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The Second (Third?) Coming of Star Trek

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader


I’ve found that it’s hard to come to terms with how popular some things are these days. When I was growing up the series Star Trek, which originally aired 50 years ago next month, wasn’t exactly popular. Where I lived, episodes of the original series aired weekdays before Little House on the Prairie, and while there were Star Trek movies in theaters that did well enough at the box office to warrant a slew of sequels, I wouldn’t exactly have called Star Trek “cool” then.

In the 1980s, people who were into the series were derided as “Trekkies” and were considered to be nerds and losers because of their devotion to a series that had, at that time, been off the air for decades. And when new episodes of Star Trek returned to TV in 1987 with Star Trek: The Next Generation, the series wasn’t considered good enough to air on a network and instead was shown in syndication. Which meant that the series was airing at different times and on different channels depending on where you lived. I remember TNG aired on a local non-affiliate station at the inviting hour of 9AM Sunday mornings which meant the series was basically filler since I can’t imagine Sunday morning makes for “appointment TV.”

For a moment in the mid–1990s just before TNG left the TV for feature films, it felt like Star Trek was slightly cool — especially with two Star Trek series airing together then with TNG and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and then later a second TNG movie Star Trek: First Contact (1996) that was actually quite good.

But it wasn’t too long before Star Trek would once again be relegated to the back of most people’s minds as the quality of the feature films began to slip. The film series ended in 2002 and two more Star Trek series — Star Trek: Voyager and Enterprise — never caught on with the general public or a majority of sci-fi fans.

All seemed lost for Star Trek until it was announced that a new movie was in the works by JJ Abrams who, at the time, was known as the guy who created the series Felicity and Alias, had a hand in the TV series Lost and had co-written and directed Mission: Impossible III (2006).
Abrams new movies would feature the original characters like Kirk and Spock from the first series but in all-new adventures and in an all-new and different universe that had a harder edge than before.

Being a Trekkie, I was super-excited about these new films and saw Star Trek (2009) the minute it was released and couldn’t have been more disappointed when I left the theater. Simply put, the story of the 2009 Star Trek had too many plot holes to count, meaning there were large parts of that movie that simply did not make sense. I left the theater feeling dejected, thinking that this version of Star Trek would put the franchise on the back-burner again and we’d have to wait 10 years for new Star Trek.

But that movie actually did quite well, and another Star Trek movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness was released in 2013. Was that movie any good? I don’t know, you’ll have to tell me — I didn’t bother seeing it after the my disappointment of the first.

And the latest Abramsverse Star Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond, opened to a decent box office a few weeks back and was the number one movie in the US on its release. Still, if I ever end up seeing Beyond it’ll be because Simon Pegg, whom I greatly admire, had a hand in crafting the script and not because I’m a fan of the latest movie series.

But there has been a ray of hope in the Star Trek franchise of late — another TV series is in the works. This new Star Trek is being co-created by Bryan Fuller who most recently was responsible for the wonderful Hannibal TV series. Star Trek: Discovery is set to start airing January, 2017 but other than the first episode won’t actually be shown on TV, it’ll be the cornerstone of CBS’ $6 a month online streaming service.

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