universe experienced in Mirror, Mirror, later revisited by CPT Archer.
In fairness, this is a wonderful escape, with all the right gags, all the right mentions, and the right crew on the right ship, played by great actors. It is fun, it will make black hole full of cash. I think the zealots (Trekkies)will hate it. The faithful (Trekkers) will accept it, and a whole new audience of neophytes will emerge. As always the USS Enterprise is the most beautiful thing I have seen.

Anonymous said...

Dude, simply the best sci-fi movie since empire strikes back. had some great alieans in it as well

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