Star Trek: Derivations

The family, some friends, and I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness yesterday. I was a skeptic before I saw the reboot, and I was a skeptic heading into this film.

Readers can go elsewhere for full-up reviews. It’s not my purpose to give you a general one here. I’ll say this is a very good piece of action filmmaking. The script was snappy, the special effects worthy, and the direction was a thrilling ride through the galaxy. If Paramount had loosened up the purse strings with the early movies like this, they would have had something. But they probably would have piddled the whole thing away, anyway.

I read a review or two that panned the multiple references to the other Star Treks in this film, but they didn’t strike me as a bother. There’s a fun twist on the second Star Trek movie that worked well here. So for three writers, this was a very good effort.

However … in a way, this wasn’t in the spirit of Star Trek. The show was about going where no one had gone before. And since 1994 or so, this franchise has totally been about going, safely, where others have gone before. Let’s make movies to follow up a show. Let’s do movie scripts that would have been average episodes on a darned good tv show. Let’s spin off, but in increasingly safe ways. Let’s have actors direct. Let’s build cheap movie sets. Let’s go into hiatus for awhile. Then let’s try again, not in the future, but in the past. Let’s crack up the ship a bit. Let’s bring back an old villain with issues. You get the idea.

As I was talking with my sf friend over pizza yesterday, I remarked that part of what makes Star Trek so enjoyable is that a tv series gives you ample variety in reflecting on the themes of good science fiction. Great Star Trek episodes weren’t as much about space, shooting, and sex as they were about thoughtful things. One week there would be some character development that made you pause–the Next Generation series was best at this. Another, you would have a moral dilemma confront characters–and I think Deep Space Nine explored this pretty well. Once or twice a season, Star Trek could produce an episode that was absolutely classic television. And a handful of times, it would be cringe-worthy. We fans endured the cringe-worthy because something great might happen next time.

Movies just don’t do it for me. Now we get a few hours of Star Trek every few years. They serve up a miss, and we wait half-a-decade for something great.

This movie was very good. But it wasn’t quite Star Trek. These days Star Trek takes you where a whole lot of other people have gone. It might be good storytelling, good filmmaking, and good spectacle. But it’s not quite good science fiction.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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