I should be thrilled by the announcement, but I am not. I have been a fan of Star Trek for most of my life, but this recent announcement brought no joy. Let me explain.
This new film is to be produced by JJ Abrams who was behind the worst of the Star Trek movies with the best of the budgets as well as writer and producer of Star Trek: Discovery Kalinda Vazquez which is by far the worst Star Trek series ever created. Some of the news articles I have read have pointed out that Ms. Vazquez is named after a character from TOS episode “By Any Other Name” as if that is supposed to make everything better. I know somebody whose parents were fans of DS9 and are named after a particular character from it. Does that make them a good choice to write a new Star Trek film?
Star Trek has become a shallow spectacle driven concept that if it presents to you deep topics it does so briefly and in a ham fisted manner before moving on to the next explosion or scene with heavy gunfire. Rather than characters learning and growing they sprint to the next action scene. Star Trek is more than an action film with the Star Trek name attached.
The problem in my opinion began with JJ Abrams and the reboots. He is a little kid when it comes to directing. By that I mean he is wowed by the explosions and special effects but fails to be able to sense something deeper. A child sees what a badass Khan was and the cool battles in Star Trek II but fails to see the themes of obsession and dealing with your past.
Worse yet Abrams does not like Star Trek. He prefers Star Wars over Star Trek. He said as much when he first got the job. And being of that mindset he did his damnedest to turn Star Trek into Star Wars and the morons at Paramount who have never quite understood how to handle the property were fine with it.
I bring up the example of the classic TNG two parter “The Best of Both Worlds.” While we did in the end get an explosion what got us to that point was the characters using their brains and the character Picard using all of his will and strength to come to the surface to deliver the answer to his friends and teammates.
Ever since I was little, I have always wanted Star Trek to have a big budget and the best special effects money could buy. I felt each and every iteration on film and television deserved that in order to best tell whatever story they were trying to tell. I think Star Trek V for example, arguably the worst of the original films and the worst of the Star Trek films until the reboots, could have benefitted from a better budget. I think one of the big problems with it is that it had a television movie production value to a theatrical release. If it come out on a cable or a television network I think it would’ve been much better received.
I have brought this up a few times before. There was an interview I saw with one of the writers of TNG discussing the script writing process of the series. They talked about the early stages of the story that eventually became “Deja Q” I believe. That was the episode where Q lost his powers and became human. Originally the story was about Q pretending to lose his powers and leading the Enterprise crew on what amounted to a wild goose chase. The writer of that episode was pulled into Gene Roddenberry’s office and Roddenberry asked what the episode was about. The writer went through the story and Gene then reiterated his question. The point was that Star Trek should be about more than what you can get from a surface glance and most episodes were. They may not have necessary touched on big topics like war or drug abuse or something like that, but they were at least about the characters. Not so much anymore.
I do not have a good feeling about this upcoming film given the producer and the writer. I do not know what the plot will be, and I do not know what characters will be involved. No details like that have been released, and I assume that at this point those decisions have not been set in stone.
I just know it will not be what Star Trek once was. I know things change and I am okay with that. You need to mix things up but there are certain things that make each intellectual property unique and special. But things need to change for the better or change needs to reinvigorate something.
Vazquez and Abrams do not get what makes Star Trek special. What makes Star Trek special is that it is about something more than the surface. It is more than just, well, pretty special effects or big battles. It touches on ideas like war or environmentalism or any touchy topic but does so in such a way that it goes down easy and makes you think. It is not shoved in your face or beaten over your head. It does not think so little of the audience that it spoon feeds the message to the viewer. It is about the characters learning ang growing and thus we might learn and grow. At least it should be, but the creative minds like JJ Abrams and Kalinda Vazquez have forgotten that.
My expectations are very low for this film and I doubt it will be good. I never thought I would say it, but I just do not care about an upcoming Star Trek film enough to see it. At least not the day it premieres like I once did.