January 2, 2006

Nostalgia For An Age Yet To Come

You know it's inevitable, being the 40th anniversary of the show - Brits want it to return (why, when they have a cool new Doctor Who?), more rumors about another movie are bandied about...it makes it hard to like Trek. I loved the original series, liked The Next Generation, thought DS9 rocked, and with Voyager and Enterprise, saw my beloved series fall down harder than Pee Wee Herman's career.

Of course, I recently came across this Wired article about a fan-driven "continuation" of the original series. Star Trek: The New Voyages has been getting a lot of attention - and has even been entered in the Internet Movie Data Base. In fact, several key players - including a TOS Actor and Gene Roddenberry's son - have given their support to this endeavor. Was I being bitter or cynical, or should I at least give the latest episode - "In Harm's Way" - a chance?

Scouring the internet for download sites, I took advantage, and all I can say is...to paraphrase Public Enemy, Don't Believe the Hype.

To be totally fair, there are some really nice touches - there's a greater energy than the Original Series, and many of the effects shots are more in line with 21st Century television sci-fi than 1960s. Plus, Jack Cawley makes a pretty good Captain Kirk - emphasizing the daring and heroism in the character without leaving teeth marks in the scenery. (Imagine a slightly younger Robert Conrad as Captain Kirk, and you'll have a good - although slightly inaccurate - idea).

However, what turns me away from "In Harm's Way" is the overreliance on continuity. Yes, much like recent DC Comics, this film seems less like a celebration of the values of the original series and more like mediocre fan fiction. Doomsday machines, time travel, the Guardian of Forever - even the commentary reeks of "hey, look at what we did" versus expanding the universe Roddenberry created. In a way, the New Voyages is a step backward - celebrating not the pioneering spirit of the original series, but engaging in nostalgia for its own sake.

My advice, if you want to see some excellent Trek fan films, is simple - rent or purchase the Trekkies 2 DVD. Under Special Features, you'll find two short films - one a comic take; the other a mixture of Trek and westerns. Both of them are short, enjoyable, and really speak more about the flexible nature of Trek. In addition, you can read plenty of fan-written scripts at Star Trek: Renaissance, which makes no claims - nor seems to have sought - "official" approval, which is probably how it should be.

Ron Moore was right - Trek is back in the hands of the fans. It's somewhat disappointing that a small group is getting attention for focusing on the past rather than building towards the future.

And that's what the 40th Anniversary of Trek should be about - not nostalgia for an age yet to come.

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