Star Trek: The Franchise

By Shamus Posted Monday May 11, 2009

Filed under: Nerd Culture 61 comments

I’ve always had a strange relationship with Star Trek. I don’t self-identify as a Trek fan, but I’ve watched most of the originals, most of The Next Generation, half of Voyager, a handful of Deep Space Nine, and all of the movies. I’m not sure why, as I’ve hated it more often than I loved it. Still, I’ve absorbed enough that it’s pretty hard to claim I’m not a fan in some capacity. I think maybe I like the idea of Star Trek better than I like the product itself.

Part of the problem is just the sheer longevity of the show. Star Trek has run for over four decades. It’s spanned six TV series, eleven movies, and a cargo container of books and comics. With that much content by so many different authors with so many divergent agendas it would be impossible for any work of fiction to emerge without a few plot holes and regrettable errors, but I still find myself wishing they could at least get everyone in the band on the same page. If not in tune, and perhaps not even all playing the same song, but maybe it’s not to much to ask that they all stick to the same genre of music. Trying to create a coherent story that goes from space-western to morality play to space [and sometimes soap] opera, to thought-provoking sci-fi, to “action flick go boom” is so difficult that it makes me wonder why they bother trying to create continuity at all. It’s fine if they want to take some ideas and go off and make something new with them, but then they insist on trying to re-connect everything by dragging characters and events from one genre show to another, and the result always makes a hash of things.

“Midi-chlorians” is the sneering watchword of disillusioned Star Wars fans. If it’s not “Midi-chlorians”, it’s “Han Shot First”, the complaint of fans who don’t like to see the story changed via retroactive rewrites and “re-imaginings” of established events. But their troubles are minor compared to the trials of the average Trek fan. The Star Trek version of the scene would have Han Solo from the future time-traveling back to the gunfight to save Greedo from his past self because it turns out that Greedo is crucial (crucial!) to the life of the galaxy in some way that was never mentioned, telegraphed, or plausible in the original ordering of events. Then after playing his part in saving the galaxy, Greedo would betray future Han and run off to become a recurring villain, and every time they met they would talk about The Day in The Bar When We Tried To Shoot Each Other. Han would repeatedly spare Greedo for reasons that were never explained. Then they would be forced to team up against some Greater Threat to The Whole Universe. Then Greedo would become a good guy. Then he would get his own show.

This is the story of the Trek universe, a bubbling cauldron of thick, chunky nonsense and disjointed storytelling. It’s a beast with more holes than a Dunkin’ Donuts and more cruft than the Windows 98 codebase.


I sat down here to write about the movie, and ended up banging out 500 words about the franchise itself. I guess this is fitting, since every conversation I have about any individual movie or television show turns into a tirade about how it’s further contorted an already badly mangled story.

Watched every movie? Complained about all of them? Obsessing over continuity problems? Who am I kidding? That’s the definition of a Trek fan, right there. I might as well put on some pointy ears and start writing fan fiction.

I’ll try again tomorrow to review the movie.


From The Archives:

61 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Franchise

  1. Legal Tender says:

    Hmm. I hear you. I haven’t seen the movie but from what I’ve gathered it makes heavy use of time travel to get its plot going.

    I’m a bit tired of that narrative device, tbh. I think I had enough of it from LOST.

    I’m not a fan either (I will probably be fed to the wolves but…I’ve mosly only watched Enterprise) but I thought it was a really neat idea to see how the whole thing started. You know, building the spaceship and the beginnings of the main characters and so on.

    Oh well, maybe I will skip this one. Shame, really. Looked good in the trailers.

  2. Rats says:

    The new film is a great film, but i do reccomend you put the idea of it beig a star trek film out of your head. Much like the new italian job was a good film if you are willing to ignore the title.


    The new film uses time travel to ignore the cannon of the previous shows/films.

    A good move (i think) on the part of the creators (to cash in on the franchise, while enabling them a lot of freedom in future), but they may as well have just named the film something different.

    P.S. Is there a spoiler option to show/hide text in comments here?

  3. Nalano says:

    The thing about the latest movie is, all that baggage of the previous series/movies/errata? Gone. They wiped the slate clean; reverted it back to 1966 with an origin story.

    The time traveling thing was just the plot point to get there. If you can suspend disbelief in just one more time traveling story, you get probably the most distilled Star Trek experience to come of late.

  4. toasty says:

    I’m a trekkie… I suppose. I’ve watched parts of Enterprise, all of DS9 and most of Voyager, all the movies and lots of TNG. I don’t want to say I’m a trekkie because that in my mind that would make me a horrible geek (even though I’m proud to call myself a geek. Go figure).

    Anyways, when heard what they were doing with this movie I wasn’t terribly impressed. The orignal Star Trek series was never a favorite (it was cheesy, Kirk was fat, and I disliked his playboy attitude). From what I’ve heard its supposed to be a good movie (and it has Sylar. :D). Still, I would have preferred another TNG or a DS9 movie.

  5. Ed says:

    I interpreted the time travel as a means of avoiding any future necessity of having to deal with a bunch of angry Trek Fans should they decide to continue making new movies. This way they won’t have to put up with a flood of emails containing sentences like this: “Actually, if you look at season 2, episode 3, and freeze frame at 14 minutes, 39 seconds, you can see that [insert minutia here].”

  6. JLrep says:

    I basically stick to the original series, with a bit of TNG now and then. I love the original because it’s just classic sci-fi; cheesy and interesting (just like the characters). TNG is fun for a bit, but it has a lot more action, and nearly all of the characters are annoying. Does have the borg, though.

  7. Benjamin O says:

    I’ll admit to being a semi-trekkie. I prefer TNG to TOS, but I only have TOS on VHS (but alas, not in the original Vulcan…).

    I don’t speak Klingon, and I haven’t even watched more than one or two episodes of ST: Voyager, let alone the newere stuff….

    BUT!! I plan on seeing the movie. From what I have heard, this would have suited Roddenberry in some ways. I’ll reserve final judgment until I’ve watched it.

  8. Tango says:

    I agree with Rats. I like the way the time travel was handled specifically for that element. Not only did it connect the original story to the new one, it established the new story as a world of its own.

    Much better than how I understand Enterprise was connected.

  9. Strangeite says:

    If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then . . .

  10. Henebry says:

    I haven’t seen the new movie yet, and I completely avoided the recent, failed TV series Enterprise.

    But it’s hard for me to imagine any fanbase, ever, that has been as thoroughly betrayed as the Star Wars fanbase. No, not even Matrix fans had it so bad as Star Wars fans.

    You’ll note that Matrix fans and Star Wars fans both share something in common: the first movie established a grip on consciousness which was at least in part due to unexplained mysteries. When later movies started trying to explain the nature of the Force, well, it got stupid in a hurry.

    It would have been difficult for Star Trek fans to be betrayed in this way simply because the show didn’t operate by positing mysteries. If Star Wars is a mystical vision, full of half-grasped references and luminous with hazy meaning, Star Trek is an allegory, carefully mapped out with references to contemporary political debates. Here’s an example of what I mean: when Yoda warns Luke not to go to rescue his friends in Empire Strikes Back, is he right to do so? The movie’s outcome suggests he was not. This is the best-trained Jedi seer in the galaxy, and yet it would seem that there is a deeper instinct (love?) which guides Luke better than his supposed master does. That’s a mystery right there, and any effort to explain it afterward destroys the mystery and angers fans. I can’t think of anything comparable in Star Trek. Sure, they have a Prime Directive, and this moral rule “” like all such laws “” must be struggled with and interpreted in response to local conditions. But this debate is intellectual, not instinctual.

    This intellectual rather than mystical bent is because the Star Trek franchise has been about an idea from early on. During the first half of the Cold War, most Americans agreed in believing their nation to be a beacon of freedom to the world, blessed with the best possible society where anyone could succeed by dint of hard work. This shared idea is sometimes called the “Ideology of Liberal Consensus.” By the time that the original Star Trek series was being made in the late sixties, though, that ideology was under real strain as Americans were forced first by the Civil Rights movement and then by Vietnam to acknowledge that all was not well either in our domestic or in our foreign policy.

    At this moment of crisis for those who wanted to believe in America, the Federation was invented by Gene Roddenberry. He asked viewers to imagine a brighter future in which the world was united as part of a larger “Federation” of planets to form a society from which prejudice had truly been eliminated, a place of opportunity for all at home and equipped with a Prime Directive designed to keep the Federation out of the business of “Third World” planets. Interestingly, the format allowed the writers to play out Cold War international politics, with Klingons cast as Russia, Romulans as Chinese and Vulcans as the Japanese. But this time the good guys really were good guys, really had no oppressed minorities at home or colonial ambitions abroad.

    To me, what’s impressive about the franchise is the effort in the Next Gen episodes and again in Deep Space 9 to update the political ideology informing the series. Deep Space 9 in particular has a darkness which felt to me quite appropriate to the complex messes that we got into in Bosnia and Somalia, when a lone superpower discovered that it often couldn’t fix the world even with the best of intentions. This sort of change, far from betraying the original series, remains true to the series impulse, of using Science Fiction as a platform for thinking through contemporary political and moral issues.

    The movies have rarely been as interesting at the level of idea as the TV shows: when you’re pouring resources and time into a one-shot blockbuster wannabe, you’re unlikely to have much in the way of an artistic vision. Often, in place of genuine moral debate, we got pap like the “save the whales” message of Star Trek IV. But even that doesn’t touch Jar Jar Binks.

  11. Robert says:

    I walked out of the movie Friday with strong opinions, but have been waiting to blog about it because I wanted to see what you were going to say. Now I have to wait another day! :)

  12. Robyrt says:

    Frankly, Star Trek canon has always been pretty ephemeral. Like any long-running series that’s been under creative control of several different people, it gets stupid in a hurry, and the best way to reanimate this Frankenstein is often to reboot the whole thing.

    If it worked so well for superheroes (all of whose recent movies are franchise reboots, with a >50% success rate) why not for space opera like Star Trek?

  13. Deoxy says:

    Wow, Henebry. A good discussion, mind you, but wow. A deep philosophical discussion about the differences between Star Trek and Star Wars and which fanbase was more greatly betrayed? And it was serious? The only thing worse than that is that I read it, understood it, and took it seriously. I think I just levelled up in Geek.

    Oh, and I really loved Shamus’ tweet: “Saw Trek last night. Disappointed that it was as good as predicted. Would have redeemed the time if I could savage it in a post.” Heh.

  14. Vladius says:

    TNG was good. Everything else sucks. It’s a good concept with a very, very sloppy execution.

    Haven’t seen the new movie yet, but I have high hopes.

  15. Scipio says:

    “I don't self-identify as a Trek fan, but I've watched most of the originals, most of The Next Generation, half of Voyager, a handful of Deep Space Nine, and all of the movies. I'm not sure why, as I've hated it more often than I loved it. Still, I've absorbed enough that it's pretty hard to claim I'm not a fan in some capacity.”

    This describes me almost perfectly.

  16. Jimmie says:

    My short summation of Trek, just from what I’ve read of it thus far: “Hey, you know the last forty years? Well, **** you!”

  17. locusts says:

    Seen all the movies? Check. Understand some of the ongoing plot and themes? Check. Can name characters from the shows? Check. Wait, Star Trek has six television series? I can only think of five. I guess I am not a fan after all. What a relief. :D

  18. MissusJ says:

    @ Henebry: Yes, thank you for this, I loved it. :)

    I have to describe myself as a second generation Trek fan- I grew up watching reruns and marathons of the original series, watched the pilot of TNG when it originally aired, and am currently on a quest to watch All The Star Trek There Is with my husband. (Current status: derailed due to Battlestar Galactica, but only Enterprise, original series, and animated series to go.)

    I am not a fangirl that points out minutae. I kind of enjoy hearing about them, but I generally do not even remember them afterward. I enjoy the books when I read them, but tend to pick up a fantasy book before sci-fi. And I have yet to see Star Trek that I really did not like (with the possible exception of season 2 of anything, especially TNG). All this to say…

    I am very much looking forward to seeing this movie. :) We will probably still wait for the dvd, since a movie and babysitting is way too expensive for us these days, but I will impatiently await its dvd/blueray release. :D

  19. Zock says:

    It was an OK Star Wars movie. Wouldn’t call it Trek though.

  20. Shamus says:

    Henebry: So… Star Wars fans have it worse, because their franchise was better to begin with and thus they had more to lose?

    I can see that.

    What is better, to plod along in mediocrity, or to be truly excellent for a moment and then descend into suckitude?

    Why do we have to make this choice? Why can’t everything be awesome all the time?

  21. Stephen B says:

    I agree with what people here have said, for the most part. I must admit the time travel storyline they like to use a lot, but usually to good effect. I have not seen the new film however I and someone else from my college course intend to go together and see it, judge for ourselves, I suppose.

    I do feel that when discussing this topic it can be quite long. Like you said, you went to just talk about the film and ended up, I quote, “ended up banging out 500 words about the franchise itself” It is such a controversial topic. I do think that no one can really disagree that the idea itself is great, most if not all wish today was like that make belief world.

    What I do like, is that all technology used, for the most part, is in theory possible! That gives great hope in my eyes. Since not long ago computers were the size of a building and had valves the size of cars, and now we have laptops… Who knows what we could end up with?

    Well anyway, I look forward to seeing the film for myself.

  22. Tesh says:

    I’m just tired of Kirk and crew. If they wanted to do a franchise “reboot”, they could have easily picked up on any of the tangents the Trek universe has spawned… or done something really creative and made a new tangent. Reusing the old Kirk crew brought in some brand loyalty, but just as much, if not more, fan angst.

    I’d have liked to see something more on the Challenger crew or even Peter David’s Excalibur over a rehash of Kirk’s Enterprise.

    That said, I’m not really fussed about mangling canon in and of itself. Myths reinvent themselves every generation anyway. No, what bugs me is pandering to the lowest common denominator, inept science and over-reliance on eye candy to attract and distract. That bugs me in any instance, though, so it’s hardly nerd rage from a Trekkie.

  23. Magnus says:

    Well, I’m hoping to see the film tomorrow evening, so I’m glad I’ll be able to watch it before I see your review!

    I’ve been a Trek watcher (see how I avoided saying “trekkie” or “fan” there) since I was young, watched re-runs of TOS and then TNG and DS9. Never got into voyager or enterprise, and I’ve seen all the films. DS9 is definately my favourite, for the latter series anyway.

    For the reboot, I’m wondering why they need to explain away things using time travel? I’ll find out more tomorrow I hope, but wouldn’t it have been far easier just to wipe the slate completely clean, and then do what they want?

    If it worked, they would have been able to expand on that, if it didn’t, they could go back to the drawing board and leave us with our memories.

    And finally, saw my favourite trek episode this weekend, “Trials and Tribble-ations”.

  24. SolkaTruesilver says:

    Shamus: there is an alternative. Get cancelled in the first season, like Firefly, and never descend into bad things.

    I am myself a fan of Star Trek (mostly DS9), and the behavior of some fans regarding the mistakes is really annoying. However, sometimes, there is one major thing that one cannot look aside because it’s not an error: it was purposely put there.

    My beef regarding the new Star Trek movie (aside from the Tabula Rasa state, which isn’t THAT bad, to be honest. It’s not wiping what happened earlier, and one can live with alternate timelines) is Kirk’s situation at the end of the movie, which I found totally ridiculous. It’s going aside all the common sense Starfleet depicted in the previous 40 years of show.

    But otherwise, good movie. The Redshirt dies :-)

  25. ryanlb says:

    I’ve become more of a Trek fan in the last two years or so, where my once fanatic Star Wars fandom has died down significantly. In fact, I’m proud to call myself a trekkie, though I’ve never worn a Star Trek costume. I’ve stopped collecting Star Wars toys, I sold my Royal Guard costume, and I haven’t been able to watch any Star Wars films for the last three years, until recently when I showed the Original Trilogy to my 3 year old daughter (she loved them, and I enjoyed them through her, she cheered when Vader picked up the Emperor and threw him over the railing). I don’t know when I’ll be able to watch the Prequels again, if ever.

    Contrastingly, I love the Original Series, Next Gen (my wife and I are watching through them, almost done with season 3) and DS9 (my cousin and I are watching through the Dominion war). I love the movies, and can even stomach The Search For Spock (which I enjoyed quite a bit) and the Final Frontier, (which wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been led to believe).

    The new movie was absolutely great, and I rank it in the top three with Wrath of Khan and First Contact. I quite enjoyed the time travel reboot, accepted it from the start so I wouldn’t be the guy complaining about how they violated episode 4 of season 2 or whatever. It’s been interesting so far to contrast things that we know from the original continuity with the new one.

    I found the story to be engaging, the action was great, the characters were great, lots of feel of the original actors, without copying them exactly. I liked how the relationships formed, some opposite of what we expected, some just as we expected.

    I can’t wait for the follow up movie.

  26. Yar Kramer says:

    @Shamus: Because then The Fans wouldn’t have anything substantial to complain about, and they’d have to complain about much less-substantial things.

    I haven’t gotten around to seeing it yet, I’m not really much of a movie-watcher. My dad, however, said it was a good one. He also mentioned that one of the positive elements was that Kirk was being played by a better actor than William Shatner this time around.

  27. Daimbert says:

    I’m currently in the middle of watching my recently purchased entire series of DS9, which I had watched most of the first season and a couple more episodes of outside of that. I saw most of TNG. Watched most of TOS (as a kid, mainly).

    I don’t want to go to see the new movie, because it sounds far too actiony for me. I barely watched two episodes of Voyager, and it seems like that was a good thing.

    When I watched Enterprise for the first time, I knew I didn’t really want to watch it again. My complaint — which other people laughed at — was that I couldn’t see how they could get from (graphically and otherwise) that series to TOS. And I’m someone who watches all the Star Wars movies in IN-UNIVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER and has no problems with it.

    I’m not sure what that makes me wrt Star Trek, although I don’t think I’m as big a Trek fan as a Star Wars fan.

    At any rate, when Star Trek is good it isn’t action-good, but character/story good. You have interesting concepts, done well, with a bit of humour thrown in (with a little action to keep the kids interested). Star Trek has always been — at least for the ones I watch — something that you THINK about, and laugh a little at as well. Star Wars has been something that you watch, laugh at, and get generally entertained with.

    Star Wars started to suck when Lucas wanted to try to make people think about it and failed miserably at it.

    Star Trek is more complicated. DS9 I (so far) like because the character interaction is really good. But I hated it when TNG started doing that towards the end of its run. And I suspect it’s because in DS9 you had characters doing things and building character, while in TNG it took away from the plot to do that, and from the story that you were supposed to be enjoying and thinking about. In short, in DS9 the characterizations drove and linked to the plot, but in TNG that just didn’t work.

    I will, however, at some point RENT the new movie [grin].

  28. LintMan says:

    I’m mostly a lapsed Star Trek fan – I liked TOS and TNG, and watched some of DS9. I saw the moviews up through the first NG one (“Generations”?). Voyager was the final straw – I quit watching ST almost totally, in disgust after watching the putrid “Threshold” episode. I did see one or two episodes of “Enterprise”, but wasn’t impressed. Aside from a lot of the Voyager crud, I can’t say I’ve hated much Star Trek; “disappointment” is more appropriate for me.

    I mostly enjoyed the movie, and in fact thought it was great as I was watching it until halfway in I came to the same realization that Rats has pointed out.


    Since then, it has gnawed on me, causing me to repeatedly downgrade my opinion of it.

    I’m no continuity hound expecting all the tiny minutiae to be present and accounted for, but basically as I see it, they have basically thrown TOS and the first 6 movies in the dumpster so that they can have carte blanche to do whatever they want from now on. Given the events of the movie, I can’t see how half the events of the older movies and TOS could play out the same.

    Honestly, if they wanted to “reboot” the franchise, I’d have preferred a TNG-style one – ie: set it 50-100 years after TNG and you can pretty much do what you want without invalidating everything that came before. That, or just call it a real reboot, say you’re starting over from scratch, and not try to justify it with the contrived time travel explanation. At least then they’re not tossing out 40 years of previous Trek.

  29. Hal says:

    Hm . . . having watched the review on The Escapist, I’m curious to find out whether you share any of their opinions, Shamus. Remembering your Transformers review, I’m betting the post-fight scene in the bar bugged you as much as it did me.

  30. Miako says:

    wait… you didn’t like Yesterday’s Enterprise?
    That was the best damn episode of the entire series, for the acting alone!

    Seriously, Time Travel has been done so much in Star Trek, that occasionally it’s really rockin good (traveling back to The Trouble With Tribbles? Awesome. Betcha Gerrold loved it!)

    Time Travel mostly sucks when it’s used to erase, permanently, stuff that people really care about.

    When you can pull it off seamlessly, it’s awesome!

    I am a bad Star Trek geek. I must watch more Trek!

  31. Sauron says:

    The problem with the Star Wars changes weren’t that they were OMG CHANGED, but rather the nature of the changes. Midi-chlorians vastly changed the nature of the Force as we knew it, cheapening it in some ways, and being inconsistent with established canon in other ways.

    The “Han shot first” thing is about the fact that changing that removes his entire character arc. Lucas said he changed it to make Han a nicer character, but the entire point of Han’s arc in Star Wars was to make him nicer over time. WTF?

  32. Henebry says:

    Shamus, that’s not quite what I meant, but you raise an interesting question: why is it so hard to produce consistently good product?

    Star Trek was hokey, let’s admit it, right at the start. Like The Day the Earth Stood Still, the only claim that Trek could make to dignity was the dignity of its ideas. But with such a start, the series could be improved in revision: TNG added much better effects and no less impressive dramas of idea.

    By contrast, Star Wars (as also the Matrix) started with a brilliant product, its dignity expressed in the quality of the special effects, in the gravitas of a strong cast, in the sense of a whole new universe spread out before our eyes. The only thing was that at its heart lay a mystery that couldn’t stand too much probing, lest it be revealed as a lot of hokum. With that as a starting point, the decline of the series starts to feel like destiny.

    MissusJ: your description growing up on Trek reruns describes me almost to a T. I’m betting we’re the same generation, people who attended high school watching Molly Ringwald attending high school.

  33. Ciennas says:

    I loved the movie, but I hated the giant gaping plothole.




    If the villain of this story was motivated by the loss of his homeworld, and he had time traveled to back before it was destroyed, why was he still trying to be a villain? Why didn’t he take his knowledge and advanced technology and save his home planet?

    On that same note, after his tragic backstory is revealed, why doesn’t Star FLeet send somebody over to the source of all this heartache and destroy or otherwise remove it, now that they have foreknowledge from N+However long it took for the event to happen?


    Other than that, I loved watching it. It was a great and enjoyable film, where all cast managed to act their legacy roles pretty well. Also, they made the original uniform look somewhat legitimate, which was an accomplishment.

  34. Dev Null says:

    Star Trek – the original series – was from way back in the bad old days before science fiction discovered the idea of an ongoing over-arching plot curve that runs between multiple episodes. I don’t think they’ve ever gotten over it. Try as they might, they can’t make consecutive episodes of the same ST series make sense with each other, much the less reconciling the latest movie with the original series. The trick is, every time you watch an anything of Trek, pretend like you’ve never heard of any of this before. Some of the episodes are still pretty crap, but some are brilliant if you can only get past the Christmas fruitcake melange of baggage that comes before…

  35. Noble Bear says:

    I really liked Trek for a while, but in spite of its ham handed moralizing I could still enjoy it on some level, then when Babylon 5 came out, I just couldn’t enjoy trek at all as I suddenly found everything I, personally, had been missing out in from a sci-fi series.

    There are characters and ideas in trek that I still like but I cant take the franchise seriously anymore.

    The movie looks fun though, so I’m likely to go watch it and get my regular dose of geek in.

  36. Blackbird71 says:

    Spoiler note: while I don’t really give away any specifics, and nothing that hasn’t already been said by others without warnings, my ranting below may in some ways reveal more about the plot of the new movie than some would like to know. Or, if you haven’t seen it yet, and want to go in with an unbiased opinion, then definetely skip ahead :)

    I have to agree with just about everythying Daimbert (27) said, as well as LintMan’s (28) opinion. Yes, the movie was nothing more than a big action flick/special effects blitz with a paper-thin plot that had more holes than McCoy’s mind in “The Search for Spock.” They absolutely wasted an opportunity to put out a good movie by spending the whole time giving a contrivance of an explanation for why averything was different.

    The way I see it, when you do a “reboot” of a series, as has been done often lately, you can go about it two ways: 1)You reproduce everything true to the original, closely following all that has come before, so that the new incarnation feels like nothing more than the natural progression, or 2)You can change everything and start fresh, keeping only a weak semblance of the original while in reality doing something completely new and fresh.

    If you go for option 1, your course from there is pretty clear. However, if you take option 2, there are two approaches to accompishing the change. Option A is to accept the fact that it will be different, and that the fans will know and expect it to be different, and so you decide to not call attention to the differences by attempting to explain them, but instead just proceed with telling your new story. Option B is the opposite, where instead of accepting change, you attempt to justify it and rationalize it, tying together a weak web of thread-thin bits of plot in a poor effort to explain exactly why each change has taken place. These explanations are never satisfying, will always raise more questions than they answer, will not stand up to an ounce of scrutiny, and in short are a total waste of time and effort.

    Unfortunately, Star Trek went with Method 1, Option B in a big way. Rather than just string their half-baked explanations into the story, the entire plot was nothing but one huge excuse for changing the whole franchise. With as much of a fan as I’ve been, I’ll tell you honestly that I don’t mind if they wanted to do things differently, I expected that they would. But seriously, don’t insult me by wasting my time with a worthless plot that tries and fails to cram the proverbial square peg in the round hole – just give me a good story worth my time and I won’t mind the creative liscense.

    As a movie, or more specifically, as a typical special-effects driven early summer action flick, it was really rather good. But it wasn’t Star Trek. ST has always been more intellectual than anything else, the SciFi aspect was just a vehicle for telling the story. A real plot would have done wonders for the fading series. Instead, we jsut get an excuse every bit as believable and thought-out as “my dog ate my homework.”

    Well, now I’ve gone and got my furstration all over Shamus’ blog, sorry about that. One more pet peeve though before I go: time travel as a plot device. The first few times it was used in Star Trek, it came off pretty well. But over time, it became the most overused and worn-out trope in the series history, sort of a “cheat” when they had painted themselves into a corner. Well, of all the abuses of the time travel mechanic in the history of ST, this movie was the worst, the mother-of-all, the absolute epitome of “how to use time travel as an escape from real creative writing.”

  37. Telas says:

    Henebry: Highlander’s fanbase isn’t as large as the Star Wars one, but its violation by Highlander II was far more egregious.

    Highlander II is the only movie that I’ve ever walked out on. And I’m glad I did.

  38. Rutskarn says:

    To me, the real butchering of the Star Wars universe wasn’t handled by Lucas, it was handled by the hordes of Expanded Universe writer-drones who eagerly elevated their fanfiction into canon.

    This wouldn’t be bad, per se–although it’s certainly inconsistent as Hell. The worst part is what I’ve dubbed the Exponential Sue Effect.

    A Mary Sue comes when an author sees the logical next step to improving a setting as being creating something better, stronger, faster, evil-er than what already exists in the canon.

    Except now, all the other Mary Sues are canon too. And so, the effect expands drastically.

    “MY Sith Lord killed, like, 50 Jedi at once!”

    “Well MY Sith Lord invented the Double-Bladed Lightsaber, which he used to kill 100 people at once!”

    “MY Sith Lord killed a whole planet with his MIND!”

    (That last one is actually a real Sith Lord.)

    And so on, but with planets and alien races. The YV are particularly bad offenders.

  39. Phoenix says:

    Well, I’m admittedly more a Star Wars than a Star Trek fan (although I want to point out that means I love the original trilogy, the novels, the RPG, and the various space figher simulators), but I really enjoyed watching the new ST movie.

    It was IMHO one of the most appropriate uses of the whole over-stretched time-travel thing, and a clean plate is a nice thing to reboot the franchise (although I wouldn’t necessarily have destroyed Vulcan right away – did any hardcore fan already consider what the future lack of highly rational and intelligent science officers will man for the federation?)

    Anyways, even though it occasionally feels a bit “Michael Bay”-ish (I didn’t even know that Star Trek ships have enough small turrets to fire broadsides?!), I recommend to watch the movie!

    Oh, and just in case you haven’t seen this yet:


  40. Kristin says:

    I am a Trekkie. I am very proud of being a Trekkie. I have missed exactly two episodes of the five canonical series, and those are both in protest of the spoilers I’d seen (Voyager’s Spirit Folk and Enterprise’s finale). I’ve seen all eleven movies.

    Did Batman Begins take, what, 80 years of Batman continuity and throw it in the dumpster? Did the recent Spider-Man movie take 40 years of continuity and throw it in the dumpster? X-Men, 40 years in the dumpster?

    But because Star Trek, in its 40 years, HASN’T ever rebooted itself… all of a sudden reboots and alternate timelines are bad?

    I loved this movie for what it was. ANY alternate universe story is a look at “what if”. I loved the Mirror episodes, Yesterday’s Enterprise is one of my favorite TNG episodes, All Good Things was brilliant.

    This is the same thing with the potential for a more extended look.

    Taking this movie for what it is – a reboot and a new look at old characters – it’s right up there with Wrath of Khan and First Contact.

  41. Veloxyll says:

    The Onion review is surprisingly accurate!

    And I kinda assumed that Nero captured Spock’s ship, flew to the star that was going to explode (could’ve been where he was when he battled that Klingon prison colony), Black Hole’d it, then came to get vengence on the Federation because Spock was too slow.

    As someone who’s seen all of TNG, DS9, Voyager, a smattering of both TOS and Enterprise, and all the movies; I have to say this was one of the best Trek movies. Even if the art didn’t quite mesh with TOS art, which was my biggest continuity peeve (The interiors of the Enterprise remind me of Apple products). The big thing that bugged me was the Spock-Uhura romance, it just came out of NO-WHERE and was at a time where one wouldn’t really be thinking romantic; heck, if my CAT died, getting kissed would nopt be on my list of things to do, and Spock had just gone through slightly more than that!

    Edit: The characters though were all fairly consistent, and generally interesting people. Poor Chekov getting left in command of the bridge so often amused me terribly!

  42. old_geek says:

    There had to be some kind of time travel. Without it, you KNOW nothing can happen to one of the main characters. You saw their future selves. No drama/suspense. However, if a Klingon goes back in time and steals Kirk’s hairbrush, then the “time-space continuum” has been altered. No matter how much I know as a fan that they won’t kill Kirk/Spock/Bones etc, now at least they CAN. Hence, drama/suspense.

  43. Nefrai says:

    I loved this movie. One thing I always hated about any Star Trek series after the original, was the wooden acting and lack of personality. I tried to watch TNG and DS9, but never could really like the characters. They felt unaproachable and unrealistic to me.

    I enjoyed the cast in the new movie a lot. Scotty, Chekov, Spock, Kirk…were very well done, in my opinion.
    Yes, they rebooted the franchise. Yes, it was a pretty bold move to dare to do this. But I felt it really worked. It gives writers a chance to do what Star Trek always said it was about: “going where no one has gone before”.

    I was impressed, and am really looking forward to the next one in 2011.

  44. Mycroft says:

    @Ciennas: He gave a fun speech about it. He figured the goals you laid out would be fulfilled if he did what he did, PLUS greater prosperity to his home.

  45. Schneebrunser says:

    Six series? Are we counting the animated series?

  46. Mistwraithe says:

    Well said Telas.

    Has there ever been a plunge in story continuity and quality so dramatic and devastating as between Highlander and Highlander 2?

    OK, the Matrix went down hill but it took two movies (ie Matrix 2 AND 3) to really reach bottom while Highlander managed it in one movie (and was worse IMO).

  47. whitehelm says:

    Actually, if you think about it, the destruction of Vulcan doesn’t necessarily change that much of Trek history. All you need is for the few events that previously occurred on Vulcan to happen on the new colony planet, and all the “important” Vulcans that appear on Star Trek to have been off-world at the time. You also have old Spock hanging around at the colony who could “invent” any scientific advances that were erased from history, and keep the timeline changes to a minimum.

    The Enterprise crew still consists of the same senior staff, and Pike even still ended up an admiral in a wheelchair, except for it happening ten years or so early. I’m happy with the way they did it.

  48. Derek K. says:

    I’m avoiding a lot of the comments to avoid spoilers.

    However, let me say that if you think Han shooting first is the worst thing we Star Wars fans have suffered through, then I envy you your blessed ignorance of some of the Expanded Universe. ;)

    I have on my shelf at this moment a graphic novel which contains both a story about Darth Vader having a lightsaber duel with Boba Fett over Han Solo *and* a story about 3 secret Sith Lords resurrecting Darth Maul to make him fight Darth Vader because he wasn’t awesome enough to be the Emperor’s apprentice.

    It ended (spoiler alert, I guess) with Darth Vader stabbing *through* himself to kill Darth Maul. Again. And then the following brilliance ensued (paraphrased):

    Maul: “This can’t be happening. You don’t hate enough. What could you hate enough to destroy me?”
    Vader (in emo drippy font): “MYSELF.”

    So yeah, I’ll take Captain Kirk travelling back in time to die for the second (third?) time for real this time saving Capt. Picard, and Data, yet again, getting emotions.

    Course I’m still a bigger SW fan than ST.

    Don’t even get me started about the different levels of canon, and the story that Star Wars Galaxies seems to suggest.

  49. Coffee says:

    Simon Pegg/Scotty has been in newspapers here recently talking about how he used his wife’s family to research the Scotty lines, etc.

    I think the Kirk and Spock are far too metrosexual, though.

  50. Jeysie says:

    I tend to look at it from the opposite direction: Considering how long Trek has been going, it’s amazing – and a testiment to the overall editors – that it holds together at all.

    Admittedly that’s mainly because I’ve gotten into following Transformers lately, and seen what happens when the writers for all of the various fictions throw continuity to the wind and gleefully reboot and reinvent with every series. (You basically end up with this, which is incomplete, mind you. That’s only the tip of the iceberg of trying to keep it all straight.)

    So… I think wishing that Trek would stop making at least a partial attempt to hang together is one of those “be careful what you wish for” things…

  51. Felblood says:

    Replace “Greedo” with ” Bobba Fett” and that’s almost exactly what they’ve done.

    Curse you Expanded Universe! Curse you with leprosy!

    As with your complaints about Trek, if they would just expand the bleeding universe, I wouldn’t care, but they just have to bring the same old characters back again and again, until there’s no way the characterizations can be consistent.


  52. Andrey says:

    Watched one episode of Star Trek when I already was a Babylon 6 fan, and never understood what people find in it. Plot was unrealistic, forced and plainly stupid.

  53. HeadHunter says:

    For some reason, the whole “Han and Greedo” thing sounded a lot like the plot of “Heroes”, didn’t it? :)

  54. Daimbert says:

    For all those who talk about the Star Wars Expanded Universe … I actually like it BETTER than at least the prequel movies, especially the early stuff. It allowed for more depth and examination than the movies did, and some of the ideas were really good. I never did read any of the comics, though …

    As for the Sith Lord wiping out a planet with his mind, if we’re thinking about the same one HE didn’t do it, but got a whole bunch of powerful Force users to do it for him. That’s actually fairly credible, and explains why it wasn’t done all that often (and generally won’t be done).

    There’s some odd stuff in the EU — the one with the Kilick war, for example — but I find it overall fairly good and not all that inconsistent with the movies, until Lucas decides to screw them all over with stupid things like Boba Fett being a clone …

    And Andrey, you can’t be a “Babylon 5” fan if you call it “Babylon 6” [grin].

  55. OmegaDawn says:

    I figured out when I was still a kid that the best way to enjoy Star Trek was to look for things to make fun of. Trying to take it seriously drives you crazy. The writers are just too flippin’ lazy to to write a script that can go for more than two paragraphs without injecting some retarded plot device to keep the story moving because they don’t have the wit or imagination to come up with actions and consequences that feel natural. No, we’ll just suddenly invent some new gobbledygook technology or Spock will suddenly have a new internal organ to get us out of this moment’s mess. But we have to wait until the last minute to think of these things. The radical technology or method we discovered to get us out of the mess a few minutes ago is now completely forgotten because it would too easily solve the current dilemma. Every technology on the ship fails at dramatic moments without rhyme or reason except to make the current situation “more exciting”…well, except the ship’s gravity, which never, ever fails even when the ship has been powered completely off. So on and so forth. I’ve never understood how people can become such big fans of something that won’t stop reminding you, every few seconds, that it is just minimalist hack-work to drain your entertainment dollars, written on the back of a napkin during a three-martini lunch.

  56. Vladius says:

    Agreement with OmegaDawn.

    You are all taking this too seriously. Stop.

    I never liked Trek, and one of its weak points was the inability to tie together a cohesive canon filled with stuff you liked. You enjoyed the characters and their interactions with the environment, but if any of the things they encountered were made to fit together, people whine and moan, sometimes justifiably.

    This new movie changes that, for many, many people. It makes Star Trek fun and refreshing; you like the characters, and the stuff. The plot still has the same issues as any of the other plots, but it’s a good movie nonetheless. If you want gigantic gaping plotholes, look no farther than First Contact. (Why can’t the Borg just travel back in time even further? Why do they use ineffectual little missiles instead of a full scale invasion force? Why is Cochrane such a jerk?)

  57. Well, I saw the movie yesterday, and I grew up watching the original cast movies. My comments are a bit on the long side, though, so I put them onto my Livejournal here:

    Frankly, I liked it for the most part, but it did have its problems. I really wish they had given Eric Bana something to work with – you could replace Nero with an inanimate carbon rod, and nobody would have noticed a difference…

  58. Blackbird71 says:

    @Kristin (40):

    I’m not disagreeing that a reboot can be a good thing for the series.

    I just wish they didn’t waste two hours trying to explain why it’s a reboot.

    We all knew it was going to be a reboot. We knew everything was going to be different. We knew there would be little to no regard for what had gone on before. So why the pathetic attempt to blend things together so that they can go on from here and write new stories, when they could have simply skipped straight to telling a new story so we could have watched a real plot?

  59. Ferrous Buller says:

    Seasons 4 thru 7 of Deep Space Nine (i.e., the Worf years) are the best Trek has to offer. Anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy – CRAZY I tell you!

  60. My wife, who isn’t a star trek fan of any type, really enjoyed the movie, as has every main stream viewer I’ve met.

    Kirk's situation at the end of the movie is justified because they’ve killed off all the experienced active duty fleet officers.

    The bad guy’s ship sure goes down easy for a fleet destroyer…

    But, all in all, nicely done.

    And at least it isn’t one more remake of the Batman origin story …

  61. Blackbird71 says:

    @Stephen M (Ethesis) (60):

    “Kirk's situation at the end of the movie is justified because they've killed off all the experienced active duty fleet officers.”

    Um, no, they haven’t. Just all the ones that were in close enough range to respond to the Vulcan distress call.

    Which couldn’t have been that many, considering that they had to staff the ships with cadets. Remember, the whole reason they sent crews of cadets was because the rest of the fleet was at the other end of space dealing with an entirely different crisis. Still, it would have made much more sense to promote some line officers from that other engagement to command status, rather than a not-as-yet graduated cadet who should be another 10-20 years away from a captain’s rank (not the 4 they claimed).

    “My wife, who isn't a star trek fan of any type, really enjoyed the movie, as has every main stream viewer I've met.”

    Exactly the problem in my opinion. This was a Star Trek movie not made for Star Trek fans.

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