In an open letter to the creators of the upcoming Star Trek CBS series, science fiction author Steven Erikson makes a plea for the new show to embody the characteristics that made the Original Series so universal and posits, “Star Trek will survive on the quality of its drama – not on the special effects, not on the strange aliens, and not, alas, on the legacy of what has gone before.”
Below is Part I of a three part series. Read on in Part II and Part III.
Dear Bryan and Alex,
It is no accident that the last two starships (if we take the latest trailer as accurate) named the Enterprise have crashed into ruin on planets. No better symbol can be imagined for the descent of Gene Roddenberry’s dream, and the close, undeniable parallel that is our collective loss of faith in a better future.
The Enterprise is destroyed (again) in Star Trek Beyond
This is not an essay pointing a finger of blame at the Star Trek franchise. As influential as Trek is to our past, present and future mythology, it nevertheless more often served to reflect cultural mores, as opposed to guiding them. And yet, in its original manifestation, Star Trek sought precisely that: to guide and instruct. Somewhere along the way, the boldness of that vision, with its blazing optimism, fell away.
The reasons for why this happened are myriad, and probably worth some contemplation before I proceed towards offering a manifesto of sorts for the future of the franchise. If this notion – of a manifesto – seems both presumptuous and pointedly uninvited, that’s fine. I am proceeding from a notion of what Star Trek offered to us all, to what it became, and ultimately, to where it is going, particularly now on the cusp of a new television series within the Star Trek universe. And I am doing all this from the standpoint of a lifelong fan, an undaunted Trekker caught in a cycle of optimism and disappointment with every new ST iteration that comes along.
Every work of art and every creative endeavor is a product of its time. As such, it reflects the world in which it was created, addressing imminent issues, concerns and attitudes. The nature of this reflection can be reactive or proactive. It can recoil towards a stalwart defense of the status quo in times when that status quo is perceived as threatened; or it can advance the shift in paradigm and thus effect, as best it can, social change.
Few would argue the stance Gene Roddenberry took with his original vision of Star Trek. The man was an unrepentant Revolutionary, a humanist of the highest order, and his vision of a distant future civilization of humans united rather than divided, tolerant as opposed to intolerant, enlightened rather than benighted, was the driving force for the original series.
Curiously, at the time of its production, there was no paralyzing consequence when it came to invoking high drama among the characters in the original series: that would come later with The Next Generation.
The original series offered us strong, recognisable characters. So consistent in their traits, these characters became predictable in their anticipated reaction to events in the episodes, and this was not a bad thing, not a weakness but a strength. We knew how McCoy would react. We watched with glee the foil that Spock often provided. We well understood the battles between emotion and reason, and how Kirk bridged the two time and again. We recognised Scotty’s reverence for his ship, Chekov’s nationalistic pride, Sulu’s quiet ambition, Rand’s adoration of her captain, Uruhu’s love of music, Chapel’s unrequited love for Spock…
These may seem simplistic now, but they aren’t. They are crucial in their consistency, utterly necessary in the conflicts they invite for the crew of the Enterprise. They lie at the heart of the natural drama of the Original Series, acting in response to the weekly external sources of conflict or threat. They were the spine upon which the burden of the unknown settled, week after week, out in the depths of space, and the strain and struggle of that burden delivered to us, the viewer, that essential identification and empathy for the crew of the Enterprise.
Contrast that with the crew of The Next Generation. Sure, we had Data in his desire to be human. We had Picard as the reluctant commander, and every now and then, we had Worf doing something other than voicing the wrong opinion on the bridge and having his violent impulses swiftly reigned in by Picard. The other characters? Few had predictable traits, distinct or definitive personalities. Most of their lines could have been uttered by another character, with little effect on the story. Even Troi’s psionic empathy served mostly to advance the story via expository short-cuts, offering up observations that any competent person might surmise based on tone and body language. Riker – who was he? Does anybody know? Dr. Crusher? More robotic than Data. Geordi? Set aside the technobabble and who was he? Oh, right, he was a nice guy. They were all nice. And that was the problem.
I watched the entirety of this series in a state of frustration. Now, Roddenberry himself was responsible for the Happy Camper setting of TNG, insisting that there be no conflict between the regulars. To this day, I do not understand his thinking with this. Any future civilization based upon humanist precepts is actually dependent upon discourse and a participatory role that embraces all points of view. It thrives on debate, on the strength of language in navigating the moral challenges awaiting it. More to the point, there is no conceivable future for us where we have been immunized from internal conflict, from battles of conscience and episodes of soul-searching doubt. The absence of all this in the Roddenberry years of TNG made its cast into a host of zombies, constricted, paper-thin, unified in the blandest sense of the word.
Bryan, you have been quoted regarding your sense of this Roddenberry sensibility, describing his (and Star Trek’s) legacy as one “that is all-inclusive. It’s a world that promises an evolution of the human condition; that had moved on beyond hate and fear, and embraced true Christian values of tolerance, acceptance, and loving thy neighbour, and being inspired by thy neighbour” (Star Trek Magazine, Issue 56). A most laudable sentiment, as much humanist as it is Christian. You go on to say that “Roddenberry was very insistent … that these are evolved human beings, so they didn’t have conflict with each other, they have conflict outside.”
The Next Generation series (and those that followed) revealed the flaw in that thinking. A world where everyone agrees is not a world embracing tolerance; it is in fact its very opposite, defined by an absolute homogeneity of thought and world-view. A humanity that has reached a point where everyone agrees on everything, has become a species of automaton, and one can only wonder at a civilization-wide education system that hammers out dissent, scepticism, free-thinking and diversity of thought. The original series was unafraid of conflicting points of view among its cast of regulars. TNG and those series that followed seemed terrified of it.
“Star Trek will survive on the quality of its drama – not on the special effects, not on the strange aliens, and not, alas, on the legacy of what has gone before.”
In imagining a future humanity that has left social and cultural conflict behind, Roddenberry seemed to have conflated that collective ideal with a homogenized collection of (non)personalities, and now I fear the same for this new series. My heart went out to those actors as they struggled to find out who they were supposed to be; nor was it enough to simply paint layer after layer of experience upon these characters: like the Enterprise itself, no evidence of wear and tear showed itself in those characters (until later in the series), and what did eventually come owed as much to the physical ageing of those actors as anything else.
If the previous commentary on TNG infuriates the fans of that ST series, I do apologise. I mean, I get it. It got better. It acquired gravitas as the years went on. Some wonderful episodes were done and some secondary characters were brilliantly conceived (Q). I don’t deny any of that. But … the original series needed what, four, five episodes, to utterly nail its cast of regulars? By the first season’s end, did anyone doubt who Spock was, or McCoy, or Kirk? No. We knew them. We watched them, avidly, and we were right there with them, in adventure after adventure.
The distinction is important. Television is now the most dominant media when it comes to dramatic visual storytelling: the level of quality has never been higher. Star Trek will survive on the quality of its drama – not on the special effects, not on the strange aliens, and not, alas, on the legacy of what has gone before. Bryan and Alex, don’t handcuff the actors and scripwriters by insisting on the fundamental flaw on Roddenberry’s later thinking. The story needs to reflect diversity of thought, needs to explore the clash of opinions, and above all, needs to tackle issues and subjects where both sides can be right, and no simple solution is possible.
Take Star Trek and stand apart, and we will follow you.
Read on in Part II and Part III.
Steven Erikson is the author of 26 fantasy and science-fiction books, including the ten volume epic fantasy series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen, and the Star Trek-inspired Willful Child series (Book Two out this fall). He is also an inveterate Trekker and has been since watching the original series as it came out back in the sixties.
What a load of claptrap.
Make a decent TV show and people will watch it.
TNG was different to TOS, as was DS9 different to TNG and TOS – I hope this new show has a unique voice as well.
Just for fun, let’s see how many agree/disagree with the author:
What you are doing is expositing the r-side of r/K Selection Theory, perfectly so. Shatner Trek is K; Picard Trek onward is r.
Kirk is a wolf bred for competition and winning. Picard is a rabbit bred to avoid conflict and take in the endless bounty.
Manliness versus bleh.
r/K explains all.
Picard is the better humanist and better in line with Gene’s vision in the world we live in today.
I hope this is a joke.
I get that this guy speaks for a certain percentage of the fan base, but I’m with you, this has to be a joke.
This kind of ideal is actually irritating and for some reason, these people think that their opinions are the only ones that matter where it concerns Star Trek.
Comic Book Guy just got one-upped.
I am a lifelong Trekker going back to the 70s, and I disagree with almost everything I just read here.
Started OK, but drifted into daftness. Always up for a good read about Star Trek. This wasn’t it.
Star Trek Into Daftness
These two comments provided me more entertainment than the article. :-)
I stopped reading at “Uruhu’s”.
Pretty tired of self-declared defenders of Gene’s optimistic, hopeful, change embracing original vision that in fact are so narrow minded that can’t look past 1969 and do nothing but nitpick for the sake of being the most authentic fans. For me that is just the opposite of what Trek is. I’m tired of Star Trek bashing, really. Every Trek is different, get over it, some better, some worse, I’ve enjoyed it all, and I don’t expect it to be like TOS or TNG ever again, that is what evolution is.
Get a life, man.
TBH I didn’t read the full thing… and honestly. I am not the one who really needs to.
It’s the producers who do (Fuller and Kurtzman).
Now, what they make of it, as well as considering other feedback, criticism and reaction to Star Trek Beyond, I think will be what matters and has a direct influence on the development team (even if only to a minor extent). I don’t think it’s too bold to say, that we saw a positive reaction to the feedback from the wider Trek community with Jason Lin etc. in regards to the direction and additions it seems that were made after the the first trailer for ‘Beyond’ was released, as well as recognition of feedback on fan-films with J.J. Abrams (though I feel the jury is still out on that one, till we see the new Fan-film Prime Directive).
Reading a statement from Fuller or Kurtzman is the one I am interested in at the end of the day regarding the new series, not an open letter from an unattached fan- though Kudos to Erikson for taking the time out to put his views on paper.
I would hope that something more akin to what were the best parts of Star Trek’s history make it in to the new series, or truly inspire something even greater for the next 50 years, and I remain hopeful that this happens given optimistic attitude of those we know are attached to the project moving ahead :)
Who was Will Riker?
Riker grew up without a lot of love. He lacked a consistent positive female role model, and learned discipline from a father that worked very hard to maintain a paternal dominance over his son. As a result, Riker grew up with a chip on his shoulder, a brash arrogant demand for perfection from both himself and those around him. But at the same time, he developed an appreciation for hedonistic comforts as a substitute for the more meaningful, unconditional love evaded him starting with the early death of his mother.
Who was Beverly Crusher?
Trying to balance the roles of a professional in Starfleet and a widowed mother, Beverly sometimes lacked the confidence that comes with the more singleminded focus that many of her peers enjoyed. Her status, as well as her profession, kept her a little bit closer to the heart than to the harsh logical realities of her duty. This heartfelt approach often alienated her from the other senior officers, creating an air of timidity among many strong personalities. But that timidity was not unwavering, as she could become a fierce defender of a more moral approach.
Who was Geordie LaForge?
Geordie was disabled. We all know that, but I don’t think we really acknowlege the impact that it had on his character. He was different- and even in the enlightened 24th century, that difference followed him. Being dependant on technology for his meaningful survival, Geordie developed an appreciation and knowlege surrounding technology. As a result, he often felt more comfortable around machines than humans (hence his friendship with Data). He was an incredibly competent engineer, and an incredibly hard worker- also fighting to prove his strength in the face of his disability. At times, his differences hampered his interpersonal life, as he became introverted to all but those he closely worked with, struggling to engage a meaningful love life.
The characters of Star Trek: The Next Generation are well developed to a degree meeting or surpassing the characters of the original Star Trek. I personally consider TNG to be the apex Trek in this regard. The personalities presented offer a complete and consistent picture of individuals who’s actions flow inexorably from his or her established traits. The claims about TNG from this article are baseless, and indicative of an ignorance surrounding the series. Perhaps a more open-minded rewatch is in order.
Wow… I watched every episode of TNG and while the backstory of those characters were revealed (eventually) none of that detail was really a part of it. This sounds like embellishment of what was shown or it was in the novels (where that kind of character detail can be more easily fleshed out) somewhere.
I happen to agree with the writer. As notable as TNG was, the characters were weak and bland. Worf was the most interesting guy there being the “fish out of water”. I recall me and my Trek friends while we all enjoyed watching new Trek, sometimes felt the show would be a ton better if it were set aboard a Klingon ship. I think the author was right about TNG. The lines by most of the actors could have been interchanged with nearly anyone. Not so on TOS. Will move on to read the next parts now to see what else we might agree on….
DS9 had what this author speaks of. Diversity of characters, conflict, tolerance. DS9 is the successor to TOS, in spirit.
That’s exactly what I was thinking–of all the post TOS shows, in my opinion, DS9 was the closest to the spirit of TOS.
Agreed. DS9 was the best of Trek. Unforgettable.
Based on the replies you have made to others, it sounds to me that you were so focused on TNG not being TOS that you missed all of these things entirely. They were there on the screen for all to see. One of the great things about storytelling is that a story can mean something different to each person. It can also mean something different to an individual depending on what is going on in their life. When one is so focused on the story not being another story they liked, opportunities are missed.
What the author is looking for is a fantastical future where characters and races are not even remotely believable and everyone we meet is peaceful or just simply misunderstood. This has no foundation in any sort of reality. TV shows stand on the relate-ability of their characters.
One of the examples of missteps he cited was of Sisko selling out his integrity and morality in order to get the Romulans into the Dominion War. That made the conflict Sisko was dealing with something we could all relate to. What would each one of us do? Thousands are dying, daily. How do we stop the bloodshed? Do we stand on moral high ground and risk the loss of our free society or do we compromise our personal integrity and morality to serve the greater good?
A better future doesnt have to mean that we all live in harmony with every single species we meet. A better future means that we are able to extend our ideals of freedom and equality to those who want it and defend it from those who want to take it away.
Funny thing is, I can see Kirk doing exactly the same thing Sisko did. Maybe not Picard, surely not pre-Locutus Picard… but Kirk? He totally would.
I totally see Kirk doing what Sisko did. In fact, I think Kirk had more similar traits with Sisko than Picard. Furthermore, I think Picard would be the one Captain of the 5 that might not do it. The other 4 I think would in a heartbeat.
Kirk basically did, in “The Enterprise Incident”.
“fantastical future where characters and races are not even remotely believable and everyone we meet is peaceful or just simply misunderstood. This has no foundation in any sort of reality. TV shows stand on the relate-ability of their characters.”
That is TNG in a nutshell. With the caveat that the aliens were not so much misunderstood but more that the human way of looking at things was ALWAYS the best way. Patrick Stewart is probably the best actor to appear on any version of Trek. Yet his character was so amazingly uninspiring because the guy was so perfect. He was perfect in everything he did. Not only was he the best ambassador and peace negotiator the Federation had, but he was also their best military strategist. He was so perfect he never came across as human. In fact, this was the genesis behind having him taken by the Borg. Audiences had a hard time accepting Picard as they saw him as cold and uncaring. He never really seemed human until he had his humanity stripped away. It is a credit to Stewart’s acting chops that he was able to give such a bland character as much charisma as was possible.
DS9 moved away from this model. They WANTED to create a conflict among the characters and they all got fleshed out way more than anyone on TNG ever did. The example of Sisko’s moral dilemma you mentioned is a perfect example of the other series’ moving away from the Roddenberry-esque “perfect human” crew. It was good for the franchise. That is where I tend to differ from the author above. What he said about TOS vs TNG was right on. But TNG’s lack of personal conflict did not move on to DS9, VOY or even ENT.
Capt JW Amick,
I think you present a false choice in your final paragraph. We can communicate and learn from every species we meet without having perfect chemistry or perfect agreement, simply respect for others’ cultural differences. That’s not counter to freedom and equality, but one of the most important ways to implement it. The other way to reach that goal is to meet everyone’s economic needs. As Roddenberry famously told Jonathan Frakes “There will be no war, no greed, and every child will learn to read.”
We’re closer than ever to making that possible with countries experimenting with guaranteed basic incomes. Thinkers are even analyzing Federation economics in book form: https://www.inkshares.com/books/trekonomics
That future is not as fantastical as we think it is, but we must have the will to do it. If the next show can inspire politicians and economists the way Trek has always inspired scientists and engineers, then we’ll be making real steps toward that future.
The economics of Trek are very far fetched. It takes more than just a guarantee of basic income to ensure everyone has their basic needs satisfied. Guaranteeing income has another side effect, rapid inflation which decreases the buying power of the consumer.
Reality is that in order to guarantee access to food and basic necessities, you need first to have access to an unlimited energy supply and an unlimited supply of goods. Until that happens, there will always be some who have and some who do not.
As to your original point about my last paragraph, I’m trying to understand how you can come to the conclusion that I am presenting a false choice. The reality is there will ALWAYS be that status in the universe. There will always be those from outside wanting to destroy what is inside. While we, as a species, may some day eliminate war, greed and guarantee education for every child within our own society, we will never be able to control the circumstances outside our society to a point where every other society is benevolent towards us. It is simply not reality and it never will be. Because of this fact, there will ALWAYS be a need to defend our society from threats outside seeking to destroy and control.
Thank you for your thoughtful response.
“Wah. It’s different. I don’t like things that are different. Here’s a bunch of poorly-written justifications as to why I don’t like things that are different.”
No one cares.
Besides, as the late, great Roger Ebert once said, it’s not important what the [show] is about. It’s HOW it is ABOUT it. As people have already written above, make a good show, and people will watch it. The rest is hot air.
What a boring, pompous, long winded pile of crap. Absolutely tedious. This guy speaks for no one.
…you shouldnt speak so harshly of TNG! Tedious? Yes. Pompous? Yes. Long winded? Absolutely. But it did have a few good episodes.
“It is no accident that the last two starships named the Enterprise have crashed into ruin on planets.”
It’s also not even true. Enterprise-E is alive and kicking. If someone is going to get on a high horse, he should first make sure it’s the right horse.
He’s referring to the Enterprises from Star Trek: Into Darkness, and the upcoming Star Trek film, in which the trailer shows the Enterprise crashing
It was the Vengeance that crashed in Into Darkness, though. The Enterprise was able to arrest its descent. The only Enterprises that ever crashed onto a planet were the original refit, the D, and prospectively the Abramsverse one, only one of which could be considered among the ‘last’.
If he’s referring to Into Darkness, then he’s wrong. It’s that simple.
I’m not entirely sure why this article was even published. It’s poorly written, needlessly negative and indicative of a writer who has more disdain for Star Trek than appreciation. Plus, it’s riddled with factual errors and typos. TrekMovie.com is better than this.
It’s poorly written, needlessly negative and indicative of a writer who has more disdain for Star Trek than appreciation.
Which is how I often view the multitude of comments wrote on this website about the JJ Abrams films, which I happen to enjoy.
My advice – read “The Making of Star Trek” from the 60s; especially the letters where Roddenbery cared about making an entertaining AND thought provoking piece of entertainment. Wagon train to the Stars. Wagon train to the Stars. Wagon train to the Stars. This isn’t about a perfect future man no one in the audience can or will identify with – today’s man, tomorrow’s future. See that phaser, it is a pistol that people believe in. The Enterprise is a cruiser. The Captain acts like a destroyer Captain in Vietnam. Warp drive works because it gets you to entertaining places, just make it works in a way they think it is real. It’s good versus evil on occasion with some shades of gray because it’s a rough universe out there. But it is our destiny to want to explore it, to understand it and to better ourselves. I take offense to any post that argues that Trek should show the perfect human – if these people are perfect that who are we bettering – ourselves or all these aliens? If there is nothing left to learn, that I guess it makes sense that we’d all chill in the holodeck as opposed to trying to help the poor miners trying to survive mining dilithium.
Roddenberry later admitted that “Wagon Train to the Stars” was just a gimmick he used to sell the show, because that’s what it took in an era focused on Westerns. It wasn’t a very accurate description of the show, and he knew it.
Is there a Cliff Notes version of this open letter?
The difference was always only superficial. What made Star Trek good – what made ALL Star Treks good – was always one and the same thing. Star Trek is, above all, about values, and the consistency of those values. Kirk may be different from Picard who may be different from Sisko, just like Kim is different from Uhura who is different from Mayweather – but their values is what they have in common. Their duty to the service; their responsibility to the humankind; their adherence to the principles; their curiosity and thirst for knowledge; and, last but not least, their loyalty to their crew and their ship.
Yes, modern Star Trek could use more consistency. It’s not easy to do a show for seven years straight, with so many writers and directors rotating around, and stay consistent. First two seasons tend to feel weird, the last season tends to feel superfluous. About half of the episodes in every show could’ve been pruned without losing anything. There’s a lot of fluff that did not need to be made at all. But, as a whole, those shows still have all the important factors that make it Star Trek.
Yes, I still insist Babylon 5 is more Star Trek than Voyager ever was (just like The Event Horizon was more Star Trek than Nemesis). But that doesn’t mean Voyager and Nemesis are not Star Trek. It just means they aren’t the *best* Star Trek. ;)
Once I read the first couple sentences, I stopped. I knew what this would be about: yet another in a long line of bashing the action/adventure aspect of Star Trek (which was one of the first sentences in the TOS Writers’ Guide) and having this utopian view of people sitting around in a briefing room talking.
There is this misplaced belief in a perfect society that Gene Roddenberry bought into with those he surrounded himself with in later years, which was not at all his original concept of Star Trek.
Fuller and Kurtzman, as interested in what fans have to say, probably have no time to read an elongated plea from a fan who feels they are speaking for all fans (and that’s not the case). They’re right now busy working on casting, sets, music, effects, scripts and other work that goes into making a television series. One that they have to walk the line between what they want but will also garner a return for CBS. I, for one, will cancel my All Access if it means seeing people in Starfleet uniforms standing on the bridge talking for an hour. I want to be entertained. I want to forget the everyday world for an hour a week. I want new worlds and the adventures that happen on them.
If you don’t like the action/adventure, I’m sure your DVDs and Blu Rays have not been erased. You’ve got plenty of hours to watch of utopia in space.
Well, this editorial did one thing: It convinced me never to read any of Erikson’s books. Not because of what he says–I actually agree with a lot of it–but because he takes over 4,300 words (across all 3 parts) to say a whole lot of nothing while offering barely anything of value. Long-winded, bloated writing that includes factual errors, internal inconsistencies, and very little of substance? Sorry, but that’s exactly the kind of author I avoid.
The meat of his message? “Please don’t make a crappy show.”
Well said. This is NOT a very good writer.
Here is the only paragraph of value in the entire 3-part epic–the very last paragraph:
“Bryan and Alex…The Original Series offered us an optimistic vision of the future, and it looked good, without ever compromising the necessity and vitality of dramatic conflict among the crew-members. More than that: the Original Series inspired us. Please offer it again. Invite us into the spirit of hope, embodied by a vision of the future that sees and celebrates the best in us. Now more than ever, we need it.”
Everything else (literally) is just bloated, boring whining.
One persons point of view does not speak for the masses.
So he wrote a few books and over examined Star Trek into an almost college level thesis best left on a dusty old self.
This is worst then a joke.
It’s a sad commentary of a restricted mind trying to get what they want.
It’s less then a tantrum but by no means any better.
I’ll admit I like my Star Trek characters more like TOS.
Big, bold, larger then life with the every day humor with real emotions just as we all handle the riggers of life.
I was never a fan of the mono sterilized humanity portrayed by TNG. That would truly be a future of the dull.
Star Trek above all is entertainment.
I may not like every form it takes, but I don’t have too, nor should you.
I happen to think that TNG captured my ideal vision for a Gene Roddenberry future more than TOS did. I enjoyed it far more than I ever did TOS. With that said, each Trek series offered a slightly different interpretation of Star Trek and expanded the canon of Star Trek in meaningful ways. There simply is no single, universally correct interpretation of Star Trek. Even Gene Roddenberry realized this.
I never understood the TOS love. It was fine for what it was, a sixties kind of vision of the future… Lets keep that locked in the sixties. Times have changed, just like almost every other Trek series. I hope the new series is different as well, without losing the canon though. Star Trek’s history is what makes this show great, without it, it’s shallow.
He doesn’t speak for me one bit. I can enjoy JJ Trek, Berman Trek, Orci Trek, Lin Trek, Roddenbury Trek, Bennet Trek, Mayor Trek, et al.
The diversity of the offer is what keeps me engaged. It has to feel fresh, current, and futuristic, and focus on character and story.
These ultra-purists are a very small minority, and are already catered for with 79 episodes of TOS, 6 or so movies, and the many fan films paying homage to the original. Is that not enough?
The whole survival thing is simple. Will it make money? Will it continue to bring new fans in and keep people engaged. If yes, then it will.
LLAP ALL STAR TREK.
Well said, Mr. Erikson. I’ve been saying the same thing since 1987. As an original series fan, the journey through TNG…and I watched every episode…was a constant exercise in frustration. What wasted potential. Did Gene Coon, DC Fontana and the host of other behind the scenes talent, along with the great writers contribute so much more than Gene Roddenberry to the overall “feel” and soul of the original series? Witnessing TNG as well as TMP almost 20 years earlier, I would have to say yes. Sadly, all subsequent spin-offs used this “new coke” formula of Trek to hammer out 3 more series…all of which suffered from the same symptoms. I have faith in Fuller and Kurtzman…they, like JJ, understand the differences between the beginning and the rest. I think the new series will reflect that understanding and be full of great characters, imaginative, sexy science fiction, romance, humor and swashbucking action/adventures.
Star Trek Lives!
The idea that TNG’s characters were at all bland and nondescript is very strange to me. Riker was a brash romantic that was constantly in conflict with his past, present and future (heck it’s a primary plot point in Best of Both Worlds). Data was in the midst of a constant hunt towards humanity, exploring such things by way of a childlike, almost naive hyperliteral demeanor. Geordi was enthusiastic but heavily rational, with (as a previous poster observed) a longing for interpersonal relations that he couldn’t quite muster. Troi’s emotional sensitivity was unparalleled, regardless of her Betazoid abilities. Worf was constantly in a struggle between his Klingon heritage and human upbringing, emphasizing his klingon traits and sense of duty and honor to a fault. PIcard was a staunch intellectual with a sense of national and organizational pride. Barclay was neuroses personified. Beverly might be the one weak link here, but is made up for by her warmth and professionalism. If you gave me any random line from TNG I, or many others here, could probably pinpoint which character said what, regardless of prior episode knowledge. Yes, they’re a lot more serious and not as endearingly quirky as the cast of TOS, but that’s more than made up for with the subtle details.
Bro do you even Star Trek?
Agreed. You can tell the stark differences between season 1 and the rest of the TNG, and you can pretty much see GR’s influences early on. From the brief scenes featuring civilian life in season 1, you would think that Federation society is bland and white-bread with no diversity, and that the only way to depict humans otherwise is to have rogues (TNG: “The Outrageous Okona”), weirdos (TNG: “When the Bough Breaks”) or failed colonies (TNG: “Legacy”). However, I do understand the appeal of living in a utopian society. After all, why wait for “Heaven”, when you can make Heaven on Earth?
My god Trek fans are whiney babies…call a Whambulence. It’s Fiction…have some fun with it.
Incorrect. It’s very apparent from the follow-up posts that practically no one agrees with the article writer, who is getting soundly trounced. He does NOT represent Star Trek fans.
Sorry, but under 70 comments and rebuttals ,by a few handfuls of the same posers, does not a “trouncing” make. Lol
So those who disagree with the author are now posers?
That pretty much negates any point you might make.
…sorry, should have read… “the same posters”., I lost a “t” somewhere.
For its time, TOS was groundbreaking. I consider it among the most important shows every to hit the airwaves, far more important than any successive iteration. But that being said, it is still a product of its time. The characters were constrained by a slow episode pace, a kind of dumbing down that networks at the time demanded, and a demand for dense episodism, rather than allowing things to bloom over time.
As such, if we’re looking apples to apples, TOS is the very worst of the Star Trek series to develop characters and give us a meaningful picture of their backgrounds. Much of the TOS crew relied on stereotype and cliche to convey their personality.
In fact, I would say that the TOS crew was developed far more meaningfully in their six original moves, than in the entirety of the TV series. Only there did we get to see who these people actually became, what motivates them, and how they really bore the scars of their duty.
It’s a shame that TOS was a product of such a stifling era. But it was also one elements that has led to a more enlightened future in television.
I have to disagree. If I love a 1967 Mustang, BECAUSE it’s a 1967 Mustang…and I want a new car, that has all the features and design aesthetics that remind me of the 1967 Mustang….I’m not going to want a 2016 Honda, just because it’s smarter, gets better mileage and is a product of modern times. TNG and the spinoffs made a big switch….they substituted healthy peas for the cherry cobbler. Yes, a modern Trek will be great, but it needs to look and resemble THE Star Trek, in more ways than just the name in the opening titles.
Thanks for sucking the positive vibes out of the room. This was unnecessary. We’ve been saying for so long that we want something that’s good. Star Trek isn’t about a flawless future, it’s about bringing out the best in humanity or (for the sake of the aliens) “one’s self.” That being said, you don’t release a letter like this after the positive few days that’s going on for Trek. It’s essentially the buzz kill. You’ve got people who have written and done very well for Trek (Meyer, etc).
One thing about Trek is you can get different things out of it. I was 2 years old when TOS came out too young to remember anything. Later it came out in syndication I was very young and liked it because there were aliens ,monsters and Star-ships. As I got older I dug the adventure and Sci-fi elements. When the new series came out as time went on I also appreciated the the character interaction,social commentary and vision.
TV shows and movies are signs of the Times. TOS is dated(not in a bad way), you can tell it was made in the 60’s not just 60’s retro. Slow paced westerns and quirky fantasy shows,mini- skirts and beehive hairdos were big back then. Social and political themes of the times were reflected and explored.
Times change. TNG, DS9,Voyager reflected the late 80’s and 90’s. Change ,how far we have come or pushing the limits, You know like, Where (NO ONE) has gone before.
I know Enterprise first few episodes were produced before (9/11)but it seems to me the theme of the series was about ,overcoming fear and moving forward.
I enjoy all of them for different reasons. The next series should be it’s own and I like the idea of an anthology approach, variety is good !
The thing that worries me most about the teaser is the phrase “new villains.” Even when Trek heroes face foes, they’re not supposed to face villains, but antagonists with whom they can meet in the middle. I hope that’s just marketing.
Agreed. This makes me think of Kodos the Executioner, the Horta, and the Companion. These were foes/antagonists that weren’t really doing what they were doing for the sake of being an evil villain. They just had an agenda that was in opposition to the fundamentals/goals of the Federation/Enterprise crew.
….and Kor, who killed thousands of Organians, in order to control by fear…or Claudius, from Bread and Circuses…who sent Kirk, Spock and McCoy to die in the arena, fighting against gladiators for high ratings….or Lord Garth, killing because he was just plain crazy…or The sadistic, twisted games enjoyed by Parmen…or the Gorgon….or Ron Tracy…etc etc.
Star Trek had villains. Sure there were misunderstood enemies…but the series had bad, evil, rotten-egg villains, make no mistake about it, and they were great episodes.
Seriously? Klingons were called villains although we ALL look back and see that it’s not that black and white. The Gorn are called villains, the Cardassians were called villains. Why would you not expect to hear the label of villains. There’s even many Trekkies who rank “best Trek villains.” I see what you’re saying but for the sake of labels, it works fine to use the label villain. Let viewers make their own judgements when the series plays out, as has always been the case.
I stopped reading when I got to the part that questioned the character of Riker. “Who was he?” He was the guy who was young and immature. When he past was revealed, shown to be quite flawed under other commanders. Someone battle tested and gained experience. Someone who had to make hard decisions (See Best of Both Worlds, etc) and someone who was devoted to the mission and his Captain. Enough so, to swallow his pride and ego, turning down multiple command opportunities to remain under Picard and the Enterprise.
This article above is full of crap. The End.
I think Roddenberry’s precept of a lack of conflict is often understood. At least subsequent writers on the TV shows interpreted his words to mean that people would not have selfish motives; they would agree on the goals of the mission, but disagree with the methodology. That was actually followed in TNG as well as all the rest of the shows. It meant that the focus of the show was on problem-solving and cooperation, rather than fighting each other. Sometimes motives and methods conflicted, but people gave each other the benefit of the doubt. I think there’s plenty of room for drama within that context.
Is it possible for Trekmovie to publish a rebuttal to this Editorial?
An article talking about Trek with a bit more of optimistic viewpoint.
If we do get that article, maybe it can be accompanied by a photo of Kirk Spock and Mcoy laughing as opposed to the tone of the photo that was attached to this editorial.
They look awfully glum in the photo above .
Anybody know which episode that is from?
All that’s really needed as a rebuttal to this ludicrous editorial is the following statement: “No.”
One thing is abundantly clear: the writer simply doesn’t understand Star Trek and doesn’t know his history.
On the contrary, I think maybe it is you who may need to revisit TOS to better understand Trek’s true history where the author is coming from. The sooner you realize that the entire sum of TOS is radically different from TNG and the spin-offs, in practically every way imaginable…the sooner you will be able to understand his perspective.
I am well aware of the differences. But the simple fact is that the author of this article clearly doesn’t know TOS history as well as he purports to.
Trek fans need to give up the fantasy that there is this one franchise called Star Trek that all these different shows are part of. You liked TNG and DS9 and Voyager? Great, but they are NOT Star Trek. TOS is it’s own thing, and clearly this article is attempting to explain the classic greatness of TOS that was missing from every other incarnation and especially in the juvenile nu-Treks.
In NO WAY does the author want to do what many commenters here suggest he says. He specifically wants to AVOID the bland, nice, everybody loves each other characters who sit around talking… hallmarks of TNG He has nothing against action-adventure. But every character needs to have broad identifiable traits that make them interesting. Not a costume, or a power, or a gimmick… a PERSONALITY. Something that few characters outside of TOS every had.
I for one, am hoping for self-contained hour shows that follow the classic prologue-four act-epilogue format. Hopefully that avoid the TNG trap of talking for 50 minutes until someone says some gibberish, pushes some magic buttons, and makes the problem go away.
I suggest reading the THESE ARE THE VOYAGES series to see how Coon, Justman, Fontana and Robertson would beat a script proper dramatic structure, while highlighting every characters unique personality.
“Great, but they are NOT Star Trek.”
What a monumentally ridiculous statement.
With the exception of our opinion on Nu-Trek, I agree with you. I think everything else mentioned was on-the-money. Well said!
I sometimes wonder why some of you guys even come to this board. Several of you are so freakin’ negative, it’s abundantly clear you don’t agree with Star Trek’s core concepts.
I for one, am hoping for self-contained hour shows that follow the classic prologue-four act-epilogue format. Hopefully that avoid the TNG trap of talking for 50 minutes until someone says some gibberish, pushes some magic buttons, and makes the problem go away.
It’s this kind of old school format that will DOOM any new series. Television habits and wants have changed drastically. The audiences now prefer serialization and long running story arcs. This is why Enterprise failed because it was originally episodic with little character development (and was poorly written). By the time it became serialized, nobody cares.
As with the movies, they want sci-fi action. Nobody is here for a cerebral sci-fi movie. The kind of movies the majority of people here want from AbramsTrek will never get made because they would turn out to be a box office disaster.
These are the Voyages is a great series of books on the making of the original show. I’d like to see Marc Cushman do a series on the making of TNG. Personally, I liked the various version of Trek. TNG, DS9, Voyager and Enterprise were doing their own thing. With the original series, you had writers who all gave their unique spin to the show. Rick Berman and his crew produced an astonishing amount of Trek, and I think that a lot of it was pretty good. Talky?
Yeah, they could really get into the Trekno-babble too much (even the writers talk about that when you watch the blu rays with the commentary or the bonus features), but I can’t imagine the amount of effort it takes to crank out 26 or 27 episodes a year. Although Enterprise was getting better with each season, I think that – by then – the writers and producers and fans needed a break. I could be wrong, but it is my understanding that Rick Berman avoided conventions because of the hostile feedback they would get via the internet relative to Enterprise; that is a shame because he has a unique perspective that would be nice to hear.
But the These Are The Voyages books by March Cushman (with lots of never before seen pics courtesy of Gerald Gurian) are very well written, and go into a LOT of detail about the making of every single episode of the original series. From the original story idea, to how they hammered those episodes into something that could be filmed with a 1960’s budget with 1960’s movie making tech, they are pretty fascinating books.
Let me be clear, I LOVE the original series of Star Trek. That being said, this open letter is filled with sentimental rubbish. Star Trek was a television show…and television shows are created & bought to do one thing…make money. This revisionist history nonsense regarding Roddenberry & his “vision” drives me crazy. He didn’t start to believe it until MUCH later after the original series was off the air for YEARS. Then, in the mid-80s when talk began of doing a new Trek show & the studio wanted Roddenberry’s name attached to it to sell it better to the fans, his arrogance took the fore. The man was about to retire until he got the call.
The original series is what it is thanks to a LOT of people. It would NEVER have been what it became & likely would have died after one season had it not been for the likes of John D.F. Black, Gene Coon & others. As Majel Barrett stated before she passed, if you want to see what true, pure Roddenberry Trek would have been like, look no further than the original pilot, “The Cage”. THAT is Roddenberry Trek….and it FAILED. It’s the same reason that season one of TNG is practically, in the words of former TNG writer Ron Moore, “unwatchable”.
Trek is sci-fi that uses current events to tells stories…not because these issues need MORE discussion, but because we as humans relate very well to those issues…it makes the episodes more approachable. They’re grounded in reality & are therefore more relatable. It’s the same reason certain sitcoms garner such high regards. Shows like the original WKRP in Cincinnati as well as Everybody Loves Raymond were written based on actual experiences of the writing & production staff (as opposed to other shows written with more a ‘one-liner’ after ‘one-liner’ mentality). It’s that approach, using reality, that makes those shows great.
The first pilot in no way “failed”. The purpose of a pilot is solely to garner interest in getting a show launched. Ultimately one was. Therefore it did NOT fail. It even went on to accomplish what few pilots do: get itself aired to the public largely intact as two highly regarded episodes — another success.
The problem I had with TNG was the entire reason Roddenberry originally created STAR TREK was as a dodge to get around the network and its censors killing stories that he wanted to air for HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL and THE LIEUTENANT because they incorrectly believed the American public couldn’t handle, grasp or stomach them as entertainment. He lucked out in that the team he assembled to create the greenlit series that resulted, contributed far more than that in getting those stories to air. Whereas what he did with TNG was another shell game in that he used the trappings of the previous STAR TREK to sell tv stations the tales of his two shot down other ideas: THE QUESTOR TAPES [Data’s stories = Questor’s] and GENESIS II [Idealistically Utopian science reasoned ruled Federation’s exploration stories = PAX’s]. It was interesting, as a fan of Roddenberry, watching him pull off that con yet again; the trouble was he was pretending to bring back STAR TREK when, in fact, he was bringing back QUESTOR and GENESIS and it was directly at odds with the team that he had reassembled from Trek’s original series who were trying to tell what they had helped to form known, for lack of better words, as STAR TREK.
Well said, Disinvited. I had forgot about Questor, and you’re absolutely right. I think TNG could have benefitted, creatively, from a little more “Spectre” (Roddenberry’s version) in it and a little less Questor and Genesis ll. And a LOT more Star Trek! lol
The author has a point, but misses the point of TNG’s storytelling method.
The same argument that he makes about the TNG characters that were nondescript could be made about the other TOS characters (the ones not in the troika). Strong characterizations are good, but TNG fell into a great pattern of telling stories with objective themes as opposed to subjective themes. TNG would explore issues relating to philosophy, ethics, politics, science, psychology that did not rely or focus on particular characterizations. The Measure of a Man, for example, didn’t require Riker or even Data to have very specific character traits, apart from Riker being friends with Data, which caused him internal conflict. That episode was an exploration of an objective theme: what is the definition of life? What does it mean to be alive? How do you know, and how can we judge, whether something is alive? Many TNG episodes were of this variety, centered around objective themes rather than subjective themes dealing with specific character studies. And then came along DS9 to do largely the opposite—focus on the characters. Both approaches can yield strong, meaningful stories.
And, in fact, it is one of the most common complaints about TOS that they so often hit the reset button after each episode. What Kirk, Spock and McCoy learn in a given episode is immediately forgotten in the next episode. The reason for this is that, like TNG, TOS used its characters largely to explore objective themes. Take The City on the Edge of Forever as an example, it being often cited as the most popular TOS episode. Yes, it was a love story between two characters, but love wasn’t the main theme of that story. In fact, the love part of the story doesn’t even become an issue until the very end. The main theme of the story is the predestination paradox (though attention is not called to its paradoxical nature) of time-traveling to the past and Kirk’s morality conflict relating thereto: does he choose to let Edith die for the benefit of future humanity? That’s the issue that the whole episode builds to. And again, this theme doesn’t require a very specific characterization for Kirk, beyond our protagonist being a good guy who tries to do the right thing. The same story could have been told with Chekov or Scotty or Riker or Picard or Geordie falling in love, and been fundamentally no different.
But, TNG aside, the author makes a valid point about conflict being important to Trek, and drama needing to be valued at least as much as superficial attributes, like FX and action, in order to produce Trek in keeping with the values and sensibilities of TOS.
I agree with this editorial for the most part. TOS inspired so many people to strive for a better future. As each new series got more “realistic”, the ideal was lessened in direct correlation… ending in a version in the Abramsverse that will inspire no one to believe in a better future.
Have never been more relieved to have moved on to other things.
My goodness, what a self-important mess of a lecture to all of us.
Some one please wake me up.
You’re probably better off just sleeping through it. We’ll wake you when it’s time to see “Beyond”, or if you prefer, “Trek ’17”.
I got lost at Dear Bryan & Alex. To which Enterprises is he referring? The NX-01 last seen mothballed, the 1701-E in spacedock and the Enterprise J in a far away future during some war. The only Enterprises we’ve seen destroyed are the original movie refit 1701 and the 1701-D, certainly not the last ships to bear the name. As for the author’s ramblings I cant say I agree.
To me Star Trek whether in episodic form or season long arcs doesnt always mean the main characters play nice. There was plenty of conflict amongst the crews. Some more obvious than others. Take Dr. Pulaski for example. She didnt fit in with the crew. Nobody liked her.
Picard was often irritated by Data. Worf held back a lot as well, choosing to respect the command structure. Star Trek storylines often took inspiration from current political events or sociological issues. At no point did Star Trek ever claim to “instruct” us on how humanity would or should behave in 200 years.
With regards to the new series I want to see a mix of comedy, action, drama featuring characters with relatable traits in a starship setting. I want to be entertained.
Sorry for the repeat… but just in case you don’t make it to part III (seems to be a high likelihood for quite a few who posted here :D ).
While I appreciate the thoughts and analysis, and do see some truth in it, I feel this is overblown. What you say is missing since TOS can actually be seen several times in TNG (Silicon Avatar) and even more in DS9 (In the pale moonlight: whatever it may say about the negative potential of humanity, Kirk would have done the same IMHO). VOY, with all its quirks and failings, pushed some boundaries that never got touched on in other series (Parallax: women communicating important parts of the story without the need for a man present… say wot??). ENT showed exactly the kind of conflicts and optimism for solving the conflicts that you keep repeating (Kir’Shara: even if we had to wait for season 4 to see it!). 2009 was a good start, while Into Darkness was a bit of a crash and burn moment (but then remember The Final Frontier… what a depressing storyline that was… and the only way to break into the compound was using Uhura’s feminine wiles?? Really?? Star Trek??). Like anything human, Star Trek has its ups and downs.
But. I will take my own advice and end on a more positive note. You did leave me with possibly an all-time favourite quote: “A world where everyone agrees is not a world embracing tolerance; it is in fact its very opposite, defined by an absolute homogeneity of thought and world-view. A humanity that has reached a point where everyone agrees on everything, has become a species of automaton, and one can only wonder at a civilization-wide education system that hammers out dissent, scepticism, free-thinking and diversity of thought.”
On that note, I don’t want to just tolerate your opinion, I hope it makes Alex and Bryan think hard about this NEW series they are creating (which I think they may very well already be doing), and then go and do their thaang!
(All typos intentional)
ps. Star Trek will survive… Period.
The “Cliffs Notes” version of the article would be: It would be great if the new series had non-bland, clearly defined characters, and episodes that “reflect diversity of thought… explore the clash of opinions” and “tackle issues and subjects where both sides can be right, and no simple solution is possible”.
I am not sure what a lot of the naysayers here read but the cognitive dissonance and hostility exhibited here is ridiculous.
An example of a TOS episode where they tackled an issue where both sides were right would be “Devil in the Dark”.
TOS had plenty of villains with “motives” but the Devil in the Dark was an episode where – once we understood the Horta – only a complete dunderhead couldn’t get the point and be sympathetic to her plight.
I’m tired of every major Star Trek movie having to require a villain just because the Wrath of Kahn was a blockbuster.
I liked the JJ Abrams movies fine but had issues with each that had zero to do with them being action packed or aimed at a 21st century audience. TOS was as action packed as they could make it, given the restraints of television production 50 years ago.
It’s not the action-packed nature of the movies that bothered me.
I will give just two examples of what I found annoying in the 2009 Abrams movie (which was well-made, action adventure movie…I actually enjoy watching it…it just has elements that bother me):
1) Nero is mad at Spock for allowing the destruction of Romulus. He and his crew are thrown back in time to a time decades before the destruction of Romulus. . .yet no one in that crew thought: hey, lets give Romulus a heads up?
2) After defeating Nero, and while Nero and his crew are falling into a black hole, Kirk offers to save the crew (just as we saw in The Balance of Terror) but Spock is appalled and less than happy with the decision. . .but that’s not what really bothered me. What really bothered me was that, instead of just letting the inevitable happen (i.e. Nero and crew falling into the black hole) Kirk decides to just open fire and execute Nero and his crew. That was mass murder. True, Nero had it coming, but turning Kirk and Spock and the crew of the Enterprise into executioners bothered me.
I am looking forward to Beyond, and hope that it is good. I am sure it will be entertaining.
However, I am really looking forward to the new series because I think that Star Trek can take more risks story-wise on TV than on the big screen. So I WANT more diverse stories that are unique and lots of action is fine. I just think that we’re more likely to see that diversity on television than in a theatrical release where they have to throw in everything and the kitchen sink to ensure a return on their investment.
Re: number 2. Nero is offered help. He refuses, so Kirk and Spock take him down. That seems fair to me. If anything, that was a merciful act. Had they simply fallen into the black hole, they could have taken subjective years to die as time and space dilated around them. Moreover, Nero and his crew had just committed an unprecedented act of genocide and it was safer to take them down rather than risk them emerging in yet another reality and doing the same again.
Thank you for the response! That IS one way to look at it, and you are 100% correct to point out that Nero was no hero…he had committed genocide and Kirk may have indeed been thinking “better safe than sorry” because fear of dying is what keeps us alive (I saw that in a commercial somewhere!). I think that this was a case where one extra line in the script could have pointed that out, and it would have been fine by me. Except for minor points like that, I enjoyed the movie because, ultimately, it is just a movie (I’ve been a fan since 1966) and I have more immediate things to really stress out over.
However, as it was presented in the theaters, it was just Kirk and crew happily blasting a bunch of people who were already going to die (or were they? black holes are soooo weirdly unpredictable!) into oblivion as judge, jury and executioner.
Is that what Roddenberry would have wanted? Probably not, but then he was all over the map when it came to TOS (General Order 24 is pretty harsh) and by the time of TNG he had really bought into the new-age stuff, with (as Ron Moore noted) the result was a near unwatchable first couple of seasons for TNG. Story-wise, TNG was wobbly until Michael Pillar came on board and focused more on the characters, at which point it became a great show on its own merits.
Don’t get me wrong: I sew the Great Bird speak twice and it was inspiring. To see Roddenberry on a college campus in the mid-70’s was (to me) like seeing the Beatles. However, he was a little “out there” by the time TNG hit the airwaves and the writing staff was coming and going because of the restrictions he put on the show and, well, for other reasons as well.
I’ve read all three parts of the editorial and, while I don’t agree with everything, it is clear that it is well intended and passionate about what the author would like to see in the upcoming series. I just don’t understand where a lot of the hostile commentary is coming from, but I really appreciated your response!
I think there is always a point, where Kirk, in either universe, has simply had enough. We saw it in Trek 3…after all that had transpired… the cause of so much pain…the destruction of his ship, the death of his son…Kruge in hanging by a thread and what does Kirk do…he offers his hand and he TRIES to take the high road and help him. But no, Kruge wont have it, he just tries to pull Kirk down with him. At that point, it was simply a case of “enough is enough ” and Kirk had, quite simply, “had…enough…of Kruge!” So he booted him off into the fire below! It’s a character trait, we don’t have to like it, but we have to admit Kirk has it….and I’m was glad, for continuity sake, between the universeses, to see it revisited in Pine’s Kirk.
That is all very true. That was a great scene and I agreed with every kick Kirk delivered to Kruge’s big ole head!
The thing with the original Star Trek was that it was an archetypal American show: strong individuals working together, not recognising collectivist structures such as grouping by race and gender, discussing – sometimes heatedly – how to handle a situation. The characters were strongly motivated in their work and morally confident. And, most importantly, humans were out there to learn.
TNG, on the other hand, is an archetypal Soviet version of Star Trek. Starfleet is a big collectivist structure. Irritation is shown towards those who would speak out of turn: Worf, the angry Klingon, Pulaski, the stroppy maverick, Ro, the ‘nationalist’ fighting for her right to an identity as a Bajoran, Barclay, who has perceived ‘psychological issues,’ which are mocked. Humans are supposed to be perfect and not fight because they believe in the Revolution… Oops! I meant to say ‘the Prime Directive!’ ;) The Enterprise is less an exploration vessel and more a diplomatic/propaganda arm of the Federation to spread the word to non-affiliated races about how much better the Federation is than their culture.
It’s actually interesting to see the gradual collapse of the 1980s’ Roddenberry Box across the years. By season 7 of TNG, there was conflict and doubt slipping into the interaction of some crew members – Riker’s past involvement in mass-murder and manslaughter during a mutiny emerged, for example. DS9, one step away from Rick Berman’s authoritarian leadership, further questioned the direction in which the Federation had moved.
I wonder if perhaps the parasites that were uncovered in Conspiracy had shifted Federation society in that direction and if, as TNG moved along, we were seeing the beginnings of the fall of that Soviet-style collectivist culture.
It makes for an interesting backdrop for one of the anthology seasons of the new show, if the repressive, ‘perfected’ human society of the 24th century that was promoted in TNG began to question itself in the early 25th century and its people were to begin to assert the individualism seen in the Kirk era.
Those are all excellent points!
Dom, your description of the political/storytelling landscape of TOS and TNG is intriguing. I can’t find anything with which to argue, and I’ll be quoting you to other Trek fans to explain my own thoughts far better than I have been explaining them.
“TNG, on the other hand, is an archetypal Soviet version of Star Trek.”
I’d say this is load of crap. That what you’re talking about refers to the Borg collective, which is actually a sort of metaphorical representation of a collectivist society. TNG depicts simply a slightly more developed human society and organizations than the one in TOS. We all know very well that TOS was more like “Wild West”, while things in TNG have changed somewhat. People are still explorers, though. The Enterprise D is no less an explorer vessel than the NCC-1701 was. So, you’re wrong about that, too. Conflict is simply a tool that makes drama possible, it’s not a goal in itself. I don’t see anything wrong in the absence of interpersonal “conflict” as long as the sci-fi aspect of the story and overall character development is satisfactory. TNG was an EXCELLENT sci-fi series, and who cares if they didn’t squabble over every little thing. I recall Dr. Pulaski, who was highly irritating with her constant grumbling attitude anyway. I’d say your view is rather a cynical one, typical of someone who looks down upon TNG (and possibly every other subsequent Trek show).
What you wrote may actually be regarded as an extension of that utterly pointless and useless “open letter” by Erikson.
I hate to get into this too much, and I’m sad I’m writing this at all. I remember the heyday of 2007 when TrekMovie became the go-to place regarding all that was new to Trek. Now, instead of analyzing the trailer or talking through updates to the movie they have posted their second “I hate Star Trek” editorial. This will likely be the last time I actually visit this site as a result of this silly nonsense.
If you hate all Star Trek so much, are you really a Star Trek fan? Do you realize (and do you all realize?) that a huge reason that Paramount sucks in developing Star Trek or is so reluctant to do so is because the “fans” of Star Trek only complain and whine and hate on… Star Trek? No matter what is done or what movies or TV shows are created there will always be nonsense like this claiming that (decades of!) Star Trek really isn’t Star Trek. The first such article regarding Into Darkness made Bob Orci flip out and quit Twitter. Now this article says… what exactly? And in three parts – to maximize ad views and revenue?
I loved people tweeting at Bob saying things about ID like “Spock wouldn’t say that” and Bob replied, “Yes, he would. Because he did. So yes, he would.” It’s like people watching the movie claimed that a character would behave differently due to their own preconceptions of who that character was. Is Star Trek just bad fanfic to you people? Why claim ownership and influence over a cultural phenomenon like Star Trek?
Here’s the deal: Star Trek is a lot of things to a lot of people. Let’s stop the extremely stupid and insane critiques of Trek (especially ones that say all Trek after TOS is bad. I mean – really?) and just enjoy Star Trek on TV and in the theaters again. We aren’t in control of what happens; let’s enjoy it.
I for one am ready for the Marvel Universe of Trek. Let’s forget cannon and timelines and just have Star Trek stories everywhere. We can have Kirk’s origin story, and then another, and then another – all contradicting, all interesting, and all that would make for good TV and movies. Editorials like this are why Paramount drags us through an alternate timeline and sticks the new show on a streaming network. I for one would want a new Star Trek Universe movie every year with new crews, characters, adventures, etc. Some if it might not be good – but in general the Star Trek concept is good – so I would be all for it.
Why do you care what anyone think? Like what YOU like because you CAN. I do, and I could care less if someone agrees with me on what I like about different aspects of ‘Trek. Example: anyone who thinks that STiD is worst than NEM or TFF ought to have their Trekkie status revoked. The film was derivative of a much better film, but it was vastly superior from a technical and story perspective. And, there you go.
Calm down, DSWynne. Sheesh!
beyerku May 25, 2016 2:28 pm
I have never before seen someone advocate mindless conformity as you have just done. One critical editorial amidst a torrent of articles promoting the new movie, and you feel the need for this sort of a rant?
Hey, I support your right to put yourself in a mental straight-jacket, if that’s what you want to do.
It’s not a very “Star Trek” way to be, but it’s your right.
P.S. Not trying to get political, but this complaint reminds me of a certain religious demographic known for crying “oppression!” because they’re not allowed to impose their religious beliefs onto others. Not everyone likes everything about Star Trek that has ever been done. It’s more productive to take issue with reasons and rationale than with nonconformity. One can make a very strong argument that it’s been the people who lap up anything with “Star Trek” printed on it, and beg for more, who have facilitated the lowering of standards that we’ve seen in the TNG movies and in BR Trek movies, wherein story takes a back seat to superficial elements like action and FX.
I think the thing that worries me most is that Bryan Fuller sees Star Trek as having Christian values. WTF? Gene is spinning in his torpedo casing.
When referring to TOS, Fuller is correct. In fact, there were a number of original series episodes that had Christian allegories. It wasn’t until TMP that GR went full humanist.
Very true. last scene in Bread and Circuses is a good example.
Yes, the “Sun Worshippers” were worshipping a Son of a different kind.
By the way, I am pretty sure that the photo that accompanies this article is from Turnabout Intruder, the last episode of TOS.
Who the hell is Uruhu?
Uhuru is a book that was published in 1962. Nichelle Nichols character “Uhura” was named after the title of the book because Uhuru is Swahili for “freedom”. “Legend” has it that she had the book with her when she came to audition for the role.
As noted in Wikipedia (and other sources): “Nyota Uhura /niːˈoʊtə ʊˈhʊrə/ is a character in the Star Trek franchise. The character was portrayed by Nichelle Nichols through the sixth Star Trek film. Since 2009, a younger Uhura has been portrayed by actress Zoe Saldana” … Nichols states in her book Beyond Uhura that the name was inspired by her having had with her a copy of Robert Ruark’s book Uhuru on the day she read for the part. When producer Robert Justman explained to Roddenberry what the word uhuru meant, he changed it to Uhura and adopted that as the character’s name. Coincidentally, the end credits of the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country incorrectly refer to Uhura as “Uhuru”.
“Uruhu’s love of music,”
I really liked Uhuru. It’s a shame she only showed up in Star Trek VI.
…Incidentally, don’t agree with the latter half of this at all. If your manifesto for the direction of Star Trek is ‘TNG got it wrong,’ then we have different versions of idealized Star Trek.
Havent read all the comments but this open letter seems rather stupid. Did he even watch DS9 or did Star Trek end with TNG?