There are more women in this screenshot than there are in the entire reboot
This scene right here in many ways encapsulates many of the frustrations I have with the Star Trek reboot, and most reboots in general. When you reboot a “groundbreaking” show, you should reboot the ideals of the show and the mission of the franchise, not just play on the nostalgia of old fans. Star Trek in the 60s comes in the middle of the Cold War and in the midst of the Civil Rights Era, so including different nationalities, a female black lieutenant, and an alien was a huge deal. Now? The same characters look dated in a reboot because Star Trek completed its original mission. Moreover, the reboot movies just don’t make any sense.
Too often, Star Trek traditionalists rage over J. J. Abrams “destroying” Star Trek by rewriting its history. That isn’t my biggest issue. Gene Roddenberry himself said that one day Star Trek would continue without him for a new generation and he would be okay with that, because he believed Star Trek belonged to the people. My issue is not a reboot itself, nor is it a fresh timeline. My problem is that this reboot makes Star Trek look so out of touch. The Cold War is over. The Civil Rights Movement has passed, and we have Star Trek as a reference piece of culture now. It’s time to “boldly go where no one has gone before” again.
It starts with the crew. The original Enterprise crew are heroes for sure, but their time has passed. They are the people we look back to for guidance now. Since Kirk, we’ve had a much more diplomatic and reserved captain in Picard, a more spiritual and combat-ready captain in Sisko (who also happened to be black and from New Orleans woot!), and we had probably our toughest captain ever in a woman with Captain Janeway. We’ve seen people of color and women take on larger roles within the shows for decades, so why must we now go back to play on nostalgia from the 60s. I would have hoped to see a more gender-balanced crew, and with all of the tensions in American politics between the US and the Islamic world, I think it would have been a Star Trek move to include a Muslim character on the crew just like the original Enterprise had a Russian flying the ship. Americans continue to debate whether gay people should be able to live their lives, so I think it would be a Star Trek move to have a gay character featured and have them be as competent and professional as Uhura and Chekov. Hell, we’ve represented various groups in Harry Kim, Nyota Uhura, Julian Bashir Chakotay, Chekov, Scotty, Sulu, O’Brien, Travis Mayweather, Hoshi Sato, and more. We’ve touched briefly on genderqueerness with Dax. Star Trek has gone there before. Why not go there again? In “playing it safe,” they’ve made Star Trek look dull and out of touch.
Next we have the plotlines themselves. Kirk and Spock’s friendship is legendary, obviously, but that friendship built over three seasons of television, and five movies, all of which hit the screen over the course of thirty years. What has boggled me by the last two Star Trek movies is the overwhelming focus on Kirk and Spock to the detriment of everything else going on. The last two movies have had the same arc: Kirk needs to learn to cool his jets, and Spock needs to learn that it’s okay to have feelings sometimes. Why? We already covered that. You established a crew, now go do something. I could pick apart the plot of Into Darkness for about four paragraphs here, but most of it comes down to too many references to Wrath of Kahn and other Star Trek media without any context to make it blend into a cohesive story. Fandom inside jokes can be great for a franchise so long as they don’t compromise the story for the uninitiated. If a good portion of your audience has no idea why we’re tossing around names and places, they’re not going to care and disconnect from the movie.
All of this leaves Star Trek as something uninspiring, and to be fair I think we’ve been here for a long time. Star Trek has always been a cult show, but we’ve been trapped in a movie franchise that you are only invested in because your parent(s) raised you on Star Trek since Star Trek: First Contact. Star Trek has just been a series of action movies set in space since the Picard movie era, and it has never pulled itself out of it. I want my competence Star Trek back. I want to see people from all sorts of backgrounds coming together to do their jobs as they explore new frontiers. I want to see outlets for conversations about the social, political, and economic issues we face in our society. That’s the Star Trek I want back. The characters and set pieces themselves do not make Star Trek what is it. It’s the stories that it tells with those characters.
Please, make Star Trek relevant again. Empower people. ALL PEOPLE. Women, men, people of all color, orientation, etc. We have too much apocalyptic fiction out there, where the only hero worth noting is the tough average joe. Give me a future where we continue to learn and grow by embracing our differences and working together.
I’ve seen this post before with this commentary, but I’d forgotten how spot-on it is.