Well we are now two movies in to the “new and improved” Star Trek universe, and while I can’t deny that it’s fairly entertaining, I also have to say that it’s not really Star Trek either. It was probably a wise choice on the part of the powers that be to create the alternate time line for this incarnation of Star Trek, because honestly for somebody who grew up with the original cast, and followed the adventures of “The Next Generation” through high school and young adulthood this new version can be hard to swallow at times.
When I first saw the rebooted Star Trek I chose to approach it with an open mind. Though I cherished Star Trek as something nostalgic from growing up it had grown a bit long in the tooth. To put it kindly the previous brain trust that was running Star Trek had run it into the ground, or perhaps shot it through a wormhole to an unpleasant spot in the galaxy. A new look from a different point of view might be good for it. After all both the movie series and The Next Generation had to eventually be rescued from the heavy hand of it’s creator. Maybe this reboot could do the same for a tired franchise. And while the resulting product does have entertainment value I’m not sure it qualifies as Star Trek any longer. You can only take a concept so far from it’s origin before it ceases to be what it was and becomes something new and different. I think we may have stepped over that line with this new version.
The new Star Trek is much more flashy, much more action oriented, and much more bold in it’s look. This is a fast paced, damn the torpedoes, take no prisoners kind of universe. In truth it is an eye candy type of place where we are meant too ooooh and ahhhhh over ship designs and death defying stunts. We are meant to marvel at amazing space battles, and go gee whiz when we see those neat set designs. It attempts to graft our sentimentality on to it’s characters because they share the same names and have a similar look to characters we grew to know and love over a period of decades. But it does so without using those decades of character growth that we and the characters experienced. What’s worse, it often misses the mark when trying to redefine those characters. Alternate timeline or not Kirk, Spock and company should still not behave “that” differently from the people we all grew up with.
What the new Trek really misses though is that Star Trek was never that kind of show. Special effects, action, adventure, space battles, and flashy props could be and were incorporated in to the series to “enhance” the experience, but they were never meant to take center stage. Ultimately this new version of Star Trek lacks the core of what Star Trek was. Originally it was about the 5 year mission, and eventually the ongoing mission to explore new worlds and make contact with new civilizations. It was about the camaraderie built during all those missions. It was about the continuing evolution of man and how his exploration of the universe shaped that evolution. Star Trek was always a series founded in hope, hope for the future and hope for the continued evolution of man as a species. It was always a series who’s science fiction was firmly grounded in science fact, and it was always a series that tried to make us ponder our place in the larger universe. It was generally not an action adventure series, and it was certainly not a monster of the week type of series. Above all it didn’t use action, FX, or violence in a gratuitous way to make it’s point. There was not destruction simply for destruction’s sake.
The new Star Trek is entertaining in it’s own way, and it is certainly proving popular with the masses but I can’t help feeling that something important died with the old universe and was not resurrected with the new. This is no longer the smart man’s SciFi series and it is no longer about the hope for a better tomorrow. It’s shiny new flash may gleam and shimmer but it lacks the heart of what made Star Trek different from other shows. More’s the pity since we can now only hope that some day we will once again dream of traveling to the stars and discovering new civilizations, without the need to vaporize them on site.