But what is "fresh" about "Pilgrim of Eternity"? And what kind of name is that anyway? Why is it fresh to revisit Apollo? Most of the episode is about him. Why should I care about the god Apollo again? Besides, didn't he die in "Who Mourns for Adonais?" Now he's not only not dead, he's immortal.
Let me ask this - if this fan episode had been shot on the JJTrek sets, with JJTrek costumes, and why not, even used the JJTrek actors, would it still be "fresh"? Or would it have turned off the same people who are applauding it currently?
It's just a new story. And it's told in a way that resonates with a lot of people who are/were fans of the original series.
No, it wouldn't be the same with JJ's style and approach because he and the general audience he's targeting likely wouldn't go for it. It's not flashy and noisy enough. It's also a small scale story as opposed to what Hollywood suits and many general audience movie goers usually expect in a summer movie: a big baddy that wreaks destruction and threatens everything and everyone and needs to be stopped with a lot of flash and bang.
There is a message of a sort in this fan production: that someone who has lived under a mistaken assumption his entire life can still learn and be redeemed. And there is also a secondary message of understanding and forgiveness. Kirk and crew had every reason to distrust Apollo and yet they still made an effort to allow him a chance to prove his reformation.
I'm one of those who think Star Trek
has always done better on television because it's a different game better suited to the type of stories Star Trek
can tell. A feature film often comes with a lot of baggage and expectation to be bigger and bigger. And very few people seem to be able to write a thoughtful and
entertaining story for film. This isn't a new problem as it's been going on for years. If you want a block-buster then it carries certain expectations and preconceptions that it has to follow a certain formula. If you're not out to be a block-buster then I think that gives you more creative freedom because the expectations and preconceptions lessen or are at least different.
Another difference is characterization. JJ's characters are paper thin caricatures. Kirk was essentially portrayed as a punk for example, an impulsive and often self-centred hothead. That isn't the Kirk that Shatner or Vic Mignogna portray. Their Kirk is decisive yet also reflective. Their Kirk is also seasoned and came by his position in a credible manner, by working his way up the ranks and proving himself every gruelling and tedious step of the way. The Kirk character is but one example of how the TOS universe supposedly works and it's quite different then how the JJverse seems to work: by arbitrariness and happenstance.
Abrams was out to make a summer block-buster, a popcorn flick. The STC folks were out to make a story suitable for episodic television and in the style that TOS was known for and endeared itself to countless fans.