Treknobabble #64: My Mind to Your Mind


Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington in anticipation of the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

As the new Star Trek movie is a week away from being unveiled to the general public, I thought I would drop my Vulcan-like demeanor and talk about my feelings. I’ve mentioned before how as a school kid, a teacher labeled me as the “epitome of self-discipline.” I think this is part of my personality. To say that I am really excited would not be accurate even though I don’t have much of anything happening in my life. Maybe not shielding myself from spoilers has ruined the excitement, but I see two benefits: I avoid the stress of avoiding spoilers, and I relieve the physical turmoil of anticipation.

I’ve watched six clips, each about a minute long. Don’t worry. I won’t spoil anything. (I’ll keep those images from being flashed during this mind-meld.) I wanted to say that the clips support my initial thoughts from the trailers that the frame compositions and the cinematography aren’t beautiful. I’m not necessarily saying that this is a bad thing, but it does affect my opinion of a film. No review I’ve read has mentioned these things so far. Perhaps I’m nitpicking. I’ll reserve my final judgment until after I see the film.

To date, I have still not read any really negative reviews of the Star Trek movie. This astounds me. Some publications and web sites have done something that I have not seen for previous Star Trek movies. To review the film, they are sending staff members who have not seen any Star Trek. The instigation for this is probably the ad campaign which is attempting to disassociate the new movie from the previous films. This is meant to attract people who have seen Star Trek and think it is silly, and also those people who have preconceived notions of Star Trek’s silliness and who have never bothered to watch Star Trek. From all accounts, the new movie delivers on the ad campaign’s declaration.

One of these people who had never seen Star Trek and liked the new movie went on to say that she would not look into any previous Star Trek productions. She didn’t elaborate on her statement, but I gather that she had enough interests already that occupied her time and that the new Star Trek didn’t offer anything more worthwhile. I’m guessing she won’t bother go seeing the sequel, and she probably wouldn’t have seen the new Star Trek movie if it hadn’t been a work assignment.

I guess this confirms my feeling that the new Star Trek movie might not expand the Star Trek audience by much. Forgive my harshness, but if you’re a geek, then you’ve already discovered Star Trek by now. And since the new movie is so different from previously filmed Star Trek, won’t those people thrilled by the movie be disappointed when they sample past Trek installments which will probably seem dull in comparison?

There are two interesting Star Trek articles in the May 4th edition of Newsweek, with a cover showing a hand holding an Original Series U.S.S. Enterprise model backlit by the sun in the sky. One article proclaims that Star Trek is cool and “We’re All Trekkies Now.” It’s a nice sentiment, but with the state of the world currently as it is, having the geeks inherit the Earth doesn’t seem much like a good, or cool, thing. The other article written by someone with a doctorate and who wrote for The Next Generation surmises that the popularity and longevity of Star Trek is due to its “culture of imagination.” It’s a forum in which ideas can be explored. And isn’t this really what attracts geeks? (I added the last question, so don’t go firing off angry comments on his article! If you’re curious, I’ve added fawning comments to their articles under the user name Pacifistopheles.)

One thing that Leonard Mlodinow, Ph.D. wrote in his Newsweek article that I had never read before was that The Next Generation employed 155 writers during its seven year run. I’m guessing many of those writers never got a screen credit. And most of those writers probably went through the revolving door before Michael Piller came in and settled down the writing staff in the third year.

A few people seem to think that Star Trek will be the third highest grossing film this year after Harry Potter and Transformers. I don’t understand how both of those latter franchises can have a bigger built-in audience than Star Trek. Is it really because fans have become saturated with Star Trek, or that Star Trek has grown tired? Star Trek has its own word in the dictionary for its fans: Trekkies! Are there Harry Potties or Transformies? Or maybe they would prefer to be called Harry Potters and Transformers? Ha ha. [Ed note: I believe they are called muggles, Reed.]

People have often commented that the large movie-going senior population is neglected by Hollywood. I’ve always thought that Star Trek should target the senior audience with Star Trek movies starring the Original Series’ surviving cast members. Boston Legal had a reputation for showcasing older actors such as William Shatner and it was relatively successful. I know that critics were quick to comment on the geriatric crew of the later Original Series movies. But the plots should have focused less on action and adventure, and more on the thinking man’s problems. Or do the majority of seniors not like science fiction? I realize that the bloated salaries of the actors would make it difficult to make low-budget Star Trek films, but the reason why their salaries bloated was because the Star Trek films were making money.

I don’t know why I’m so devoted to Star Trek. I even defend the “bad” films. (Well, I won’t defend Nemesis, the last Star Trek film, although I do wonder why people stayed away from it.) I think my personality type has caused my attachment to Star Trek. I have a strong sense of loyalty. Come to think of it, as a child, I had a fear of abandonment by my older brother. I was an annoying little brother. So maybe I compensate by not wanting anyone or anything to feel like they’ve been abandoned by me. I’ve stayed at jobs far longer than I should have. Or maybe Star Trek simply fills a void that so far nothing else has been able to fill. Hopefully, two hours and six minutes of that void will be filled with bliss next week.

  • I think you, and many of your like minded Trekies, should prepare for a situation somewhat like the second wave of Star Wars films, only worse! From everything I’ve seen this new Trek wants more than anything to get grade school kids hooked to the brand. I see a lot of older Trekies making statements like, “Yes the new movie is cool, but they really changed “x” and you should see episode “Y” and …hey where are you going?!” I predict a lot of love / hate feelings about the “reimagining”.

  • Goon

    how is Reed going to extend this column after the movie comes out?

  • 1138

    I will admit to being somewhat excited for this movie, though I expect it to fall short due to the clips of the movie I have seen so far. These glimpses leaves me expecting to see a Star Trek Lite…a dumbed down version of what has come before. Now people will say that Star Trek was dumb already…but then they might say that about most Sci Fi or Fantasy films. For me Trek was more than Sci Fi but reflections of society or the human condition, embodied in a genre that happened to be Science Fiction. And isn’t great art always that…reflections of humanity or of the human condition?

    If attracting a larger audience means a more simplified version of what has come before…well that would leave me disappointed. If I want simplicity I will go see Transformers or Wolverine. Pure summer popcorn fun. Trek should be something more and unfortunately I don’t think this time it will be. Fault the previous film for whatever reason, but you must admit they aspired for something more. Themes of friendship, mortality, devotion, loyalty, racism, sacrifice, prejudice and discovery. All things that we can relate to yet fail to in the real world.

    The budget is bigger, the FX bigger…overall a production that is huge in every way. I do resent the fact that JJ received this level of commitment when someone like Nicholas Meyer did not. Though Meyer was the most successful in not only capturing the spirit of Trek, but in telling the most exciting stories in the movie franchise. Perhaps if Meyer were given the support that JJ received we wouldn’t be discussing whether the future of Trek was in question and whether this movie was indeed it’s final chance for redemption. I know Trek needed new blood and I have nothing against reboots (I love the new incarnations of BSG, Batman and James Bond. Characters for a new Generation done smartly and boldly. The newer the better as far as I am concerned.) but if you do intend to make a reboot do it well and do it fresh and do it smart. Which I hope this new movie will end up being.

    I do agree with you Farrington that the positive reviews both pro and audience are hovering in the 99.9% range. I’ve only read one negative review but I find it hard to believe that this movie could be so good. Maybe I’m being to much of a pessimist or the movie is just this good.

    Whatever this movie ends up being, I know that Trek will not only be great Sci Fi, but at it’s core just great stories in general that will continue on for generations to come.

  • I’m only interested if it’s Wagon Train to the stars.

  • “my initial thoughts from the trailers that the frame compositions and the cinematography aren’t beautiful”

    Agreed. It looks flat and claustrophobic with far too many close ups and incomprehensible space scenes. We shall see.

  • I don’t know what you guys are talking about with the criticism of the framing and cinematography! Have you seen the latest TV spot were Kirk is jumping in slow mo off some Romulan structure, and layers of other Romulan structures are in the background – that’s tight!

    and to the “far too many close ups” I quote Haskell Wexler, “film editing is a dance of eyes”

  • Goon, there is a sequel already being talked about, so unless this movie unexpectedly bombs, I can go on talking Trek. Sean has left it up to me whether or not to continue. I was thinking that my audience was small, so I was feeling discouraged. Recently, I was contacted by a representative of the firm handling Burger King’s Star Trek promotion. That perked me up!

    Rus, I agree that slo-mo shot of Kirk jumping looks great.

  • seriously, for all the love Wrath of Khan gets (and I love it too) the cinematography in that is horrible. Star Trek could use a little juice in the camera dept.

  • ProjectGenesis

    Any thoughts on doing more Jay/Reed commentaries for the Star Trek movies?

  • As a fan of all the older Trek stuff, I have had similar fears that this movie is targeting a “new market,” and will therefore water down what I consider the “real” content, and amp up the sfx and action scenes.

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this article, and now I’m off to read the others in the series of columns…

  • (whispering) psssss, Reed there you go. she’s interested now offer her some of that trek chocolate and watch the magic happen

  • Jeff

    Even if you’re sure the movie is going to be terrible, you should still go on opening night to see all the crazies that come out to a Star Trek premier. They alone are worth the price of admission.

  • (This is Reed posting on Sean’s computer.)

    ProjectGenesis, Jay and I haven’t talked recently about more commentaries. I was disappointed in our Wrath of Khan one.

    Kathleen, glad you stumbled upon Treknobabble. Please do comment at your leisure. (Ignore rus in chicago. I scared away the last female reader I had. Ha ha.)

    Jeff, Trekkies around here are normal.