Categories
movies TV Uncategorized

Huh. That doesn’t feel like ‘Star Trek’.

On first watch, this trailer bummed me out. Star Trek Beyond feels like “Fast & Furious in Space.” Maybe fans should have expected this—director Justin Lin also helmed four Furious movies. But J.J. Abrams’ Trek reboot already felt too action-heavy for the staid franchise; this trailer doubles down on that approach.

The more I watch the teaser, however, the less its pace bothers me. Remember that the classic Trek films hail from a different filmmaking era—slower, smaller, quieter. Modern, mainstream audiences wouldn’t endure Trek’s glacially-paced naval battles or interminable static effects shots. Replicating that outdated feel could tank the franchise (again). If overemphasizing adventure helps keep Star Trek alive, that’s fine by me.

Plus, even if Trekkies wrinkle their noses at its tone, the trailer offers some encouraging signs. Beyond seems to take place during the Enterprise’s legendary five-year mission. The crew has ventured far from home and finds itself stranded amidst a hostile alien culture. That set-up harkens back to Trek’s episodic TV roots. If the plot is handled well—yes, that’s a big “if”—this movie could be fun.

I do have one beef, though. The trailer shows swarming robots (?) disintegrate the Enterprise; Captain Kirk then laments, “We have no ship!” That could be a red herring—maybe the Enterprise survives the attack. But if it doesn’t, that reveal feels like an unnecessary spoiler. In Star Trek, the ship itself is a character, and you don’t telegraph a character’s demise seven months before the film premieres. By all means, go ahead and wreck the Enterprise, but save that sad plot twist for the theaters.


EDIT: Here’s a Wrath of Khan trailer set to the Beyond trailer’s music (the Beastie Boys).

Categories
TV Uncategorized

Picard’s final mission

Actor Michael Dorn, who played Worf on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, is currently spearheading a movement to bring his character back to television.

With all respect to Dorn, Star Trek’s eventual return to TV shouldn’t be a vehicle for Worf; that character has already appeared in more episodes than any other in Trek’s history.

And the new show shouldn’t further J.J. Abrams’ alternate universe, either. That shiny, whiz-bang world is best-suited to the big screen.

No, the next Star Trek TV series should follow the final days of Jean-Luc Picard in Starfleet. Give us just a few hours’ worth of story, explaining how the beloved Next Gen captain finishes his career.

Here’s why a Picard-centric miniseries is the way to go:
1. Patrick Stewart is pushing 75. While other key TNG actors could reprise their characters in another decade or two, the window is closing on Stewart’s ability to swashbuckle. Let Geordi or Riker (or Worf) have their moments in the sun when they turn 75.
2. The last Next Gen movie, Nemesis, failed to bring closure to the TNG narrative. Its weak-sauce villain and clumsy plot left the audience with a bad taste in its mouth. Picard—and Patrick Stewart—deserve better.
3. Plus, a miniseries is a perfect format for dipping our toes back into *Trek* on TV. It would demand only a short-term commitment for Stewart, whose busy acting schedule might make a multi-season run unappealing.
4. Focusing on Picard would allow the show to up the dramatic stakes. Stewart is likely the best actor to ever play a major Star Trek role. Leveraging his talent, Trekcould find its place in TV’s “New Golden Age” of recent years—think Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and *House of Cards*. I’m not saying Picard should become a murderous misanthrope, but Trek needs a new, darker tone in today’s television era.

What story would the series tell? I’d like to see something more character-focused, at a very small scale. No galaxy-wide war. No Deux-ex-machina meddling from Q. No fan-service appearances from other TNG characters. Just Picard. Maybe he spends his final years commanding an archaeological vessel, and his well-intentioned exploration draws him into some unexpected conflict?

Honestly, the actual plot device isn’t that important. Just give us clever writing, quality production values—and a fitting send-off for a favorite captain.


UPDATE: In August of 2015, Patrick Stewart was asked whether we might see Picard again. He seemed pessimistic:

It’s possible. I think it’s unlikely. But it’s possible. The series wrapped over 25 years ago and we’ve got a rather elderly Captain Picard now. So I don’t know. It would be… it could be entertaining.

Categories
movies Uncategorized

Un-killing Spock

People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Steve Jobs

A few years ago, V’ger answered my prayers; my wife learned to love Star Trek.

This was a Very Good Thing™; I’ve loved the franchise for at least twenty years. I couldn’t wait to watch Trek with her—to see her fawn over each entry in the series. But as we progressed through these films, one uncomfortable fact became clear: as with other movies I loved as an 80s kid, most of Trek isn’t great.

The Star Trek films, at their worst, demonstrate the dangers of “fan service.” Studio suits want to protect a money-making franchise, so they steer the creatives toward audience-pleasing plots. But fans “don’t know what they want”—not really. They think they crave more of the same: more Spock. More Kirk. More Enterprise. But rehashing familiar tropes inevitable wears your storytelling thin. It strangles compelling drama. It forbids risky twists.

Star Trek III offers the quintessential example. Its predecessor, Wrath of Khan, featured one of the gutsiest plot twists in cinematic history: killing off Mr. Spock. But outraged fans protested the death of their favorite character.[1] The studio flinched, and per its direction, Search for Spock resurrects the beloved science officer.[2] The film’s denouement, in which Vulcan gurus reunite Spock’s soul with his body, serves up a feel-good ending for the fan base.

Star Trek III cheapens the genuine heartache of Spock’s death. More problematically, it also eliminates any trace of dramatic tension from the franchise. From that moment on, any tragic event could simply be undone. When the starship Enterprise blows up, we know it can’t really be gone forever. Star Trek IV wastes that bold move by introducing an entirely identical, replacement Enterprise. Or consider J.J. Abrams’ latest Trek entry, Into Darkness. That film echoes Wrath of Khan by killing off Captain Kirk. But Kirk stays dead just twenty minutes.

What if the franchise hadn’t lost its nerve? What if Spock had stayed dead? Looking back, this would’ve been a cleverer, bolder, more rewarding approach than surrendering to fan service. Make the audience feel the loss of Spock. Show us how a grief-stricken Kirk spirals out of control. Tell how his recklessness, untempered by Spock’s cold logic, eventually derails his Starfleet career. In other words, let Trek take risks.[3]

If it had, I might have shared Star Trek III with my wife less apologetically.


  1. As Khan director Nicholas Meyer recalls, “We had been getting letters from a lot of people who were very alarmed at the prospect of Spock dying. I remember I got one that said ‘If Spock dies, you die.’”  ↩

  2. Technically, the seeds for Spock’s return were planted in Wrath of Khan. But that was a late alteration to the script, resented by the film’s director, Nicholas Meyer. As he explains, “I just thought this was so unfair to an audience of people who really care about this shit, and then saying, ‘You know, oh, it was just a dry hustle.’ No, I didn’t think that was right…. At the time, I just thought that my vision of the thing was being insensitively overruled. But that’s when they made that insert, about ‘Remember’ and put him on the planet in his torpedo.”  ↩

  3. Admittedly, ST3 deserves some credit for blowing up the original Enterprise. It’s the best scene in the entire picture.  ↩

Categories
movies Uncategorized

Teasing Khan

In 2009, J.J. Abrams successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise. This was no small task; Trekkies are notoriously picky. The filmmaker took pains to include many details that only true nerds could appreciate.

Several of these fan-pleasing scenes were cut from the final production. For example, William Shatner’s cameo apparently made it into the script but was never shot.[1] Another scene that the filmmakers considered, then decided against, was a post-credits teaser for the inevitable Khan-centric sequel.

Here’s how I imagine that scene playing out:


INT. U.S.S. ENTERPRISE BRIDGE

Close-up of KIRK, slouched confidently in the captain’s chair. OLD SPOCK stands beside him.

OLD SPOCK
Once again, Captain, I am sincerely grateful for…

KIRK waves hand.

KIRK
…Our pleasure, Ambassador. We’ll get you to New Vulcan safe and sound; it’s the least we can do. In fact—

YOUNG SPOCK (concerned edge in voice)
—Captain.

KIRK
What is it, Spock?

YOUNG SPOCK
We’re picking up a vessel off the port bow.

KIRK spins to face YOUNG SPOCK, who is staring into his viewscreen.

KIRK
Out here? What kind of vessel?

YOUNG SPOCK
I… do not know. It is… quite old.

KIRK
On screen.

Cut to shot of crude-looking ship, its hull scarred and pitted. It floats adrift, spinning slowly.

Shot of OLD SPOCK, brow furrowed—as if trying to remember…

KIRK
Life signs?

YOUNG SPOCK
Several dozen humanoids… [looks up, hint of concern in voice] Captain, their signals are quite faint.

Decision made, KIRK springs into action. He flips his chair’s comm switch.

KIRK
Bones! Meet us in the transporter room!

MCCOY (over comm)
On my way.

KIRK leaps up from his chair.

KIRK
Spock, you’re with me. Sulu, you have the conn.

YOUNG SPOCK and SULU
Aye, Captain.

KIRK and YOUNG SPOCK exit via turbolift. Camera follows SULU to command chair, then pans back to OLD SPOCK, who’s looking down, puzzled. Shot hovers on him for a few seconds, then zooms out to include CHEKOV.

CHEKOV
Look!

Close-up of OLD SPOCK as he raises his eyes to the viewscreen. His mouth drops open. Recognition and fear flood his face.

Cut to viewscreen. The unnamed vessel continues its driftless spin. As the ship turns, its name emerges from the shadows. The words are clearly legible: SS BOTANY BAY.

Cut to black.

  1. Somehow, no one has yet to splice together a fan edit of this unshot scene. Get on that, Trek nerds!  ↩
Categories
movies Uncategorized

The best Enterprise

Baby boom Trekkies loved the original TV series’ ship (NCC–1701). Millennials had Picard’s ship, the 1701-D. But my ship, my Enterprise, was NCC–1701-A—the short-lived duplicate we see in Treks IV-VI. The Undiscovered Country is the first Trek I saw in theaters; that film cemented my fondness for its imaginary vessel.

But it’s not just nerd nostalgia that makes 1701-A better. The refit Enterprise (both 1701 and 1701-A) looks better than any other Star Trek ship. It has a simple, utilitarian appearance—not the retro corniness of the original series’ design (and J.J. Abram’s reboot), nor the smooth, oddly-aerodynamic sleekness of the Next Generation-era ships. The 1701-A design is so beautiful that the first film dedicates five full minutes to a majestic fly-by. Some people think that scene is boring. Those people are wrong.

The 1701-A’s interior aesthetic bests its Enterprise siblings, as well. None of these sprawling, 2000-square-foot luxury suites from the Enterprise-D. Instead, enlisted crew share bunkrooms, and even a ship’s captain gets relatively cramped quarters. The bridge feels submarinish—metallic and stark—compared to the plush, over-carpeted interior of Picard’s bridge, or the 60s show’s cardboard sets.

I do sometimes wonder what happened to the Enterprise-A, since the ship disappears from canon after The Undiscovered Country. According to a toy model’s documentation, the vessel gets placed in a museum. A TNG comic indicates that Scotty tours the 1701-A after his unlikely rescue by Picard and Co. (TNG: “Relics.”) And in William Shatner’s (non-canonical) Trek novels, Kirk (newly resurrected after Generations) pulls the Enterprise-A out of retirement for one more mission to save the galaxy.