(Beware: There be mild spoilers ahead.)
It’s time we had a talk, world. You see, I recently watched J.J. Abrams’ latest installment in his rebooted Star Trek series, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and look, I want to be honest with you – I walked out after the credits thoroughly disappointed.
No, not because the movie was horrible or lacklustre. In fact, by all accounts it was well-made, well-acted and enjoyable. No, my problem lies with the plot and what it represents.
But first, let’s just time-travel back to 2009 quickly and revisit how I felt after walking out of his first Star Trek movie. I was impressed by their deft twisting of logic with which they created a loophole where the filmmakers could technically avoid fan-anger. It wasn’t actually the same universe! They aren’t really messing with characters you love, they are the same but in different scenarios! Clever! I may forgive you for Lost now, Damon Lindelof…actually, I shouldn’t say anything I can’t promise.
Anyway, what I loved about this tricksy time-travel loophole was that they now had license to do whatever the hell they wanted with the franchise. What if Spock got lost in a time bubble and had to live on Earth in 2013 and had to learn to tweet and ride trams until Kirk rescues him in a super covert mission? What if Uhura had any purpose at all?
So, enter the follow-up movie to this fantastic, freeing set-up, and what do they decide to do? Basically a remake of one of the most beloved of the Star Trek iterations – The Wrath of Khan.
I admit I haven’t seen the 1982 film, so I have no deep-seated emotional connection to the preservation of it. All I know is that Kirk screams Khaaaaaaaaan at some point and that it’s considered a type of cult classic.
However, when it was revealed to me that Benedict Cumberbatch was actually delivering us with a new interpretation of Khan, I was irritated. When Spock yelled “Khaaaan!” dramatically, I got mad. Then when I started researching the original story for this article and found a clip of the radiation poisoning scene, I– well, here begins the Wrath of Jenni.
In my humble opinion, this is the perfect example of what is going wrong with pop culture today. Apparently our brains have stagnated to a point that we can only handle references and homages, because new things stimulate us too much. It is the reason Family Guy is one of the most popular adult cartoons. It is the reason the greatest film student of all, Quentin Tarantino, can get nominated for a best bloody picture at the Academy Awards. It is the reason GIFs have taken over the internet as a punchline. You don’t get the reference? Too bad, son, just figure it out backwards.
Now, I don’t want you to throw examples back in my face of how this has been happening for as long as humans have been walking upright, and thus I shouldn’t get so up in arms about it. I am aware – the four-hundred-year-old Don Quixote is so filled with references to Spanish gallantry novels that we need hundreds of notations to understand it all. Here’s the thing, though, most references don’t need four hundred years to die – they can expire within the decade. I can’t tell you the number of times I have referenced something from my childhood that a twenty-year-old doesn’t understand. It makes you feel really old. It sucks.
I know that I am just as bad an offender as everyone else – I mean, in the past two paragraphs I referenced three different things and this whole article requires a basic knowledge of pop culture – it is hard not to be, it’s the way we are programmed. My problem with it is that it is easy. It is safe. And it is where the big money is going, perpetuating a cycle of remakes and reboots that keep us decaying within the same seven stories. Whatever happened to striving to be timeless?
The idea goes that we should stand on the shoulders of giants. We should take the mistakes and the triumphs of what came before us to build something better and more beautiful than ever. This is how we progress as a race and as artists. But if we continue to redo and obsess over our own nostalgia, we stand still. We are simply painting their shadows, too afraid of falling from a great height.
Taking a risk is how the most exciting developments can happen. So, if you are one day handed a free license to do whatever you please in the wide, wide universe of Star Trek, for goodness’ sake, don’t be afraid! Take a chance on a fresh idea.
Of course, this applies to everything, not only Star Trek. I know these mythical new ideas are out there, so it’s time we reward them with our attention and our money. The past is the past. Let’s move on.