Star Trek Has Jumped the Shark

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.

17 Responses to “Star Trek Has Jumped the Shark”

  1. Rob Says:

    I honestly think that this film could be considered a “re-imagining”. What better way to re-imagine a series than to change major playing terms such as an offshoot universe such as this? This seems a bit like the start of the mirror universe in DS9.

  2. George Says:

    Thank You. When I left the theater, I turned to me friend, who was not a huge Star Trek fan, and said well Star Trek is dead and this movie just killed it. It was amazed to hear all the hype and accolades for the film considering they just butchered Star Trek entire history. I believe my expression was, ” This movie was a giant FU to every true Star Trek Fan”. Thanks for confirming I am not alone.

  3. Elliotte Rusty Harold Says:


    A reimagining I could have lived with if it were good, though as I said that should have waited a few more decades. But that’s not what this was. It clearly takes place in the same universe as all the other Star Trek series and movies, as the presence of a certain Mr. Nimoy clearly shows. I suppose we’ve never established quite how time travel works in the Star Trek universe, but it seems to actually change the past and the future of the current universe, not merely branch off new universes. The mirror universe (from the original series, I’ll note–DS 9 merely continued that idea) seems to be a separate universe. There are other examples of parallel realities in the Star Trek universe, most notably in Parallels, but that’s not what’s happening here.

  4. Porter Says:

    I’m going with Rob on this one…. an offshoot universe is really the best way to internalize this movie. In fact, I would posit that in all the movies and episodes involving time travel to-date have actually spun off alternate universes wherein the crew did not save the day. The original Trek universe is still out there, and there’s also a universe where the Borg won. An infinity of time-lines and realities.

    You’ll also note the very slick nods to the original setting. With Sulu being a fencer, Pike ending up in a wheel chair, etc. There are a bunch of parallels that are just slightly off from the original series and movies which strongly suggests a parallel universe not too distant from the original series in the space-time continuum.

    Afterall, with the number of movies under the Star Trek franchise belt – it’s hard to see where a “prequel” could really fit in, and additional sequels aren’t really a viable option either. This opens up their options to do something new and different without being locked into a defined story arc that has already been told.

  5. Aaron Says:

    A bit harsh…it’s entertainment, not “historical documentation” and continuity isn’t required in the land of make believe. I especially liked the background on the characters, how they’re all rebels in their own ways for different reasons. I can overlook the need for factual connections and enjoy the emphasis on why the characters behave and interact they way they do. With as often as time travel themes show up in ST, it’s fertile territory for anyone to re-invent the past and future. Mainly, they need to spin a good story.

    My biggest gripe? The casting of a Heros actor in such a critical role…very distracting.

  6. stand Says:

    Wow Elliotte, I’m not accustomed to disagreeing so starkly with you on anything. For me, the thing that made (and makes) the original ST engaging is the characters and the interplay between their personalities. What Abrams has accomplished IMO is giving us new actors to play those characters (the casting was the greatest feature of the movie) and arranged it so that there is no need to have any nagging worries about continuity. There is no “stomping on future history” in my mind. The universe bifurcated at the moment the Romulan ship entered the scene. This is just an alternate history ala the “Mirror Mirror” episode from TOS.

  7. Kevin Shaum Says:

    As I see it, when the time traveler arrived in the past, the universe executed a fork(). The original universe still exists — otherwise, where would the time travelers have come from? — but a new timeline was created for the new variation on history. It’s kind of the standard dodge for avoiding the Grandfather Paradox.

    There is precedent for this in canon. The Mirror Universe is a fork that apparently started at the moment of first contact with the Vulcans. Also, remember that NextGen episode where dozens of Enterprises appeared, from alternate universes, in some of which the Borg had conquered the Federation? Different timelines exist in parallel, and the old universe still exists — elsewhere.

    That said… I have nearly as long a history as a Trekkie as you do, Elliotte, and I think that the Trek franchise as it stood had jumped the shark some time ago, maybe around the time of Insurrection or Voyager. That the fourth season of Enterprise was so good was nothing short of a miracle, and one unlikely to be repeated. The comics and novels were still going on, mainly because they could survive on a much smaller audience than a live-action production; as a movie/TV franchise, Trek was over.

    So a reboot is a good thing, as long as it’s done by people who love and respect the original — and there were so many nods to TOS in the new movie that it was obvious that they do. (Including the novels: they made canon of the names Diane Carey chose for Kirk’s parents.) For the first time in a long time, I want another Trek movie, ASAP.

  8. RogerV Says:

    The premise of the original posting has it completely backwards. The ultimate compliment to Star Trek is going back to the beginning TV series to pay homage to that original set of characters. The character of Spock has endured and stood out in popular TV culture consciousness in a way few other TV character creations ever have.

    In assembling an all new generation cast to portray those characters, obviously it would be problematic to carry them forward within the same Star Trek universe and try to weave new stories while working around the baggage of all the past Star Trek media history.

    J.J. Abrams have cleverly conceived a plot device to escape that conundrum. Now this new cast of the “old characters” can truly take us again boldly where none have gone before. In the realm of entertainment this practically borders on genius.

  9. Keviniano Says:

    Sorry, I can’t resist linking to this.
    I’m a Trekkie, and I liked this recharge of the franchise quite a lot. I especially liked that they didn’t wrap it up with a nice, happy “everything’s back to normal now” ending like they almost always did with the syndicated shows.

  10. Tim Says:

    I agree with Kevin – we now have a parallel universe in which anything can happen and leave the original universe intact. This is a wonderful thing…

  11. Miles O'Brien Says:

    Tasha Yar is dead?

  12. Lorenzo Gatti Says:

    I’m partial to the particular type of time travel featured in this film (undoing “future” timelines, pushing back “present” to when time travellers appear); asking for a “recovery” doesn’t seem very fair because the event is unequivocally represented as an irreversible change, making the whole plot more dramatic (actual conflict and heroism rather than hitting the reset button).
    It can also be argued that Star Trek continuity (except the Enterprise series and the other small bits that take place earlier) isn’t really “eliminated” or “destroyed”: from the point of view of Spock it remains a fond memory that ceases to be part of actually happened history.

    Rewinding some eventful decades of Federation history isn’t a retcon at all, only a logical consequence of a time travel event that takes place in the Star trek continuity, after the events in the canon, and brings the same tale “forward”. It is the most respectful device that allows the films and/or TV series that will hopefully follow to tell new stories with familiar old characters (the Enterprise crew in their youth) and old situations (Romulan and Klingon wars) rather than unnecessarily diluting Star Trek with new characters and places. Future Star Trek productions are set up to be directly compared with earlier work rather than different for novelty’s sake: what could be more respectful of the work of Roddenberry & co.?

    Finally, the grim predictions about the differences between the film’s outcome and the previous timeline are reasonable but irrelevant; between the events in the film and their “logical conclusion” there is an ocean of screenwriter fiat. For example modest technological improvements like faster warp or better cloaking can allow the seemingly weakened Federation to perform as well as it did the “first time” it fought the mentioned wars.

  13. Clinton Says:

    After the writers killed off my childhood hero Data, I welcome any change to the Star Trek universe.

  14. Russell Bateman Says:

    So, Bobby stepped out of the shower and there we are.

    I have mixed feelings about this. It is an opportunity to reboot the whole thing in a way that DS9 and Voyager were never able to do to my satisfaction. And I am very chagrined by the destruction of Vulcan.

    But while I’m old enough to have sat live in front of the very first episode of Star Trek in the 1960s, I don’t feel the religious annoyance expressed here. And, I am religious: you should have watched the steam rise from my ears leaving LOTR I after Liv Tyler saved Frodo at the ford in place of Glorfindel (actually, the steam was already rising much earlier in the movie) and LOTR II after watching Faramir drag Frodo and Sam to Osgiliath. LOTR III didn’t help either. Aargh!

    I’m strangely calm about Star Trek–just a reed bending in the wind.

    Anyway, Spock and Uhura? Who would have thought?!

  15. John Cowan Says:

    I waited to comment until I had seen the movie a second time, as I knew I would.

    I agree with most of your other commentators: this is a fork, and it’s an appropriate fork. Moving further down the main timeline just adds to the pain of consistency checking (within a universe that is not 100% consistent with itself!) and from an artistic viewpoint leads to material that’s increasingly either (a) only comprehensible to the fans, who know the background, or (b) boring to those same fans because too much background has to be recapped for the newbies.

    It’s been a long, long time since 1966 (personally I didn’t start watching regularly till 1969, though I did see the original broadcast of “The Trouble with Tribbles” on NBC in 1967, more or less by accident (Who is that guy, and why is he green?)). This movie keeps the core of the original characters and their personality conflicts, and transplants them into a strange new world, seeking out new life and new civilizations, boldly going where no one has gone before. And S’ keeps just enough continuity with the old timeline to help us old farts adjust.

  16. Luke Says:

    (Spoiler alert!)

    Interesting point about the impact of the destruction of Vulcan. It effectively means that it loses a founding member of the Federation and the first ever world that Earth had contact with, including personel, scientists, equipment, and resources have been wiped out. This leaves the federation vulnerable to attacks from the Klingons and the Romulans, who at the time of the movie were still in exile.

    The logical conclusion is that the Federation will lose the next war that it has to fight, unless the loss of the Vulcans means that the Federation can make an alliance with either the Romulans or Klingons that would not have been possible had the Vulcans survived.

  17. Chase Says:

    Uncle rusty, this film is still some what staying true to the star trek universe, in a way. It’s kinda a what if story, with a little bit of a tie in to star trek online. Please let me know if you know the back story for how that Romulan ship was so strong. And plus, star trek jumped the shark with the last episode of star trek enterprise. I mean seriously, it’s a holo room story. We didn’t even get hear archers speech, what should be a true defining moment of the star trek universe! The only reason I cept coming back to that show was the theme song for the first two seasons. But they even botched that in the last two seasons. Star trek enterprise is where star trek died, and this film is brining new live into the franchise

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