Star Trek at 50 – Beyond the fanbase

It?s the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and the fans had been hoping for a grand celebration. With no new Star Trek on TV this year, and with much of the original core fanbase not happy with JJ Abram?s 2009 rebooting of the franchise, this might be the most depressing birthday party you ever attend (or more likely, don?t even hear about).

Gene Roddenberry?s estate has been posting new Trek memorabilia on Facebook. But that valiant effort has gone largely unnoticed.

At the time of this writing, it?s almost May, and still there?s no real sign of Star Trek Beyond marketing, not even a poster. The third film in the JJ Trek reboot seems to be hiding behind a cloaking device. Months ago, there was a trailer, but it was widely trashed by the fanbase. After that, marketing went silent, while the director started filming new scenes with new characters ( for reasons unknown.

Paramount, the film?s studio, hasn?t shown any clips of the movie, not even at CinemaCon in Las Vegas in April. CinemaCon is where theatre owners go to learn about upcoming movies and learn how the studios will support the films? releases. Star Trek Beyond wasn?t mentioned, even as the studio was hyping films with much later release dates.

After the questions arose about Star Trek Beyond?s absence from CinemaCon, Paramount announced a ?Special Fan Event? for May 20. This special event is said to include a new trailer and a Q&A with the director and stars. Also, posters bor the movie have appeared at the Cannes film festival. That still seems underwhelming.

There?s just a little whiff of the Titanic sinking to all this. Should I mention that JJ left the franchise, his hand-picked successor quit/was fired, and a new script was rushed through in six months? Oh, and the new, studio-approved director is best known for The Fast and Furious.

Somehow, Star Trek went into it?s 50th with no momentum. Some blame Paramount/CBS for aggressively suing once tolerated fan films. Others blame JJ Abrams for ruining the Star Trek universe with a reboot that has made this distinct entity into yet another action franchise.

I?ve spoken elsewhere about the Paramount/CBS fight, so let?s look at the other part of the equation.

Where did the JJ ?verse go wrong? The point of bifurcation between the original universe and JJ Trek seems blurred, as some changes must have occurred before the inciting events of the 2009 movie could possibly have impacted the timeline.

In the original series we learn that the Enterprise was built in Earth orbit. In JJ Trek, the Enterprise is built in Earth?s full gravity, exposed to the elements as the delicate machinery is assembled. Better still, JJ?s Enterprise can not only enter atmosphere, it can submerge (Yes, both subs and spaceships have to be airtight, but the pressure runs in the opposite direction – in a sub, the pressure is greater outside, in space, the pressure is greater inside. Building a spaceship to withstand being submerged is a hell of a design criteria, structurally, and with added mass and all that implies about fuel consumption and maneouverability. How often would designers have to expect submersion to happen so that it made it through budget proposals?).

The age of the Enterprise has changed. In the original universe, Captain April commanded the Enterprise from new, then Captain Pike commanded her for 10 years. Finally, Kirk became captain for a 5 year mission. The Enterprise is a decade or more old by the time Kirk takes command. In JJ Trek, the Enterprise is a just-commissioned vessel.

In the original universe, cybernetics is occasionally encountered, and often pass for human for a short while at least. It?s not until Commander Data appears in The Next Generation, that Starfleet is shown containing androids. In JJ Trek, there?s an android on the bridge of the Enterprise, decades earlier than it should be. Oddly, it is not a plot point, nor particularly useful.

Exhibit A  

Distances don?t align between the two Trek universes. i?m not sure how that could have changed. Travel time to Vulcan is at least a day and a half from Earth in the orginal series episode Amok Time (In the story, it?s a three day diversion to go to Vulcan en route to Earth. Depending upon alignment, the closest they could be is a day and a half away). In JJ Trek, it takes 7 minutes to get to Vulcan.

In the original series and onwards into the next generation, transporters can be used to send someone down to a planet from orbit, or between ships in close proximity. In JJ Trek, they can be used to send someone from Earth to Qo?nos, the capital of the Klingon Empire. Why even use expensive space ships if you can transport that far?

There are probably other points, but these seem most egregious and aren?t of the ?why was Khan played by a white man?? variety. The question for diehard fans is why is history different, why is the spacing of the cosmos different, if not because of Nero?s appearance? When did it change?

It’s an odd nitpick, perhaps, but i think it’s the root of the problem that old-school Trek fans have had with the JJ verse version of Trek, and this new film, shrouded in secrecy, is just feeding those feelings of abandonment.

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