Kiek and Spock in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

by Robert Gillis

At the 2006 Comic Con, Paramount Pictures unveiled this teaser poster for Star Trek 11, due in 2008 and to be produced/directed by J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias, etc).

Now, anyone who knows me will be surprised to hear this but I say it now — Star Trek is dead, let in rest in peace.

As one of the foremost Trekkers I know, the guy who can quote verbatim dialogue from the movies, the guy who has seen “Wrath of Khan” EASILY over 200 times, I say it’s time to let Star Trek rest.

Paramount clearly has no interest in the franchise. Judging by the ratings of the last two TV shows (Voyager, Enterprise) as well as the box-office take of the last few films, neither do the fans — or at least, that interest has severely dwindled. Enterprise, after all, was CANCELLED.

Trek has had its day and its glory days and died a sad death with the last film and the Enterprise finale (“These are the Voyages”) an episode that was indeed as an homage but was poorly written, and featured a grievous lack of finality for the crew and the completely unnecessary death of Trip Tucker. Despite the pleasure of seeing the always enjoyable Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis, the finale was indeed appalling and undid a lot of the fourth season magic. The final death blow from Berman and Braga, thanks, guys. After a great fourth season with Manny Coto and the Reeves-Stevens at the helm — people who know and “get” Trek, we were treated to more drivel. And don’t even get me started on the “Alien Nazis” that Braga threw into the last ten seconds of a pretty excellent end to season three.

Now … I DO know what I am talking about … Consider:

In 1982 I saw “Wrath of Khan” and it blew me away. I was hooked and by summer’s end I’d seen all the old episodes (TOS) and Star Trek: The Motionless Picture (sorry, had to get that in). For years, I’ve loved the show, attended some conventions and enjoyed meeting the stars and shaking their hands. I watched the movies and episodes again and again. Some of the soundtracks – -particularly James Horner’s work on Trek’s II and III and some of Jerry Goldsmith’s work is beautiful and worth having. I became a Trekker.

I embraced Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG) and liked Voyager and Enterprise. (Never really took to DS9).

I’ve cherished the great movies (the even numbered movies and Search for Spock) and tolerated the bad (the odd movies except Search for Spock).

I have had lunch with George Takei and have met all of the original cast except DeForest Kelley. I have watched in awe, and stood and cheered, as Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner spoke in auditoriums. I have waited in line to see Trek films and followed Trek news on line.

I miss De Kelley and Jimmy Doohan. May they rest in peace.

Throughout it all, I have been a fan, using star dates in correspondence, writing Trek stories with friends, reading the books, watching and rewatching episodes and movies. I never dressed up as a character, certainly “had a life” and got that the show was — well, a TV show, but enjoyed it for solid entertainment and escapism.

I sum up the entire Star Trek franchise in the same manner producer Harve Bennet (Treks 2-5) once said of TOS: Trek was one third really good, one third OK, and one third ugh (Ugh meaning really bad). I feel that way about the franchise as a whole.

There were amazing stories over the last 40 years, and some of the writing in the shows had true moments of brilliance.

But it’s over. Despite a strong story idea, the last film, Star Trek: Nemesis, tanked at the box office ( I think many aspects of the film were great but there was way too much exposition, talky scenes, and a huge “been there, done that” feeling with Data’s brother android B4.)

The one exception seems to be the “new” episodes at Star Trek: New Voyages — fan produced, they are quite good and worth checking out HERE

I have always loved Star Trek. I always will. But it’s over. It had its glory days, its highs and its lows, and a few too many trips to the well. Will I see Trek 11? Sure, once, but only out of curiosity.

Star Trek is dead. Love live Star Trek.

Hailing frequencies closed.


However…

Acknowledging that I said “No more Star Trek movies” above, and to let the franchise die, I must add this thought:

This week it was announced that both William Shatner (Kirk) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock) were approached to be part of the new Trek film, and both expressed interest. This gives me some hope that the new movie could canonically right the greatest wrong in Star Trek: The meaningless death of James T. Kirk in Star Trek: Generations. Even Mr. Shatner must have thought (afterward) that Kirk’s demise was a bad idea, as his series of Trek novels resurrected Kirk and chronicles the captain’s continuing adventures in the 24th century with an aged Spock, McCoy, and Scotty, and the 24th century Trek crews.

In 1990, Harve Bennet, producer of Star Trek II-V, pitched a “Starfleet Academy” idea for Star Trek VI with a younger, new cast playing Kirk, Spock, and the other Original Series “Classic” crew members. Paramount reportedly balked that Shatner and Nimoy wouldn’t be in it, and Bennet wrote framing scenes at the beginning and end of the picture, where Admiral Kirk tells assembled cadets the story of how he met Spock all those years ago, and then the “younger cast” movie begins.

It looks like JJ Abrams is going in this direction as well. That’s great!

So here is my suggestion — since they’re bringing back Shatner’s Kirk, make it clear that Kirk is back from the dead by setting the framework portion of the story in the late 24th century, after the time of Kirk’s death on Veridian III (2371). Have Kirk in a post-Generations Starfleet uniform — the kind seen in the last three Trek films. Make a passing reference to the Enterprise E, or have a title card on the screen that established that the “older Kirk” part of the film takes place in, say, 2375 or 2379 (the “current” Next Generation time period). Anything to establish the date is AFTER Kirk’s death.

There’s no need to explain HOW Kirk came back from the dead– he’s known for cheating death after all. Leave that to the imagination of future story tellers.

And Shatner and Nimoy both look much older now, so the 24th century timeframe works better than pretending the framing portion of the film takes place, say, in the Classic Trek movie era.

It would be so simple — just a few lines of dialogue anywhere:

Use the lines that Spock used in Star Trek VI:

Officer: reacting to what seemed like a hopeless situation: “Then we’re dead.”
Kirk “I’ve been dead before.”

Or the line from Alien:

Officer: “I thought you were dead.”
Kirk: “I get that a lot.”

Or:

Spock: “Admiral … Jim … I am … pleased to see you again.”
Kirk, teasing: “Your quite logical relief that Starfleet had not lost a highly proficient captain, I suppose?”
Spock, almost a smile but not: “No. I have missed my captain, and my friend. It is … good to have you back.”

Just a few lines of dialogue, appropriate to the characters, and the fans are left with the knowledge that Kirk somehow escaped his fate on Veridian III and lives on, a hero, he and Spock reunited. Fans would be a lot more invested in the “Young Kirk,” knowing that he would continue to cheat death and thrive all those years later, rather than seeing the “new” young Kirk and knowing of his final, meaningless death on an unheard of planet. THAT might make sequels a little more likely as well.

The fans would love it.

What do you think, Mr. Abrams? Mr. Nimoy? Mr. Shatner?

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