First JJ Abrams stepped down as director of the next Star Trek film, then Roberto Orci left.
I don’t know if Orci’s departure was a decision made on friendly terms, but from his statements online, and the announcement that he isn’t writing the script either, it doesn’t look like it. I appreciate what he’s helped to bring to the films, just as I did with JJ Abrams, although I’m still not sure if the Bad Robot team has helped Star Trek or hurt it. In typical Orci fashion, his bluntness and defence of Bad Robot have rubbed many fans the wrong way.
As he rightly pointed out, he makes films and we don’t. I can’t disagree with him on that. But the implication he made was: what right do the fans have to bad-mouth our efforts?
There’s a simple answer: we ARE fans. Not only that, but we’re the ones buying the tickets to see those movies that he’s making… or not making, in this case. The fans are paying for it, and they deserve something good. Star Trek as a franchise may be owned by Paramount/Viacom, but its soul belongs to the fans. As Enterprise‘s sad history proved, you can’t just slap the name Star Trek on something and expect the fans to instantly buy it.
No. The fans deserve quality, and on a regular basis too. They need Star Trek to be a self-sustaining source of excellent entertainment, not just for a couple of movies that come out every three or four years… but far beyond that, and on a more regular basis.
One of the biggest issues is that there’s been a lack of vision lately. That may sound ridiculous, since those guys from Bad Robot did come up with a bold new future for Star Trek, and their two films did make money. But one of the biggest lessons in storytelling is that there’s a huge difference between concept and long-term execution. The Bad Robot concept was to reboot Star Trek and make it more like Star Wars, which meant jettisoning much of the slower, story-driven philosophical aspects of the earlier shows and films, and pumping up the action.
It’s a concept – and one that’s worked pretty well – but is it one that can sustain itself in the long term? Probably not, which may explain why the new film’s plot was rumoured to be more “classic” Star Trek. Rewriting forty years of canon to reboot everything wasn’t a great long-term plan, although it was a good concept, and one that was arguably necessary. When Bad Robot came into the game the Star Trek franchise was at it’s lowest point since the original show got cancelled, and they had to do something drastic.
But was there any big picture? Did they have any plan for these films to continue in some form beyond the odd project every few years? It doesn’t look like it, and that’s a problem.
The news of Justin Lin taking the helm as director hasn’t exactly whipped the fans into a frenzy, and currently the Star Trek franchise appears to be limping back to space dock at impulse power instead of racing into the final frontier at warp 9 for the 50th anniversary. It’s going in for some refits and general repairs that hopefully Lin can perform. Does he have some vision planned, some set of long-term goals that can pay off down the line? We can hope…
Sustainability is vital, that’s the key. It has helped make the shows so successful, with overlapping series and characters all occupying a shared universe and timeline. That’s what you get after forty years of work from Gene Roddenberry, DC Fontana, Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor, Nicholas Meyer, Brannon Braga, Ira Steven Behr and countless others. They each had a unique vision which was still able to be shared with other people’s visions, leading to something consistent which helped Star Trek not just to grow but to thrive.
The closest that we’ve come to having that sustainability back was in 2006. Director Bryan Singer, Rob Burnett and several others came up with an idea for a show called Star Trek: Federation, which was to focus on the decline of the Federation in the year 3000. It would have continued in the timeline of the prior TV shows, closely sticking to the already-established canon. It sounded promising but the proposal was scrapped because of the film reboots. But it was a vision that was strong and could have had a future. Maybe some TV executive out there will figure it out.
Whatever Justin Lin and the new writers choose to bring to the table with the next film, it needs to be good. A solid story, action and adventure are a good start, but right now a vision is needed too. Let’s hope that he can figure out how to make Star Trek sustainable beyond that next film, because the 50th anniversary shouldn’t be the last…