At least this is what I can say about this franchise in light of the rave reviews and the recent success at the box office which blew everything else from the past out of the water.
Yesterday I finally watched Star Trek (2009) and I feel I need to write everything regarding this movie and mainly my personal history with this franchise to simply and finally get everything out of my head – especially regarding my hate for one special series.
Be prepared for a long post that deals with the series of Star Trek.
I think we all can somehow agree to the fact we all have or had at least some kind of contact with this universe. Some might tell you they didn’t and they may be even right but Star Trek is burned so deeply into our pop culture that basically everybody knows of at least the “big” characters, the ship and some other details, for example “Beam me up, Scotty”.
When I was younger I admittedly didn’t know anything about Star Trek but that was almost due to my parents lack of teaching me the basics of mainstream and Science Fiction, so I was kind of surprised when I first stumbled across this franchise.
Namely, it was – as far as I can remember – the episode “The Royale” from The Next Generation where the crew finds a hotel in the middle of nowhere, only to find out that this fake world was not only based on a bad novel but also created for an astronaut stranded in space. To call me hooked after watching this episode would be a big understatement because I was hooked. I always was a sucker for mysteries with a long history and this episode delivered exactly what I liked.
Then, just a week later (or was it a day?) was an episode where the baldy, French captain encountered his self from the future. Wow. Now that really was unusual for a boy knowing only shitty TV. And as far those two episodes marked the moment when I started following this series loosely – which means that if I had some spare time I gladly would went into this world and have some fun with the characters.
In review I can say that The Next Generation not always was perfect (heck, the first seasons where shitty) but it also delivered some of the best TV episodes I have ever watched. “The Inner Light” is one of those few episodes that does what any good scifi should do: put the hard scifi into the background and use it gently to let a character centric story flourish. “Darmok” is another one of those rare gems of great science fiction storytelling and I still find it mesmerizing that Stargate for example simply couldn’t deliver such great stories in its massive Canadian woods (yes, I watched some episodes, I admit it).
As TNG slowly but surely went to rest but went with a bang in the shape of “All the good things” I watched DS) here and there. As TNG the show started rather crappy but found its height in the third or fourth season with its darker storytelling in which not everything ends happily. The Dominion War pushed this dark side even further albeit a little too far for my liking so I started losing interest over time. Nevertheless even this dark series has one episode that I love: “The Visitor”, again one of the best examples of a human-centered story in which the hard scifi only is used as a plot device to move everything gently forward. Admitted, there was some slight “technobabble” in which some shit science is told to find the dues-ex-machina but it still was a great episode.
Voyager on the other hand, the Star Trek series I watched besides DS9, many times had simply too much of this technobabble. The characters didn’t find a solution to their problems the hard way. No, they simply pushed two or three buttons and everything was solved – and I always wondered why it took them so long to press them. Nevertheless I quite liked this series for being light on the mood later in its run. I could turn in, have some fun and action and be done with it. It was meant for adventure and sometimes managed to deliver this promise. Well, and even this series had some good perhaps even great episodes, although nothing helped to regain their traction in TV.
Up to this point I could say that Star Trek many times was good. Sometimes very good and sometimes even almost perfect, topping any list I had in my mind.
And then came “Enterprise”.
I must apologize to any true fan because… holy god of f**king shit badness! This series really managed to hit the right “hate” buttons. You know, up to Enterprise the producers built a whole universe even core Star Wars wasn’t able to create. There were thousands of TV series hours and hours of movies and so much more. There was history. And this series promised to go to the beginning of this vast history. It promised to show the first big steps of humanity towards this optimistic future.
They failed miserably.
Seriously, I normally don’t care that much about shitty series because…why should I? But this was in my eyes the biggest chance in TV history. It was the chance to go back, go dirty and boldly go where no series has gone before. They could have made Star Trek relevant again.
But what did we get? We got the Klingons (again), the Ferengis (again) and mostly all technology we knew so well and were tired of. It got even better because the series didn’t even know where it was going. The producers Rick Berman and the other guy didn’t really know what they would do with this biggest chance ever. The had no clue! Can you believe this shit? How hard can it be to outline a story draft that roughly tells the big overall story so each writer knows what’s going on? Or where everything was headed?
I only thought for some minutes and got an epic story where the crew of the Enterprise arrogantly intervenes into the politics of a pre-warp planet (by believing they can help no matter what’s going on), only to led their actions result in the complete destruction of the planet by a nuclear holocaust. Ten billion aliens dead and the beginning of the first directive.
This is how they could have told Enterprise. And even more. They could have started slowly by boldly going not into space in the first ten minutes but by working on the first prototype for one full season filled with political tensions everywhere and a captain with a big dream in his heart to go to space. They could have created a formula of going bigger with each new season. Then they could have finished the series not by forming the Federation but by forming the first true alliance with an alien race. Humanity then truly would have reached space and their own future.
But no, they decided to do otherwise and instead delivered some of the biggest shit I ever had to endure in TV. “Precious Cargo” was an episode I really only stumbled across but boy, this was it. This was the moment I stopped watching. This is also the episode to check the sense of reality of any Star Trek Reviewer: if this shit is rated higher than zero, the respective reviewer certainly has a problem with taste. By the way: if someone rates this episode with two stars for example, check every other review and reduce the number of stars accordingly.
Enterprise went and bombed and this seemingly was the end of it. But then, Paramount decided to give it another chance and really boldly go where no Star Trek movie has gone before. They decided to go back (on the movie level) and really tried to stop the shit from getting bigger. Basically they did the “Batman Turnaround” by taking an almost dead franchise and reinventing it. The comic book lovers got Batman Begins followed by The Dark Knight, the Star Trek fans now got Star Trek.
Will the sequel be as good as The Dark Knight? After watching Star Trek I can say one thing for sure: they certainly broke up with a lot of old habits. Star Trek really never felt that gripping, real or dirty. This is a future that is indeed the future, but a future with many textures, one that is not that clean at the moment and one that has a very industrial feel to it. It is optimistic in a sense, but is not only more realistic and dark but also is made as an action movie at its core. The speed of storytelling was high to say the least and I must admit, that it sometimes felt a little bit too fast.
But to me, Star Trek is the Batman Begins of the Star Trek franchise. J. J. Abrahms was able to create a new movie with a fresher look and fresh ideas. Even more importantly, they now have the one in a lifetime chance to deliver a sequel that will reach the heights of movie heavens. They now have the chance to create The Dark Knight of science fiction. Abrahms changed the tone to something more real and grittier compared to the past as Christopher Nolan did with Batman. Now they have to let the science fiction part go to the background and basically tell a story from a different genre of highest quality.
Star Trek is back thanks to J.J. Abrahms, this much is sure. I really hope they now will make it to the next level.