The next Star Trek film has already had its fair share of ups and downs, from a game of musical chairs for directors to the hot topic of whether this is going to be the last film in the series. When Simon Pegg took on the role of co-writer it seemed like things were going on the right track, even if the new film has been given the silly title of Star Trek Beyond and there’s been talks of constant rewrites.
Then he said something more worrying – not counting when he lashed out at disappointed fans over Star Trek Into Darkness or those wanting spoilers: He said that the previous working script was considered too Star Trek-y for Paramount.
Given that it’s a Star Trek film, you’d expect it to be incredibly Star Trek-y, especially since it’s being released in time for the 50th anniversary of the franchise. He’s also added that the film needs to capture the sort of audience that The Avengers did, and that the idea is to make it a Western or a heist movie only set in the Star Trek framework. There’s some truth to that, but what factors could have been too Star Trek-y? And more than that, is it a bad idea to throw them away? Here are ten of the key components of Star Trek they may have meant…
Allegory: At it’s best, Star Trek has always been about trying to make us think. While working on the original series, Nichelle Nichols apparently told Gene Roddenberry what it was he was doing: “You’re telling morality plays!”, to which he grinned and replied, “Yes, but don’t tell anyone.” Like the best science fiction, Star Trek has done more than show exploration, intergalactic wars and personal relationships; It’s told stories about prejudice, arrogance, the harsh realities of war, politics, oppression, class wars… and so much more. It took issues which affect us all and made us think about them. It’s one of the aspects that’s been somewhat lost in recent years, but putting it in again wouldn’t hurt.
Klingons: Not just Klingons, but Romulans, Cardassians, Andorians and even the Ferengi. These are well-established alien races within Star Trek. There was a brief appearance of rebooted Klingons (or Blingons as some have chosen to call them) in Star Trek Into Darkness and rumour has it that they may return. Then again, some rumours claim that they’ll be introducing an altogether new race of aliens to menace our heroes. Is that necessarily a good thing? Introducing new races in the films has never been overly successful (yes, that includes the Son’a from Insurrection) because there’s so little time to learn about them, so it may be best to stick with what’s already been seen before. Klingons fit the bill, even if they’re 100% Star Trek.
Red Shirts: This may sound like an odd one, but nothing quite sells Star Trek as an idea like the uniforms. Yes, the characters are unique individuals (except for those countless, nameless redshirt cannon fodder crewmembers) but they’re a part of a team. The colours may vary depending on their duty, but Starfleet is a military unit and an exploration group. There’s protocol to be followed, and that means uniforms and not costumes. They may wear casual clothes when they’re out socialising or visiting family, but the thought of seeing them doing their job wearing anything other than their uniforms doesn’t work. Teamwork never hurts.
Technobabble: In recent years they’ve tried toning down the excessive technobabble that became so familiar in the shows, and that’s made it more accessible. It didn’t even matter whether the crew were accurately stating theoretical physics or not, because to some it sounded like… well, technobabble. That isn’t a slur against the scientific researchers and writers of the old shows though, because Star Trek has always had an eye firmly kept on real science and that’s the bread and butter of the Star Trek universe. They just needed to rein it in every once in a while. Seeing the laughable physics that Justin Lin has played with in Fast & Furious, some accurate science would definitely be in order.
Away Missions: These have been around since the very beginning of Star Trek, the idea of the crew beaming down (or travelling by shuttlecraft) and having a look around some alien world. It has to be done, although there’s been less emphasis on it lately. But why does it have to be done, not counting for the sake of adding drama to the story? The answer is simple, and it’s in the mission statement: To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations. Exploration is the name of the game here, so to remove that aspect robs Star Trek of something vital. Seeing some away missions could help bolster the idea that the Enterprise crew are doing something of value.
Giant Floating Energy-Hands: You can scoff, but the giant floating energy-hand seen in TOS’s Who Mourns for Adonais? is a powerful image, and one which has come to epitomise Star Trek because it’s been used so often – even if you didn’t realise it. That’s because, in the show, the hand itself is really just the application of ancient technology – namely a tractor beam which at first appears more intimidating than it really is. The idea behind it is that it’s a mystery to be solved and an overwhelming force which has to be overcome. Action sequences may look flashy, but mysteries help to draw the fans in and solving them through a combination of intellectual and physical means is far more interesting.
Alien Intelligence Tests: What’s the best way for an alien culture to learn more about the people of the Federation? Test them. In TOS there was Kirk battling the Gorn as a test to see if he could show mercy. In TNG’s Darmok, Picard had to learn to communicate with an alien race on its own level. The message isn’t just that we should be happy being who we are, but that we also need to prove what’s in our hearts and minds. Fighting is easy, but learning and teaching are key factors in gaining trust and wisdom. Without that, there isn’t much hope. In the last two films the crew of the Enterprise hasn’t learned very much at all. Kirk had an opportunity to learn humility in Star Trek Into Darkness but didn’t and at great cost. Can we hope things will get better?
The Human Condition: This has always been critical and, strangely, it’s been shown through the characters who are the least human. Spock was half-human, but tried so hard to be Vulcan that it drove him to tears. Data’s android quest to achieve humanity was costly and ultimately proved that being human was more than just a state of flesh and blood. Odo learned to open up and experience love. The holographic Doctor discovered that it took more than theoretical knowledge to live, but actual experience – triumphs and suffering included. What does it mean to be human? It’s a philosophical question that the human race has debated for thousands of years and which Star Trek has constantly asked, and hopefully won’t ever stop asking.
Crazy Admirals: Whenever in doubt, throw a crazy admiral into the story. They don’t necessarily need to be an admiral – we’ve had crazy scientists, crazy generals, crazy conspirators, crazy psychopaths, even a logically obsessed (read: crazy) baseball-playing Vulcan – but admirals are usually at the top of the pile. We had that in Star Trek Into Darkness with Admiral Marcus and he was pretty good, although the problem is that before that we had the crazy-but-clueless planet-killing Nero who didn’t just think to contact his Romulan people to warn them of their impending doom. The point is that a little crazy goes a long way… but it has to be measured, or else it gets too much.
Holodeck Malfunctions: The bane of Star Trek for many fans has been the seemingly-endless holodeck malfunctions. Unfortunately they’ve also become a standard part of Star Trek even if the original malfunctioning holodeck episode, TOS’s Shore Leave, didn’t feature a holodeck at all. The point of those stories though was to show us technology out of control, a fact seen time and again over the years, from civilisations ruled by computers to the Borg attempting to combine the best of both worlds in one organic/machine hybrid. We live in a world increasingly reliant on technology and Star Trek has pointed out both the benefits and drawbacks of that. Malfunctioning holodecks are bad, but malfunctioning technology in general makes for a good story. It’s time to show it some love again, even if V’Ger wasn’t that great.