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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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  • 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.

  • 01 Feb 2016

    I'm hoping with the (apparent) destruction of the Enterprise alluded to in the 'Beyond' trailer, a new, more prime, version of the ship is presented at the end of the movie. Here's to hoping.

  • 31 Jan 2016

    That's a good thought, considering that Seska is primarily interested in getting her hands on Voyager, unlike Culluh. I only wonder what she and a crew of technically challenged Kazon could achieve that Janeway couldn't.

  • 31 Jan 2016

    Re: Manuevers - I assume 'Basics' is indicative of Seska's plan- she allied herself with the Kazon with the intention of taking Voyager to use its technology to get herself home. She knew she couldn't take over Voyager from within, so she allied herself with her best chance of taking over Voyager externally. In her eyes, they were always a means to an end; nowhere she intended to be permanently.

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