“It’s Dead, Jim” … But Star Trek Lives


There’s no sense beating a dead horse.

Even the oft-maligned Rick Berman said as much when he warned that creating one incarnation of TV Trek after another ran the risk of going back to the well too many times.

Then he and the deservedly-despised Brannon Braga created Star Trek: Enterprise which basically limped through four lackluster seasons of sci-fi so watered down it made parts of Buck Rogers look downright Shakespearean.


There’s little sense in deconstructing Star Trek Into Darkness any further (i.e. beating that dead horse) because even its ardent fans have admitted some “modest” (LOL!) gaps in logic. Besides, I’m more concerned about the longevity of the franchise than I truly am any single version of it. So long as one version survives, then fandom gets to fight another day.

And – JJ be damned – Star Trek lives.

It wasn’t all that long after the original series’ cancellation that legendary creator Gene Roddenberry began the comeback tour. For those of you who don’t know, Roddenberry rather famously toured college campuses where he spoke to the very same fertile young minds that’d happily turned “he’s dead, Jim” into a drinking game. They listened as he lectured them on the need for continued space exploration, the seeking out and exploring of strange new worlds, and the ongoing reflection of the human condition. In fact, Gene’s speeches created such a buzz that they were recorded and released on vinyl. (Google ‘album,’ you infants! And get off my lawn!)

Of course, looking to the future necessarily meant bringing Star Trek back.  Of all things, perhaps Roddenberry understood capitalism best.  In science fiction, nothing truly dies.  Not even residual checks.  (Google that, too.)


Paramount got his message. It wasn’t too long before they were talking about refitting the Enterprise and sending it out on an all-new five year mission. Star Wars happened, which caused them to rethink that whole TV angle, and the resurrection was complete.

See, Trek’s higher ideals were always bigger and bolder than studio executives could control – a kind of intellectual Gangnam Style.




Shoot, Star Trek was doing that long before the age of Obama, and it never had near as many scandals … though there was that inter-racial kiss. One could argue that, from every person’s core, each of us reaches for something better tomorrow than what we have today, and that’s the strongest sentiment beating in the heart of Roddenberry’s entertainment beast, but that’s also something JJ and friends haven’t quite figured out.

Here’s the dirty little secret so far as this Trek enthusiast is concerned: JJ’s movies are pretty but empty. Gorgeous but vacuous. Flirty but without the sex. Oh, he’ll make you think Kirk had a threesome, but that’s as far as it goes.

JJ’s films are eye candy. They’re the ‘supermodels’ of the multiplexes, amped up on coke but desperately in need of a good burger. Think what you may, but the case could be made that our world needs supermodels. They create excitement. They demand attention. However right or wrong it may be, they set a particular standard that a certain gender of mankind strives for while the other gender secretly covets (or so I’m told).

By contrast, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country actually featured supermodel Iman in the role as a duplicitous shapeshifter who tries to kill Kirk and McCoy.

Big difference.


JJ prefers McGuffins (not available in a Happy Meal). Would any program he masterminded have been all that interesting without its puzzles? Can you imagine Alias without Rimbaldi? Or Lost without all of the flashbacks, flash-forwards, and flash-sideways? Or Alcatraz without the time traveling convicts? Unlike JJ, Gene and his best stories always centered on moral conflict – about people in transition, not so much about the puzzles put in front of them – and this naturally lends itself to different stylistic approaches.

Where Gene would’ve used a soliloquy, JJ used a phaser.  Or a planet-busting space drill.  Or Benedict Cumberbatch’s gravitas. I say that not to put JJ down or to elevate Roddenberry; rather, it’s simply a reflection on entirely different styles of storytelling. After all, why is it that one franchise is called “Star TREK” and the other “Star WARS”? Both have their place and time. Both have their cultural relevance. But – like it or not – JJ is putting butts in the seats, and, for that, he deserves his chance in the center seat.

But for those of you like me who ache for a welcome return to those days of yesterday, well look no further than Star Trek Continues, which can be found at www.startrekcontinues.com. The web series recreates Roddenberry’s vision – complete with the Enterprise Bridge, Sick Bay, and associated sets – with new actors cast in the iconic roles all under the directive of completing the original five year mission. It stars Vic Mignogna as Capt. James T. Kirk, Todd Haberkorn as Spock, Larry Nemecek as Dr. McCoy, and Chris Doohan (son of James Doohan) as Scotty.


This past Memorial Day weekend, Farragut Films and Dracogen Investments premiered their first episode, titled “Pilgrim of Eternity,” at the Phoenix Comicon to an audience of 4,000. “Eternity” resurrects Apollo – originally featured in Star Trek’s second season episode “Who Mourns for Adonais?” – and revisits the whole rule/worship theme as a moral dilemma. Showrunners even managed to get actor Michael Forest back under the toga as the Greek god of music and poetry.

I had the chance to watch it online, and, personally, I loved it for several reasons. First, it feels like the Treks of old. Second, it looks like the Treks of old. Lastly, it was clearly made with more heart, soul, love, and affection for Treks of old, which JJ and friends have kinda/sorta summarily dismissed. JJ’s even said (or very strongly implied) that he’s not all that interested in making Star Trek films that appeal to fans of the original series. He wants to film stories that interest him, and why shouldn’t he? If I were going to commit to twelve or fourteen or sixteen months of my life on a project, I’d want it to interest me, too! Otherwise, it would feel like work, and (sarcasm) God forbid someone actually pay JJ to make a Star Trek film (/sarcasm).

To me, the best that can be said of the JJ Abrams’ incarnation is “This is not your father’s Star Trek.”

And that’s OK.  I’m perfectly alright with it. As a matter of fact, it’s a rather brilliant popcorn film, and my wife can tell you how much I love popcorn.

As for Star Trek Continues?

“This IS your father’s Star Trek.”

So no, fans: Trek isn’t dead. Far from it. To paraphrase what DeForest Kelley said in what remains the absolute best Trek film, “it isn’t really dead … as long as we remember it.” Star Trek lives. It’ll boldly go where no one has gone before well into the next decade and beyond. Your kids will watch it – as will their kids – and that’s the way it should be.

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  1. First let me admit I skipped ahead and commented before finishing the article but that is because I think you perfectly described what I’ve been thinking but haven’t been able to communicate myself….the original Star Wars series even the mediocre (ehh it was bad but it wasn’t THAT bad) Enterprise captured the idea of humanity taking a self-reflective view on itself and from there thinking how we can better ourselves. I have zero interest in the JJ Star Trek because that element, at least from the outside looking in, is entirely lacking…it’s just a pop film trying to meld the pop culture fans who want explosions and bewbs and action (not that there is anything wrong with that) and also bring in some of the older Star Trek fans to spend their money too.

  2. Talk to your elders who remember the show for what it was… It was about being cutting edge at some points (with the first “swear” on TV and the kiss between Kirk and Uhura). There was always over-acting and plot holes weren’t uncommon.

  3. Thank you for this. I have been trying very hard to explain to my fellow Trekkies why I don’t get the new Trek films. I enjoy them as action sci-fi flicks, but not as Star Trek films, and my friends don’t seem to understand the distinction.

    I think you nailed what I couldn’t put into words. Thank you for writing this.

  4. I actually love Enterprise. It is my favorite crew after the original series. Enterprise is also the only series that is still intact in the new movie continuity. I also love the new movies. I’m sorry that others do not. If you really like the other stuff buy the DVDs and watch it forever. I am looking forward to the next movie and still hoping for a new TV series in the new continuity.

  5. I don’t know what the writer is smoking but Enterprise was some of the best Trek ever. I am watching that series again now, for the third time on Netflix. If you really want to see some horrible Star Trek watch some first and second season TNG.

  6. I scrolled down to the bottom to see who wrote the thing only to find it was supposed to be a piece attempting to promote Star Trek Continues? Seriously?

    I’m all for discussion, critical analysis and debate, but there have GOT to be better ways to lead off a promo piece than by spending the majority of your article trashing a completely separate production. Honey rather than vinegar, you know?

    If not for the proper spelling and grammar, I could have sworn it was written by that crybaby James Cawley, which makes it all more a sad effort as Star Trek Continues’ premiere effort is actually quite good and worthy of a proper review and not… this.

    Perhaps if fans and fandom were a little less territorial and a little more open minded they’d see that there’s really no need for any more comparison beyond “If that’s not for you, you might like this…”

  7. Enterprise only came alive in the 4th season, when real Trek writers got involved. But sadly by that point it was too late.

    If Enterprise had started with the type of stories they had in the 4th season it would have been a much better series. Instead we got an unresolved temporal war story that went nowhere and, when that failed, an interspecies war that got tiring.

  8. @George: Oh, George. Poor George. If you actually read the piece, you’d understand that I wasn’t promoting anything. I was making a point about the state of our beloved franchise. But thanks for noticing I can write & spell “good”.
    @Michael Bednar: As always, thanks for reading! Share the link with anyone you like.
    @Jeff Stimson: You know, I’ve heard that argument over & over. It may have merit. The problem I’ve always had with that position is that it’s easy to make given the hindsight. Personally, I thought Enterprise had only a handful of really great stories in its 4-year run.
    @Ctrot: Not smoking anything, though thanks for asking. Sorry. Enterprise was D-U-L-L 90% of the time. Also, I agree that the 1st & 2nd season of TNG struggled; I think it did so to a great degree b/c it painted itself into corners by trying to hard to emulate TOS’s format. TOS worked fine for its era; simply jumpstarting stories based on a 20-year-old dynamic week-to-week probably wasn’t the best approach for the mid-80’s TV demographic.

  9. This wouldn’t be the first time that a healthy video franchise was shot down by its own producers who paid no attention to what the fans themselves said they wanted. I’m thinking particularly of “Highlander”, “The Lone Ranger”, and “Starsky and Hutch”.

    Besides what you’ve mentioned — the ethical and philosophical problems at the core of every story — “Star Trek” original series had something else going for it: *ST was the first piece of public art in more than a generation which showed us a future we could believe in.* So did the subsequent series. In fact, “Enterprise” was very good at closing up little contradictions within the various series up to that point — such as why TOS Klingons had only split eyebrows while NG Klingons had turtle-shell foreheads. And I’ll forgive DS9 a multitude of sins for its episode about the Tribbles.

    The movies are another story. They’ve been steadily moving away from the ethical-dilemma themes and off into pure action/adventure shoot-em-ups, even wreaking havoc on the givens of the TV series (destroying Vulcan?! Give me a break!), only chasing after what the corporate bean-counters think that coveted “teenage demographic” wants. *Sigh* I wonder if they even asked a SciFi-loving group of teenagers what they want!

    Thus do the Captains of Industry brainlessly destroy their own product!

    –Leslie < Fish

  10. Alias – Rimbaldi = La Femme Nikita ripoff… Lost without flashbacks is Gilligan’s Island as a drama with a dash of x files thrown in. I for one love all things Trek BJ (before J took over). I even liked Enterprise to a point. Scott really gave a command performance as Captain Archer in the pre-Federation timeline. My only pet peeve was the last episode but it was a nice tie-in to the TNG episode of a section 31 screw up. I love the ST-Continues series but I think they forgot themselves when they said it was the largest standing replica of the original series. I think they should be about tied with Star trek New voyages/phase2 which is 10 years and running strong, Which it would have been nice to see a remark on the review as well. James Cawley and crew deserve that much. New show runner was just announced last week as none other then Hugo award winner (Martian Child) and writer of The Trouble With Tribbles TOS Episode, as well as Phase 2’s Blood & Fire 2 parter, David Gerrold. Bring on more Trek from Phase2 and Continues, here’s a thought, give the reigns of the franchise to Vic and James Cawley, I think it would be revived beyond our wildest dreams.

  11. Here’s a interview by JJ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wy_KI4KOwY

    @George : You’re probably someone who still lives with his english teacher of a mom who got shot down by James for an idea for a script you co-wrote with your mom to make a derogatory comment about James Cawley as being a ‘crybaby’. You obviously do not know him personally.

    @Zimmerman : That was a great read and Vic with his miracle crew deserves all the praise as it was an amazing 51 minutes.

    @Leslie : Yes, destroying Vulcan was actually an idea JJ Stole from Tim Russ’ film Star Trek of God’s and Men, as well as changing the timeline. At least Tim Russ and Renegade Co. put the original timeline back the way they found it! Even they had a tribble that was fixed, which is just what this world needs! (lol)

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