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Trek envy

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.[1] 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.


  1. The only notable exception is Patrick Stewart, whose British theater connections (and sheer awesomeness) kept his career from going Picard-centric.  ↩

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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.