Aug 17 2009 2:44pm

How Do I Say Goodbye?

R.I.P. Star Trek Prime?Ever since the new Star Trek movie came out the fandom has been super active. We all have a new universe to play in now—and people have been playing. I could write a whole post about the massive fights going on about Spock and Uhura (you don’t want me to, though. It’s been unpleasant), but I find myself more interested in what’s been left behind and what this means for the future of the franchise.

If you haven’t seen the movie and are still inexplicably avoiding spoilers, stop reading now. But as it’s been months, I don’t feel the need to put this under the jump.

As most everyone knows, Star Trek heavily messed with canon. The whole history of the future has been changed and spun off into an alternate timeline. This was explained—not quite plausibly, but satisfactorily enough—in the movie. But as I watched the scene where Spock expositioned his way through it all (with Uhura’s helpful cry of “an alternate universe!”), I couldn’t help but think to myself: “30+ years of canon just died in 90 seconds. What a shame.”

A friend and fellow Trek lover crystallized it for me by asking if we’d ever see Star Trek Universe Prime ever again or if it would all be taped over by a giant space VCR named J.J.? A valid point. I hope we’ll see stories in Star Trek Prime again, but I worry that The Powers That Be don’t feel they’re worth telling because they only exist in Future!Spock’s memories. Will we ever get to see the last adventure of Captain Picard, the stellar Admiralty of Kathryn Janeway? How about the triumphant return of Captain Sisko, fresh from living with the Prophets in a no time no space dimension of awesome? I’m sure there are so many more Deep Space Nine stories to tell.

I know the franchise was badly in need of a reboot, I know the movies were getting stale and ridiculous along with that travesty of a series I hate to name (okay: Enterprise). Still, I cannot help but feel a pang of regret for my lost universe, now discarded, maybe forgotten forever.

All Star Trek Prime needs is better writers, more talented directors, and a depth of vision. Just give me one more ride—and this time don’t bother with the same old bull you gave us in the last few movies. Instead, make it epic, bring in everyone from TNG, DS9 and VOY you can cajole with easy cash and give this universe the send-off it deserves.

Dave Thompson
1. DKT
I would pay money to see Picard's last adventure or the triumphant return of Captain Sisko. In fact, I'm more interested in hearing/seeing those stories now more than...well, a year ago.

I imagine the rest of the audience that went to the reboot would too, if talented writers and a director were attached the property and unleashed.

But yeah, I don't know if The Powers That Be Would consider going in that direction.
Rajan Khanna
2. rajanyk
I'd love to see that. I've been waiting to see Sisko come back for a while now. But, sadly, I think we're far more likely to get a rebooted TNG or the like now instead. Hollywood is reboot crazy these days.
Samantha Brandt
3. Talia
I'm confident Prime isn't dead. I'm sure they're well aware of the love fans have for it.
Torie Atkinson
4. Torie
Why couldn't we have seen the Captain Pike missions?

I'd still love to see another television series. You can develop so much more over the course of a TV show. I think that without Gene Roddenberry, though, the essence of the show--curiosity, belief in mankind, confidence in the ability to overcome differences and challenges to create a brave new world of tolerance and acceptance--was lost. Someone would have to share that vision (in a way that Rick Berman most definitely did not).
Evan Langlinais
5. Skwid
Meh. Just say "goodbye." If there had been meat left on those bones, it would have been picked. All that's left is the dust of pleasant memories.

Let the new guys have their day unsullied, says I.

(I will confess to some schadenfreude that Enterprise is now the only Canon television consistent with the new timeline! Hehehe...)
Marcus W
6. toryx
Frankly, at this point, I'm afraid that a reboot version of Next Gen or DS9 (I could care less about Voyager, personally) could very well follow based on the success of the Star Trek reboot. I wouldn't want to see what they'd do to them.

I think that the success of Abram's Trek has pretty well buried Gene Roddenberry's vision. We'll just have to cling to our DVDs of the original shows and say goodbye to the future of Trek some of us may have hoped for. They may take away the future of Trek but they can't take my memories!
Steve Roby
7. Steve Roby
I haven't had to say goodbye. The DS9 story and the rest have been moving forward in the novels published by Pocket. Since DS9 went off the air the best Trek has been in book form, not least in the DS9 novels set after the series finale. Dunno whether this will spark the usual dismissive anti-tie-in generalizations or just go completely ignored, but, yes, I'm serious.

Abrams' movie outgrossed the last three Next Generation movies put together. I don't expect to see any filmed revival of 24th century Trek any time soon.
Rajan Khanna
8. rajanyk
Good point about the books. There's also the Trek Online MMO that's due out next year which is set firmly in the TNG/DS9/etc. universe, 30 years after Nemesis.
Steve Roby
9. EricG
Hm. I guess I just don't understand the complaint that thirty years of canon have been negated. AbramsTrek is, literally and figuratively, a spin-off universe. The old universe still exists, both in the wider multiversal narrative and as a commercial property. There was never going to be a filmed continuation of DS9/Voyager/NextGen, and we'll likely get more comics, novels, and MMOs set in the old 'verse than we would have without the Abrams film's success, so I really don't understand what grumpy fans feel that they've lost. Some vague sense of "ownership," perhaps?
Steve Roby
10. Danny Adams
Paramount's Star Trek site insists that the Prime universe is still out there, and that the new Star Trek exists in an alternate universe. In fact, they're preparing a web series that takes place in the Prime Universe a few decades after Romulus is destroyed. We'll see how well that works out . . .
Eugene Myers
11. ecmyers
In addition to Star Trek Online, which rajanyk mentioned, there are still comic books being published in the Prime Universe and numerous fan shows and movies being produced on the internet, many of which are very high quality.

I wouldn't write off another TV series set in the Prime universe sometime in the next 40 years. After all, no one ever thought we'd see it on the air again after the original series was cancelled, and they were proven wrong in a big way.

I always hoped we'd see a show based on the Starfleet Time ships... That would allow them to mess with all sorts of fun stuff multiple continuities.
p l
12. p-l
Abrams' movie outgrossed the last three Next Generation movies put together.

This is really interesting. Along with the re-branding of SyFy, the success of the Abrams movie goes to show that media science fiction no longer needs to rely on fandom.

There may be more Star Trek Prime productions, as long as a buck can be made off them. But SF-nal tropes are going mainstream. Maybe it's time to say goodbye to something bigger than Star Trek canon - i.e. fandom's influence on Hollywood.
C.D. Thomas
13. cdthomas
One point, though. All those lovely books and MMO series through which y'all channel your hopes for the old skool franchise?

They're not canon, and never will be.

The IP rights tangle alone means that we'll never see those DS9 novels adapted to the screen, and really, unless you're part of the Lucas organization, books don't count, ever. That means the old canon is dead.

If BSG goes to film with Singer, then that will prove Abrams' risk as standard Hollywood Operating Procedure. Canon isn't what fans think it is; it has always been what the studios thought would have them the most money.

They've got a new audience, way less picky than we were, and through TRANSFORMERS' success, we know that new audience will pay lots of money for non-story 3D CGI. We've just been lucky that we had their ear for 40 years, because they thought we were losers. Profitable losers and dorks, but nonetheless. Now we're too old and too demanding to use.
Steve Roby
14. Steve Roby
"They're not canon, and never will be."

And your point is? I do have some familiarity with the concept of canon, and I get that the Star Trek books aren't canon. So what?

They're officially licenced, they aren't fanfic, and they aren't going to be contradicted by anyone in the foreseeable future. There's no canon keeper now, anyway, other than the people who approve the books and other tie-ins. Roddenberry is dead. Arnold has been off the Paramount lot for the better part of twenty years. Berman has nothing to do with Trek any more. Abrams likely isn't concerned with the so-called Prime timeline. Canon doesn't really matter any more.
Steve Roby
15. Malcolm Eckel
Hell yes, Steve. The books are pretty much everything you could want out of a continuation of Prime Trek these days, and well worth reading - internally consistent, deep and powerful stories, and as close to any kind of 'canon' as you'll get these days. As you say, with the Prime universe, 'canon' is a pretty meaningless term at this point.

Seriously, anyone that doubts - go buy Twist Of Faith from, an omnibus of the first four books of the Deep Space Nine post-finale adventures, and tell me you don't think it's everything I've said.
K Tempest Bradford
16. ktempest
They're officially licenced ... and they aren't going to be contradicted by anyone in the foreseeable future.

wrong. the books contradict each other all the time precisely because they're not canon. no one is keeping track of what happens in them, and only with some of them is there any connected storyline, and those that have them do not always connect with others.

I like media tie-ins pretty well myself. I loved them when I was younger (I have the first 10 DS9 novels in a basement somewhere). But as it's not canon, and as they aren't even canonical to each other, I don't find the same satisfaction in reading them as I do in watching the series or (some of) the movies.

As close to canon as I'm going to get still isn't canon, and what I want is canon.
Steve Roby
17. Steve Roby
"wrong. the books contradict each other all the time precisely because they're not canon. no one is keeping track of what happens in them"

When was the last time you looked? With rare exceptions, the Trek novels for the last several years have been interwoven into an ongoing continuity. The Destiny trilogy not only featured several sets of characters from different Trek series, it also made some dramatic changes to the status quo of all the ongoing 24th century Trek books series. Anyone who writes a Next Generation, DS9, or Voyager novel set at the current point in the books' timeline will have to be consistent with what's happened to the Federation, what's happened to the Borg, which TNG regulars are on the Enterprise and which ones are on the Titan, and which main Voyager character is dead, among other things.

The stuff about contradictions was true when Richard Arnold was responsible for approvals, because he didn't want continuity between them. That was a long time ago. The editors at Pocket, as soon as they were able, started adding links to books, doing crossovers, and so on, and positive fan response has encouraged more of that.
Steve Roby
18. EricG
Canon is a kind of consensus reality, particularly in a long-lived property like Trek. With, say, the Buffyverse, there are a handful of canon arbiters who everyone cheerfully acknowledges. (For now.) But with Roddenberry long dead and hundreds of creators and thousands of fans invested in the universe, things are messier. It's hard to see why a Trek fan with a camera and a friend at UPN should have more canonical authority than another fan with a book contract.

Is a universally despised show like Enterprise canon just because a studio decided to fund and film it? Is the metric, "Well, people with money said 'Why not'"? That's problematic for a boatload of reasons, and at least with respect to Trek, it almost shows...I don't know, a lack of fannish initiative, or confidence. A willingness to let the folks with the cash tell you what's "real" about the thing you love.

I mean, all of fandom agrees that there was never a black market in the Colonial fleet and no one ever found Earth. Right?
john mullen
19. johntheirishmongol
I am old enough to remember when ST:TOS came out. I was into SciFi before it was cool and had already read Heinlein/Clarke/Asimov etc so I was that guy. Loved ST:NG and ST:DS9, but the series was really showing its age with Voyager and Enterprise. Also, most of the actors in the series are, to put it bluntly, old and past the point of being usable. Something like me lol

Anyway, the only way to put younger actors in character and keep the same universe would have been to have a series with the characters put on every single mission til Kirk gets the original Enterprise. Kind of a trip thru memory lane but those don't make great theater. Almost every prequel before this that has been made into a movie has been an unmitigated disaster. This one worked only because it was a total reset, even if the idea that Kirk becomes Captain this fast goes against every military organization since the British used to commission officers who paid for the priviledge.

Now you have a new Kirk/Spock/crew and a whole bunch of new stories available.
C.D. Thomas
20. cdthomas
The one thing cheerleaders for the 'new' canon of the books overlook is that any attempts at continuity won't mean a damn thing, *precisely* due to the upheaval wrought by ST XI.

Look, there were novels under the Timescape imprint that I would have been delighted if they served as canon depictions of the Klingon and Vulcan cultures. But as Lucasfilm made all of their IP canon in one way or another, Paramount made it absolutely clear that no book would be successful or crucial enough to ever have its innovations adapted for a film -- and that film and live-action series alone would be canon.

Do you know they still don't consider TAS canon? What that means is YESTERYEAR didn't happen. Do you wonder why I don't trust their judgment? But what alternative do we have, really? We can read the meaningless books, and produce our meaningless fanfic, because they've been lenient with fanfic and fan media productions so far. That doesn't mean they'll continue to be so.

And, Mr. Mongol: You're wrong. There was no need to believe that a reboot staying in canon was a job for old farts -- the aforementioned TAS provided prequel information to TOS without any distortion of characters. Also TOS triggered the possibility of untold stories that even the non-canon novels told and retold -- how did Captain April command? How did Spock get through his first billets with human crews? -- that would have been lovely to see on film. But, no, Captain Pike gets an earwig, his wheelchair prematurely, and a hearty handshake for giving up his command to a man he was about to courtmartial for cheating.

But now we have a genocided Vulcan, and an Earth as dumb as Idiocracy, from the evidence shown. We have the equivalent of grad students at the helm of a starship, and we have a grieving Vulcan destabilized by the influence of his alternate universe self. We have a universe now able to be ravaged by the Romulans (the Tal Shiar doesn't know by now that they must strike first, before the humans retaliate for Nero?), the Klingons, and the Borg, who just might reach further back in their time travels. All hell has broken loose in this universe, and the only constant is Abrams': Sheer, dumb, unearned luck by really cute people with loud weapons. LEXX did it better, and with hotter costumes.

This is not a reset; this is creative destruction with little hope of a non-brutal reconstruction. You're going to trust this process to the men who earned their highest paycheck with the dumbest most successful movie this summer? If ST XII is smarter than TRANSFORMERS 2, I'll be surprised.
Ed Rafferty
21. BigBoy57
Whoah there cowboys!

What's all this happy crappy about "universally despised" blah blah blah?

I have two series of Star Trek on DVD and one of them is ST:E (the other is 'cos I love Katherine Janeway - I crave a dominant woman).

But, never having got into the whole web thing before came along, I guess I wasn't aware I loved a series despised by all true Trekkies - I must go and turn my DVD's into coasters.....byee.
K Tempest Bradford
22. ktempest
I liked Voyager until the second season of Seven, where all the SEVENSEVENSEVEN-ness of it got to me and I started to skip. I tried very hard with Enterprise, but that show was crap. I can't speak for all trekkies, and I don't consider myself a True Trekkie, anyway, but I cannot abide such a badly done show.
Steve Roby
23. Steve Roby
cdthomas: Think Star Wars books are canon? Ask Karen Traviss, who's dropping out of Star Wars novel writing because the next season of Clone Wars will invalidate a lot of the series she's working on, as well as some of what's already been published over the last several years.
Steve Roby
24. Pendragon
Enterprise was awesome, and all the haters can go to hell.
Torie Atkinson
25. Torie
@ 22 ktempest

Voyager was got me into Star Trek, for better or worse. I really loved it as a teenager, so I have a soft spot for it. Not all of it was bad--in fact, I thought it had the strongest premise of all the various series. What do you do when there's no oversight, no guidance? How do you continue to have hope in the face of impossible odds, and how do you treat an enemy in the face of desperation? It's too bad all the characters stunk and the plots were sometimes unwatchable. Still, some of it's quite good, and overall its mediocrity was still miles better than some of the crap on TV now.

I suppose I can't adequately judge Enterprise since I only ever saw the unspeakably awful pilot, but I don't exactly hear angels singing its praises.
Marcus W
26. toryx
It's kind of funny how even within the confines of the Star Trek fandom there are so many disagreements. I know a lot of people who worshipped TOS and despised TNG. Others who thought that the best show of all time was DS9 and can't stand TOS.

Personally, I couldn't stand Voyager, loved the first season of Enterprise (partially because they weren't even calling it Star Trek) and prefer Next Gen season 3-6 more than over all of the others shows. DS9 was just okay in my book.

Given all these differences, it's hardly any wonder that the old canon shows aren't of much interest to the world at large anymore. Even we Trekkers (never a Trekkie, me) can't get along.
K Tempest Bradford
27. ktempest
Star Wars books are canon, Steve, but it would not surprise me to hear that Lucas is allowing Clone Wars to mess up that canon for unfathomable reasons. You knwo the animated Clone wars movie? Some critic (I think Ebert) pointed out that no one, in the entire film, ever used the term "The Force". How do you make a Star Wars movie without mentioning The Force? That makes this serious way, way dubious.

But up until; now, SW books have been canon and LucasFilms had to approve plot, characters, etc. to make sure they adhered to it. I'm sure Karen Traviss is angry considering they're allowing Clone Wars to mess stuff up -- she wasn't allowed to, after all, and for what I'm sure she considered a good reason. It must feel like a slap in the face.
Craig Rayl
28. cscifi215
I am not that much of a trekkie so I am sure all of them would probably want to shoot J.J. and myself, but the truth is the only Captain that is worth watching is James T. Kirk (maybe Scott Backula too, but thats different.) Captain Picard was too much like Shakespeare doing star trek, Captain Jane way and her entire crew were a complete bore and had no emotion, Captain Sisko and Deep Space Nine just got too complicated.

We want back the original space maverick Captain Kirk (The series Enterprise proved that much). He would always go with his gut screw the rules who cares about some stupid Federation and their directives. Klingons will quiver, female aliens will shiver, and Romulons well they are too confused to figure him out. Spock and Bones will recreate all of the great science vs. humanity debates and Star Trek will return to what made it so great.
Steve Roby
29. Steve Roby
"Star Wars books are canon, Steve"

George Lucas says otherwise. Some quotes from wikipedia:

"There are two worlds here," explained Lucas. "There’s my world, which is the movies, and there’s this other world that has been created, which I say is the parallel universe – the licensing world of the books, games and comic books."

"I don't read that stuff. I haven't read any of the novels. I don't know anything about that world. That's a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one."
Jeff Soules
30. DeepThought
what this means for the future of the franchise.

What future? What franchise?

Star Trek is, without exaggeration, the only television series I have ever loved. If JJ Abrams' twice-chewed-over dogscat is what they're making of it, then it's truly dead.

We've seen commentary along these lines here on before, but I'll say it again: the new movie has nothing to do with what Star Trek means. It's glitzy shiny space opera, fine and fun as far as it goes, but less substantial or sensical than Independence Day or Deep Impact or any other "sci-fi"-branded extruded summer action blockbuster product, complete with flavor-of-the-month prettyface actors* and a generous helping of lens flares.
Hollywood doesn't know how to make anything of substance any more. All it can do is desecrate its ancestors' corpses, trying to squeeze a few more drops of profit out of old franchises, and get its probing tentacles into every possible merchandising tie-in. (A Hot Wheels movie? Who can read that and deny that imagination is dead?)

Abrams-trek, for all that there are bound to be a couple more movies to come out of it, bears the same relationship to actual Star Trek that that fourth Indiana Jones movie does to its franchise: a sad and wilted reminder of the awesome work that had been done in the past, whose "contribution" to canon is imaginable only as a spiteful threat or a sick joke.

*with the possible exception of Karl Urban, though it might just be that Bones is that irrepressibly awesome. And I'm going to laugh when five years down the road, Abrams decides to replace half his cast because they're starting to look too un-teenagerish to play in Star Trek Babies.
Daniel Abraham
31. DanielAbraham
It strikes me that what we're seeing is Star Trek's first tentative step from continuity to mythos. Star Trek has pretended to be (however successfully I'll let other folks judge) a single history with things in a fictional past (Star Trek: TOS) affecting later events (Star Trek: Everything Else) in the same way that events in our history (Greece and Rome) affect what came later (the Renaissance, fer instance). But not every big story works that way.

I keep looking at Batman. There's a story that dropped all pretension of canon and dove right into mythos. Heath Leger's Joker and Alan Moore's Joker and Mark Hammill's Joker can't exist in the same universe, but they're all great. The basic facts of the world are nailed down: Bruce Wayne saw his parents killed and was inspired to become a costumed hero. He doesn't have innate superpowers,but he's a very good fighter and has lots of gadgets and boatloads of money. He fights the Joker, Catwoman (who may or may not be a lesbian), and the Penguin (among others). His ally is Commissioner Gordon and sometimes Robin. Anything that doesn't do violence to the axioms is fair game. Likewise, Superman always landed in Smallville about 20 years ago, no matter if that puts his touchdown in the 30s or the 80s.

If anything, I think the old Spock/time warp thing was a mistake. And I hope in future reboots, we can just start telling the stories again in new ways with different interpretations. I would, for instance, love to see Mudd's Women retold in a 21st century semi-post-feminist voice without having to do any "keep it canon" contortions.
Lis Riba
32. lisriba
I wonder what it would take to make "How Much For Just The Planet" canon in the rebootedverse....
Evan Langlinais
33. Skwid
Enterprise isn't universally despised, and for good reason, because the second half of the series is some of the best Star Trek ever made. I can't really blame the so-called "haters" who gave up on the show in its abysmal 1st season, or even its merely mediocre 2nd...but the third and fourth were straight-up brilliant. Well written, well directed, and well acted.

Voyager, on the other hand, started mediocre and steadily worked its way down. Blech.

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