The biggest Star Trek news of 2007, so far, is that “Star Trek XI” will be a remake.
Not just any remake, mind you, but rather a “re-imagining.” The writers who label it such fail to explain whether this requires more or less creative effort than a “reboot,” like Casino Royale or Batman Begins. All I know for sure is that I’ve yet to decide whether I’ll be driving my “pre-owned” car to the theater to yet another franchise “re-imagining” on the silver screen.
But there’s bigger news implied by the announcement that the new Star Trek is throwing out the bathwater. If this movie is a re-telling of the original series instead of just the telling of an untold story from those days, then the original adventure is probably done for good. And, in a way, the end of Star Trek is a relatively new idea.
Sure, back in the sixties it was almost over after two years of the original series, and seemed over for good when the show was canceled after year three. But then it happened. The story that Trek fans have all heard dozens of times. The tale of how Star Trek’s popularity exploded after its cancellation, and how it was kept alive by fans, syndicated airings, the animated series, books, comics, conventions and more. The story of how the late 70’s ushered in a quarter century of Star Trek being in virtuously continuous production.
During those years, it seemed like Star Trek could be as perpetual as television itself. If the original movies ended, The Next Generation would take over. If one series ended another was waiting in the wings, or was likely already on the air.
But, alas, all good things do come to an end, especially when they are no longer good. TNG transitioned from the most popular TV series in the history of syndication to an utterly mediocre film series. Voyager and Enterprise were both ill-conceived in the minds of many fans. Deep Space Nine was good, but not good enough to stem the fatal hemmorage of the franchise audience. Eventually the day came when there was no new Star Trek on air or in the works.
But even when Enterprise ended in 2005, just as when Star Trek ended in 1969, and at each of the smaller endings and turning points along the way, fans believed it would continue. A new Trek, a new Enterprise, new actors and characters, sure, but always with the backdrop of what had gone before, always building on that unusually rich tapestry provided by decades of storytelling.
No more. Whether or not Star Trek XI is good or bad, success or failure, future Trek offerings will likely be set either in the universe of the remake, or will remake the universe yet again. All Trek’s yesterdays become relevant only in how they provide recyclable ideas for tomorrow’s Enterprise.
And it’s kind of a shame. A shame that, with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy still healthy and willing to contribute, Trek fans can’t have one more trip to their well before that well is plugged in favor of a new one. A shame that Hollywood lacks the creativity to both re-create Star Trek for a new millennium and embrace the ongoing story about which generations have become so passionate.
I write this not to take a movie announcement too seriously, or to be melodramatic. Yes, Star Trek is just an entertainment. Sometimes its magic exceeded its quality, and a few of its fans obviously drank too much of the kool-aid.
But allow those of us who will to pause to recognize the story that may finally end, even if only to be retold. To remember the story that made passionate fans engage in storied letter writing campaigns that renewed Star Trek for a third season, and even named the first American space shuttle.
It was the story that has entertained generations. It inspired many to scientific, medical and creative careers. It was told by writers like Gene Roddenberry. Fans like Bjo and John Trimble helped keep it alive. It is part of American culture and history, and has been called one of our modern mythologies. It was something special, which makes its passing, if it is finally here, a moment of note.