I was raised on science fiction. My dad never saw much in it past Flash Gordon but my mom was quite the opposite. She saw, and still sees, science fiction as one of the most sophisticated and absolutely unbeatable genres in literature, television, and film. She brought me up on Star Wars and Back to the Future, introduced me to A Wrinkle in Time and the written works of Ray Bradbury, and she is quite possibly the only person who religiously watches programs on the Sy-Fy Channel and she’s currently churning her way through all ten seasons of the much beloved The X-Files. She’s a sci-fi geek through and through and continues to give me a strong education in the genre when she tackles something new (she was teaching The Hunger Games to her middle school students before the movie adaptation was even on the table) and enthusiastically embraces any new project within the sci-fi umbrella (she loved District 9 and is looking forward to Elysium).
As one would expect, she was also a Trekkie since the days of The Original Series – a time that predates not only Star Wars but such sci-fi benchmarks as 2001: A Space Odyssey as well. The Trek franchise is quite vast; it has been visually represented in five full series’ of television (each amassing 3+ seasons) and eleven feature films (to be twelve this weekend). From Captain Kirk to Captain Picard, then Captain Sisko to Captain Janeway and finally Captain Archer, my mom always followed the Star Trek saga, and by nature I tacked myself on to the phenomenon too. I didn’t realize the cultdom that surrounded Star Trek until the days of Enterprise – the only Star Trek television series I watched during its original run – and saw the Trek craze sadly dying in front of my maturing eyes when the series came to an end in 2005. My mom and I would watch the reruns of The Next Generation – our favorite series of the bunch – and wonder if and when a fresh attempt at Trek would ever come again.
In 2009, J.J. Abrams came to the rescue and not only provided a new Star Trek film that could quench our selfish thirst for a new Trek, but the director managed to make a universally engaging film that made Trek novices into Trek-sperts. With the release of that blockbuster four summers ago, J.J. Abrams proved that great science fiction can still exist and he saved Trek from extinction while jumpstarting acting careers in the process and, maybe most importantly, beginning a contemporary take on the franchise that would be praised by the masses.
There’s a whole lot to adore about Star Trek. From just a cinematic perspective, adopting the eyes of a Trek virgin, Abrams’ craft and handling of the film’s scope is practically effortless. He proved his creativity with Alias and then, in near unanimity, he was deemed a ‘genius’ following his mindbending Lost. Mission: Impossible 3 may have served as his feature film training wheels but Star Trek showed a prevalent maturation in his directorial skills. But aside from Abrams, it’s the inspired collection of actors and the tightly wound script from Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci that really makes the film shine. How it boldly dismantles the pre-established Trek timeline and deftly creates something wholly original, drafting an entirely new path for these characters that ruled the small screen and the science fiction genre decades ago is of an elite caliber in terms of franchise screenwriting and rewriting.
Following its breathless opening sequence (which features a then-unknown Chris Hemsworth momentarily taking command of the USS Kelvin) where the time-traveling Nero (Eric Bana) accidentally ventures, via wormhole, over 100 years into the past and destroys a Starfleet vesicle killing Commander George Kirk , the timeline of The Original Series is completely done away with. Nothing that transpired during the Trek timeline of Gene Roddenberry’s original invention must now be adhered to by Abrams & Co., they have free reign to create whatever they want within the Trek-verse. As a result, the way that the USS Enterprise crew – the character combination of TOS – must come together is drastically different than has been detailed in the original Trek lore. This proves that the creators can decide what parts of the original Trek timeline can still transpire, and if they do transpire then certain surrounding incidents can be altered or characters can be substituted, or completely new for that matter. It’s wildly inventive, and the wonderful character building that takes place over the course of the first film climaxes with a crew so defined by personality and so very united by a bond that we’ve actually seen evolve, that we become entirely invested in them as an audience. Unfortunately, this crew is stuck in the cinescape and will only be revisited in feature films, even though I’m sure people who never cared for Star Trek originally would willingly tune in every single week to see a new adventure featuring these reincarnated characters.
But because no television show was ever in the tube, Abrams’ long awaited and highly anticipated sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, has a substantial amount of pressure weighted on top of it.
The possibilities of what the sequel could bring seemed very endless until the Abramsian secrecy began to tear. Because space is the final frontier, totally without boundaries and full of countless Trek tales and arcs that could be combined or reimagined for filmic purposes, Star Trek Into Darkness could really go anywhere. Genesis, Gary Marshall, the Borg, the Q Collective, the Holodeck, Medical Holograms, more wormhole technobabble, all of the alien races (Klingons, Andorians, Cardassians, Ferengi)…the routes and crossovers are exploitable to no end. For the franchise to recycle a character or a direct event from the earlier series’ would be seriously disappointing, and a breath of carbon monoxide after the freshness exuding from the original. I’m hoping for something to keep this new vision strong, something that manages to keep Star Trek at the forefront of viewers’ minds, something that continues to pump life into the franchise that many believed had long outstayed its welcome. Star Trek, as a whole, is a pillar of science fiction and while Star Trek Into Darkness, whether it’s good or bad, will definitely not be the last time a Star Trek film graces multiplexes, I pray that it holds its footing from here until the end of days. With all that exists, there is always potential and here’s to hoping that Abrams and his faithful writers and every other technical team that tackles Trek in the future continues to see the strength in this franchise. To let it die would be a true crime.
With speculation still lingering and the first few showings of Star Trek Into Darkness beginning, I fight with my expectations. I’m excited, but skeptical, hopeful, but worried, stingy, yet dropped $50 on IMAX 3D tickets for myself, my brother, and, of course, my mother to come with me on Friday night. I look forward to a good, nostalgic time at the movies with Easter eggs embedded throughout to give Trekkies like myself and my mom a healthy chuckle (much like the first film).
I’ll try my hardest to think about that, so let us boldly go where no man has gone before…again.
Are you ready for Star Trek Into Darkness?
Article by Mike Murphy