Star Trek Returns

The bootleg trailer for J.J. Abrams' Trek film is here, though probably not for long, and it kicks you upside the head like a good Romulan ale. The spoilers that have leaked out thus far, though, are less encouraging. A while back, in a debate with Peter Suderman that's vanished into the American Scene's lost archives, I argued that the Trek franchise needed a complete reboot - one that keeps the iconic characters, keeps the Enterprise's five-year mission, and keeps the basic outlines of the Federation-Klingons-Romulan political dynamic, but otherwise untangles itself from the burden of maintaining real continuity with the five television series and ten movies that have come before. I suggested Batman Begins as a model, and wrote: "If Star Trek is going to boldly go into the twenty-first century, it needs to consider becoming something a little bit more like the Superman and Batman stories - that is, a pop culture mythology that can be reinterpreted and refashioned every generation or so." (And of course another obvious model would be the radical - and radically successful - reboot that ex-Deep Space Nine scribe Ronald Moore provided to Battlestar Galactica, which has basically displaced Trek as the gold standard for modern space opera.)

Interestingly, Babylon Five's J. Michael Straczynski wrote a proposal for a Trek series in 2004 that was conceived along precisely these lines, promising to completely reimagine the Kirk-Spock-McCoy Enterprise's five year mission. But it looks like the franchise's custodians decided not to take the leap: Based on what we know about Abrams' Star Trek, it sounds like a straightforward, none-too-imaginative prequel to the original series - and worse still, one that's sufficiently insecure about its relationship to the canon (and the fan base, presumably) that it's shoehorned in Leonard Nimoy as a time-traveling Spock, in the same way that the first Next Generation film felt compelled to shoehorn in a quasi-time-traveling James T. Kirk.  Nothing soured me on the Trek franchise quite as much as its promiscuous use of time travel (culminating, of course in the absurd "Temporal Cold War" from Star Trek: Enterprise), and Abrams' decision to haul it out immediately as an excuse for a Nimoy cameo is a pretty bad sign, both for this film and for any others that end up following.

Update: Thanks to the Wayback Machine, here's my original tangle with Suderman in its entirety. (I had unkind things to say about time travel then, too.)