Monday, May 27, 2013

Trekkin On Up!

J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" isn't Star Trek. If you're not aware of that, then perhaps you've not seen Star Trek, pick any series between 1966 and 2007 and watch it. Watch the movies before J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" and if you cannot discern the difference beyond the fact that there are different actors in them, or the 'special effects aren't as good,' then I'm not sure you're able to understand what Star Trek was even about in the first place. You can pretend they don't exist, or you can believe that Star Trek is all a prequel to Star Wars if you want, either way, there isn't much help for you.  It isn't about continuity issues. There are a few of those among the series that came before it, nothing so assaulting as the new movies, but there's a few things here and there. 

If you're still babbling and complaining about Scott Bakula, Voyager, or DS9, if you're still hung up on infantile debates about Klingon foreheads and whether or not transporter beams should exist in ENTERPRISE, you're missing quite a great deal of what Star Trek was about. Whether you like it or not, the worst episodes of Voyager, Enterprise and DS9, and the Next Generation movies contain far more "Star Trek" than J.J. Abrams' movies, and are all a part of one long series that isn't attempting to sabotage Gene Roddenberry's original ideas, or the many writers who took the helm on so many episodes over the last 40 years. 

Yes, we know that genetically engineered super-men didn't try to take over the world in the 1990s, and there's no changing the fact that computers have advanced far beyond what we see in the Shatner series from the 1960s.  Star Trek continued, and just as Snake Plissken didn't rescue the President from a prison called "New York" in 1997, we as an audience have to ignore those dates and absorb the story and it's intentions. Along the course of the series' of Star Trek, we're told about a 21st Century in which catastrophic war takes place. Star Trek isn't about that "world war III" but it attempts to shine a light beyond it, that mankind makes it, that a more positive future is arrived at. You can get upset that that historical period is referred to with many different dates, or that the Eugenics Wars couldn't have taken place in the 1990s, or that you didn't like the guy who played Zefram Cochrane, or that First Contact had plot holes, or that Voyager's references seem to be different details, or that you didn't like time-travel cops, or that Enterprise had Scott Bakula in it, or that DS9 was too much like a soap opera, or whatever, but...  The story elements along its great timeline (whether there were characters you hated, or whether people went back and forth in time or visited parallel realities) are all connected in one single entity called Star Trek, keeping as much as possible the foundation of what it was always about, and didn't drastically alter any original characters or ideas to the point of absurdity, as did J.J. Abrams in his remakes.  This "Star Trek" vision is still intact after its 40 years of different series, at least it is on DVD, and it was intact until Abrams and his remakes came along. 

The Abrams films reveal a public not only not familiar with the original Star Treks, but one that either has contempt for it, or one that simply has no interest, no relation to it, no undestanding or desire for something it promoted. The arguments about the little details of Trek are often hobbyists who like to take things apart, to see the differences, but as of late, these 'discussions' quickly get ugly on the internet, and I have no desire to take part in them. The overall concepts in Star Trek are pretty solid, the intentional ideals of promoting a 'better future' exist throughout all the series, and story elements, about the 21st Century in particular are what they are and always have been. The 21st Century is a bad place to live through, but somewhere towards the end, somebody comes along and tries something, a 'Warp Drive,' and this changes everything. You may not like how it was portrayed in First Contact, but regardless, there is a meaning behind it, a purpose. It is trying to tell us something, it still contains the ideal that mankind should strive for something better, to break free, to try and head for a better world, to innovate, to be creative, to be inventive, to be a pioneer.

You can go ahead and embrace the mindlessness of J.J. Abrams movies 'cause itz cool!' or you can sit there and whine about story elements in past series' but I suggest people begin to embrace certain ideas in this series that so many people have admitted across the entire world that has inspired them because its cultural influences are being undermined.  Yes, these things still exist on DVD, but ask J.J. Abrams and his fans, and they'll tell you, not only could they care less to watch that stuff, they think its simply there to make more money off a 'dying generation' whose time is up, and they just better get out of the way because this new movie series is all there is and all that really matters.  The world around us is also telling us to get out of the way, there is an antagonism to these ideas of Star Trek, there certainly always was, but it gained a pretty wide acceptance by the end of the 1990s. Star Trek became a cultural staple, dozens of documentaries have been made about its 'contribution to culture' and it's influence on everything from science to the civil rights movement. All of that is being shunned by the society we now see developing. We're not heading towards anything even close to the future suggested by Star Trek, and it has nothing to do with the fact that we've stopped building spaceships to go to the moon. 

Technology advances, but our culture does not. Movie special effects advance, but the stories do not. Our future's not looking so bright, and J.J. Abrams "Into Darkness" isn't attempting to be ironic, it's manufacturing a product that its analysts have deduced that it's what the public wants to see, to revel in brooding apocalyptic violence and 'shock and awe.' It's like the attraction to death-metal music, a kind of adrenaline frenzied horror-trip, a crazed and manic bummer-trip jacked up to the max, and a steroid fueled angst ridden sensory overload instant-gratification commercialized product completely arranged and manufactured to the appeal of as many consumers as possible. It isn't suggesting anything in its story about our humanity, it isn't a cautionary tale, it isn't a dark comedy, its irony is phony, its references to earlier films are a con. It is a cynical cash grab, and has nothing to say at all. Star Trek always had something to say, even when it was being silly. Even when it said it poorly, it still had something to say to us. Even when it tried to blend mindless action with the Next Generation, there still was an attempt at telling us something about ourselves. These movies pretend to, and it is so obvious it isn't even funny. It's more than insulting and more than a disgrace to the original series, it is telling us that Hollywood wants nothing but our money, and no matter how much money people made in the 50s and 60s, they used to have something to say to us, the people who worked on these products did once try to ask questions, tell stories, inspire and challenge us. Not any more. This is bad. This is really bad, this means something far more disconcerting than a drastic change to a favorite television series. 

Meanwhile, our world is becoming less and less interested in being a better one. We can choose to not give a shit like J.J. Abrams, and just get the money, or we can attempt to do something about it. Star Trek was something we once had that inspired those ideals of striving for a better world, but today, turn on a radio talkshow and you'll find them saying Star Trek was a communist conspiracy, propaganda dreamed up by satanic forces who are trying to destroy your god, and that the only thing we should forward to is a catastrophic apocalyptic future closer to the Dark Ages than even Star Wars. There is an absolute contempt for Star Trek and its ideals, and it's become political. They go a lot further than saying it's communism, but I digress. 

Why don't people desire a better world anymore? Is it because it means they have to do something for it, to get there? They claim they no longer have the attention span to sit and watch Star Trek because 'it's boring.' Their addiction to sensory overload is degrading their humanity, and Abrams is most certainly not helping with his steroid infused Fake Trek.  So it remains with us, those who can watch the old shows and discern those values, pick up those ideas from them, and we can't do that and do anything with those ideas if we're posting insulting comments to somebody because we have a problem with a tv series called Voyager. We can't contribute to society if we're busy attacking somebody for liking Scott Bakula. We aren't contributing to society if we're telling somebody they're stupid because they watched every episode of Deep Space Nine. The criticism of J.J. Abrams and his movies is most certainly justified for many many reasons, but I might suggest we also start to take a new approach to all this, to see what its real influence is, and where it is all really coming from, because if we do not do this, then not only will we never get any new Star Trek, we're never going to arrive at anything that even remotely resembles that world in our future. The mindless insulting that goes on all over the internet is useless, and I suggest it's time to start thinking about the 21st Century that we live in, that Star Trek has told us could be a hellish experience, that it's already begun to be a hellish experience, and that technology is already being unleashed to destroy innocent lives, that we've already entered a new era, where such things as Eugenics Wars, and fascist kangaroo courts and drug-fueled soldiers are already starting to happen. Its time to take a look out there beyond a couple bad movies and see why crazy people out there love them so much. We're in trouble ladies and gentlemen, and we have to wake up and smell the fact that we're here. 

We've begun. This is it. This is the 21st Century, and there's a long way to go. We're off to a real bad start, and we better start thinking our way out of an apocalypse starting now. That was Roddenberry's warning, and many of the writers of that show. I'm not asking you to dress up like a Vulcan every day, or to research how to do mind melds, but I am asking you to take this seriously, Star Trek fans have always been accused of taking it 'way too seriously,' but I'm telling you you're not taking it seriously enough. I'm not saying that if we build a Warp Engine we can save the world, I'm saying that many of the ideals of this future-Star Trek world are worth thinking about, worth utilizing, worth believing in, and if that's taking it too seriously, well execute me right now Mr. Singh.  Dissolve my DNA from the face of the earth and sterilize my entire family, if that's what you're little pathetic world has to offer. "Kick my ass"  mister frat-boy space-captain jerk. Bully me and harass me until you're blue in the face, if that's what you want, but I happen to want a better future, and I'm going to employ all that is available, or in this case, was once available, and I will criticize those who have the power to employ that voice but simply choose to make as much money as possible before they die.  There is a possible 'positive' future, but we still have to imagine the rest of it. We have to keep trying to imagine it, and we can't discard things simply because they don't have enough 'splosions and titties in them.  There is something of value here, and there's no reason to let it go to the worst of us. 

It's time to enter the 21st Century. It's time to move ahead not backwards. It's time to face the facts, and it's time to move forward into a future that we have to better imagine, and we can do that if don't let ourselves be satisfied with mindless entertainment provided to us by those who basically would be happy to enslave us...

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