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The Trouble with Star Trek's Self-Image

Now that I have seen "The Force Awakens" I can attest it is 100% Star Wars. In a positive way, the new movie remains perfectly true to the roots of the franchise - the eternal struggle between the good and the evil enters a new round as everyone would have expected. In a negative way, the "The Force Awakens" is awfully repetitive as it includes all the same themes as Episode IV and hardly anything new.

Star Trek is treated radically differently by the people in charge. The so far two films set in the Abramsverse have very little in common with the old Star Trek - new universe, new style, redefined characters, new philosophy. In a positive way, Star Trek moves on in some fashion*, unlike Star Wars, which ultimately proves to be a "static universe" where the same story repeats with every Skywalker generation. In a negative way, Star Trek isn't Star Trek any longer. While the much criticized Beastie Boys trailer for "Beyond" may have been designed for an "action kid" audience, it is symptomatic of a general cluelessness of how to create and how to present Star Trek in our time, of how to make Star Trek something special that stands out from the crowd of action movies.

*If we are generous. "Star Trek Into Darkness" heavily suffered from the "everything-repeats-like-in-Star-Wars" snydrome.

The perhaps decisive difference between the two franchises is that the makers of Star Wars are proud of its heritage and handle it with great care. That's why they manage to gloss over the many weaknesses in the story, in the characters and in the philosophy. And they don't change anything about the the recipe in the first place anyway because it is known as a money-making machine.

The people currently in charge of Star Trek desperately try to incorporate always more action and more coolness, and they remove ethical dilemmas in favor of pure character conflicts, because they know the recipe (of Star Wars and other action spectacles) or were told to make use of it. It is symptomatic that Simon Pegg has to tell us that there's more Star Trek in "Beyond" than the trailer insinuates. This appeasement will probably continue even after the film has premiered. In contrast, no one ever needs to justify how a Star Wars movie turns out. And in the few cases where something met general disapproval it was fixed the next time (Jar Jar Binks) and not simply played down, ignored or denied (lens flares). BTW, where are Abrams' beloved lens flares in "The Force Awakens"?

The makers of Star Wars care for the commercial success, for the "purity" of their franchise and for their audience (perhaps in exactly that order). The makers of Star Trek want to earn money too, they try to preserve some aspects of the legacy but they don't really know their audience in the first place.

As sad as it is, Star Trek currently presents itself as some sort of second-rate Star Wars. Without self-confidence, and with a promise like "Look, we've got plenty of action. And perhaps something for the nerds too."

As always, comments are welcome.

Bernd Schneider


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  • 07 Feb 2016

    Hello again, Bernd. I just watched TNG "Violations" (had not yet, even after 24 years). There are two scenes where Geordi reads text on Engineering's computer displays, listing instances of comas associated with a certain syndrome on planets that the Ullians had visited. I paused the DVD and, as expected, lo and behold, there were four members of the TNG production crew who had fallen ill on other planets, and the physicians who took care of them were also production crewmembers. In no particular order, those were Gary Hutzel, Wendy Neuss, Peter Lauritson and -- I am sorry, I forget the others, but you get the idea. All one needs to do is to pause the DVD on two scenes.
    UPDATE: Just noticed that the Observations section mentions this, even if not identifying the personnel by their names. Sorry 'bout that.

  • 07 Feb 2016

    While your comments on present-day naval ships are certainly valid, they don't address the issues raised in my article: the deck structure, the pylons, size comparisons with other starships, etc.

  • 06 Feb 2016

    Really? Really? I don't think you really understand what 120 meters is. Also, you're not taking into account beam and draft, which must be figured in for the overall cubic meters of the thing.. Let me give you a clue:

    USN's Aegis Class Oliver Hazard Perry Class Frigates:

    Displacement:4,100 long tons (4,200 t) full load

    Length:408 ft (124 m) waterline, 445 ft (136 m) overall, 453 ft (138 m) for "long-hull" frigates Beam: 45 ft (14 m) Draft:22 ft (6.7 m)

    Propulsion:2 × General Electric LM2500-30 gas turbines generating 41,000 shp (31 MW) through a single shaft and variable pitch propeller 2 × Auxiliary Propulsion Units, 350 hp (260 kW) retractable electric azimuth thrusters for maneuvering and docking.


    Sensors and processing systems: Radar: AN/SPS-49, AN/SPS-55, Mk 92 fire control system Sonar: SQS-56, SQR-19 Towed Array Electronic warfare & decoys:SLQ-32(V)2, Flight III with sidekick, Mark 36 SRBOC AN/SLQ-25 Nixie.

    Armament:One single-arm Mk 13 Missile Launcher with a 40-missile magazine that contains SM-1MR anti-aircraft guided missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Removed from the U.S. Navy ships starting in 2003, due to the retirement of the SM-1 missile from American service Mk 38 Mod 2 Naval Gun Systems installed on platforms over the removed MK 13 launchers Two triple Mark 32 Anti-submarine warfare torpedo tubes with Mark 46 or Mark 50 anti-submarine warfare torpedoes One OTO Melara 76 mm/62 caliber naval gun One 20 mm Phalanx CIWS rapid-fire cannon Eight Hsiung Feng II SSM or four HF-2 and 4 HF-3 supersonic AShM, plus 2 Bofors 40mm/L70 guns (on Taiwanese vessels only)

    Aircraft carried:Two LAMPS multi-purpose helicopters (the SH-2 Seasprite LAMPS I on the short-hulled ships or the SH-60 Seahawk LAMPS III on the long-hulled ships)

    Overall, while longer, this real world ship is, by comparison, a smaller vessel, when both beam and draft are figured in, than the fictional Oberth Class, yet somehow, the naval architects managed to fit in a lot of stuff int a relatively small space. And you mean to tell me that 23rd and 24th Century ship builders wouldn't be able to do the same? Might i suggest a bit more research? If you consider that 120 meters long is quite a bit longer than an American football field, and figure in both the beam and draft, for overall cubic meters, and you might get a different idea of size.

    Oh, and it was Chekov, not Sulu, who mistook the BoP for a "scout class wessel." ;)

  • 02 Feb 2016

    I have no article that covers the changes to those bridges. But thanks for the suggestion.

  • 02 Feb 2016

    TBH, i couldn't care less about Canon in this instance, because David's ageing just doesn't make sense from a character standpoint. How would a supposed 24 year old know so much/has so much experience about/with biophysics, geology and so on in TWOK/TSFS?? Even a Vulcan probably would have had problems, getting to the level, where he's capable of making Genesis happen (and as we know, David played a huge Part in it) without years of experience AFTER learning all the basics!

    Also, i agree with Bernd about the Ferengi. This problem isn't THT's. And especially because of that, i also think they shouldn't have come up. There would have been plenty of other sources of Protomater. I'm sorry, but i have to agree with Chris, that's lazy and sloppy writing.

  • 02 Feb 2016

    I wasn't sure where to put this, so I'm posting here. I was wondering if you had an article on the Galaxy Class bridge (or other bridges, for that matter, like the TOS movie). Could be that you already do, and I couldn't find it. In particular, I was curious as to the functional redesign on the ugly cave of a Generations bridge... :-) I see from online screenshots that the port-side stations are 'Communications, I-III', but I was wondering if you knew what the starboard side was (and if the new stations affected the aft layout).

    A general bridge article might be interesting, too- tracking the differing portrayals (for instance, the Excelsior-class bridges from Star Trek VI, Generations, and DS9 - Paradise Lost, or the Galaxy-class variants seen in Generations, DS9 - The Jem'hadar, and TNG: The Wounded). Just a thought; like I said, maybe that already exists.

  • 01 Feb 2016

    Well- and again, I'm grasping at straws here, but SOMEONE on the internet needs to defend Voyager ;-) - I'm guessing after episodes like Prime Factors, Seska thought that Voyager could get home not through use of its own propulsion technology, but by using its superior technology to coerce/take from others whatever they needed to get home (or set up a private little kingdom here).

    In other words, she didn't want to unlock untapped capabilities... simply to use the existing capabilities in a way that she knew Janeway never would, to seize hold of the next Caretaker's Array or Spacefolding transporter that came their way. (Based on the number of near-misses that Voyager came across during her time on the ship, it would be a reasonable expectation to find another one ripe for the picking within a week or so of taking over Voyager). ;-)

  • 01 Feb 2016

    I've always considered "Insurrection" to be one of the best Trek movies, representing what Roddenberry's vision was about. Exploring the ideas of the Prime Directive (in a way), standing up for what is morally right, forced relocation, and the idea that the needs of the many perhaps does not out-weigh the needs of the few.

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