What next for Star Trek universe?

I thought I would share a few thoughts on the implications of the new Star Trek movie at the SF-Fandom forums. And I’ll share my thoughts here, too.

The advance publicity billed this movie as a “reboot” of the franchise and now that I have seen it I have to agree that the reboot works. J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman have engineered a completely new timeline in a reasonably plausible manner (plausible by Star Trek standards). Of course, people can nitpick the way events unfolded but I think the point is that they chose a storyline and just went with it, and that storyline now provides a whole new opportunity to establish “canon”.

The “Prime Canon” can now remain immutable, untouched, etched in stone. People don’t have to worry about whether new movies and shows will intentionally or erroneously mess up what has been established in previous shows and movies.

On the other hand, the “New Canon” leaves open the possibility of rewriting many old stories in such a way that different characters and different outcomes can be engineered. Kirk doesn’t have to go on a five-year mission any more. He can just patrol the Neutral Zone(s) and establish relations with Klingons and Romulans. Or he can be flung far across the galaxy and forced to make his way back to the Federation.

In this new universe there are a multitude of villains and invasions who may be evaded, headed off at the pass, or otherwise cleverly dealt with. You have to wonder what the Q continuum thinks of all this (or did they maybe nudge Spock Prime’s ship in the right direction in order to change history effectively)?

The whole “Borg Question” now has to be revisited. The Cardassians have yet to become a rival power that the Federation takes on. The Delta and Gamma quadrant threats have yet to be explored and dealt with.

Poor Odo — will he still be a lonely scout unaware of his mission and purpose? Is he now cut off from the collective which spawned him?

Maybe we’re looking at the dawn of a new 40-year exploration of the Star Trek universe. Or maybe we’re just looking at a 3-6 year reboot that will fizzle out. I think the real test for Abrams and team will be to establish a momentum that carries them forward. They will have to become part of a new Star Trek film-making culture if they want to achieve something as lasting and brilliant as Gene Roddenberry’s legacy (a legacy which would itself only grow and be enriched by the secondary legacy — Abrams could never surpass what Roddenberry achieved).

In fact, it may be the ever-growing shadow of Gene Roddenberry’s memory that might deter a full-scale re-invention of the Star Trek universe. After all, if J.J. Abrams wants to leave his mark on history, will he feel sufficiently rewarded for being known as “the guy who re-invented Star Trek” or would he rather be known as “Mr. Fringe” and “Mr. Alias”?

There are many questions bound up in the franchise “reboot”. You have to wonder if Viacom (which owns Paramount) intends to depersonalize the handling of Star Trek (since Rick Berman and Brannon Braga became so unpopular with hard-core Star Trek) fans. By taking the franchise into corporate hands, Viacom might strip Star Trek of all public visionaries — perhaps relegating the franchise to a sort of “planning committee”. That would be unfortunate.

I’m looking forward to seeing where the studio execs think the franchise should go. A whole new frontier has opened up, and I’m excited to see it.

SF-Fandom is a fan-run moderated Web discussion community devoted to science fiction, fantasy, history, and mythology. Founded in 2001, SF-Fandom is part of the Xenite.Org Network of science fiction and fantasy Web sites.


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