Star Trek is coming back to the big screen this year, and a new television show is planned for 2017.
These should be good things by all accounts — and with promise of more exploration and “seeking out new worlds” in 2016’s Star Trek Beyond, perhaps it will be — but what fans have seen thus far is cause for concern for the future of Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision.
Because, quite simply, Star Trek is trying to be too much like Star Wars, and while that may keep accounting in the black in the short term, it runs the risk of obliterating the franchise’s identity.
While action was a part of the original series, it took a back seat to ideas. This was one of few franchises in science fiction history where the future could be viewed as a wonderful place to be.
It addressed the horrible things that mankind said and thought about each other, but it also painted a picture where those things were overcome and a world of hope, tolerance, exploration, and understanding ultimately prevailed.
From the beginning, Star Trek‘s success was not owed to attracting a large audience, but a passionate one. To that end, it was absolutely successful.
When NBC decided to cancel the original series after just two seasons, one of the most famous letter-writing campaigns in history swooped in to save the show for another year.
While the network pulled the trigger on cancellation at the end of the third season, the people had spoken, and they were not done with Star Trek.
A successful film series would follow along with not one (The Next Generation), not two (Deep Space Nine), not three (Voyager), but four (Enterprise) spinoff series on television, all of which managed to run longer than the original three seasons.
That doesn’t even take into consideration the passionate community of fan filmmakers, who have turned out some impressive continuations over the years.
But with 2009’s Star Trek reboot — a fiscal success with a $385 million worldwide take, per Box Office Mojo — a disturbing trend started to take over.
While a “fun” film that was generally well-received, the new Star Trek forsook most of what made the series appealing in favor of laser battles and fist fights.
It more resembled a George Lucas movie than one overseen by Gene Roddenberry.
That also helped lead to the backlash against Star Trek Into Darkness, the 2013 follow-up that was another money-maker but that should have been more successful than it was given the hype and buildup that surrounded it.
STID grossed just $467 million worldwide despite expectations that it could be the long-running series’ first billion-dollar grosser.
It has also since been defined as a film with “problems” by the very guy who made it — J.J. Abrams himself (via CinemaBlend), who, as almost everyone knows, dropped it to take on Star Wars instead.
It is difficult to make this comparison and treat it like a bad thing when you enjoy both series for what they are. But therein lay the key words — “for what they are.”
Star Wars was a saga meant for the big screen. It placed heavier emphasis on special effects and good guys versus bad guys. It was perfect for being consumed in two- to two-and-a-half-hour doses.
It was also geared toward a younger crowd that grew up with it.
Star Trek, on the other hand, was a TV show centered more on character work, mankind’s future, and the greater good in us all. It wasn’t a show you grew up with, but one that you grew in to.
It was about capabilities, not defeating evil.
One could even go as far as to say that in Star Trek, there was no evil — simply points of view influenced by different factors that sometimes conflicted with one another.
That unique perspective is what made fans passionate, and it’s why they have followed Star Trek from one medium to another while Star Wars fans have stuck pretty closely to the big screen (The Clone Wars and Rebels notwithstanding).
If the current rights holders wish to continue that passionate following, they will once again go where no man has gone before instead of that singular galaxy far, far away.
But what do you think, readers? Is the distinction a fair one, or is there still enough of the original Star Trek spirit left to keep you interested?
[Image via Star Trek Beyond trailer screen grab]