I figured since the new Star Trek movie is just over two weeks away, I should write up a preview of it to explain what is going on, and what this all means.
To put it simply: this is a reboot, much like Batman Begins or Casino Royale. However, it is also actually a sequel to the rest of Star Trek. Now this sounds confusing and involves time travel, but I don’t think its too hard to understand. Instead of dropping everything and starting from scratch, the reason that things are different and rebooted is because characters from the Next Generation era (actually a particular character from the Original Series era that was “long-lived” enough to survive into the Next Generation era) are thrown back in time to before The Original Series began. Just by being in the past, they have created an alternate timeline, which is what makes the concept of this movie so great to me.
Ordinarily with a prequel, you have to follow all of the rules set forth in the original series/movies. Everything casually mentioned as happening the past has to be reconciled, shown, or made reference to. If Kirk said in episode 015 that went to school with such-and-such and in episode 002 that he was a bookworm and no fun in college, you have to protray him as that. The big thing is that you have the problem of already knowing what’s going to happen because you’ve already seen the characters all “grown up”, basically. The only ways around this are (a) be George Lucas and write prequels that have little to no reflection on the original movies and contridict them in almost every way or (b) reboot the franchise altogether.
Star Trek has gone b with a twist. Since no one can really throw away 40 years of Star Trek history, the writers (the same guys who wrote Transformers, Mission Impossible III, and The Island, of whom one is a huge Trekkie) decided to bring characters from the original timeline (Prime, I think they refer to it as) into the new timeline. Imagine that Casino Royale started out with Pierce Brosnan’s Bond. Somehow, he sends a message back in time (using some Q device) to his young self. Nothing happens, so he shrugs his shoulders and we assume nothing has changed. Brosnan Bond lives on to fight another day. So instead of this erasing all history up to that point like if you did something like this in Back to the Future Part 1, we end up following Daniel Craig Bond while still having the option of following Brosnan Bond if that proves to be uninteresting.
Its that way with the new Star Trek. They wrote it in such a way that if the new movie doesn’t do well, Paramount can go back to trying to make more Next Generation movies. Or Trekkies who don’t like the movie can just pretend it doesn’t exist and it would be easy for them to do (not like Star Wars fans who don’t have a choice since Lucas made the prequels himself, but that’s a post for another time). There are Trekkies who are on both sides of the issue, but I think its a great idea. Paramount wanted to renew its largest franchise that pretty much curled up and died a few years ago. They also wanted to attract a whole new audience that may not have been willing to give Star Trek a chance. It almost looks like they can have their cake and eat it too.
The new movie won’t require any knowledge of the Star Trek at all. If you think it looks interesting, you can go see it as this summer’s big action flick, and you would be right. Could it turn out to be a “Star Trek In Name Only” abomination that isn’t any good? Maybe. But I think no matter what, the ride will be fun.
Can the team that brought you LOST go wrong?