Why All the Darkness in My Star Trek?
(This article was written in January 2015. See Author’s note at the end for a new additional perspective)
In 2016, Star Trek and I will hit the half-century mark. That’s right, 50 years young. Whether it was because my parents watched it, or I just was amazed by the show as a kid, I have been a long time fan. Or dare I say, a Trekkie?
But since 1994, the year marking the end of Star Trek: The Next Generations and the film Star Trek: Generations, I have noticed one simple thing that has killed the franchise for me: Hope.
When I watched the Original Series with Captain Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura (and all the other cast members of their three year run), I saw a mix of all the races of Earth PLUS a complete alien all working together to explore, solve problems and so much more. My main message I carry with me today is that we are all more alike than different.
Klingons were the evil Mongols and dark skinned…different than the rest. They craved war and battle and glory. The crew came in peace. While the episodes with the Klingons didn’t always have everyone seeing eye-to-eye, there was often a truce, or some understanding. The Romulans, unseen for a century at the time of the episode Balance of Terror, ended up being just like Spock. The crew battles their own biases and fears of being infiltrated, much as it was believed that Russians had infiltrated the United States with sleeper cells. In the end, we find that the Romulans are fierce and dogmatically loyal and end up following orders to the death.
I could go on and on about how much this goofy show inspired me to find peace, try new things, and… of course try to be suave and get lots of women like Captain James T. Kirk did.
The Darkness Descends
From the spin off series of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and all the movies – ESPECIALLY THE REBOOT – focuses on war, darkness and a dark future. Oh sure, the very last scene of each movie is upbeat – “Hey, we made it out alive and all together. Let’s go see what else we can discover.”
You mean, “Let’s see who else is going to try to kill us in the galaxy?”
I won’t go into too much detail, and I’m always up for interesting twists on a classic, but I got a bit irritated with the whole Wrath of Khan…errr…Star Trek into Darkness… sequel… twist… geez… a remake of a sequel based on an episode. And here is where I will flat out show how the new reboot abandons the entire theme of Star Trek.
Fans know the episode. The Enterprise finds a derelict ship and discovers it is a lost ship housing genetic super humans from Earth’s past in suspended animation. They escaped Earth as the planet turned against them. They were the worst of the worst. And their leader was Khan Nooian Singh, the worst of them all, and played wonderfully by Ricardo Montalban.
Khan, being the bad guy, takes over and then orders Kirk’s death and is on his way to kill them all. Of course, Kirk gains control and retakes the ship after a fierce battle in engineering with Kahn. Or at least Montalban’s and Shatner’s obvious stunt double fight.
In the end, does Kirk drop the final blow killing Khan? Does he push him out an airlock? Does he put him back into suspended animation?
NO! He drops Khan and all his people on an uninhabited world to conquer on their own.
Star Trek the Wrath of Khan
Now, I loved this movie more than just about all of the movies except Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. And there is nothing like the finally where Kirk beats yet another ‘no win scenario.’ But in the end of the film, does Kirk blast Khan out of the sky into space dust? NO! He offers to beam him and survivors to the Enterprise.
Cut to the first reboot film where Kirk and Spock face Nero and say, “We’re ready to beam you over and lend assistance.” When Nero says he’d rather die a thousand deaths, Kirk says, “So be it.” AND BLOWS THEM UP AND KILLS THEM.
And cutting to the horrid Into Darkness movie… I just have to shake my head. I… don’t… care… about… Sherlock, err… Khan… now a bleached out, blue-eyed sociopath who is (let me break out the tissue) just protecting his ‘family.’ Don’t get me started on the super blood. Now, Kirk does work with him for a bit and then immediately stuns him into submission. And the end of the film? After the ‘amazing’ twist that Kirk and Spock trade places compared to the end of the original movie? With a logical Vulcan going absolute ape sh*t crazy beating Khan to death? And after that? They put him back into suspended animation.
We end the movies with a dark vision of the Federation. Kirk standing up in the wreckage, talking about ‘there will always people who wish us harm,’ a funeral, the tones of the uniforms are all dull gray, deep shadows, and empty Enterprise before finally showing a little light at the end before relaunching once again on the ‘Five Year Mission.’
Bring Back the Hope!
That was NOT a reference to Star Wars, by the way.
I want to see adventures, explorations, new life forms, battles that lead to understanding, and… yes… more Orion Slave Women.* Star Trek: Enterprise gave a really interesting twist to THAT whole race in space. I actually liked parts of Enterprise, but they too took on a super dark militarized version of Star Trek… and it was supposed to take place before the original series.
Anyway, this was more of a rant. I’m just ready for some uplifting adventures. Adventures where the villain isn’t so evil that he/she can’t seek redemption and understanding, they aren’t killed at the end of the movie, and, hopefully, they can appear again later.
And that brings me to what got me started on this.
There have been many fan made ‘episodes’ and films. Due to Paramount ownership, they cannot sell the productions or make money, but so far, they’ve been given leeway. Some of those films, like Star Trek of Gods and Heroes was another dark spin as were some other ones I’ve seen.
But today, I discovered a group who has gone back and meticulously recreated the sets, lighting, sounds and even has James Doohan’s (Scotty) son playing Scotty. I’ve only watched part of one of three they’ve created, and after I got used to the fact that the actors are all different, I really like it.
But the bonus is that there are characters from the original series that pop up, Star Trek actors like Martina Sirtis from TNG, and a guest appearance by Jamie Bamber of BSG!
(Author’s Note 2017: Star Trek Continues has seven great episodes available with even more guest stars.
I’m hoping the show ends with an upbeat message. We need to return to the original Rodenberry message of hope. And, yes, I know they were campy, sexist, and probably racist, but they were ahead of their time when they first came out.
Here’s to a bright future, and to being realistic of where we are and hoping for the best. And let’s see if we can all beat a ‘no win scenario’ together.
* Author’s Note: January 2017
It’s been two years since I wrote this article. With the announcement of a new Star Trek: Discovery television show, Paramount/CBS changed their stand on allowing fan fiction and set up guidelines. Some groups have gone to court over the changes. In the end, intellectual property is owned by someone. An entity or person can allow it, or not. But the vision of the future that Star Trek offered to me, was always one where we all got over our differences and became a race of exploration, collaboration, and more.
Orion Slave Women.
Half kidding around, and half not kidding around. As a white kid in the 70s watching Star Trek reruns, I didn’t understand slavery. Much like the “Slave Leia” phenomena (a movement to call her “Hutt Slayer Leia” is on the rise), I never really thought about the reality of actual slavery or even what sex was, at the time. As mentioned above, Star Trek Enterprise put a different spin on the Orions and who was actually the slave. Star Trek Continues brought the reality of sex slaves, human trafficking, and the psychological toll it really has on those sold and trapped in slavery. Wrap a story around an issue with characters we love who struggle with issues just as we do and then have them take a stand? That, my friends, is Star Trek.
Star Trek Beyond.
And one last note, besides the utterly ridiculous method of destroying the drones (no human or alien was harmed in this mass destruction of beings), and a slight rehashing of the plot to Star Trek Insurrection, I liked the movie. And the motorcycle stunts! Just like classic Kirk who…oh wait. That never happened in Star Trek TOS.
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