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SciFriday: More Things Change, More They Stay The Same

I honestly don’t get all this hubbalo over the recent comments “Star Trek XI” production designer Dawn Brown made to Airlock Alpha’s very own Will N. Stape last week over how the USS Enterprise is going to look when it hits the big screen in less than a year. If you haven’t read the interview […]

I honestly don’t get all this hubbalo over the recent comments “Star Trek XI” production designer Dawn Brown made to Airlock Alpha’s very own Will N. Stape last week over how the USS Enterprise is going to look when it hits the big screen in less than a year.

If you haven’t read the interview yet, then you’ve obviously been on vacation or forgot to pay your Internet bill. If so, then you can read the story in its entirety by clicking here.

If you’re a diehard Star Trek fan, you’re probably not going to like what I’m about to say, but since when did I care if people actually like what I said or not? In any event, they can change the Enterprise all they want … but in the end, what matters is that the Enterprise is there, not what it looks like.

It can be absolutely unnerving to see changes taking place on the bridge, or in corridors, or (gasp!) even in the engine room. But how is that any more unnerving than having completely different actors portray the roles that some would say are just as famous as the ship itself? No one seemed to care that Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott, Sulu, Uhura, even the Tribbles were recast with people who have similar characteristics with the actors who originated them. But J.J. Abrams dared recast the Enterprise with something that had similar characteristics, and the world almost came to an end.

I’m sorry, but you are not going to convince someone who may be new to Star Trek or might be interested in a real Star Trek story to go see a movie where we’re supposed to believe technology that hasn’t seemed futuristic since 1973 is what we’ll have a few hundred years from now. I’m not the first to say this, but my cheap $20 cell phone I got from Alltel has more features when it’s turned off than Kirk’s communicator did on its best day.

Of course, it’s almost impossible for me to say that in a room crowded with diehard Star Trek fans, because I wouldn’t come out alive. They would tell me that I should get used to it, because it’s the story that really matters, and the rest is just nostalgia. So that’s it, eh? It’s the story that really matters? Can’t that be the same argument Abrams can use in redesigning parts of the Enterprise?

A lot of this comes back to WWGD … What Would Gene Do? The Great Bird of the Galaxy hasn’t been with us for 17 years now, so he can’t weigh in on this particular instance. But Gene Roddenberry has done things in the past which shows that while he feels the Enterprise is an important character in his Wagon Train to the Stars, it’s a character that is allowed to evolve.

The original “Star Trek” series had a few major modifications to the Enterprise bridge and other areas throughout its three-year run. By the time “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” came out, the bridge deck and other major areas of the Enterprise had been significantly redesigned — a far bigger change than Scotty growing a moustache. I was too young to see “The Motion Picture” in the theaters when it came out, but I bet there were no Star Trek fans picketing the movie on its premiere.

Then Gene did something radical in 1987. Not only did he redesign the Enterprise again to return it to television, he recast all the major characters and even changed their names. People who vowed to never accept a captain of the Enterprise not named Kirk swore off the show, including some of the original actors like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. But even those two warmed up to the series in time, realizing that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was not meant to replace Kirk and crew, it was meant to continue the stories that fans have clamored for years over.

“Star Trek XI” is not designed to replace Kirk. It’s not designed to replace Picard. It’s not designed to replace Sisko. It’s not designed to replace Janeway. It’s not even designed to replace Archer (although some might wish for that). Abrams and his crew are finding a way to continue telling the great Star Trek stories we’ve been without for the last several years, and no matter what the Enterprise looks like, it’s not about appearance, but about story.

Never forget that. Gene Roddenberry wouldn’t.

SyBits

By the way, if you noticed, that was our first story from Will N. Stape, who will be doing some special reporting for us in the coming months, and maybe even a column. If the name seems familiar to you, it should. Stape is credited with writing two popular Star Trek scripts: “Homeward” for “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and (uncredited) for “Prophet Motive” on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.”

All of us here at the SyUniverse Group are honored to have him aboard.

Let’s read a letter or two.

In keeping an eye on the writer’s strike, I’m reminded of a pair of petulant children holding their breath — neither side is talking and everyone else is suffering (or will be). The entire incident has reminded me of a rather obscure reference from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (“The Neutral Zone” from Season 1) where Data remarks that television faded from relevance in the mist-21st century (bear with me, I’m paraphrasing). Believe me, if all we have to look forward to is game shows, reality shows and reruns, it will quickly lose relevance with me.

Both sides have issues that are valid and need to be addressed, but if they can’t talk sensibly to each other, this will hurt everyone. Eventually, the studios will begin to lose money, then they will ignore the writers and start bringing in writers who are not guild members and entice those who are guild members to break ranks. This will hurt both the writers and the studios because of the initial chaos that will ensure.

Eventually, the stalwart members of the Writers Guild of America will either be rendered inconsequential or they will find some way to drive a wedge between the studios and those who cross the picket lines.

This is a battle which could go on for the forseeable future and even beyond, and the people who are going to be hurt aren’t the studios … it will be the TV viewers and the moviegoers. At least initially.

— Keith Kitchen

I’m with you, Keith, and I hope the scenario you’ve spelled out here doesn’t happen.

Yes, I’m already tired of the lack of good programming on television right now, but to be honest, I was experiencing that before the strike. If I were to choose between my desire to have fresh programming on the air at the expense of the writers or 24 hours of Donald Trump with the writers fighting for what they deserve, I would take the latter any day.

Send your letters to mhinman@airlockalpha.com, and if you’re lucky, they may end up right here.

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Have a great week, and don’t be a stranger!

Michael Hinman, a 22-time winner of the British lottery and heir to three Nigerian fortunes, is the founder and site coordinator for Airlock Alpha, writing out of Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at mhinman@airlockalpha.com

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