Friday, November 7, 2008
New Star Trek Details Emerge (or, How Trekkers Are Like Nancy Grace)
A month ago, all we knew about the new Star Trek film was the barest thumbnail sketch of a plot, some monocolored publicity photos, and a very brief teaser trailer. Oh, there were lots of interviews (most of them with Simon Pegg), but they revealed nothing other than that the interviewee believed that the film would be very good. Now we have a small handful of production stills that give us a sense of the film's design sensibility, but reveal very little of the plot. Nevertheless, the reaction of the more dangerously rabid portion of the Star Trek fanbase was firmly planted in the Nancy Grace School of Outrage For Its Own Sake.
These folks are positively frothing at the mouth at the notion that the film will "violate" their sacred Star Trek "canon" by contradicting things established about the Star Trek universe forty years ago. An example: (spoilers follow) the majority of this new movie takes place during the period before a young James T. Kirk first takes command of the Enterprise, and the villains of the piece are a band of evil Romulans. As any Trekker worth his salt knows, the Romulans were first seen in the Original Series episode "Balance of Terror", and a great portion of that episode's drama hinged on the idea that no one had ever met a Romulan face-to-face or knew what they looked like. Now, I would argue that this piece of Star Trek lore is best left alone. After all, it's entirely possible to tell a good Star Trek story without having younger versions of Kirk and the crew tangle with Romulans. But if J.J. Abrams and his team think differently, it's not worth getting worked up into a Nancy Grace-style storm of furious outrage.
Consider another genre property that's enjoyed some cinematic success over the last decade: Spider-Man. When the first Spider-Man film was released, the character was also active in not only the main Marvel Comics universe but also in the seperate Marvel Ultimate universe. The movies contradicted story points from the main Marvel comics universe. The Ultimate universe comics contradicted story points from the main Marvel U comics. And yet, the heads of Spider-Man fans failed to explode. They were capable of holding all three continuities in their mind simultaneously and enjoying each on its own merits.
Star Trek fans should take the same approach with the new movie. It's a reboot. A seperate continuity. No matter how it may contradict plot points from old episodes, when you pull out your Star Trek: The Original Series DVDs, the episodes will be unchanged. Really. So enjoy the stuff you like, ignore the stuff you don't, and leave the outrage to Nancy Grace.