Did you see the newer Star Trek movies?
The new movies are a great example of 1) casting is actually a skill, and not every director has it; 2) how much can be forgiven, how much goodwill can be created, by just having a good cast with chemistry.
I didn’t personally connect with them for a number of reasons, but I can understand why a lot of people found them fresh and exciting. Star Trek was downright stale, getting dull. It needed a fresh portrayal and a fresh set of visual images. For example, nothing is more boring, especially by the 2000s, than the force shields around the Enterprise. Someone on the bridge is always yelling that “shields are at 40%, captain!” The damn shield will just never go down. Compare that to how, in the recent films, space battles shred the hull and blast people into the vacuum silently.
with these films is that I feel Star Trek has to embrace being absolutely
dorky. People in the Star Trek future never use swear words (this became a
running joke in Star Trek IV). People in Star Trek, especially TNG, lose their
minds with excitement over going to botany conferences. Most kid activities
involve building science fair projects, most adults spend their free time
reading huge books, and it’s almost endearing how something like the Holodeck,
with its near endless potential for debauchery, is instead used mostly to
recreate old literary characters and Shakespeare plays.
One of the
major issues that I have with the new Trek series is that, as it was based around re-using the
iconography of classic Star Trek (flip communicators, uniforms with 60s
miniskirts on them, etc. – I kept waiting for someone to come out with Grace
Lee Whitney’s dated beehive hairstyle), it rejected one of the core traits of
Star Trek, and science fiction in general: the desire to be state-of-the-art
and to think in terms of believability, instead of being driven by mere art direction. This sounds
like a bizarre argument to make from someone who runs a blog that just shows
rockets with fins on them all the time, but it’s true that Star Trek had
science consultants because they wanted to legitimately display a future
society. Heck, we have devices in our pockets now that can do more than Trek
Between TOS and TNG, decisions were made to change things because of believability. The First Officer should leave away teams instead of the captain, pin communicators, and due to advanced automation, the bridge would be more of a “hangout spot” than a place where people are required to man controls, etc. Not everything TNG came up with was great, but that mentality at work, to say, “this is what it really would be like with the best information we have available” wasn’t really present in the new films. The iconography of the series left the new movies fossilized and retro.
This is something people don’t understand about the science fiction and pulps of the past: people didn’t have rockets on pulp magazine covers for the hell of it. Goddard’s invention, rockets, at one point, were state of the art, and seemed like the most plausible way to cross the distance of space. The fact the 1930s kept setting stories on Mars and Venus was because it wasn’t entirely known if they could sustain life or not. All the traits we associate with “pulp scifi” were actually based on the best available knowledge.
I really hope that the upcoming Star Trek series has artificial intelligence as
a big plot point, because, at the rate of current computer science, true AI may
be something we see in our lifetimes. The future would ring false without it.
people want to create retro-style future worlds in their own fiction, and they ask me how to go about
it, and my advice is simple: don’t do it.
At least, don’t start with that as your end goal…not unless you can think of something in there that speaks to modern times. I
love film noir, but those films are such legitimate products of their time that it’s not possible to recreate them using our own voices.
If you want to do something that’s “retro scifi-esque,” ask yourself what it is you like about older science fiction and build what you want to do from there, from the ground up. In the words of Basho: “don’t imitate the masters but seek what they sought.”