Article by Julien Paquin-Saikali
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.