Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Star Trek lives -- we hope
This just out: The trailer for the new Star Trek film -- the 11th! -- titled simply Star Trek.
The film is only now being filmed and is not scheduled for release until December 2008, but already it is kicking up a storm of controversy in the Star Trek world here on Earth.
The reason is, as the trailer shows, this newest Star Trek film is a return to the oldest Star Trek -- the adventures of the Starship Enterprise crew of the original series, Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, et al. The new film, directed by J.J. Abrams of Lost fame (and rumored to be the first of a three-picture package), will be a retelling of Star Trek's earliest incarnation for a new generation of viewers (one generation later than the "next generation" generation), as a well a look at the earliest years of the Enterprise's travels. The movie will be set in both the StarFleet Academy and on the Enterprise's first mission, as again revealed in the trailer's images of the Enterprise's being built in a "shipyard" (a "starshipyard"?), and will feature, for the first time, new actors playing the classic characters.
Therein lyeth the great controversy among Star Trek fans: is the re-visioning of Star Trek's foundations blasphemy, or a restatement of faith? How about the nerve to manipulate the Star Trek "canon" -- the sacred pseudo-history of the 23rd and 24th centuries and the pseudo-stories of its cast of heroes. (Even the trailer has already raised Cain: the Enterprise is shown under construction on Earth, yet the "canon" says it was built in space.)
The religious phrasing is not mere metaphor. Certainly there is a core group of Trekkies (or "Trekkers" -- even those terms are grounds of controversy in Trek culture) who are a bit ... zealous about their Trek (see the film Trekkies). But, in some cases, I have to agree with at least the rationale: Star Trek, I argue, is very much a religious text, in the broadest sense of the term: as a "world view"; and as a story of the the meaning of being human and alive.
And I happen to like those "religious" messages of Star Trek. In fact, I would argue that Star Trek is the only positive image of the future and compass bearing for how to get there that is available to us today. And to our kids. Star Trek offers -- in a visual narrative, the language of our century -- a picture of a human future where we live with technology, yet technology doesn't control us; of where technology is used to increase the freedom of the individual rather than to enslave people. And it's a story about how we got that way by being good people: a picture of humans at their best being courageous, creative, cooperative, and compassionate explorers.
As such, Star Trek is an ancient story -- the one that at their cores all religious texts seek to tell -- but Star Trek places it into the future, where those positive morals become not as maps of where others have been, but a compass bearing of where we can go. That, to me, is Star Trek at it's best. (Even if it's not for everyone -- so what? The largest audience cannot always be the highest goal! (Please remember that J.J.!)).
The question then is: will this new Star Trek movie stick to that canon? That, to me, is the bigger question: It's a retelling of the tale -- and that can be a good, healthy thing -- but will it devolve into just another cinemagraphic high-action romp? Or will it truly be an evolution for a new generation -- the oldest of stories told anew again?
There's no controversy there yet for me. Yet. I'm waiting to see.