tapping into the Roddenberry box

We can all agree: Kurtzman era Star Trek has been godawful. There was no reason to think that Strange New Worlds would be any different, but then the first episode became available on YouTube. So I thought: “fuck it, I’ll give it a shot.”

Whoever’s running SNW had the right idea: just tap the ball into the hole. Don’t try to do too much.

It’s common to assume that Trek fans are notoriously hard to please . This is false. In fact, they’re a little too easy to please. Furthermore, I’d say that Star Trek is stupidly easy to write: minimize drama between the main characters, the Federation humanistic…almost utopian…ideals always win out, the “alien of the week” is analogous to current events, and everything can be solved using science…even if the science is totally pulled out of your ass.

This is also called the (Gene) “Roddenberry Box.” TNG writers initially struggled with it until Michael Piller turned staying within it into an art. The Next Generation is now considered one of the best shows in the sci-fi genre. It’s also the benchmark for which all other Trek shows are evaluated.

Hollywood writers, especially ones that aren’t familiar with Star Trek, might think they have to do MORE to make the story interesting. But they really don’t. You can “challenge” the box every now and then, but the optimism and science MUST win out.

So using this criteria, based on the first episode, Strange New Worlds is Star Trek…which is more than I can say for Discovery and Picard. Yes, that’s a low bar to hurdle but I guess third time is a charm. Maybe the rest of it will be shit, but as long as the show runners don’t try to do too much, they might have a pretty good show.

Still not paying for Paramount+ tho.

meh

My news feed has been buzzing the last 24 hours. More so than usual. No, it has nothing to do with the Russians possibly invading Ukraine. It’s the announcement of a fourth “Kelvin Timeline” Star Trek film.

Unlike most Star Trek fans, I am content with saying that Star Trek died with the last episode of Enterprise. And we all owe Rick Berman an apology (even though he sounds like a legit asshole).

So I don’t give a shit about this new film (written by a bunch of writers whose work I also don’t give a shit about). 🚨 Spoiler Alert 🚨: it’s gonna suck.

How do I know?

Let me tell you about two men named JJ Abrams and Alex Kurtzman.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too harsh. They did revive Trek. Because of them, there are four…about to be five…Star Trek shows airing. Audiences change. As ridiculous as it sounds now, TOS fans were reluctant to accept TNG.

Now I’m a TNG fan that’s reluctant to accept Kurtzman Trek.

The thing that TOS and TNG had in common though is one VERY important thing: Gene Roddenberry. And Roddenberry was succeeded by Rick Berman, who was hellbent on carrying out his predecessor’s vision.

No such chain of succession with this new Trek.

JJ Abrams did do one thing right though: the first 10 minutes of Star Trek 09. And that kinda highlights my biggest gripe with this current set of producers: they are Kliff Kingsbury of Star Trek.

All three movies, plus Picard, plus Discovery, start off fairly strong in their opening acts (or first few episodes) and then inexplicably derail into a total train wreck.

Moreover, this new “cinematic” feel to Star Trek just doesn’t…feel right. Trek works best on a shoestring budget, phenomenal writing, and the perfect casting. Case in point: Wrath of Khan. It is probably the Trek film with the smallest budget, but it’s also considered the best.

There’s a Shakespearean, theater-like quality to the Roddenberry/Berman-era Trek that, I think, many fans find appealing (even if we didn’t appreciate it at the time).

Of course, those days of television and movies are over (in part, due to JJ Abrams’ impact on the industry) and that’s okay. Things change.

Which is why we must let Star Trek go.