It’s been 50 years since the crew of the USS Enterprise first flew into our homes and introduced us to a possible world of the future. As ‘Star Trek Beyond’ releases nationwide next week, let’s have a quick look at how things have evolved over the years.
J.J. Abrams’ 'Star Trek' films introduced the world of creator Gene Roddenberry to a new generation of moviegoers. The Star Trek universe had been developing since the 1960s, but had stalled in the late 2000s after the latest TV series was poorly received (and outright rejected by many fans). What Abrams did was tread a very fine line between creating something new, and paying homage to what had gone before.
Unlike the new ‘Star Wars’ film, the ‘Star Trek’ reboot films run parallel to the original canon series. ‘Star Wars VII’ pretty much wiped out all the (until now) canon books, comics, and various tie-in stories, which pissed off a lot of fanboys (and girls). A lot of world building took place in novels that fans considered to form part of the accepted Star Wars universe. Abrams managed to keep almost everyone happy by creating a universe parallel to ‘The Original Series’: same (almost) characters, similar setting, new timeline.
So all the events that took place in the Star Trek Universe that Trekkies love - the other series, the books (there are hundreds), the comics, the fan-made films - can all remain canon and stay that way. The reboots don’t affect them, don’t wipe them out, and fans can continue to enjoy them without that nagging feeling of it not really counting any more – all through the magic of parallel universes. Admittedly, the parallel universe trope can be a bit of a copout, but can you imagine the fallout if suddenly all that material, all those characters and events, didn’t “exist” anymore? There’d be riots at conventions!
One of the most interesting things about the new film franchise are the differences between these characters and the original versions. Consider Spock – he’s half human, half Vulcan. Vulcans have extremely volatile and possibly violent natures, and have developed a system of suppressing their emotions very deeply. Spock Prime (played by the inimitable Leonard Nimoy; “Prime” meaning from the original universe) embraced his Vulcan side, choosing to eschew his feelings and follow only logic. Zachary Quinto’s Spock is a very different character – he has a human girlfriend, gets angry or upset, and while logic is vital, it’s not everything. While the whole crew are younger in the reboot franchise, Kirk is significantly younger (even if original Kirk was the youngest officer ever to make Starfleet Captain, reboot Kirk is younger still) but for the most part, he’s a very similar character in both universes. Uhura was always an integral character, and it’s excellent to see her role expanded in the reboot even if one of her main purposes is as a love interest. Other characters are faithful to the originals but with respectful interpretations: Who doesn’t love Simon Peg’s Scotty as much as James Doohan (who had his ashes shot into space – how awesome is that?).
There have been some rumours over the last year or so about a possible new TV show. So far, they’re not much more than rumours, but the question on fans’ minds is: how would a new TV show tie in to the existing material? Would it be a part of the Abrams 'Star Trek', or the Roddenberry one? Could it bring them together somehow, like Leonard Nimoy did as Spock Prime in the first and second reboot films? I can’t wait to find out.