Chris Pine has stoked the fire of die-hard Trekkies once again, just when it seemed like the waters might have actually calmed down a bit. We were all aghast and preparing for the worst when the first "Sabotage" teaser came out for Star Trek Beyond and after months with no other trailer in sight, we finally got the "real" one, which was much stronger and well put together and got a lot of us excited again for the movie.
Now, the anger against it is sure to flare up real fast because of these comments made by Pine recently about "cerebral" Star Trek today:
Ok, two things about this in particular. First of all, part of me wishes that Pine hadn't said this at all because all it does is shine a bright light on the problem with the Star Trek fanbase in the first place, and don't kid yourself, there is a BIG problem with it. The fans have been divided on the new movies since the first one came out in 2009 and the debates have been nothing short of biblical in some cases. You've got a lot of the fans that consider "New Trek" a complete abomination of the franchise and others that like and appreciate it for what it is today, made for today's audience.
Which leads to the second point: Pine is not wrong. Seriously.
The easiest thing for an angry, bitter Star Trek fan to do is to take what he said at nothing more than face value and proclaim him an idiot that knows nothing about Star Trek and shouldn't be involved in the franchise in the first place. If you turn the hate off for a minute though and actually think about what he said, you might see the very true point he is making.
Let's go back to Star Trek Into Darkness for a bit. Take off your blinders for Ricardo Montalban and Nicholas Meyer for a second and let's really dig into it. Yes, the movie blatantly lifts several elements from Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan and fuses them with The Original Series (TOS) episode "Space Seed" to build a different take on Khan and his supermen for the alternate Trek universe. The reason I loved it while many others hated it is because despite being more action-packed and faster paced, it was still loaded with everything I loved about Star Trek. Political subtext and militarized dogma with Peter Weller's Admiral Marcus (Weller himself referenced General Curtis Lemay of Cuban Missile Crisis infamy), the terrorism angle with Noel Clarke's Starfleet officer suicide bombing a Starfleet base on Earth, and the entire subtext of what drives a person to darkness, to commit acts that they know are not morally correct out of vengeance, savagery and hatred. If you looked past the fact that it was a Khan reboot, it was an extremely HUMAN story being told, perfectly summed up at the beginning of Kirk's speech at the end of the movie:
"There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us, but that's not who we are."
Gene Roddenberry could have written that line himself if he were still here and it reads like one of Shatner's ending monologues from a TOS episode. THAT is Star Trek and that is CEREBRAL.
That is what Pine means when he says those things have to be hidden among the action and explosions. It's no different than what TOS did in the 60's. One of the biggest reasons that Roddenberry was even allowed to tell his cerebral stories at the time is because the show was science fiction and considered "out there." It would be easy for the general audience that disagreed with the message inherent in every episode to shrug it off as aliens and space fantasies and move on. Of course, as history would prove, it touched many more people intellectually than that, but they had to hide the morality plays too, just like today. We like to think that a movie like The Wrath of Khan would absolutely do well if released today, but the truth is that based on the culture and climate of modern society and movies, Wrath of Khan today IS Into Darkness, and there's nothing wrong with that.
When I think about where Star Trek is as a franchise today, I remember the inescapable fact that I have friends and family who were barely interested or not interested at all in the original movies or shows, even The Next Generation (TNG) which in recent years has been looked down by some as having dated action and visual effects. Then I think about those same people who lined up front and center to see Star Trek (2009), came back for Into Darkness and will be at the theater on July 22nd for Beyond. What are we supposed to tell them as die-hard fans, that "this isn't Star Trek and you people are watching a bastardization of our beloved franchise and you shouldn't be a fan of it?" That's literally what a lot of fans believe. Pretty intolerant.
Things change and evolve into new things all the time, lest they be stagnant and left in the dust for future generations to forget. Star Trek has been an indelible part of our lives for almost 50 years now and it has evolved too, from TOS to the movies, to TNG, to the cathartic metamorphosis of Deep Space Nine, into Voyager and Enterprise and now into these new movies. The audience has changed over time even if we don't see it, and there really is a Star Trek for every generation now. Just because this one isn't what "ours" was, whichever one you identify with most, doesn't mean it won't reach another person in this current generation on a cerebral level.
When Pine made his comments, he was talking about "this generation," this time in history, this culture and climate. The audience of 2016 is not the same as the audience of 1966. Certainly many of the issues faced then are still prevalent now, but in a much different context and in a far more tolerant society, believe it or not. The message that Star Trek must convey has never changed at its core, but it has evolved with the times at hand and it has been doing that for decades now. This is why it will never ever die as a franchise, so long as there are people who flock to the heart of the content. Star Trek (2009) proved this in spades.
You also have to remember that Pine and his current cast and crew have been "under attack" from the die-hard Trekkies for seven years now, and comments like the ones he made certainly come from a place of defense of his own craft and what he and the hard work that he and his peers have done with all of these movies since they started. Can you blame him for that? Especially with the latest movie still more than a month away from theatrical release? There's a school of thought that says you should never challenge fans because in essence, "the customer is always right." The thing is, everybody knows that has never been true, especially if the customer is an ass that hates everything to do with change, which a lot of the die-hard fans are really showing themselves to be right now.
As someone that has been a devout Trekkie since I was eight years old, I'm enjoying the ride and ready for the next chapter with Beyond and the new TV series next year, because despite what anyone says, I know at the end of the day Star Trek will always be cerebral to me and many others, even if some people can no longer see it.