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Star Trek made a bundle this weekend and that means this Monday morning there’s only one thing on the minds of Paramount Pictures’ execs: What’s next? If you saw the movie, no doubt you feel the same. JJ Abrams’ Star Trek is that perfect kind of summer film: the kind that leaves you wanting more. When it ends you walk out feeling as if you’ve only witnessed the very beginning of an adventure. You leave knowing that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Beam me up for the sequel!
This is a bright new era in the original fanboy franchise. So where does Star Trek go next? How does Paramount keep this franchise moving at warp speed? I’ve got answers.
What Not To Do
They’ve gone to a spectacular amount of trouble to reboot this franchise in a way that gives them complete freedom to do whatever they want. The entire film is dedicated primarily to the idea of inventing an excuse for this franchise to have a fresh start. Nero went back in time, murdered Kirk’s father and wiped out the planet Vulcan specifically so that Trek’s writers wouldn’t be beholden to past Trek ideas. So they could once again boldly go where no one has gone before. So what’s the first idea right out of the gate? Hey people liked Khan! Let’s bring back Khan! No thanks.
Yet when it comes to Star Trek prequel talk, that’s all anyone’s talking about. Who could play Khan? How could they rehash the character in a different way? How soon can they get started on redoing old ideas which have already been done perfectly and don’t need to be revisited in any way? Hey guys um, what happened to the reboot? If you’re going to reboot the franchise it needs to be more than just a convenient excuse to recycle the same ideas over and over and over again. Khan has been done. Come up with your own ideas. Otherwise what’s the point in wiping the slate clean in the first place?
Not that every new idea is a good one. For instance the romance between Spock and Uhura, which reared its head during this first film, definitely does not need to carry on in future installments. Don’t get me wrong, it works in this film. It works in the sense that Uhura sees Spock hurting and goes to him. It works in the sense that Spock is in turmoil and his logical façade is slipping. He needs someone to lean on, maybe he even for a moment, thinks he’s in love. But long term? A lingering romance between Uhura and Spock turns this into Dawson’s Creek in space. Again, no thanks.
It’s not as if this isn’t the first time Trek crew members have dabbled in romance. There’s nothing wrong with the momentary fling. Uhura and Scotty had a thing in Star Trek V but by Star Trek VI they’d moved on. Star Trek is bigger than who’s sleeping with who. Let Spock and Uhura move on. Leave their romance out of it or get forever bogged down in it.
Jettison the bad ideas. Take the good ones and make them even better. Obviously, the entire cast needs to return. No replacement actors. They all have multi-picture deals so that’s not going to be a problem. Sticking with the same director is also a must. JJ Abrams needs to be in charge. Bring him back, whatever the cost, then get him to promise he’ll cool it with the lens flairs and maybe, just maybe consider slowing down. Seriously, you have our attention JJ. You’re not going to lose us. The next movie doesn’t have to run on Red Bull. Nobody’s going to walk out if you mix in five minutes of honest to god introspection. We’re with you sir. Feel free to pause and look around every once in awhile. Let us see where you are. Let your characters have a moment to understand what’s happening to them. Save the breakneck pace for action sequences and they’ll only seem even more thrilling in contrast. Keep moving this fast and you’ll flame out early. Give us something meatier to chew on in the next one, and we’re yours forever.
Boldly Go Where No Star Trek Has Gone Before
The real key to keeping this Star Trek on track is fresh ideas. The course is already charted. Use this movie as a launching point to take us somewhere new, exciting, and (here’s that word again) bold. There’s nothing bold about bringing back old characters just for name recognition. Star Trek has set things up. We have a crew. We have a ship. We have an eager audience. Now let’s use it. Let’s see what’s out there. It’s alright if you want to give us the occasional tribble cameo but only if you’re use that to accent genuinely new, big ideas.
Ditch the save the world plots. You’ve done that in this film and it’s been done in every other Star Trek movie starting with the The Motion Picture back in 1979. Don’t rehash what Star Trek has already done, but there are lessons to be learned in their patter. The previous incarnation of the franchise followed it’s save the world plot in The Motion Picture up with a more personal story, one about the crew’s relationships with each other, a story which launched a trilogy of great films which ended in a fourth movie returned to the save the world plot formula. There are lessons there.
Take the next movie and make it personal. Start some real character arcs for these people and take them somewhere on a big adventure. It’s not warp field theory, you can come up with something good. If you can’t, call up the guys who wrote Galaxy Quest. They can help you through it. The key to this new Star Trek’s success is to keep it as fresh, energetic and hopeful as it already is. Be your own franchise. Take us where no Star Trek has gone before.