I recently went on a bit of a Twitter rant with a friend over the release of Star Trek Beyond. This is the third installment in the reboot, and unequivocally the worst. My original tweet which sparked the discussion read, "Beyond was a good action movie, but it wasn't Star Trek."
I've not been shy with my friends that I am NOT a fan of the reboots. It's not because they erased the timeline of four shows and ten movies. I actually thought that was a clever way of rebooting the franchise. I'm just not sure it needed to do that. I personally would have been fine if they rebooted it the same way that Christopher Nolan did Batman out of the ashes of George Clooney and Val Kilmer. Nonetheless, I could live with erasing the timeline if the story had been capable of standing on its own without the assistance of Old Spock. Now, let's say for a minute I could live with this story resting on the laurels of Old Spock. And let's say I could even stomach JJ Abrams throwing the camera all over every scene while flooding my eyes with lens flares. Even if we write off all these things, the reboots still lost all credibility because of the second movie.
The second reboot took what is, in my estimation, the unequivocal best Star Trek movie ever and plagarized the story in a gross abuse of the franchise. I didn't like Star Trek Into Darkness at all. This was not a new movie, but it was presented that way. The decision to kill off Kirk, and then to resurrect him in the way they did seemed overly forced. Rather than be an homage to the Wrath of Khan it felt more like an insult to it. It was at this point that I realized the franchise might actually be in worse hands than when Rick Berman took over after Roddenberry's death.
Now let me be clear about something. I'm a green blooded Trekkie. I grew up on TOS reruns and then watched Star Trek The Next Generation as it was syndicated on UPN in Chicago (anyone still remember WPWR?). Every Christmas, Easter, Birthday and even one Hanukah was marked with Star Trek action figures. I actually look back and think, oh yeah Christmas 94 that was Sarek's year. Oh and by the way, my son's middle name is Tiberius and my dog's name is Dax.
Back to the third reboot. It was terrible, for a Star Trek movie. It might have made a decent action flick, but I went into a preshow intending to judge it as a Star Trek movie and it came up short. Spoiler Alert: This film is incapable of standing on its own merits. Old Spock again has to be dragged into the story in order to give New Spock any depth, even though Leonard Nimoy has passed away and all they can do is show his picture. (My wife thinks they were trying to give Nimoy a nod here, I think the dedication at the end was sufficient). Krall's backstory was hollow and Jaylah's was absent from the story line altogether. The story of the Franklin is never really answered for us, and yet that seems important. Worse yet is we're left wondering, how did all these other people make it to a planet that we're told is unable to be reached by anything less than the navigation systems of the Enterprise. Yorktown is like something out of an MC Escher drawing, except Yorktown would never be confused for art. Where was the utopianism Star Trek is known for? Where was the moral discussion of right and wrong as some crew member faces an impossible decision? The closest thing we had to any character inflection in this movie was Kirk debating whether or not he wanted to take a job that he actually applied for. Lastly, would it have been possible to write the third Star Trek movie in a series without blowing up the Enterprise? I guess we'll never know.
As I've been debating the merits, or really the lack thereof, of Star Trek Beyond I find myself questioning whether or not these people can really be considered Trekkies. You may think that's harsh, but this is scifi and I take it very very seriously. Thus, I've done what any true Trekkie would naturally do: I came up with a Litmus test. Here's my formula for evaluating whether or not your friends, family, and adversaries alike are honest Trekkies.
First, if they have not actually seen every episode of TOS and TNG they are immediately disqualified. I think you can make a case that you must have seen DS9, sufferred through the misery of Voyager and survived Enterprise, but I'm feeling generous today so we'll keep it to TOS and TNG. I should qualify this; if they have to think about it they've failed. I only lose track of Star Trek episodes after I've seen them more than 30 times. I once wore out a VHS recording of Relics.
Second, it should be a given they've seen every Star Trek movie ever made, period. There's no room to budge on this. Do not accept excuses that they skipped out on Insurrection or the Motion Picture as if that's tolerable. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!
Third, ask them what the best Star Trek movie is? Any pause before saying Wrath of Khan should be treated with suspicion. There's not much more I can say about this. If for some reason you disagree, I recommend you stick to Dr. Who.
Fourth, ask them what the best Star Trek The Next Generation movie is. First Contact. If you think I need to explain this, I hear the 1998 Lost in Space was fantastic. So fantastic in fact that neither Amazon or Netflix could get the licensing to offer it over their streaming services.
Five, ask them what their favorite TOS episode is. On this one I personally accept three answers. Sidebar: Top 10, 20, 25, 42 episode lists of Star Trek seem to be universally awful. Reject any list that attempts to order all the series together. Especially reject any list that actually includes a Voyager episode. For me the three TOS options I accept are:
- Space Speed
- Trouble with Tribbles
- The Tholian Web
I've long debated adding Mirror, Mirror. In my old age I've become more generous so I'd take this one as an honorable mention and give the Trek-anidate a second shot to name one of my three.
Six, ask them what their favorite TNG episode is. Again, I accept three answers for this one:
- Best of Both Worlds pt. 1 & 2 (There are times when I really think this should be the only answer I accept)
- Unification (Reboot should have watched this and taken notes. This is how you tie in an old cast with style!)
- Chain of Command (How many lights are there?)
Seventh, ask them what their favorite DS9 episode is. Did you think that because I didn't require watching all of DS9 in the first test you wouldn't be on the hook for it? Nice try. Any answer that's not from Season 6 is wrong. Period. My go-tos are Sacrifice of Angels and In the Pale Moonlight. This is arguably some of the best Star Trek ever written.
Eighth, and this is the last one, what's the worst episode of Enterprise? A Night in Sickbay. Sometimes I think this is the episode where Berman killed Star Trek. But hey it could have been worse, it could have been Voyager's Threshold!
Judge the Trekkies around you. Impersonators will not be tolerated, resistance is futile!