by Heath Holland
Star Trek and I go way back. Not as far back as I do with Star Wars, my first love (and the first love of several people involved in the future of Star Trek), but pretty far back. As a kid, I would come home from school, watch Ducktales and TaleSpin (and later Darkwing Duck) until five in the afternoon on my local independent television station WPMI. At five o’clock, back to back episodes of Gilligan’s Island would come on, and I’d usually watch those because there was nothing better on. At six, though, if my dad still hadn’t gotten in from work and dinner wasn’t waiting, I was able to watch the original episodes of Star Trek in syndication.
I feel the same about the movies, though the movies are admittedly a different beast. The original ten films, beginning with 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture and culminating with 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis are varied in quality and some of them simply have less to offer me than others. Still, there is at least something in each film that I find to have value and to keep me coming back appreciatively. Even the “bad” ones have a sense of reaching and convey the search for enlightenment that I value. They still represent a singular vision of our future, in which humanity seeks to transcend racial and religious discrimination, war, famine, and crime. To me, the shows and films depict a human race always moving forward, sometimes hitting snags along the way and losing track of the ultimate goal, but ultimately advancing and becoming more open minded, more tolerant, and more free from the bonds that have restrained it.
Star Trek, I was a bit dubious. I liked Abrams and had been a mega-fan of his television show Alias (Lost, not so much). I was a bit iffy on the involvement of Damon Lindelof as Abrams’ co-producer because of his reputation of starting projects and not finishing them. I’d been burned by Lindelof’s Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk comic book series which saw a THREE YEAR DELAY between issue two and issue three, so Lindelof was not my favorite person in 2009. I still thought Abrams was up for the task because I had seen and loved Mission Impossible III, but with a new cast, a new, grittier take on the future, and a focus on action instead of exploration and existentialism, I just wasn’t expecting the same things I had from earlier movies. Time had passed and this was a new beast. Nevertheless, with the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy and some fancy dimension hopping, I actually ended up being relatively satisfied with the finished product, which relaunched a series that I loved into the pop culture conscience again and had people who would never have given Star Trek the time of day discussing the exploits of the U.S.S. Enterprise. It had the unenviable task of having to please old Trekkies (some say the term Trekkies is derogatory, but I embrace the label) which is a notoriously difficult-to-please group, and bring in new fans at the same time. By introducing a new bad guy and adding his love of Star Wars to Star Trek, Abrams made something that was acceptable by the mainstream and gave Trek fans a legitimately exciting film with space battles like they’d never seen. While far from perfect, it succeeded and set the stage for what was sure to be a great next chapter.
2013’s Star Trek: Into Darkness is where things really fell apart for me. I’ve ranted before so I won’t repeat myself here. However, I’ll say that I do not like the darker tone, I do not like the reliance on previously established villains, I do not like the fact that J.J. Abrams repeatedly outright lied about the villain of the film which led us to believe the series was going into bold, uncharted territory, and I definitely do not like how much Into Darkness leans on and borrows from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The franchise as a whole needs to establish itself as its own thing, not remind us of things that we love about other movies in the series.
hero of mine, who are we to protest when all that popcorn is at stake?
And yet, I remain hopeful. Despite a trailer that features the new pop song from Rihanna and more explosions than every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie combined, it looks possible that this new Star Trek film is going to be something that could very well please a fan like myself. We have a new antagonist, a threat that is not easily solved with brawn, and the promise of a great moral dilemma. Of all the new Star Trek films, this one looks very much like it could be the Trekkiest. Star Trek is about hope and trying to be the best version of ourselves possible, so I will be there in line to see this movie with no grudges (well, maybe a little one) and with my mind as open as possible. I want to give it a fair shot. I want to be able to say “I really love the new Star Trek movie” and mean it. I haven’t been able to do that since 1996 with Star Trek: First Contact, which was itself pretty mainstream popcorn entertainment, after all.