The U.S. opening for the new Star Trek movie is May 8, 2009. The hype has been through the roof and, according to those lucky few who have managed to see the movie in various sneak peek venues, it mostly deserves the hype.

I get frustrated reading so much negativity about the movie, particularly from people who are supposed to love Star Trek. In many cases, their point is that Star Trek might not be about the vision that was originally developed by Gene Roddenberry; it might be changed to fit a new world order and a new way of thinking. You know what? That’s okay. All things — Star Trek included — must evolve in order to stay relevant.

Director J.J. Abrams is taking on an icon in his attempt to revive the Star Trek franchise. The original Star Trek series is probably one of the most well-studied television shows of all time, particularly by its hard-core fans. I’ll admit that I can usually name an episode from the original series and Star Trek: The Next Generation very quickly. I can also tell you interesting tidbits about the series. For instance:

  • Did you know that the gravestone created by the godlike being named Gary Mitchell in the second pilot of the original series read James R. Kirk rather than the James T. Kirk that we all know and love?
  • Also, if you look carefully at some of the pipes in set corridors in the various Star Trek incarnations, you’ll note that many are labeled with GNDN, which stands for Goes Nowhere Does Nothing.

I’m a huge fan of Star Trek in most of its forms. I love the original series and The Next Generation, and I think Deep Space Nine is the epitome of TV. Although I enjoy Voyager and Enterprise, I find the quality to be of lower standards. As for the movies, the only one I think is relatively bad is Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Heck, I even enjoy the much maligned Nemesis and Insurrection.

Why do I like what many people — Star Trek fans in particular — consider terrible movies? It’s simple really: I enjoy Star Trek. I love watching my favorite characters gather on the screen and live out an adventure that I can only dream about. Sure, I like some movies better than others, but, in general, even those movies that feel like long TV episodes are fun to watch.

But, that was the past. Soon, we’ll get to see the results of the Star Trek franchise being handed to J. J. Abrams. When it became clear that the new Star Trek movie was going to be a prequel, I’ll admit that I was a little leery. Who could possibly assume the role of the swaggering ladies’ man James Kirk, not to mention replace the legendary Spock played perfectly by Leonard Nimoy? I was not the only one who had misgivings. To read some of the message boards regarding the issue, you’d think that J. J. Abrams was inflicting unspeakable horrors on Star Trek.

But then I started to get excited; after all, we’re returning to where it all started. A new, modern vision will be brought to a legend. Still, many hard-core Star Trek fans continue to complain that a Star Trek movie with Bones played by someone else will simply not be acceptable, and many fans are absolutely convinced that J.J. Abrams will destroy Star Trek by not honoring the continuity established by the existing content. There are a few key points to raise about these (and other) issues:

  • As for a Star Trek movie with a new cast, two key members of the original cast are dead. As in, they’re not going to be reprising their roles. If a Star Trek movie was going to use these characters, it’s doubtful that the producers would pull a “Spock’s Brain” by ripping their corpses out of the ground and reanimating their lifeless skeletons. Rather, the roles would need to be recast.
  • Regarding the subject of continuity, many hard-core Star Trek fans remain convinced that Star Trek‘s history is written in stone and that an attempt to write a story that, in any way, violates continuity is a cardinal sin for which the only appropriate punishment is death by firing squad. When it was revealed that the new Star Trek would rewrite some of the rules using the oft-used time-travel mechanism, some of these folks went a bit nuts. Immediately, the new Star Trek movie could not possibly be anything other than junk if the writers resorted to using time travel as a way to get around continuity!
    Folks, this is a reboot of the franchise. For years, under Rick Berman’s care, hard-core Star Trek fans have done nothing but complain about crap that was being spewed out from Paramount. A reboot is not necessarily going to result in a new series in much the same way that the latest incarnation of Battlestar Galactica bore little resemblance to what came before — and Battlestar Gallactica was a huge success.
  • On time travel: Although it has been used a lot in Star Trek, it’s often been used very, very well and as a way to tell a really cool story. Of course, one of the most popular movies, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, was based entirely on the time travel premise. Further, one of my favorite Star Trek episodes of all time is the The Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” which also has a very well handled time travel theme. My point is: When done right, time travel can be a very useful story device. Give J.J. Abrams and crew a chance to tell the whole story on the big screen on May 8th before passing judgment as to whether it’s done right in the movie. (In a recent interview, Bob Orci addressed the issue of time travel continuity in a really great way.)
  • I’ve also read enough complaints regarding the new Enterprise’s design; yes, the warp nacelles are different than they were in the 60s version of the ship and the bridge, well, the bridge, oft referred to now as the iBridge, has a much, much more modern look. I’m happy that J. J. Abrams has not unnecessarily stuck with the boxy, cardboard, poster-ridden look of the original bridge. Yes, the original bridge holds its place in history, but it really doesn’t have a place in a movie with a $150 million budget!

A while back, J.J. Abrams finally started releasing content-filled trailers, images, and clips of the new movie. To say that these media items have generated a high level of excitement and interest would be a major understatement. In fact, the overall tone about the new movie started to shift, particularly after the third trailer. With perfect music and great imagery, it really couldn’t have been a stronger look at the new movie. Message board comments started to change from “I’ll never see this garbage” to “Hmmm… maybe it’s worth a look.” Of course, there are still those fans out there who are convinced the new movie will suck mainly because it will violate continuity in some way.

Last week, folks in Texas who had lined up to see a showing of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan received a pleasant surprise when Leonard Nimoy himself showed up and offered to show the crowd the new movie in its entirety. The overall feedback from that event was extremely positive. Of course, the people in attendance were likely to be huge fans of show, and some are convinced that their feedback can’t be trusted. Here’s one comment that I read today regarding that event:

“The people who saw this film in that theatre instead of Wrath of Khan; obviously die-hard Trek fans. They and others who have seen this film would say that a Trek film showing Kirk and Spock farting on each other like Terence & Philip on South Park is the greatest Star Trek movie of all time. I’m waiting to hear some objective opinions by people who don’t buy Star Trek dog poop bags and anything else thrown at them just because it’s a Trek thing.”

Honestly, I doubt that hard-core Star Trek fans would really get that much excitement from watching Kirk and Spock fart on each other, but I can’t help but believe that the person that wrote the comment is, in some way, a fan of the show. Why else would he bother to post in a forum dedicated to the new movie?

For some, anything that doesn’t fit into their narrow scope of what is acceptable in the Star Trek universe or anything that violates continuity in even the most minor way will obviously, in their mind, result in a movie that simply can’t be tolerated. These are the same people who watch every new episode of each series religiously, not necessarily to enjoy the story, but to look for errors. Where’s the fun in that?

Me? I’m genuinely excited about the new movie! I’ve watched the trailers a few times and read the initial nonspoiler-filled reviews. A bunch of us from work are planning to drive to St. Louis on opening night to see the new movie in IMAX. My advice for other Star Trek fans is go to the movie, sit back, and watch what I think will prove to be a smashing success. If you must, pretend it’s not Star Trek. Pretend it’s just another sci-fi movie and try to let go of the past (continuity) and enjoy the ride.

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