J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot focused on the franchise’s original characters: Kirk. Spock. McCoy. Scotty.
It must feel unfair to the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After all, in terms of sheer screen time, they’ve got the original cast beat. We have many more hours of Trek with Picard at the helm than with Kirk. Yet no one’s seriously considering a TNG reboot. And even hard-core fans would squirm if Abrams tried to shoehorn Troi or Geordi into the alternative timeline established by the new movies.
That hasn’t stopped the actors from trying. Every so often, Brent Spiner or Jonathan Frakes shameless pitch themselves for the next Abrams flick. “Of course they could bring me back!” they protest, “It’s Star Trek, for God’s sake! A malfunctioning transporter! A clone experiment gone wrong! Time travel! You fans should write letters demanding my character’s return!”
This sort of self-promotion irks me, for several reasons. First, it reeks of desperation. Open groveling breaks my heart. Second, it proves how little these actors understand storytelling. Fan service does not a good plot make. Finally, such role-grubbing seems ungrateful. Where’s the respect for the fictional universe that brought them international fame and commercial success?
Then again, maybe they shouldn’t be grateful. Trek has a way of hijacking actors’ careers. Once you’re typecast as the childlike android or the chair-challenged commander, it’s tough to earn a non-Trek gig. You’re doomed to attend an endless series of nerdy conventions, answering the same questions again and again. There’s only so many times you can wax eloquent about Wesley’s sweaters or Riker’s beard before you go mad.
It’s no wonder that the TNGers hunger for a more mainstream spotlight.
The only notable exception is Patrick Stewart, whose British theater connections (and sheer awesomeness) kept his career from going Picard-centric. ↩