Star Trek Prequel Movie

The new “Star Trek” prequel is out.   The reviews are mixed but Jar-Jar Binks is not featured, guaranteeing that it’ll be better than the first “Star Wars” prequel.

What’s interesting is how well the franchise has endured and how wide-ranging its appeal remains.  The show (since dubbed “The Original Series” or “TOS” by the fanbase) debuted when I was in diapers and went off the air three years later owing to low ratings but never went away.  There were spin-off books, merchandise, conventions and whatnot in the intervening years and then “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” in 1979.  This was followed by a goodly number of movies, mostly good, and several series, two of which were arguably better than the original, one of which was mediocre but watchable, and one of which lasted seven years for reasons unknown.

Scanning my Google Reader feeds, just about everybody loves Trek.  Liberals, conservatives, and libertarians. Polibloggers, tech bloggers, and foreign policy wonks.  People old enough to remember TOS from when it originally aired to those who know of Jean Luc Picard only through reruns and think “Voyager” is Old School.

Thomas P.M. Barnett is splurging for IMAX tix.  Glenn Reynolds has mentioned it a dozen times. Gabriel Malor thought it was great except for the soundtrack.  Thoreau makes joke predictions about the plot.  Jason Kottke loves Trek food.  Matt Yglesias wants to know what’s so “weird” about Gene Roddenberry’s utopian fantasies.  Alex Tabarrok thinks the movie revived the franchise despite weak action scenes and an effortless plot.  Even Rick Moran, who notes that TOS wasn’t exactly great sci-fi (a view shared by Orson Scott Card and others), considers himself a fan.

Peter Suderman notes several problems with TOS:  “The acting was hammy. The stories were often contrived, metaphorically heavy-handed, and downright bizarre. The special effects looked cheap; the sets seemed to have been constructed from Styrofoam blocks and cardboard boxes. The fight scenes often appeared to have been specially choreographed for geriatric stuntmen.”  Still, he argues, it connected with viewers with its bold vision for the future of humanity.

Meanwhile, my sometimes colleague Alex Knapp has rated “The Top Twenty Star Trek Episodes. Period.” while curiously omitting “The Trouble With Tribbles,” one of the most memorable.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Alex Knapp says:

    Hey, I like “Trouble With Tribbles” (as well as the DS9 sequel “Trials and Tribble-ations”) but it was ultimately too light to make the list…

  2. sam says:

    @JJ

    The reviews are mixed

    Hmmm, the four or five I’ve read were all laudatory.

    “The acting was hammy. The stories were often contrived, metaphorically heavy-handed, and downright bizarre. The special effects looked cheap; the sets seemed to have been constructed from Styrofoam blocks and cardboard boxes. The fight scenes often appeared to have been specially choreographed for geriatric stuntmen.”

    Yeah, but the women, man, the women.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    Still prefer TOS for the warmth and character. Heck, that’s how I feel about the first Star Wars. Success seems to breed a certain antiseptic, self-importance in science fiction.

    Agree with Alex Knapp on the City on the Edge of Forever, except er I’d move it to number one.

  4. Steve Verdon says:

    Mixed reviews? Rottentomatoes.com has it at 95%. That is out of a total of 195 reviews. Top critics put it at 91% and the fanbois (i.e. the RT community) puts it at 83% (this includes the types who would know that you can’t take turbo lift 34c to deck 17 and hence the movie is utter crap). By my mark that puts it at 5th so far for 2009.

  5. Fausta says:

    Go see it. Great fun, and more.

  6. Steve C. says:

    Sure the original series had it flaws. And Gene Rodenberry sold it to NBC as “Wagon Train to the Stars”. Which for the time was a not too bad bit of shorthand that TV execs could understand.

    At the time when pop hits were shows like Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan’s Island, Gunsmoke and Bonnanza it was both different and contemporary. Only in the 60s could you get women to wear micro mini uniforms with thigh high boots. Star Trek was the most expensive show to produce. That flashy transporter sequence consumed something like 60% of each show’s budget. And that was “invented” by the producers because the cost of landing an Enterprise on a planet each episode was so great that they got angina just thinking about it.

    Sure in retrospect it looks cheesy, but we have a perspective of 40 years and Star Wars effects. TV budgets just weren’t that great back then. The plots ranged from insightful to ridiculous. It was in essence a period piece that demonstrates what some people thought the sixties would turn out to be like. That they weren’t even close doesn’t detract from the inherent optimism.

  7. anjin-san says:

    Star Trek TOS had its limitations, it had to work with serious constraints in the area of budget, shooting schedules and creative turnaround time. In spite of that, Roddenberry managed to create an enduring classic.

    You can nitpick all you want. Half the episodes were not really that good, the writing just was not there. The other half more than made up for it. The next time you make a call on your cell or get on your computer, ask yourself if we would have these things in hand now had not the smartest kids of an entire generation grown up watching them in constant use on Star Trek and said to themselves “I want one of those”.

    Looking forward to the new movie. I thought Rick Berman had run Trek into the ground & am glad to see new life in an old favorite.

  8. Wayne says:

    Compare it to other special effects and Sci-fi in that era and it look pretty good. Even shows that came after it like “Space 1999”, Buck Rogers, and some show about a Space Garbage transport, all of which had worst special effects.

    I also would point out all the so call outlandish technology that was laugh at back then but look plausible today or even outdated by today technology.

  9. Triumph says:

    Scanning my Google Reader feeds, just about everybody loves Trek.

    I hate it.

    This is primarily due to the fact that the Trek is a product of Hollywood making it–by default–liberal. The film’s director, JJ Abrams, is a huge Obama supporter, making the film problematic in my book.

    I am sure the film is nothing but socialist dreck.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    I was an avid science fiction fan more than 50 years ago, I looked forward to TOS when it debuted, and I watched each and every episode the first time around. It was space opera, a style of science fiction that had all but vanished in print thirty years before but it’s the only genre that’s even remotely had a broad audience.

    Of course it’s corny. It’s space opera. The only question is whether it’s good space opera or bad space opera.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    “Trouble With Tribbles” lol, reminds me of our trouble with liberals, same plot line.

  12. anjin-san says:

    “Trouble With Tribbles” lol, reminds me of our trouble with liberals, same plot line.

    GA… Can’t you just let us have a friendly post about Star Trek without injecting your rather lame political comments into the mix? Let’s keep the flag of truce up over the music & movie posts…

  13. Tlaloc says:

    TOS had some wonderful character, and yes it was cheesy and the morals were heavy handed. But for the time it was amazingly interesting TV, and for any time it is hard to find a TV show that has had a bigger impact on the culture. That’s not just with regards to pop culture references, there were an awful lot of very forward looking aspects to the show; female officers, first inter-racial kiss, the crew included asians (actual, not a white guy in bad makeup), blacks, even a russian (at the height of the cold war!).

    But enough of that, despite Joyner’s coy phrasing let’s turn this into a good old fashioned fanboy flamefest-

    The new series are ranked as follows and anyone who disagrees is an idiot:

    1) Deep Space 9 (deep over arching plot, good acting, complicated and interesting politics)

    2) The Next Generation (first couple seasons were irredeemably stupid, after that occasional flashes of good stuff, and by the end of the series you had more hits than misses, loses points for the Q character and Wesley)

    3) Voyager (Premise had potential but almost never lived up to it, a few of the characters were interesting and developed- the doctor and 7 of 9 particularly, most of the others were cardboard- particularly Kim/Paris, Loses points for Chakotay)

    4) Enterprise (Good lord how can anything suck so much? Terrible cast, non-existent acting, idiotic plots, insultingly gratuitous titillation, Captain Quantum Leap, had a couple premises that might have been interesting if they hadn’t been handled with all the wit and deftness of a kindergarten class on PCP).

    What you got, biotch?

  14. anjin-san says:

    Rating the followers

    1. TNG – Strong characters, Picard, Riker, Data, Worf. Troi not so much but serious eye candy. Dr. Crusher was a decent character and her relationship with Picard made for some interesting story lines. Points off for Wesley, and Tasha Yar, who they at least had the good sense to kill. First season did pretty much suck, but they got it straightened out.

    Great new protagonists Q & the Borg. TNG produced some lame episodes, but when it was good, it was very, very good.

    2. I am not sure if there is any point in going on, all of the other shows were pretty bad.

    DS9, the only good characters were aliens. Avery Brooks is a good actor, but his endless smolder as Sisko got old fast. Jake was possibly more annoying then Welsey Crusher. Kira and Dax were truly awful, but they could both kick the crap out of a klingon who was 6′ 8″ 300 pounds and lived to fight. Very believable. Miles O’Brien was not too annoying in his minor role on TNG, but he got far too much screen time here. Did anyone ever give a rat’s ass about Bejor? Only the ferengi based episodes were worth watching. They tried to redeem the series by creating a war with the dominion, this is not what Roddenberry would have wanted.

    Voyager – Hmmm, There were some decent episodes, but not many. “Scorpion” was very good. Characters were all very forgettable.

    Enterprise. Rick Berman really tried hard to put the nail in the franchise coffin.

  15. JT says:

    Tlaloc – I generally agree with your analysis except I would switch 3 & 4 – I thought from the first that Voyager was exceedingly lame and never watched it. I thought that DS9 was the best of the new franchises, beating TNG by a good bit, esp. in its last season. Of course, none even come close to Babylon 5!

  16. Tlaloc says:

    Kira and Dax were truly awful, but they could both kick the crap out of a klingon who was 6′ 8″ 300 pounds and lived to fight.

    No, no, no. They could beat up Worf. Everyone beat up Worf. It was de rigeur on TNG that the bad guy one punch Worf. This was supposed to prove how bad he was but after it happened in every episode the audience had to conclude Worf was just a pansy.

    I distinctly remember an episode where Worf attacks an unarmed human med tech by surprise and actually wins! It was notable. (for the record it was the episode where an energy creature is picked up by the enterprise accidentally and it body jumps. So Worf was possessed when he attacked, maybe that’s why he won).

  17. sam says:

    Can we talk about the women, for Christ’s sake?

  18. Boyd says:

    GA… Can’t you just let us have a friendly post about Star Trek without injecting your rather lame political comments into the mix? Let’s keep the flag of truce up over the music & movie posts…

    Anjin, maybe you can have a word with Triumph, then.

  19. Rick DeMent says:

    Actually you could make a good argument that the current movie is technically not a prequel. Saw it last night ans was impressed with the story outline and how it was handled.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    Anjin, maybe you can have a word with Triumph, then.

    Ahh, but the key difference is that Triumph’s words are parody…G.A.Phillips appears to be quite serious…

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  22. Ben says:

    The new series are ranked as follows and anyone who disagrees is an idiot:

    1) Deep Space 9 (deep over arching plot, good acting, complicated and interesting politics)

    2) The Next Generation (first couple seasons were irredeemably stupid, after that occasional flashes of good stuff, and by the end of the series you had more hits than misses, loses points for the Q character and Wesley)

    Oh well thank god that we have someone as qualified as yourself to decide which of us are idiots and which are not.

    Couldn’t possibly disagree with you more.

    Avery Brooks isn’t even in the same goddamn galaxy as Patrick Stewart when it comes to acting chops. The distance between them is as large as from Shatner up to Brooks. Picard was everything I want in a series lead, whereas Sisko was a mopey, emo, cloud of gloom for 7 seasons. No thanks.

  23. Tlaloc says:

    Oh well thank god that we have someone as qualified as yourself to decide which of us are idiots and which are not.

    Couldn’t possibly disagree with you more.

    Thank god, finally someone who understands a flame war.

    Avery Brooks isn’t even in the same goddamn galaxy as Patrick Stewart when it comes to acting chops.

    now seriously…
    Patrick is a fine actor, no doubt, but too much of the time he was given trash writing. Only so much an actor can do with a TNG script. Brooks is a decent actor and had access to the vastly superior DS9 writing.