Star Trek: Into Darkness comes out in theaters on May 17. Directed by J.J. Abrams, it is sure to be the perfect movie to kick off the summer blockbuster season. Despite this, it will probably miss the mark on several key points for the sometimes nitpicky Star Trek fan-verse.
This really isn’t a surprise, Abrams has spoken quite freely about his lack of interest in most things sci-fi. Abrams never set out to make a series that could compete with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s universe and thank goodness for that. Roddenberry had a vision for the future in the 1960s that still is too progressive for far too many people today. The first Star Trek movie followed Kirk and Spock and all the crew in an alternate time line. It was really the best option Abrams had at rebooting the familiar series and reintroducing it to a new generation. I say this as an ardent Trek fan.
My husband proposed to me using a clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation (and an actual meteorite). We have watched one episode per night before we go to bed and we’ve done so for more than two years. One of the more disappointing aspects of Abrams' universe is that it fails to treat the audience as an intelligent being. Instead over explaining jargon or the entire plot itself.
Though this airs on the side of wonky, the beauty of the Star Trek universe is that it doesn’t explain everything or anything. It’s the total investment in the science that is the Star Trek universe that makes it believable to the audience member. When you over explain something what you are really saying is, “I’m not confident in what I’m saying.” The same can be said for the philosophy of Star Trek, which is where the real beauty of the series is.
When Abrams appeared on The Daily Show and said he didn’t get the philosophy of Star Trek as a child, people were more than a little mystified by this admission from the director of the series. As Wil Wheton, who played Wesley Crusher in The Next Generation, pointed out on his Tumblr:
“Sigh. The whole point of Star Trek is that it’s philosophical. If you don’t want philosophical Science Fiction, there’s plenty of that for you to enjoy, but Star Trek is philosophical. Philosophy is part of Star Trek’s DNA, and if you’re given the captain’s chair, you’d better damn well respect that.”
Here's the interview for reference:
As you can see, Abrams added that he did come to love the series as an adult. Though I can't help but feel like he said that just to appease Jon Stewart. Okay, so I’m mostly kidding about that, but if you’ve ever wondered why people get so obsessed with Star Trek I can try and explain why I like it so much.
People feel strongly about Star Trek not because individuals who have a proclivity to sci-fi feel this way about all things science related, but because of its vision of the future. It’s a world where the chief motivating force is exploration, money doesn’t exist. The Prime Directive strictly forbade members of Star Fleet from interfering in the development of another planet or people’s, even when that interference may be well intentioned. The Prime Directive is, in and of itself, a philosophy against imperialism and colonialism. The universe is filled with moral dilemmas and the consequences of selfish behavior. There are grand themes and small gems and each of them compound upon themselves to create a universe built on the belief that one day humans can do more than just serve our own self interests.
That doesn’t mean that Star Trek is not without it’s problems. Network television prohibited the airing and introduction of gay characters into the Star Trek universe. When Roddenberry died in 1991 Rick Berman took over the franchise and not one gay or lesbian main character appeared for the next 18 years. Abrams certainly could have, but chose not to, introduce a gay character in his Star Trek reboot. Abrams could have chosen to not make Khan white, but that's another article.
Still, the best part of Star Trek is its ability to discuss political and philosophical issues before the audience can catch on. It’s just one step ahead of you the entire time and before you know it, you’re questioning your behavior or place in the world. Star Trek allows you to come to your own conclusion about the past, present, and the future. You are led down a path, but what you discern from that path is totally up to you.
Perhaps Abrams won't wax philosophical about humankind in the second installment of his reboot, that’s still okay. If there is one thing that the Star Trek universe teaches you is that there is always the room and space to explore.