Home/Daniel Larison/So Star Trek Isn’t Star Trek Anymore

So Star Trek Isn’t Star Trek Anymore

Like so many successful comic-book movies, it’s about adolescent heroes coming to terms with themselves and their pasts, struggling with friends, rivals, and enemies while searching for power and place in the world. Where the original was poorly fashioned and outwardly focused, this one is gorgeously designed and self-obsessed. It’s personal rather than political, aesthetically pleasing at the expense of conceptual depth. Star Trek, then, is continuing its mission: boldly going where the franchise has never gone before, seeking out new fans and new pop culture relevance. But it may lead fans of the original into unfamiliar space, struggling to come to terms with a series that, for the first time in more than four decades, feels strangely alien. ~Peter Suderman

I have to confess to being a life-long watcher of Star Trek and something of a fan, at least during its better moments, so I have viewed the new prequel/remake with a certain dread. The last time a Star Trek film involved Romulans was not that long ago, and it was possibly one of the worst movies of the last decade. To call that one Clive Barker’s Star Trek would be an insult to Hellraiser fans (and it is debatable whether the ninth movie is more like a bad horror flick than the tenth), but that is what has always come to mind when I think about it. In other words, I am not sorry that there will be no more TNG-based movies.

Now J.J. Abrams promises/threatens to do to an old, admittedly creaky and tired franchise what he does in pretty much every movie he directs: blow up a lot of things, including any pretensions the franchise has ever had to being something more than a violent space opera. For most people, this will come as a relief, but I am not one of them. The insufferably cerebral and moralistic elements of Star Trek have been bad enough to make even devoted fans wince many, many times, and if the acting often seemed weak it might have been because so few actors can credibly recite some of the drivel generations of actors have been forced to say over the decades. However, stripping Star Trek of those things isn’t to create a new, reimagined Star Trek, but simply to slap the old names on something entirely different and pretend that annihilation is the same as renovation. Of course, I have found almost every assumption that undergirds the old Star Trek universe utterly ridiculous and unrealistic even by sci-fi standards. It is indeed the meliorist’s and progressive’s dream come true, which is another way of saying that it is impossible. There is almost nothing in the franchise’s politics that I find attractive, and the regular sermonizing was at times very unpleasant*. Yet I learned to like it not just in spite of its preachiness and precious political correctness, but also partly because those were constants one could rely on.

Even though these were the things from which the franchise had to keep redeeming itself, it would have been indistinguishable from every other action/adventure story set in space if it did not have them. I have heard it said that the new Bond films have created a Bond in many ways much closer to Ian Fleming’s conception of the character; I find it hard to imagine anyone saying the same thing about the new crew of the Enterprise and Roddenberry. Very few, aside from Dirk Benedict, really miss the old Battlestar Galactica that Ron Moore’s re-creation has completely surpassed and, despite its final missteps, almost obliterated from memory. Millions of people who grew up with the hokey, earnest and ridiculous Star Trek will miss it when it is permanently replaced by its “self-obsessed” namesake.

* This is balanced by the strange fact that the most absurdly political, preachy film of them all, The Voyage Home, was also by far the funniest.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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