OK. I can’t hold my mouth any longer. Star Trek is dead and J.J. Abrams killed it. The latest movie has finally put Star Trek in the ground far more effectively than Star Trek V ever did. Although technically a good movie (unlike Star Trek V)–well plotted, well shot, and adequately acted–it has destroyed the franchise. More seriously, it has destroyed the entire Star Trek universe.
Lots of folks and critics seem to have liked this movie, and indeed liked it more than almost any other Star Trek movie/episode; and that’s the key point. The people who never liked or cared about Star Trek before, didn’t really notice or care what Abrams just did to the characters and universe they grew up with. They just admired the modern special effects, the well-plotted action, and the better-than-the-original-series acting. But those of us who did love Star Trek since 1966 because we had been able to see beyond the bad makeup and the occasionally corny dialog to the real heart of the show? We walked out of the movie with a very bad taste in our mouths that for once didn’t come from the popcorn. Spoilers follow.
At first I thought the destruction of ****** and the death of ******* ****** (if you’ve seen the movie you know what I’m talking about. If not, I won’t spoil it.) were necessary. Suddenly what had been a ho-hum experience, as prequels usually are, picked up. There was real tension. After all, if they could do that in complete contravention to everything we knew about the Star Trek universe from the original series on, then absolutely anything could happen. In fact, that’s probably why Abrams wrote that into the script in the first place. And since it was done with an appropriate amount of time travel, it wasn’t a complete retcon.
However, I kept waiting for another bit of time travel to reverse the problem, much like Picard and crew went back in time to reverse the Borg takeover of Earth in the single greatest Star Trek movie ever made (though I won’t argue too hard if you prefer Wrath Of Khan). In fact, I don’t think that’s the first or last time we’ve seen a double time travel restore of the future. (Bonus points for anyone who can list all the episodes in which this occurred.) Unfortunately, the expected reversion of the disaster never happened; and while that’s in some ways more realistic, it also means that Abrams just threw five series, 10 movies, and years of people’s lives and work in the garbage. Rodenberry, Barrett, Okuda, Berman, Stewart, Shatner, Doohan, and too many others to name deserved better than that.
Abrams has pretty much eliminated 5 of the 6 Star Trek TV series from continuity, pretty much everything after Enterprise. Picard never left France if he was born at all. The Borg are still in the Delta Quadrant. Harry Mudd probably died in a Klingon jail. The Death of Tasha Yar? Unlikely. The Dominion War? The Maquis? Voyager’s trip to the Delta Quadrant? Deep Space 9? Never happened. Reunification? Pretty much impossible now, I’d say. In fact, if we take the events in the movie to their logical conclusion, the Federation is going to lose at least one and probably the first of the upcoming wars with the Klingons. Earth’s going to be a Klingon colony. The Alpha quadrant is going to be split up between Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, and Ferengi.
Yes, there were some cheesy episodes over the years. (Half-naked Aryan joggers anyone?) No series can extend for hundreds of episodes and 40 years without hitting an occasional wrong note. But there was a lot more good than bad, and all of that is now just a distant memory. In the Star Trek universe, they’re not even that. Abrams should have left Kirk and crew in peace and gone forward instead of back. If Star Trek taught us anything over the years, it’s that we need to look forwards to the future, not backwards to the past. A new series or movie set 10 years after Voyager might even have been able to do this particular story without stomping all over established future history. Or if one had to go back and revisit the characters we all remember, it would have been better to wait 50 years, and then do an Ultimate Spider-Man or Sandman Mystery Theatre like reboot of the entire franchise that didn’t take place in the same universe. But this? This is the ultimate fuck you to the people who’ve kept Star Trek Alive for more than four decades.