Star Trek Was Dead In the Water Until JJ Abrams Saved the Franchise
Reviving the franchise was more important than hitting a sci-fi movie home run.
This the third article I’ve written in defense of JJ Abrams Star Trek, it’s really becoming quite a quest with me. I can’t seem to help it. I just hope Star Trek 4 is better than the last one. So let’s leave the main impediment to all the detractors off the page. That would be the lack of Science Fiction in his re-visioning. In this round, I will recall the state of Star Trek after Enterprise and Nemesis tanked and look at JJ's introduction through the precarious standing the franchise held.
Star Trek: Nemesis was only the second worst of the TNG films (to Insurrection), but still left a pretty bad taste in our mouth’s after a generation’s final journey ended. Data dead and cloned Picard not on par with the Khan he tried to be, we were left hanging and all that has remained are muffled calls for a Star Trek 11.
On the other hand, the damage wasn’t so bad. We got a rough and tumble Enterprise with Scott Bakula to get back to the real business of Star Trek - the TV series.
It would get off to a slow start, but in my estimation was moving in the right direction. That is until low ratings skewed the creators away from the safe place the small screen provides for thoughtful science fiction. Instead, the Sci Fi took a back seat to the action adventure model of the movies, and the juxtaposition gave us all a warp core breech. Or as our esteemed chief engineer would say, “We’re dead in the water.”
JJ Abrams Tasked with Saving the Franchise
Enter JJ Abrams and here is option one. You can go all Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which I loved, and go in search of the human soul. Even better, the Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home and First Contact put the science fiction and action/adventure into one big ball. In short, try to hit a home run, but the franchise has only had a 30 percent success rate in that regard and touching them all is something they went for every time.
So what would happen if a thoughtful idea like trying to find God went awry like Star trek 5. The still waters the ole NCC was in might have stagnated us all into oblivion.
Option two, though, doesn't mean blowing up a bunch of things, loudly racing through the universe and hope something sticks. You start with the stuff that you can’t miss, and that means riding the coattails of characters who stand on par with the groundbreaking science fiction.
My Friends are People of Good Character
It’s still a pretty tall order to deliver characters who are associated with one and only one face. But JJ Abrams pulled it off. Kirk, Bones, Spock and crew slide seamlessly into the shells of their younger selves, and the backstory created makes you feel as though these actors grew into the polished pros we once knew.
That also includes the human flaws that both binds them together and gives us a laugh as they exercise Roddenbury’s camaraderie to a T. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with a little adventure whether Khan is chasing us around the moons of Nibia or Nero’s lightning is making it rain.
Now on film number four, we definitely have Star Trek again. The question is will will we ever get the Sci Fi we want out of JJ Abrams. You might but who cares. That’s not what the movies are for and they never have been. But he got us the TV series we need, and if that follows in the action adventure mode that sunk enterprise, then you got something to complain about. At that point, I’ll be right there with you.
But now, I think a simple thank you should suffice.