You just can’t keep a bad idea down.
Back in the days after 1989’s STAR TREK: THE FINAL FRONTIER, the fifth film to feature the cast of the original TREK series, bombed at the box office, then-producer Harve Bennett proposed his solution for reviving the franchise: a concept dubbed (not without some aspersion) “Starfleet Academy.”
Basically, Bennett wanted to write, produce and direct a sixth TREK film that would dump the beloved cast in favor of new actors playing younger versions of the same roles. Possibly William Shatner and/or Leonard Nimoy would have gotten cameos in wraparound segements that would have framed the majority of the film as a flashback, showing how the crew of the Enterprise first met and were assigned to the ship.
Thankfully, Bennett’s idea (which was always a transparent attempt to make himself the sole captain of the TREK franchise) was abandoned, and instead Paramount Pictures made STAR TREK 6: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY – widely regarded as one of – maybe even the best of the TREK films.
Well, Reuters news service is now reporting that Paramount has signed J.J. Abrahms (who just completed the company’s anticipated MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III) to direct and possibly co-write and co-produce a new TREK movie that would “center on the early days of…James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including their first meeting at Starfellet Academy and first outer-space mission.”
Dear god, where to begin?
Origin movies always suck. Longtime fans have too much invested in the characters to accept anything less than a spectacular first meeting, filled with portents of the great things we know are to come. There is also an apparently irresistable to account (within the limits of a two-hour movie) for everything that is known and familiar about established characters. Details that might have taken years of programming and hundreds of episodes to acrue are all crammed into a single story, and we’re not supposed to notice or remark upon the ridiculous coincidence of it all.
Thus YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES gave us the origins of the violin, the magnifying lens, the Holmes-Watson relationship, and the enmity with Professor Moriarty — all in one fell swoop. (Somehow, they left out the cocaine injections, which would have been particularly interesting –and ballsy — in this context.)
As if this were not bad enough, the opening prologue of INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE gives us the hat, the whip, and the fear of snakes crammed into five minutes of screen time.
Anyway, I have no hope that dramatizing the early Kirk-Spock relationship will yield anything but a goofy sort of nostalgia as each familiar cliche is trotted out (as if for the first time) while the audience laughs and thinks, “Little do they know.” It’s the most contrived, useless form of drama, but being a die-hard fan I suppose I’ll have to force myself to sit through it anyway.
It’s too bad, really. Years ago, one of the producers of the then-current STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and STAR TREK: VOYAGER, when asked about possibly transferring those series to the big screen, more or less rejected the question and instead posed the possibility of creating an entirely original TREK feature film franchise. Now that might have been interesting – a way to keep TREK going in movie theatres, without indulging in empty-headed nostalgia for the small-screen characters.