Thursday, August 6, 2009

Star Trek For the Masses: To Boldly Go?

No one who did not grow up with a Trekkie can possibly understand the hold the series has on its true believers. While my father is, at best, a middling fan (he never, for instance, took the time to learn the Klingon language), I was nevertheless compelled to spend a great deal of my childhood in the presence of Star Trek and its seemingly endless parade of spinoffs, each more second-rate than the last. There was Star Trek: The Next Generation, then Deep Space Nine, then something else, and I’m fairly certain there was something else after that, and Wikipedia claims there was also an animated series (before my time) and, of course, the feature films (eleven at last count).

Despite, or perhaps because, of my long and reluctant relationship with the franchise, I must admit that the willingness of fans to sit through these endless hours of Trek upon Trek upon Trek still mystifies me. There seems to be an almost limitless appetite, on the part of some people, for such things as large, talking, malevolent clouds of gas, unbearably sanctimonious political bromides, often wretched special effects, endless variations on the complications of time travel, and actors in rubber suits pretending to be suspiciously humanoid aliens. The willingness of the rest of us to do so, however, seems to have been understandably declining over time, which is probably why J.J. Abrams was hired to perform the now ubiquitous Hollywood “reboot” that every moribund franchise must undergo in order to reenter the cultural mainstream.

Abrams’s efforts have been met, as everyone now knows, with immense success, mainly because he has dispensed with almost everything that made the series unbearable to semi-normal human beings—the endless complications of time travel remain, taken to their logical extreme. Star Trek in Abrams’s and his writers’ hands is the biggest Buck Rogers movie ever made; a rollicking thrill-ride through the space opera genre, with more starships exploding and lasers blasting per second than George Lucas ever dreamed of in his unfortunate CGI fantasies. It’s all highly enjoyable, and gives one the same giddy, childlike high that Lucas and his oft-accomplice Steven Spielberg specialize in. And yet, one cannot help feeling that something is missing from Star Trek in its new, MTV incarnation. The truth is that, for all its fun and games, Star Trek is not really a particularly good film.

Read the rest at The New Ledger.