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Trek Literature "...Good words. That's where ideas begin."

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Old January 14 2013, 12:04 PM   #1
USS Einstein
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The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star Trek



Synopsis:

In the past, some forty-five years earlier, the reader is introduced to a young Jimmy Kirk. At 16 years old, he embodies every parent's worst fears: he is brash, rebellious, impulsive, cocky, and reckless. He is first seen leading a group of similarly rebellious (and criminal) youths on a barely-considered scheme to "escape" from Iowa, sign onto an ocean-going freight vessel as underage deckhands (itself illegal), and make their fortune somewhere in South America. Even at this young age, it is clear that Jimmy is a leader, but he is completely directionless. His father's long absences on Starfleet assignments and his own experiences on Tarsus IV have made him angry and violent, as well as impatient for the right to make his own decisions and live his own life.

It is clear that Jimmy's mother, Winona, can no longer handle him, but George's continuing commitments to Starfleet will inevitably keep him in deep space. Fearing that his son is on the road toward becoming a career criminal and ne'er-do-well, George briefly considers resigning from Starfleet until Winona suggests that he call in some old favors and take Jimmy into space with him.

Warming to the idea, George contacts his old friend, Robert April, and arranges to take Jimmy into space on a routine assignment to the planet Faramond. A new archaeological dig is about to get under way there, and April has been asked to break ground. More than that, April has arranged not only to take George and Jimmy with him to Faramond, but to do so aboard the still cutting-edge U.S.S. Enterprise. Although Jimmy displays his usual rudeness and lack of respect for authority on the trip up from the Earth's surface, April displays an uncommon patience and understanding for his godson, even as George experiences continuing frustration. Nevertheless, even Jimmy is impressed by his first view of Enterprise.

Also, I remember at the time:

"The filmmakers sought inspiration from novels such as Prime Directive, Spock's World, and Best Destiny to fill in gaps unexplained by canon; Best Destiny particularly explores Kirk's childhood and names his parents."



At first, I didn't really understand what Orci and Kurtzman were trying to do with Star Trek, with it's Nokia product-placements, and seemingly un-Roddenbury-like romanticism of Kirk's life.

But, I think I understand their direction better now: They are trying to bring the Federation back to being the smaller, most intimate alliance seen in TOS, TAS, late ENT and the early books (like the 1989 reference work 'Worlds of the Federation', and Franz Joseph's ship designs from the 1973 'Star Trek Blueprints') - as opposed to this more mono-cultural post-First Contact Federation that stretches 8,000 light years, where travel between worlds has become mundane. Books like 'Cadet Kirk', 'Spock's World', 'Best Destiny', etc, seem to have heavily influenced it.

And I think this is a very positive move. Star Trek was starting to become too ossified; the Federation was like a federal nation state during the Dominion War - the feel of an entity with diverse alien member worlds was missing - early Star Trek portrays the Federation more like a bunch of diverse rocky spheres hanging lonely in space, separated by the vast void - only marginally allied (i.e. Journey to Babel), each with exotic cultures (i.e. The Cloud Minders), like distant port cities in the European age of empire.

I find that much more compelling, although it took a while to come to terms with it, after years of thinking of the Federation as an entity full of thousands of colonies, outposts, border stations, fleets of ships, etc. Do others like this direction too?
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Old January 14 2013, 02:09 PM   #2
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

I only really saw ST09 as a dumb, fun popcorn action film.

I wouldn't go trying to ascibe any deeper motivations into it myself.
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Old January 14 2013, 02:48 PM   #3
USS Einstein
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

That was my initial reaction, and someone said to me recently that 'your first reaction was probably the best'.

But, it seems they did put some thought into how they wanted to portray the new universe, and they chose to go with a more 'retro-Trek' feel, lifting ideas directly out of earlier novels, rather than the post-90s feel (frankly, I enjoy what happened to Trek post-TNG less and less).

We will just have to see if the next movie reveals more of a 'vision', or if it was just commercialism all along.
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Old January 14 2013, 04:14 PM   #4
King Daniel Into Darkness
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

I thought they drew more on the early TOS movie (I-IV) "vision" of the Trekverse. The more colourful aliens, the bigger scope that comes with a bigger budget - all of which was reflected and expanded upon in the novels of the time. TNG, DS9 and VOY seemed to make the Trekverse and the Federation a far less colourful place.

The writers are on record that the novels influenced their movie. There are more references and nods to a wider variety of Treks than in any other movie - Starbase One was inspired by Franz Joseph's Starfleet HQ, the USS Newton looks just like the Proxima-class from the old Starfleet Command games, the USS Kobayashi Maru was based on a set of 80's fan-made blueprints, Kirk's parents were loosely based on Diane Carey's versions etc.
The early version of the script at IMSDB even mentions "cthia" from Diane Duane's Spock's World.

Commercialism in Trek has been seen before - Crisis on Centaurus had a few current day buisnesses namedropped as being active in the 23rd century. FASA and Shane Johnson's manuals went further, inventing and detailing many future-companies that manufacured everything from food synthesizers to warp nacelles to future-cars (one of which, Leeding Engines Ltd, was namedropped on the now-defunct Experience the Enterprise promotional website)

I love them for taking inspiration from the whole of Trek, not just the movies and episodes. And I thought Star Trek had a lot more depth and emotion to it than any other summer blockbuster I've seen. I can't wait for Into Darkness
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Old January 14 2013, 04:18 PM   #5
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

USS Einstein wrote: View Post
[/I]At first, I didn't really understand what Orci and Kurtzman were trying to do with Star Trek, with it's Nokia product-placements...
It's a non sequitur to assume that the product placements had anything to do with the screenwriters' preferences. Paramount decided that they wanted to relaunch Star Trek as a tentpole motion picture franchise, emulating what they'd already done with another inherited Desilu property, Mission: Impossible. (The success Abrams and his team had with M:I:III was what got them the Trek gig.) That meant that the movie would have to be far more expensive to make than the previous Trek films, which had been treated by the studio more as a mid-budget property. And movie production costs today have skyrocketed to such an extent that it's impossible for a studio to make a tentpole blockbuster film without extra financing from outside sources -- whether financing partners like Spyglass Entertainment (which co-funded the 2009 movie) or corporate sponsors who agree to help underwrite the cost of the film in exchange for promotional considerations such as product placement.

So no matter who had written the film, no matter what they had wanted its worldbuilding and philosophy to be, they still would've had to include the product placements. That's not a storytelling choice, it's just a basic necessity of American motion picture production.

For that matter, there's no reason to assume the Nokia product placement was even mentioned in the script. The script may have simply said that Jim's uncle's voice came over the car's communication system. The visual and practical details of that would've been the business of the production designer in concert with the director -- and of course the studio's marketing department or somebody like that would've been responsible for arranging and coordinating the product placements. Indeed, given that the shot of the Nokia logo was in an insert shot -- a closeup of Jim's hand working the controls without his face visible -- it could've been shot separately toward the end of the production, or even as a pickup shot in post-production, and cut into the scene. Or maybe they did a shot of a hand working a blank panel and added the text later as a digital effect. The screenwriters and the people who shot the initial scene may not even have known whether there'd be a product placement there or what company it would've been for.

Also, just in general, it's an error to assume that the credited screenwriters of a film are the top decision-makers about its content. It's actually the director and producer of a feature film who have the final say; the screenwriters are working to their instructions. True, since the Bad Robot team comes from television, writers like Kurtzman & Orci have more status and influence in the production there than they would've had on something like the Transformers movies they wrote; and because of the timing of the writers' strike, Abrams wasn't able to rewrite the screenplay during production to the extent that he normally would have. But it was still Abrams, as the director and producer, who had the final say. He's the "showrunner" of the Trek movies, just like he was the showrunner of Alias or Felicity.



But, I think I understand their direction better now: They are trying to bring the Federation back to being the smaller, most intimate alliance seen in TOS, TAS, late ENT and the early books (like the 1989 reference work 'Worlds of the Federation', and Franz Joseph's ship designs from the 1973 'Star Trek Blueprints') - as opposed to this more mono-cultural post-First Contact Federation that stretches 8,000 light years, where travel between worlds has become mundane. Books like 'Cadet Kirk', 'Spock's World', 'Best Destiny', etc, seem to have heavily influenced it.
I think they're mainly just trying to portray a future that's similar enough to the present to be relatable to the casual moviegoer.
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Old January 14 2013, 04:48 PM   #6
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

Interesting Christopher, I didn't really know how that particular side of the industry operates. I would rather they hadn't done it, but I'm not overly bothered

King Daniel wrote: View Post
I thought they drew more on the early TOS movie (I-IV) "vision" of the Trekverse. The more colourful aliens, the bigger scope that comes with a bigger budget - all of which was reflected and expanded upon in the novels of the time. TNG, DS9 and VOY seemed to make the Trekverse and the Federation a far less colourful place.

The writers are on record that the novels influenced their movie. There are more references and nods to a wider variety of Treks than in any other movie - Starbase One was inspired by Franz Joseph's Starfleet HQ, the USS Newton looks just like the Proxima-class from the old Starfleet Command games, the USS Kobayashi Maru was based on a set of 80's fan-made blueprints, Kirk's parents were loosely based on Diane Carey's versions etc.

The early version of the script at IMSDB even mentions "cthia" from Diane Duane's Spock's World.

Commercialism in Trek has been seen before - Crisis on Centaurus had a few current day buisnesses namedropped as being active in the 23rd century. FASA and Shane Johnson's manuals went further, inventing and detailing many future-companies that manufacured everything from food synthesizers to warp nacelles to future-cars (one of which, Leeding Engines Ltd, was namedropped on the now-defunct Experience the Enterprise promotional website)

I love them for taking inspiration from the whole of Trek, not just the movies and episodes. And I thought Star Trek had a lot more depth and emotion to it than any other summer blockbuster I've seen. I can't wait for Into Darkness
Yeah good point - Star Trek I-IV with the colorful aliens certainly must have been a huge inspiration. I thought that alien on the Kelvin's bridge looks like that navigator from TAS too

The economics of the Federation has always been an interesting topic. I know that the Federation certainly has some form of currency, the credit, and there is some evidence to suggest private companies still exist (unknown if they still operate like present-day companies, or are run like some sort of anarchist collective).

Because of the conflicting views, most of which point to some kind of post-scarcity society, I guess I would rather they just left it alone, and let people speculate
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Old January 14 2013, 05:19 PM   #7
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

USS Einstein wrote: View Post
Interesting Christopher, I didn't really know how that particular side of the industry operates. I would rather they hadn't done it, but I'm not overly bothered
Watch "I Robot" for a very painful example of marketing having way too much influence on a film
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Old January 14 2013, 06:53 PM   #8
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

The success Abrams and his team had with M:I:III was what got them the Trek gig.
Hmm. That would explain much of the extreme revisionism and gleeful junking of canon (as I understand it, the whole premise of the M:I film franchise was that Jim Phelps had gone bad; that, for me, would be reason enough not to see it even if I had only slightly more interest in Tom Cruise movies than I did in Mel Gibson movies).

But the OP certainly has a valid point here: if James Tiberius Kirk was a "problem teen" with a tendency towards juvenile delinquency with a mostly-absentee father, and was only straightened out by Dad arranging for him to go on a mission with Bob April, he would have been a total mess with a dead father (and quite possibly, an apathetic stepfather).
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Old January 14 2013, 07:05 PM   #9
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T



Diane Carey seems to have written a cycle of novels dealing with different aspects of Kirk's childhood and days at Starfleet Academy. And it is this view, presented by Carey, that JJ Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindhof seem to have taken as the basis for their new continuity. I originally found the idea of the crew happening to fall into their roles on the Enterprise unbelievably, but if they were always in the same class at Starfleet, it makes much more sense (in TOS, Kirk would have sent for McCoy's transfer, as an old friend from the Academy, for example). The books I can identify are:

- Starfleet Academy: Cadet Kirk (Spock, McCoy and Kirk at the academy + Spock/Kirk antagonism)

- Best Destiny (Kirk's youth as a directionless young man, Kirk's parents named George and Winona)

- Final Frontier (Kirk's father, George, serves as first officer of the Enterprise, under Robert April)

- Enterprise: The First Adventure (not Diane Carey, but portrays Kirk/Spock's early relationship)

They have also mentioned they were influenced by the novels Prime Directive, and Spock's World. I bet that last one in particular had a big influence on their portrayal of Vulcan society, and the Federation. As well as reading Arthur C Clarke books, and The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven (a non-Trek book too).
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Old January 14 2013, 09:38 PM   #10
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

Prime Directive would appear to be an influence on Into Darkness...
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Old January 14 2013, 09:54 PM   #11
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

hbquikcomjamesl wrote: View Post
The success Abrams and his team had with M:I:III was what got them the Trek gig.
Hmm. That would explain much of the extreme revisionism and gleeful junking of canon (as I understand it, the whole premise of the M:I film franchise was that Jim Phelps had gone bad; that, for me, would be reason enough not to see it even if I had only slightly more interest in Tom Cruise movies than I did in Mel Gibson movies).
You're completely off-base here. The film you're talking about was the first M:I movie, which was directed by Brian DePalma and which Abrams had absolutely nothing to do with. Abrams only came onboard with the third film in the series, which came out a whole decade later.

Really, the first three M:I movies barely qualify as a series. Each is from a totally different director with a totally different approach, and each one basically ignores any continuity elements from the previous film, so beyond the continued use of the M:I title and the characters played by Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames, they're effectively three unrelated films that are more closely connected to their respective directors' overall bodies of work than they are to one another. It's only in the last two films (and the upcoming fifth film) that there's been any real continuity of story or style (because Abrams and Bad Robot have been kept on to produce the films due to the success of M:I:III). So your understandable objection, which I share, to the first film's treatment of Phelps has no bearing on any subsequent M:I film, and it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Jeffrey Jacob Abrams or any creative decision he's ever made in his entire life.
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Old January 15 2013, 10:16 AM   #12
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

I always thought it was best to think that Jon Voight was playing the son of Peter Graves character.

That is an interesting observation about the Federation in the first of the new films. I have always thought that the Federation did not take on any great level of significance until the TNG. Sure it was mentioned in TOS but it was mostly unexplored background. Particularity because the idea was not created in the earliest episodes. Even later it would have little relevance to stories of a ship exploring the unknown.

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Old January 15 2013, 12:53 PM   #13
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Re: The strong link between 70s/80s Trek literature & JJ Abrams Star T

More and more, I dislike the way the Federation was presented in later works, as a homogenous mass of colonies, outposts, relay stations, thousands of ships, etc, where travel between one member world and another was as mundane as taking a flight from one US state to another on business. It implies the very kind of unethical thinking we engage in today; colonise everything, build stations everywhere, in order to deprive rivals of it's potential value - that isn't how Starfleet operates - instead it's more of an 'as needed' situation.

TOS, TAS, the movies, and early TNG, all present an organization that is more separated by lonely distances, and less like a nation state in space - i.e. without solid borders. Perhaps a foreign ship can traverse much of the Federation without ever being seen - just by staying out the sensor ranges of it's widely scattered member planets.

It makes more scientific sense, because there are 200,000,000,000 to 400,000,000,000 stars in the Milky Way, with only one in 47,000 planets bearing intelligence (according to Archer's estimate) - and so any space empire is going to have to be a few lonely star systems, separated by masses of systems, some of them pre-warp civilizations, or hostile planetary governments.

The idea of a Federation with definite borders, i.e. the Cardassian-Federation DMZ, the Romulan Neutral Zone, the Klingon Neutral Zone, are probably misunderstandings - the border systems are still just spheres hanging in a vast void, perhaps with very powerful long-range sensors - not a literal line on a map of the Milky Way.



Furthermore, DS9 and TNG seem to inadvertently confirm that the 'core' of the Federation is small, as the ships readily traverse it in short periods of time - indicating that there may be a compact core of founding members at the heart of the Federation - Earth, Vulcan, Andor, Tellar, within 15 light years - Arcturus, Denobula, Betazed, Delta IV, etc perhaps a bit further out.

The explaination for Picard's quote of 8,000 light years in First Contact is that the Federation (being an alliance which is joined voluntarily), has odd members that are much further out, encountered by deep space missions like Kirk's and Picard's - plus the odd lonely outpost like Delta Vega.

This is the most compelling theory that I have ever heard - it is logical, scientific, and explains everything seen in the show. It also explains the 'feel' of JJ Abrams Star Trek, where Earth only learns about an attack on near-by Vulcan via Planetary Distress Signal - even relatively small distances are huge and empty, not full of thousands of colonies and ships.

I've grown to really dislike the idea of a Federation that is just a block of territory. I certainly no longer ascribe to this notion of a crowded Federation that covers 10,000 light years - this isn't Star Wars



Other empires may be more compact than the Federation, because they expanded via conquest, expansionism, colonization without ethical restrictions, etc. But, even the Klingon Empire, I think, may be a very spread-out state, because expanding like a colonial empire, they would have only come across suitable prospects for conquest about as often as the Federation finds suitable members.
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