Sunday, August 1, 2010

TREK: Where Did it All Go Wrong?

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Where did it all go wrong?

By now, we know it, the latest Star Trek movie sucked. I’ve been thinking for a while about the franchise, and where it all went wrong. While Trek reached a new low, it’s been a while since anything actually good came out of the franchise. Now, I understand that some of you might actually like Voyager, Enterprise or the TNG movies. I warn you, I didn’t, and will criticize them. Any of you who liked them, I respect that. I’m personally a DS9 fan, even if it was the beginning of the end in my opinion.

I have to admit, I've fallen back to Doctor Who lately, now that I’ve given up on ever seeing good Trek I haven’t watched a 100 times already. Sure, it's cheezy and often childish, but the writers really give us imaginative monsters and places. In fact, the show is all about exploring strange alien worlds or other time periods. It lasted for so long because it didn't try to "tie-in" everything, keeping it mostly in a "monster of the week" pattern. Bigger story arcs are usually contained within a single season.

This is precisely the error that Trek made. While I love DS9, I do feel it made the mistake of explaining everything. The Romulans where no longer those mysterious aliens we know little about, but became a nation where we send diplomats. The mystery was gone. Let’s face it; you can’t have characters like Trellane, for example, in post-DS9 Trek. Even Q was ignored, only to be reintroduced and stripped of all his mystery in Voyager. The fact is that Trek stopped being about exploring, and became a show that’s about explaining.

Speaking of Voyager, its original concept could have worked wonders and put Trek back on course, giving us weird aliens and space exploration, discovering more about the human race in the process, aka what made Trek great. Instead, that show lost itself in explaining everything, and ruined both the Borg and Q. I will admit that it had its moments, and a few episodes where pretty good from what I remember. (My memory is fuzzy, as I haven’t watched it in years. I mostly remember the specific episodes that pissed me off, not a good sign.) It also started playing with the one thing that ruined Trek: Time Travel plotlines. While one shot episodes, such as “The City on the Edge of Forever”, can work great, Voyager’s time travel plot holes were always confusing to me. The last episode of that show is about time travel, but doesn’t deal with consequences. Instead, it’s about “kicking the bad guy’s ass”. This, to me, is where Trek truly went wrong. At the same time, we had the TNG movies that were turning Trek into an action franchise. Voyager went the same route.

I have to admit, I’ve never finished watching Enterprise. I gave up somewhere at the beginning of the third season. I didn’t like the characters, hated the way they presented the Vulcans and found the time travel plotlines even more ludicrous then Voyager’s. To me, it never felt like the Trek I knew and loved.

After all that, is it really surprising that the new franchise is a dumb action movie full of explosions and sexist jokes? Sadly, no. While it could be possible to make a new Trek series that would work, it would need to be about the ideas and concepts behind Star Trek, not about reusing the characters, locations and aliens. It’s a great idea for an old enemy to come back once in a while, but it should be about paying homage to the original while moving forward. A good sequel should use the original material to build something more, keep the concept alive, but push it further. A bad sequel will forget about what made the original great and keep telling the public how great the characters are.

With this said, I’m sad to say that I’ll go back to watching Doctor Who and will probably stop paying attention at anything new that comes from Trek, at least while the Jar-Jar club is in control. If you’re looking for a good example of a revival of an old show, I suggest you take a look at Who. It’s not perfect, but it modernized the concept while staying true to the original, and it actually respects the original material.

2 comments:

  1. I liked ENTERPRISE, some people say DS9 was a bit of a soap opera. Each TREK has their fans, and they're all different kinds. Its good to have a variety of types of episodes, I liked the alternate universe ones, parody or comedy ones, etc, but they're individual episodes. Not an entire series. I didn't even watch much Next Generation, but there were plenty of episodes to like, I just didn't really get into the characters. Voyager just seemed to be thoroughly uninteresting, and Deep Space Nine was too much about the characters I think, not enough 'wow' 'whats out there.' I didn't care about the Ferengi. One or two or three episodes about them would have gotten across the point, but as characters they're just Jar Jar Binkian to me.

    I liked Enterprise because I liked the characters, and I liked a lot of the stories, however, it seemed to be about getting kidnapped or taken over by aliens all the time.

    Well, there's something to like and not like about all of them, but I imagine we all find the Original Series to be the best. And ABRAMS trashed that. That means war.

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  2. I just wanted to point out a recent revelation about Star Trek: Enterprise. First, Season 1 and 2 are the worst with Season 2 being only a little better than the first. Season 3 get much better because the intensity and moral problems are increased significantly while Enterprise tries to save Earth. The story arc is a bit long but it still works. Archer who seems week early in the series becomes sort of angry, and while this gets a bit annoying, it helps remove his image of being so week. The Andorians peak in too, they are well done indeed! But where everything really gets amazing is Season 4. It is almost like a big prize to the viewers for sticking it out and being attentive. It is absolutely fabulous. Dabbling with the formation of the Federation, interspecies amity. Some great alternate story lines and features from the original star trek series. And an excellent explanation of odd Vulcan behavior and the restoration of their values. It pulls out all the stops and makes for one of the best Star Trek seasons ever, all in HD resolution goodness! It makes me wish they continued or made some movies. The Arab captain from the 2009 movie could be great for a spin off. They should do a series around the early Federation and the Romulan War, and also one way far into the future. It seems we can only dream.

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