Sunday, December 04, 2005


Oh no, please save us from another TNG Trek film. The article says that Captain Picard -- er, Patrick Stewart, has had meeting about playing Picard once again.

I have no problems with Stewart's performance as Picard, but it's time to let the corpse of Trek cool a bit. Braga's gone now from involvement with the franchise; Berman may be next. The next film is purportedly going to feature an all-new, younger cast in a story set before the first (TOS) series. They should let the series go fallow after that.

In their latest Trek podcast, Lene and JK point out that when you look at the landscape of Trek today, it's the fans who are carrying the legacy, not the studio. Fanfiction continues to tell the stories of Trek and fan films are the only new "movies" being made at the moment.

But they also point to something that I think is the way of the future, albeit a limited one, for the franchise. They mention that TOS was the originator and that every series and film and novel since has merely been elaborating the original idea or exploring variations and nooks of the universe. I think they've hit it. That's why the fandom is still so vibrant, because they can go where the franchise won't -- into darker stories, wildly imaginative variants, love stories, grand action, back stories. The studio has placed so many limits on what Star Trek "can't" do, or what it has to do, that they can't tell a lot of those stories any more.

The way for Star Trek, unfortunately, is "forward into the past." They need to go to a format -- movies of the week, miniseries, direct to DVD, web downloads -- that allows stand-alone stories. Then they need to open the franchise to writers, directors and actors who have stories they want to tell. Let there be a "David Lynch Star Trek," tell the story of Spock's childhood, tell an all-Klingon story full of violence and drama, revisit the "Mirror, Mirror" universe. It's a chance for people to add yet more texture to the legacy. It's an opportunity to play with the assumptions and conventions of Star Trek.

The possibilities are enormous, but ultimately limited. The galaxy is vast, yes, but still a finite place. Even in Star Trek. I think the "ship and crew" thing is played out, at least as the franchise is handling it. Science has opened up whole new possibilities that the original series, and early TNG, have now locked out. Star Trek is no longer a likely future, just a quaint idea of what could have been, like Fifties' sci-fi with its needle-shaped rockets, BEMs, evil scientists and room-sized banks of computers.

Part of the problem is that science has out-stripped the imaginations of most Hollywood writers. The world a mere fifty years from now is not imaginable today, as the world of 1950 was to writers like H.G. Wells. Even professional science fiction writers today have a hard time trying to create a possible future farther than a mere twenty years down the road. Opening Star Trek to people who can create really outlandish stories ideas is good, but the franchise is locked into a vision that precludes most of them.

Star Trek needs to go away. Possibly forever. It's Final Frontier optimism speaks for itself. It's time for another view to come along. It's likely going to be dystopian right now, as that seems to be the cultural zeitgeist, but sooner or later the pendulum swings back. Another generation will find a way to speak to the future. Don't block them with old ideas taking away the production money.

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