Let’s talk about Star Trek movies.
I have been a Star Trek fan since I was a little shaver, sitting on beanbag chairs with my older sister and watching as Kirk and company faced off against cosmic beings, interstellar empires, and planets full of gangsters, Romans, and space Nazis. The three seasons of the original series holds the same place in my heart as late night episodes of Dr. Who on PBS and the original Battlestar Galactica (but not Battlestar 1980. Even a kid has limits) Later I remember being frustrated that the animated series never aired on any channels I could see, leaving me with tantalizing glimpses through magazines and the occasional episode caught on vacations.
When the movies came out, I was there. Despite its disappointments I was blown away by The Motion Picture, a movie I still say isn’t as bad as its reputation would have you believe. I was exalted when Wrath of Khan set a new bar not just for Star Trek, but for science fiction in general. Through high spots (The Voyage Home, The Undiscovered Country) and low (The Final Frontier) I was there.
Over time the movies changed and declined in quality. With the shift to the Next Generation we no longer had the peaks and valleys of the old days. Instead we had a steady descent into the realm of mediocrity. This slide began immediately with Generations, a movie I still think is underrated, and continued through First Contact, which I find overrated. Then there was Insurrection, a movie so mediocre that all I can say for good or ill is that it wasn’t as bad as The Final Frontier. By the time we reached Nemesis my enthusiasm for Star Trek was so low that I didn’t go and see it.
By all accounts Nemesis isn’t that bad a movie, and the parts I have seen were certainly watchable. The problem is that the movies had lost the ability to excite me. They were bland and predictable. The humor fell flat, the stories felt forced, and characters who we’d spent years watching grow and change had their development rolled back instead of being presented with a new series of challenges. It failed to inspire.
Star Trek had gone stale. If the series was going to continue, someone had to do something to shake things up. In 2009 they did that and more. Far more. They didn’t just shake up the franchise, they hit it with a bomb so big that even the most die-hard Trekker was shaking their head in disbelief, most of us convinced that we were about to see the most colossal failure in science fiction movie history.
And it worked.
(Hailing Frequencies will re-open next time, as I talk about the 2009 movie)