Discussion in 'Future of Trek' started by bbjeg, Sep 6, 2013.
It's still a nice thought
I always wondered why they simply didn't release two films. One Abramstrek, one Primetrek. Abramstrek takes 4 years a film anyway, so they could fit a Primetrek film right in the middle of that gap. Make it 30 million a film, and you don't loose anything.
The one who replies with something along the lines of "the audience would have been confused" gets smacked on the head when he/she doesn't expect it.
I think it's more the last Prime trek film bombed at the box office hence why they rebooted in the first place.
Isn't $30 million just Spiner's and Stewart's fee.
Unless you have the film without Picard or Data.
Making a film for that cheap would tarnish the brand. And execs in charge of that probably don't make the distinction about which universe it is at all.
1) the general audience doesn't make such a geeky distinction between the two, and
2) said distinction doesn't actually exist except in the heads of some hardcore fans.
The current feelings over the way DC's New 52 are is somewhat similar to this.
What is it with the constant use of the word PC (Political Correctness) all of the fracking time? And what makes the 24 century shows/characters like this? They were just people having adventures who acted a different way.
The distinction is quite plainly meant to exist in more than just "the heads of some hardcore fans." The Abramstrek films are carefully crafted to not be Trek as it previously was (while exploiting those pieces of the property known to a general audience), and were also marketed that way -- that's why Abrams always made a specific point of saying when asked that he wasn't a Trek fan and didn't know or care what they thought.
Which, I would hasten to add, proves to have been a commercially viable strategy, at least over the short term. I for one wasn't expecting any further "prime Trek" films; the Abramstrek films are what the studio has clearly been wanting to do with the property for years, packaged with a crew young enough to actually sell it. But don't let's go pretending there's no difference.
You do realize your post consists of only one person actually saying anything like what you're talking about and three people just speculating freely about it? (Albeit not trying to treat the speculation as fact, as you are wont to do?) And that it also comes from a thread where many other people gave contrary testimony, myself included?
I think you misunderstood my point. My point is that's always been the case with every incarnation of Star Trek. Harve Bennet's Trek is not Gene Roddenberry's Trek. Rock Berman's Trek is not Nick Meyer's Trek. We can pretend it all represents one unified whole, but it doesn't and it never did. So to lump Abrams' films on one side and every other singular vision of Star Trek produced by everyone else on the other side and call it "Prime Trek" is creating a distinction that doesn't really exist.
I actually don't buy that Harvey Bennett's Trek is not Roddenberry's Trek, a few butthurt fan quotes from Interstat in '82 notwithstanding. Nor does the rest of Trek need to form "one unified whole" for the discontinuities between its iterations -- which most certainly do exist -- to be less radical than their collective distance from Abramstrek, a distance which I think was achieved very deliberately.
^Okay, what's so different about Abrams Trek from Roddenberry Trek, Bennett Trek, and Berman/Braga Trek?
^ Short answer would be "aspiration."
Spoiler: Here's what I mean by 'aspiration'
There's a lot of vague talk about "Gene's vision," much of it off the mark and/or confused by Roddenberry's latter-day grandiosity. What originally set Trek apart from other properties and acquired its fandom in the first place was not that it was "utopian" or "optimistic" or "philosophical" or progressive -- many people got these things from TOS according to their lights and circumstances, but insofar as they were part of Trek they were incidental.
What set Trek apart, pulpy though it was, was that it aspired to different kinds of drama and science fiction storytelling than had hitherto been the norm in (at least American) televised SF. And that aspiration showed: in the original series' willingness to draw on different kinds of drama for plots, to solicit scripts from working SF novelists and storytellers, and in its attempt to keep its characters believable in their pseudo-military setting no matter how wacky the story got.
At least, it showed at the time. It was viscerally obvious in the Sixties and for decades afterward. Fifty years on, the difference aspiration made is harder to detect.
Aspiration stayed alive in various forms for some time; TWOK is the spiritual heir of "Balance of Terror," TNG continued to try to tell genuine SF stories and innovated new approaches to its medium. But aspiration nevertheless gradually decayed under the weight of sentimentalism and convention as Trek progressed, both in the movie franchise and in the shows, until by the time Voyager was on the air, believability of characters was rarely to be seen, inertia had mostly won out and Trek "science fiction" was mostly motivated by adherence to convention, not scientific plausibility.
Abramstrek is essentially the confirmation and the apotheosis of that trend, repackaged with better effects and a younger cast (and to its genuine credit, better character work than VOY or ENT ever enjoyed) and refocused at a broader market. It's very carefully and specifically designed as a generalized nostalgia delivery system.
[NB: Please put a giant asterisk beside and salt the following with as many "in my opinions" and "as far as I can see" clauses as you like. I'm speaking speculatively, but I think it's well-motivated and well-founded speculation.]
Spoiler: And here's what I mean by that
Because the factors that distinguished Trek from its contemporaries have faded in popular imagination, Abramstrek doesn't just not bother with those distinguishing aspects; it programmatically discards them in favor of nostalgia for the kind of nondescript pulp that general audiences think TOS was.
This is why the new property has not and likely will not pursue new storylines or ideas. As a nostalgia delivery system, repurposing old characters, plots, and scenes recognizable to a general audience is far safer.
This is also why the movies are aggressively "stupid" in their use of scientific terminology; it's not because the writers don't know about the speed of light or that "cold fusion" doesn't involve freezing things, it's meant rather as a clever, nostalgic nod to the kind of Buck Rogers / Flash Gordon/ Space Command-style pulp that Voyager affectionately parodied in its holodeck episode with "Dr. Chaotica."
By the same token, under the hood the Abramstrek films are essentially Star Wars films, which in their turn were the distillation of the old-timey pulps and which popular imagination doesn't really differentiate from Trek; hence the rubbery, incoherent plotting (probably a deliberate aesthetic choice, not an accident), the heavy-handed theme of destiny, moustache-twirling B-movie villains (they're given superficially plausible motivations but when push comes to shove they all revert to type), and the films both concluding with Star Wars-style celebratory ceremonies (not to mention many other touches, like Scotty's random alien sidekick or the Millennium Falcon-style shuttle chase on Kronos in STID).
Likewise this is why its versions of the TOS characters are largely the TOS characters as popular imagination misremembers them*: Kirk as cocky, hormonal horndog; Spock losing his logic with almost clockwork regularity (the moments when logic deserted him were often classic Spock's most memorable); Bones as a constant curmudgeon (the humour and warmth the character also possessed are much more rarely remembered than "Dammit, Jim!" and thus much more rarely displayed); Sulu as a wushu sword-fighting whiz on account of the iconic image of him and his fencing foil in "The Naked Now"; and so on.
Add to all that the contemporary touches: the films are visually pretty, kinetic in a way that Trek has never been before, conceptually in tune with the currently huge comic book superhero genre, and larded with enough Easter eggs and references to keep fanwankery busy for years -- this is the fan-friendly element of the nostalgia -- and it's an all-around package.
* Also note that lot of these character changes come with in-setting rationales as an added bonus: Kirk is plausibly the cocky horndog that popular imagination and even post-series novelizations and comics led audiences to expect -- rather than the duty-driven Poindexter of his TOS backstory -- because he grew up without a father figure; the only implausible part is his being given a command [cue fanwank justification]. Bones is the way he is because he's closer to the bitter experience that led him to Starfleet than the version of him we see in TOS. Spock is the way he is because of the destruction of Vulcan, and so on. In a way it's quite an admirable balancing act.
I once said that Abramstrek was badly-written. For the purpose of believable, immersive storytelling with any sort of real dramatic heft that is, I think, absolutely true. But as a nostalgia-delivery system -- built around a core of reasonably saleable character arcs and action set-pieces -- I've come to see that it's actually one of the more carefully and successfully crafted Hollywood "reboot" projects ever made.
(Postulate: The perfectly-crafted Hollywood remake project is to cinema what Britney Spears Gives Birth on a Bearskin Rug is to sculpture. Discuss. )
I think the optimism was a more important element than you're giving it credit for. It certainly helped set Star Trek apart from dystopian fantasies that were probably the dominant form of filmed science fiction from 1967-77. I'm thinking of things like The Prisoner ('67-68) Planet of the Apes ('68), THX 1138 ('72), Soylent Green ('73), Silent Running ('73), Zardoz ('75), A Boy and His Dog ('75), and Logan's Run ('76), and that's far from a comprehensive list.
There's a relevant Bob Justman quote...
That might sound like '80s revisionism, but it's actually from an internal memo he wrote about an episode in 1967. Of course, that Justman thought this was important does not mean that it was important to fan response, but I think it was.
Which is not really to quibble with your overall point. Star Trek was an action adventure series first and foremost. The importance and presence of its philosophies and progressive politics has been grossly exaggerated by decades of fan adoration, studio publicity, and Roddenberry's own tireless self-promotion.
I'd say the single most important thing that set Star Trek apart from its sf television contemporaries (beyond the anthologies, which were a different beast that didn't have the continuing characters important to fandom) was that it attempted to appeal to an audience beyond young children. It obviously appealed a great deal to children, but unlike many other SF programs of the era, there was still something there to be enjoyed when those kids grew up.
The use of established SF writers helps set the original series apart from its franchise successors, I think, but it shouldn't be overblown. After the first season, the producers shifted their attention to hiring writers with television experience rather than those with experience in science fiction.
I'd say the "scientific plausibility" was mostly abandoned during the original series, where Roddenberry let his RAND consultant go near the end of season one and frequently ignored the scientific advice from de Forest Research. Although you certainly have a point about the fictional conventions of the universe piling up over time.
I'll skip the rest of your analysis about the Abrams films except to say that I think much of it is right. Nonetheless, I wouldn't call them "nondescript pulp" or "badly written" in all but a nit-picky sense, but I like the movies more than you do!
As for the films being a "nostalgia delivery system," well, yes, but I fail to see how that sets them apart from most of the franchise to follow the original, beginning with Star Trek--The Motion Picture. The big difference seems to be that these are $200 million films which must appeal to a broader audience even more so than earlier features to be financially successful.
If I wanted this post to stretch into infinity, I might argue with your interpretation of the characters (I'd say Kirk's "stack of books with legs" characterization was largely abandoned in favor of the womanizing rule-breaker as Shatner made the character his own, and that Spock's emotional outbursts so memorable to fans are probably not what defines the character in popular memory -- quite the opposite), but I believe some ancient windbag once used a 33,000 word play to claim that "brevity is the soul of wit," so I'll leave it at that.
As others have said, considering what TOS was as an action-adventure series to begin with, your reasoning of what the Abrams movies are is flawed. So they made Kirk a horndog? So what-he was one somewhat. So Spock lost his logic? He was dealing with the death of his planet and his mom, as well as being a half-human Vulcan, so he was bound to lose it sometimes. So Uhura and Spock are in love? Big deal-there was a residual thing going on between them on TOS. And remakes are as much a part of movies as revivals are to Broadway and the West End-they are not bad in and of themselves. You also forget that Star Trek is space opera just like Star Wars is; the movies storytelling isn't any worse (or off) than the original series was or is.
Although I understand what you've wrote, I don't agree with it.
Examples, please? Because TNG to me is anything but innovotive or genuine sci-fi. It's Data and Picard playing games on the holodeck, Troi and her mother being kidnapped by the Ferengi, Geordi and Ro being turned into ghosts, tedious Worf episodes, the transporter turning the crew into children and other ridiculous plots which leave me utterly bewildered when the show is held up as any form of art.
I submit that the only difference between TNG and the rest is that it was far more pretentious.
That what I thought when watching and every-time since when watching the TOS.
Personally I have always felt that Star Trek should be on TV.. to be able to tell the broadest scope story telling.
I have only watched the first Abramstrek movie and that was enough for me and as "Bigjake" said "badly-written" that goes for me too.
once I was discussing my thoughts of Star Trek to a friend, I made few observations between each generation
of the show.
The TOS era was more like the era of tall ships 1700s to the late 1800s, Captain James Cook or from literature Captain Hornblower who Kirk was modelled on, for the most part weeks, months or years out of touch depending on the mission and the Captain was the man or woman that had to make the big decisions.
The TNG era was more contemporary like any modern ships Captain that can be in contact with a home base very quickly and easily.
One of the aspects I never liked but learned to accept was the 3 seats in the command area of the bridge on TNG era ships. for me that was a mistake, the Center seat should be alone to reinforce the loneliness of command for who ever is sitting in it.
that's my view anyway
The distinction between the two is one is an alternate reality, though I always considered NuTrek to be apart of Prime Trek. The fact Spock Prime didn't cease to exist after Vulcan's demise leads me to believe he could get back to his reality (if he had the knowhow).
Rick Berman's version of Star Trek is merely one version of Star Trek, based on Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek, but no more or less valid than Abrams' version, which is also based on GR's ST. To lump Berman's Trek spinoffs under the blanket term "Prime" implies it to be somehow more legitimate or "real" Star Trek than Abrams' Trek, which is nonsense.
And I don't even like Abrams' movies...
I don't know about innovative, but early on the show definitely has more of a sci-fi feel to it. Episodes like "Where No One...", "Lonely Among Us", "We'll Always Have Paris", "Skin of Evil", "Conspiracy" and another handful from season two.
It was definitely something that waned as the show progressed though. One of the reasons I fell out of love with the series. That and it got progressively dull.
Well, fair enough. It's not that it was unimportant so much as I think it wasn't really, at least on Roddenberry's part, a big programmatic thing -- it was just about making the adventurers sympathetic and relatable. Such optimism as TOS had seems to me to have followed from that (even then it still used future holocausts as a trope and had Kirk & Co. cleaning up after some rather dark misadventures by Earth's representatives).
That's also an important part of it, definitely.
In the sense that the nostalgia it's delivering is for space opera in general and no longer for any distinguishing aspect of the Trek franchise; a nostalgia for audiences that no longer recollect the differences Trek had from other properties, as one can see for instance in Shaka Zulu's comments (sorry to pick on you Shaka but it's true). The Motion Picture is radically different in that distinguishing aspirational sense most of all. (After TWOK this element of the film franchise did start to recede into peddling sentimentality and fanservice, or in the case of TFF perhaps just Shatnerian ego-service.)
[No substantial disagreement with the rest of your remarks, thanks for that detailed response.]
Spoiler: And here's why
TNG innovated its own format, the A- and B-plot structure that went on to become standard for subsequent shows -- the pro's and con's of which have been a topic of discussion here but which, whatever one thinks of them, were a real departure from TOS' formula and did enable the development of more members of the ensemble.
They also ventured further outside the box in terms of story structure and narrative risks than TOS was wont to do: Picard spent an entire episode being tortured (seriously tortured) in "Chain of Command" and lived an entire alternate life as a civilian scientist in "Inner Light;" episodes were built around members of the ensemble other than the Captain, with just about everyone getting a turn in the limelight; an entire episode "The Lower Decks" was devoted to a minor group of junior officers, with the bridge crew making only occasional appearances; they killed a main cast member without portentousness or grand meaning in "The Skin of Evil," and so on. All innovations that are taken for granted now, but innovations is exactly what they were.
I do find the contention that TNG didn't tell sci-fi stories bizarre. Episodes routinely revolved around the investigation of scientific what-ifs: the ethical implications of artificial life forms or cloning, communication with a variety of exotic space-based lifeforms (primitive and otherwise), digitization of consciousness, encounters with cosmic strings and wormholes and singularities, and of course a host of time-travel puzzlers... those are all the kind of storyline that is characteristically science fiction. And while TNG was running there was actually still an effort to make the science (at least loosely) relevant to our science and not just to Trek canon.
None of which of course means you have to like TNG, that's up to you. (I myself prefer TOS in many ways.)
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