Friday, October 31, 2003

Whatever Happened to the Star Trek Movies? By AH.

It's been a rough ride for us Star Trek movie fans. After the glory that was First Contact, we've had to suffer through the lame Insurrection and the promising but ultimately unfulfilling Nemesis. And the prospect of no more ST:TNG movies ever is, well, grim.

So, where has the magic gone? What happened to this once glorious franchise, which has now gone the way of baseball in the 24th century? Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio? I think there are two things at play here. First, when you deal with movies, the emphasis tends to be on the star characters (Picard and Data); but ST:TNG has always been an ensemble effort. It stings to see the noble and powerful Worf from "A matter of honor" and "Lower Decks" reduced to a bit cameo. Troi, Crusher, Geordi, and even, to a degree, Riker have been marginalized, and the dimension and scope of the movies suffer.

Cinema has two principle pleasures; voyeuristic and narcissistic. The voyeuristic pleasure is still there; cool space battles and the strange aliens. But what is missing is the narcissistic pleasure; or, the feeling that these movies are talking about us.

Star Trek was always at its best when we felt that we, as individuals or as a society, are being mirrored. McCarthyism, Homosexuality, family issues-these things and many others were successfully tackled within this show. What worked with Star Trek is that though the settings and characters were fantastic, paradoxically this allowed a greater amount of depth and, dare I say, realism in talking about issues we cannot, in polite society, deal with directly.

So is the Star Trek franchise irrelevant? No. There has never been a greater need for our Star Trek heroes than now. We live in extremely trying times. We need to simultaneously escape with and deal with our times.

Here are some ideas. What we are dealing with now, in the Middle East, is a culture, which confuses us; an ever shifting political structure where our friends today are our mortal enemies tomorrow; a morality, which has a logic strange to our own; and a culture, which presents, as of now, a grave threat to our way of life. Does this sound like the Klingon empire to anyone?

(Sir Rantalot’s note: Klingons have always embodied America’s fears of whatever race we currently see as a problem. The Klingons were in fact created in response to the Yellow Peril fears of the late fifties and early sixties. That’s why they looked so Asian in the original Star Trek. Then, in the late eighties and early nineties, after the fall of the Soviet Union, Klingons became the black people who live among us (Worf) and with whom we have an uneasy peace. So why not make them Middle-Eastern? For more on depictions of ethnicity in Sci-Fi see the Essays Page.)

How about this: after a devastating terrorist attack on the Federation capital, San Francisco, by some rogue Klingons, a fragile political climate is placed in severe danger by Federation renegades to gain retribution and plunge the galaxy into chaos by destroying the planet Klingons find most holy, Boreth (Mecca); also, the assassination of Kahless might make a fine subplot. Though the Federation is stronger than the Klingon empire, a war would be devastating to both sides. It is up to Picard and company from stopping this from happening.
Worf would play a key role in this story, and rather than the ineffectual Worf from the past few movies, I see this Worf with a Bat'leth and a flowing cape. Worf is a badass; give the guy his due.

Also, there needs to be a fight, weather in space or with fist, between Riker and Worf over Deanna. Some long simmering feelings could erupt due to some friendly Klingon prodding for Worf. This issue was not dealt with in a satisfying manner. This, as well, would make some good fodder for Deanna, who always seems to get the short end of the plot stick.

Now, a note on the "B4" character. I know Brent Spiner had his hand in this character development. Brent is a fine actor, and is one of the most memorable characters on the show; but he needs to be reigned in. I know they are setting up a "Search for Spock" scenario, where the original Data is resurrected somehow. But that B4 character is just painful.

In a subplot, the Federation military scientists should be developing a species of Datas bred for fighting, with Nanites being the mechanisms (like cells) of which this Species is created (out of what raw materials, I'm not sure). Data fights the other Datas in that they, like Lore, want their own species of superior beings, and can see themselves rising from the choas.

Side note: Geek goddess Tina Fey from SNL must come in for some geek sex appeal and be strong, funny, dare I say ballsy character. Perhaps an academic who wrote a book „The Klingon Problem,‰ or something like it. She has the spark and intelligence for some great dialogue.

OK. That's my rant. It is hard to see ST:TNG struggle so hard and stray so far from the things which made us great. ST:TNG reminds us that we as a species can achieve greater things; and though we came from the earth, we belong in the stars.

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