Saturday, March 17, 2007

Move THIS Forward: The War On Trek

So I'm visiting TrekWeb and I noticed this particular interview (2019 Update: Link no longer works.) from former Trek exec Rick Berman. He still seems to have no clue as to why his last Trek movie venture failed miserably in the box office. While I'll be one of the few to admit that I actually enjoyed Nemesis, even I have to admit that it wasn't that great a movie in comparison to other Trek movies; more of a popcorn flick than anything else. The fact that Berman is lost on this concept even years after the movie's release and failure goes to show why the Star Trek franchise is currently in limbo as far as on-screen affairs are concerned.

Whenever discussions on Rick Berman are brought, you'd often get arguments about the recent material he had a hand in producing and in those discussions, they talk about what went wrong. In the case of Enterprise, the fact that it was a prequel (and not the fact that is was a bad show until it got cancelled when it started to show potential) is a main factor to its failure. From this argument comes the "moving forward" argument. Basically, anyone who has been through several Trek discussion boards will say that Star Trek has been about moving forwards and not backwards.

Moving Forward. As simple as it sounds, I've always been confused by this easy answer. What do you mean by moving forward? Forward in time? Forward in production values? Forward in storytelling? The answer is so easy and simple enough to simply shoot out and yet it's also pretty damn vague because the meaning tends to shift between the people giving said answer.

Some people tend to think that moving forward means dropping any and all aspects of the prequel concept and focus on a new cast of characters in the current Trek era (where Next Gen and DS9 resides). Others suggest moving farther into the future. What's exactly forward moving about all this? Seems like a cheap way to start a new slate instead of trying to give the franchise meaning again.

Does moving forward mean updating the storytelling practices? A non-fan might be somewhat threatened by the wide amount of Trek to watch and eventually find a few episodes that tell the same story (with slight differences in dressing). Trek (on TV anyway) also has a knack for being self-contained and episodes that tend to not have much of a major impact on the series unless it's either a season premiere or finale. Enterprise sort of broke the mold a little and the results were fairly good... even if it didn't save the series from cancellation. Could this style of complex storytelling work? Possibly.

There have been those who claim that if the stories became more compelling or if the characters became more complex, it wouldn't be Star Trek anymore. As tons of novels and some early movies will tell you, Trek can provide many compelling moments. Novels - despite not being part of the Trek canon - tend to produce much more compelling stories with more fleshed-out characters than some of the TV episodes do... and it still feels like Trek.

Does moving forward means dropping 40 years worth of canon and starting with a clean slate? It would certainly be easier to do so and this seems to be the mostly likely direction. The thing is that reimaginings are tricky to do and have a 50/50 chance of being well done or crapped on. Battlestar Galactica is one of the few "remakes" to actually work (it helps that the original didn't have much depth to improve upon despite its cult status) while one needs to look at one of the many movie remakes released in recent years for examples of remakes that don't. On top of that, a remake risks alienating the fanbase of the old continuity; they might not like what they see. Then again, they might.

Fans are a fickle bunch. For the most part, the idea about Abrams' Trek offering being a prequel seems to terrify them because in their minds, Star Trek is about moving forward and not backwards. Truth be told, I agree that a Trek prequel would probably be a delicate situation, but if done right, it does have a chance of being a good product. However, these fans need to realize that Star Trek is a franchise that has gone on for forty plus years and it tends be to difficult to produce new product that doesn't resemble something Trek has already covered. Even if new Trek went forward, what's to prevent them from degrading it when something doesn't go their way?

People tend to argue that the recent Treks stray from Gene Roddenberry's vision. The infamous vision of a perfect world where there is no conflict and everyone is living peacefully and happily with each other. It's certainly a wholesome vision and one that I personally hope comes to fruition. However, noble visions aside, it doesn't make for great television. The people who argue that Trek has strayed from Gene's vision is partially right; never in any of the recent Treks do you see people living peacefully and happily with each other; there's always some conflict or some scenario of contention that results in confrontation. The thing is that these same people tend to ignore the fact that the original Trek doesn't exactly follow Gene's vision either. Captain Kirk is always in conflict with someone in every episode of Star Trek; whether it be Klingons, Romulans, rogue Starfleet officers, corrupt miners, or even the freakin' tribbles, there's no brotherly love involved. If that were the case, every episode of Star Trek would be a sitcom where nothing happens, nor are there any signs of anything happening at all. If Gene's vision is that of a perfect world free of conflict and darkness, then I see the Trek franchise as the chronicle of building towards that vision and defending it from those who wish to prevent that vision from coming to fruition.

If I were Abrams, I'd stop worrying about fan expectations & criticisms and just make the movie he wants to make. If fans are willing to give him a chance, then fine. If not, then there's about 700+ hours worth of Trek entertainment that can satisfy their needs. There's a whole bunch of novels, comic books, fanfics, and fan films that can satisfy their thirst for new Trek stories. Abrams is trying to make a movie that will appeal to fans and non-fans alike. It may be a prequel, it may be a sequel, or it may very well be a remake for all intents and purposes. Who knows what it is? Let's just wait until the first trailer comes out and then make judgment. If the fans feel they are going to hate the new movie, there's no Klingon up their ass forcing them to watch it.

Please, Trekkies. Do the rest of us a huge favor and shut the fuck up and wait until the fucking movie is out before you start to criticize. It'll make the rest of us who are open to what this new interpretation has to offer feel less ashamed of following the franchise.

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