It’s Star Trek Day at Rogues Portal and ever since it was announced to the staff, I have been struggling with what I wanted to write about the franchise. I have never really been a big fan of Star Trek. I was raised as a Star Wars fan. With that being said… I am not really a big sci-fi fan either. It has to be something really interesting to catch my interest. IE: Aliens, Event Horizon. But I’m a team player and I like a challenge! I started looking for the positives with my opinions on Star Trek and it hit me square in the face… JJ ABRAMS! JJ Abrams is the sole person that has contributed to my enjoyment of Star Trek. Keep in mind, this is purely my own opinion. I’m not here to wage war against Star Trek fans or attempt to get anyone angry. This is just a view from the outside in, as a non-Star Trek fan trying his best to boldly go where many have gone before.
Back to where I said that I’m not a big sci-fi fan. I’m not. First and foremost, when the line is drawn in the sand between Star Wars and Star Trek, I am clearly on the side of Jar Jar Binks… wait, I mean Star Wars. I grew up on Star Wars, Star Trek was always just there. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Star Trek. But I’m not actively looking to watch the shows or the movies. I remember growing up that my dad would watch the Star Trek reruns on TV and when the alarm sounded on the ship when they were being attacked, our dog would go nuts. He would run up to the TV and bark until the alarm stopped. That is my most vivid memory of the TV show, not the tribbles or that green alien guy (Gorn, I looked it up) that I have seen referenced in other places. I have seen most of the movies with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. I stayed away from all that New Generation stuff. Which is kinda ironic because I like Patrick Stewart. However American Dad’s Stewart > Star Trek’s Stewart. Oh, let me take a second and bathe in the hate I will receive for that sentence.
The movies never really captured my attention either. My favourite Star Trek film is Wrath of Khan. I did find that one to be entertaining. I liked Khan and how ruthless he was and I liked the worm creature that got into Chekov’s ear. I also think that this was one of the first times I remember seeing a main character die on screen and he didn’t make a miraculous comeback. Instead, Spock is shipped off in a coffin through space. I kept waiting for this to be reversed, instead I got ending credits… huh? So of course, I did have to go watch Search for Spock. Obviously, he is going to be found, the title itself spoils it all, but I had to see it! I don’t remember much more of that except he was found as a young child and grew up. I liked it ok, but not as good as the Wrath of Khan. Khan had substance, where I felt Search of Spock was lacking. Then there’s the Voyage Home and those whales… no thanks. I could have skipped that one. In fact, I hated part four so much that I skipped the other ones too. So yes, Star Trek was never a staple in my interest of film. The TV show was never on unless Dad was watching. I had friends that lived by it, but I was happy in my Star Wars universe, safe in Chewbacca’s arms.
Now let us jump back to 2009 when Abrams released his Star Trek reboot. I am not a fan of reboots as a rule. I like for films just to be left alone as is. I feel as most reboots/remakes are just for a quick cash grab, but I liked Abrams, so I was willing to see his take on the Star Trek universe. Still, I skipped the theatrical run of the movie. Quite a few of my buddies told me that I would have to watch it when it hit DVD. Fair enough, I trusted the few that told me to take a look at it, so I did. I was amazed! I liked what I saw, and dammit, I liked Star Trek! I like how Abrams pretty much wiped out the timeline from the original series and breathed new life into the universe. I know both old and new Trekkies that liked it and some that couldn’t stand it. I was told it didn’t capture the spirit of the original. I understood that, but it worked for me. After seeing the reboot, I realized that the older films seem more dated and this spoke to a whole new generation! It was refreshing.
I liked the cast and the direction that was taken by showing a younger Kirk, Spock, and crew from the beginning and leading them down a new and different path. I appreciated how Kirk is now this rebel and a fighter living under his father’s shadow. However, I felt Spock was treated too much like Superman. He lost his mother and his whole planet. Too Clark Kent for me. The two protagonists are damaged and have their own demons and issues to deal with, it was done well enough for me to feel more invested with the pair. I enjoyed the chemistry between Kirk the rebel and Spock the voice of reason. The back and forth between them was solid throughout the film. I think the one actor that really stood out to me was John Cho as Sulu. I remember thinking that Harold is going to trade in his White Castle burgers and help fly the Starship Enterprise? This is a joke, right? No joke here and he nailed the role for me. I enjoyed seeing him as Sulu and he showed he that he could do more than comedy. Much respect for him there. In addition, you have Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as Bones and Zoe Saldana as Uhura. I thoroughly enjoyed this cast! I found myself shocked that I enjoyed the film as much as I did and to be honest, I was looking forward to more. I was a fan of seeing how the characters met each other and to see the timeline changed by some time travelling Romulans. It all felt new and interesting.
Four years later, I bite the bullet and actually pay to see Star Trek: Into Darkness at the theater, even in 3D! This was only the second time I have ever watched a movie in 3D up to that point. I was excited enough for this film that I was willing to pay the extra to experience it in 3D. I knew going in that this was basically going to be a retelling of Wrath of Kahn, but as I said, Kahn was my favorite film of the series. So the only thing that could happen here is that Abrams totally destroys Kahn, but I had faith. I’m happy to say that once again Abrams convinced me to like Star Trek even more. We got to go a little deeper with characters and watch them progress. I liked how Spock and Uhura were romantically involved. I get that there are a number of fans that didn’t agree with this and I get it, but once again, I liked this new direction. Hell, Spock has lost everything and he has to deal with the angst of Kirk. Let him find someone that he can have some feelings for.
I appreciated the throwbacks and similarities between Into Darkness and Wrath of Khan. From inserting the quote “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” to the trading out Spock for Kirk in the radiation chamber. Even though, I did cringe a bit when Spock yelled out “KHHHHHHAAAAANNNNNNN!” I felt much like I was reliving Vader yelling “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” in Revenge of the Sith. Cringe worthy indeed. The biggest task for me in liking Into Darkness was how Khan would be portrayed. I do hate referring back to Star Wars, but Khan was Darth Vader to me in the Star Trek world. He was a true villain. I was kinda 50/50 when I heard that Benedict Cumberbatch was going to play the role, but he surprised me. He has the look about him and his facial expressions and tone was enough for me to like him as Khan. Watching him gain the trust of the crew members just to turn on them all was all so satisfying. The only thing missing was the worm!
As I wrap this up, I will confess that in the time between knowing I would be writing about Star Trek to now, I have gone back to watch the classic films. Well… most of them. I do appreciate them more than I did, say five years ago. Hell, five months ago. They tend to have their own charm about them and I think I also put my finger on another reason the new films appeal to me more than the older ones. The older ones tended to have a philosophical side to them. As well as throw in a lesson or two (looking at you, whales) which I’m not opposed to, but it feels hollow to me. These new films have tossed that aside for more sci-fi action and explosions. I’m fine with that. I think it worked better without that moment of enlightenment so we will all have a better day.
You may have noticed that I left out the recent release, Star Trek: Beyond. I will wait for the Blu-Ray release of this instalment. Why? I’ll tell you. JJ Abrams didn’t direct it and Justin Lin did. Lin is known for the numerous Fast and the Furious sequels he has directed. To be honest, once I saw the first trailer for Star Trek: Beyond with Kirk flying through the air on a motorcycle with the Beastie Boys booming in the background, I was DONE. I own a motorcycle, I love Beastie Boys, but that didn’t sit well with me. I don’t want to see the Enterprise race a Bird of Prey or hear James T Kirk tell Spock that he lives his life a quarter mile at a time. I’m exaggerating of course but once I saw Lin tacked on to direct, those images came to mind. However, I can say that I no longer loathe Star Trek as I used to. I do appreciate the franchise and the fan following behind it. It has always been just as strong as Star Wars. I might even go back and pick up some of the older films for my collection. I am not fully converted, but hey! It’s a start!
Also feel free to hit me up on Twitter – @sycotic. I am going to go back and at least check out a few episodes from each of the Star Trek series. Let me know which ones I should check out and which ones to skip!
Live long and prosper.