A new slice of Trek-flavored cheese

In Movies, Television by Lamar Henderson0 Comments

I’m not a huge fan of reboots in general, and the Star Trek reboot in particular.

Oh, the J.J. Abrams 2009 movie was fine enough on it’s own merits, even considering the what-was-Spock-doing-in-the-cave plot hole. It was fun and pretty (I rather liked all the lens flare, myself). What I didn’t care much for was how this story related to the original Star Trek universe.

A teaser for the sequel, Into Darkness, was just released. It has lots of interesting imagery. Benedict Cumberbatch, star of the BBC series Sherlock, plays the movie’s villain, and he has an appropriately villainous voiceover in the teaser. From the information we have, Cumberbatch is playing someone who has a beef with either Starfleet or Earth in general, and has come back. To take. His. Vengeance.

There has been lots of speculation about exactly who Cumberbatch will be playing. IMDB lists his character as Khan — as in Wrath of Khan — but admits that that is speculative. Other reports claim that he’s playing Gary Mitchell, the Starfleet officer who gained godlike powers in the second pilot for the original Star Trek TV series. Still others think that he may be a new version of Garth, the Starfleet officer turned insane megalomanic/shapeshifter from the original series episode Whom Gods Destroy.

A more likely scenario is that Cumberbatch is playing a completely new character, even if he happens to have the same name as one of these or some other obscure Star Trek character.

This is one of the reasons that I don’t like reboots, especially the Trek reboot.

The conceit of the Trek reboot, in case you don’t remember, is that in the original Trek universe, there’s a disaster that destroys Romulus, home world of the Romulan Empire. A side effect of the disaster is that it tosses both Spock and the movie’s villain into an alternate universe, where the villain manages to kill James T. Kirk’s father, a change from the timeline of the original universe, in which Kirk’s father wasn’t killed.

As a result of losing his father, Kirk grows up angry and rebellious, which inexplicably makes him an ideal recruit in the eyes of Christopher Pike, captain of the starship Enterprise. Eventually, Kirk joins Starfleet and goes to the Academy.

Now, this is where the main differences between the two timelines crop up that I dislike rather much.

In the original universe, we have references to Kirk’s history at the academy and his early career in Starfleet. He had an exceptional career, and was one of the youngest officers to become captain of a starship, but he had a career. He had a history, and it was many years of work before he got his captain’s chair. That’s believable and acceptable — a young man who proves his worth over time to rise to a level of authority and power within his organization.

Not only Kirk, but all the other crew members of Enterprise had their own histories, their own timelines, their own accomplishments and such.

In the reboot, all that is just swept aside. In this version, Kirk was still a cadet who, along with a class of cadets, is crewing Enterprise. When Captain Pike is injured, Kirk has to take command because there really isn’t anyone else (actually, I’m not sure about that — there may actually have been actual commissioned officers on the ship, any one of whom would have been more qualified to take command than an academy cadet).

The timelines are all screwy. Instead of being some 20 or so years younger than Kirk, Chekov is a couple of years younger. Why? That doesn’t make any sense — there was no reason for Chekov’s birth to be so radically affected by whatever happened that diverged this timeline from the original. The same is true for all the others.

Of course, the reason the changes were made was so that the storytellers could tell a particular story while at the same time maintaining the relative relationships from the original series. So, the hand of the movie’s creators being so apparent is one of the reasons I dislike the reboot.

At the end of the movie, Kirk — still a cadet, mind you — is promoted to captain and given command of Enterprise. Excuse me? At what point does it make sense for a cadet who hasn’t even graduated from the academy yet — hasn’t even become an ensign yet — to jump over five ranks, any one of which would normally require years of service to achieve, all based upon being accidentally successful at one mission, albeit an important one?

Look, I was never a huge Trekkie. I watched the original series as a kid, and I enjoyed it well enough. I liked The Next Generation a lot, and watched all the other series until I simply couldn’t tolerate the stupidity of Voyager anymore. One of the things I enjoyed most about Star Trek over the years, though, was the continuity. The Trek universe had a lot of history, and although it was full of a lot of pulpy space opera silliness, it was often reasonable enough that I was willing to suspend disbelief. It was fun, and I enjoyed it.

The Trek reboot, although fun in its own way, basically pissed on all the things I enjoyed about the original universe, all in an effort to appeal to the more casual fans, of which there were a lot more of than there were hardcore Trekkies, or even fans like me, who weren’t fanatical about it, but who were more involved than the typical viewer.

The Trek reboot, in other words, represented an attempt by a corporation to relaunch a brand in order to sell more of a product.

That’s all Star Trek is to Paramount, and all it has ever been — a product, and originally one it didn’t even want. Paramount inherited Star Trek when it bought Desilu from Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez, which was the original producer of the series. It tried to offload the series, but no one was interested in buying it. Paramount wasn’t even all that interested in putting the original series into syndication, as at the time it was generally accepted that a series needed at least 100 episodes to be successful as reruns, and of course the original series only had 79.

The thing is, of course, is that fandom turned Star Trek into something more than just a product. It was a living concept that was fueled by all the fannish enthusiasm of the day.

The reboot? That’s just a product, its relationship to the original comparable to Cheez Whiz cheese-food-like product is to a nice wheel of cheddar.

Not that I have anything against Cheez Whiz, mind you. It’s perfectly fine for what it is. If given a choice, though, I’d rather have the cheddar.