I am a Trekkie. I don’t go to conventions, and I don’t dress in costume–although I once made a complicated Star Fleet uniform for one of my sons. Now that he’s well into his twenties, I’m sure he would prefer I not discuss how cute he looked as Captain Kirk.
The original series was great fun, but I really fell in love with the franchise when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted. If Jean-Luc Picard had looked at me and said “Make it so,” I would have. Whatever “it” was. Did it matter?
Now I’ve fallen in love again. Star Trek, the new movie, is spectacular. There aren’t enough superlatives. If you liked anything about the series, even tolerated one of the movies, go straight to your theater . Make it so. You won’t be sorry.
So exactly what is the lesson here? Did a new producer and director teach an old dog new tricks? Did the enhanced effects and graphics pump life into a tired cliche? Was the world ready for yet another glorified car chase in outer space? Are we suffering from Hubblemania and in need of even more celestial drama?
I think the answer’s simpler. J.J. Abrams, the producer/director, and everyone else who brought this idea to the screen, understood the real power of the original and the best of the spin-offs. There’s nothing enormously complicated here, although sometimes I think Hollywood’s forgotten the simplest of truths. A good story, whether it’s on screen or paper, requires complex characters we can empathize with, even if we despise some of them. A good story has a beginning, middle and end. It begins with a significant hook that actually relates to the rest of the tale, and when it ends, we are left with an “ah ha” moment. Every thread doesn’t have to be neatly tied, and every plot line doesn’t have to end happily. But when the story is over, we feel satisfied by the conclusion, even if we preferred a different one.
Oh, and at no point along the way do we scratch our heads and say “huh?” Even if we don’t understand every little point, we have, by that time, developed a strong faith that we’re in good hands and can simply enjoy. So we do.
From Star Trek’s beginning in 1966, even with clunky special effects, silly costumes, beehive hairstyles and Captain Kirk’s chauvinism, we knew we were in for a rousing good tale. We grew to trust Gene Roddenberry, and now we’ll trust J.J. Abrams and hope he “makes it so” again. The franchise goes on, and so do the lessons in pleasing an audience.
So live long and prosper, Star Trek. I think somewhere in the heavens above, Gene Roddenberry is smiling.