Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The Trek of the People

Where is Star Trek? According to former writer for the original Star Trek series (and creator of the Sleestak race on Land of the Lost), David Gerrold, Axanar "is Star Trek." Star Trek: Axanar is one of the latest of the many Star Trek fan films which seem to be getting better and better in production quality. Funded by a Kickstater campaign, it's already exceeded its originally sought goal of $100,000 dollars and has brought in $650,000. This was after the project's director and writer, Christian Gossett and Alec Peters, had produced a twenty minute short film.

Production on the feature film is underway now.

Watching the Prelude, I have to say I didn't so much feel, "This is Star Trek" as I felt, "These are Trekkies." It feels so much like something that might have been made by the Trekkies I knew in high school--and probably was conceived by guys very like them--in that the focus of the story isn't really on character or science fiction but on space battles. I remember the chief topics among the Trekkies I used to know were how big or powerful one ship was compared to another and a couple guys I knew even designed their own versions of Starfleet ships. I guess primarily you could trace this interest to Wrath of Khan, the second Star Trek film, and some of the more warfare oriented episodes of The Next Generation. But, like Prelude to Axanar, my teenage friends tended to not focus on creating the actual tactics that inspired their imaginations. There's none of the manoeuvring and juggling power systems, bluffing, crew members dying. A hero captain's strategy in Prelude is described as "going for it."

But the special effects aren't bad and the cast is impressive--including Richard Hatch and Gary Graham, though easily the most impressive is Tony Todd as Admiral Ramirez who injects the empty blustering with real feeling. I mean, it really is amazing how in twenty minutes the substance of the dialogue never really amounts to more than "The battles were bad, the Klingons were aggressive, then we were kind of aggressive." But, to be fair, maybe the full film will flesh this out more. I kind of doubt it. Because I don't think this particular group of Trekkies is looking for that.

Considering the mindset I've described, it's no wonder these fans aren't satisfied with the J.J. Abrams films which focus more on young, emotional people than any iteration of Star Trek that preceded them. I have mixed feelings about Abrams' films--I do think they're a little over the top with the emotions sometimes but they also brought a subtlety to character dynamics that was rarely present before. I'm put off by the mooshiness of the Abrams films but it kind of starts to look good in contrast to the safe sterility of Axanar. I guess if I were to use a food simile, the Abrams movies feel like a warehouse of pies to be eaten in an hour while Prelude feels like a bag of Doritos meant to feed a family for a year.

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