This weekend marks the 48th anniversary of the premiere of the very first Star Trek episode on TV. The celebrations are unquestionably low key; I couldn’t even find any acknowledgement of this on the startrek.com website. But I expect things will be very different in two years time. At least, that is what we Trek fans hope. By then, it will be the fiftieth anniversary and we know for certain that at the very least a Star Trek film will be out in two years.
That is much better than what happened during the iconic show’s fortieth anniversary. Nothing happened then. Paramount Pictures didn’t put out a film because of the failure of Star Trek Nemesis, while CBS Television Studios also followed suit since Star Trek: Enterprise was just canceled a year before on UPN.
During that time period both companies felt that the Star Trek franchise needed a rest from the public eye. As we all know, Paramount rebooted the film franchise in 2009 with Star Trek and its sequel Star Trek Into Darkness was released last year. While both films were successful, there is a feeling of unease among a large segment of the fanbase. Under director J.J. Abrams’ guidance, they feel as if Star Trek has strayed far from what it’s meant to be; a story of space exploration and encountering the unknown. Instead, they say that the past two films were just modified Star Wars films. That is a hard viewpoint to argue against, since the films emphasized action and thrills over the more cerebral fare that creator Gene Roddenberry championed when he created the original show and Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).
The Star Trek reboot was supposed to reinvigorate the franchise and raise public awareness, but how successful was that goal? How much in the public eye is Star Trek? It’s there for sure but a lot of attention is being paid these days to the latest superhero film or the return of Star Wars, while any news of the upcoming Star Trek sequel gets shrugs. This was really clear when Paramount announced this year that the screenwriter for the past two Star Trek films, Roberto Orci, was tapped to direct the next sequel. He isn’t a big-name director, actually he hasn’t directed anything at all. Yet, he is being entrusted by Paramount to guide the next Star Trek film, which is coming out in the fiftieth anniversary of the original series. You would think that with that much attention the franchise will receive then, that the film studio will want to ensure that a topnotch director will handle the reins. But who knows? Maybe Orci will deliver the kind of Star Trek film its fans have been clamoring for.
Star Trek, the original show, turned 45 years old this September. Meanwhile the tenth anniversary of the last Trek show Enterprise is also in September. The point is these milestones came and went largely unnoticed or celebrated. So we all wonder why the lack of enthusiasm?
Really, everyone lately is yakking about the Star Wars blu-rays, Back to the Future shoes, new super hero movies, Harry Potter and even a new Avatar attraction for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, but barely a peep out of the world of Trek. I clicked over to the Star Trek website and it seems like a slow week in January. An article reminiscing about Enterprise, IDW comics, Star Trek: The Exhibition coming to St. Louis and upcoming conventions.
You’d think that with all the hoopla over the last Star Trek movie and how it re-energized the franchise and started things fresh that Trek would remain in the public eye. Guess again. Maybe it didn’t help that J.J. Abrams and his crew are taking forever to get a new film going. Then more and more fans are complaining about Abrams’ take on Trek and how it ruined the franchise, nullifying over forty years of Trek lore and made the film seem like a Star Wars wannabe flick.
Another thing that isn’t helping is CBS Studios not wanting to make another Star Trek show while greenlighting junk like Person of Interest and other cop procedurals. For the average Trek fan (I refuse to call myself and fellow fans as trekkies, that’s too demeaning) this is a cause for alarm. In this crowded medium, Trek has to struggle to stay in the public eye. It can’t just rest on its laurels. That attitude of taking fandom and demand for granted is why the later shows declined in quality and ratings putting us in this situation.
No Trek isn’t going away, who knows maybe the new film, whenever they decide to make it, will stir things up. Maybe it will take the fiftieth anniversary when we’ll get the articles and such about how Trek gave us cell phones and tablets (but no holodecks but we’re getting there with the 3D TVs). But Trek is best known for being a TV show, that is its home medium, so a new show has to come out to keep up with the other franchises. Just do a cartoon for now until the right people are found who can put out a quality show. That way Trek stays in the public’s mind. It worked for Star Wars with The Clone Wars cartoon. Here’s an idea do a cartoon about Starfleet Academy. It won’t be that offensive to anyone who hates the thought of StarTrek 90210 since it will more geared toward younger viewers, who in turn may become tomorrow’s fans that keep the dream alive. Just do something already.