"Space: the final frontier..."
These are the words that so many Trekkies know as their gospel. These words span 50 years of TV and movie history. These words are what set apart Star Trek from every other popular science fiction series.
I had a conversation with some friends yesterday who were singing the praises of J. J. Abrams' modern Star Trek movies, and I realized that if you don't already know what Star Trek stands for, what makes it not just another sci-fi series, then you have no frame of reference for why those movies were a travesty and a smear upon what has made Star Trek so great.
Before I go further, I would like to simply state that I loved those movies. I loved all the actors, I loved the villains and the heroes, I loved seeing Spock portrayed by the formidable Zachary Quinto. Those were straight up excellent action movies.
But that's where they part from Star Trek. Names and places remain the same, but the pull that brought so many to conventions, fan-made spinoffs and cosplaying disappears.
Star Trek, at it's core, is about people. It's about relationships, chain of command, and most importantly, the human condition. Star Trek has, for half a century, transported everyday problems to space in the future. If you stripped any given episode of the Original Series down to its story, you are left with either 1. A story about racial discrimination, 2. A story about political idiocy, or 3. A story about nothing more or less than relationships. This is what has fascinated millions of fans for 50 years. The fact that really, Star Trek has almost more accurately portrayed the problems (and solutions) in american culture than anything that sets out to do that in the first place. It offers the obvious solution to these grievances and troubles while at the same time captivating the audience with believable advances in modern technology.
When Star Trek (2009) came out, I refused to see it for a year because from every trailer, I saw an action movie, I didn't see a comprehensive political thriller or a social commentary. It wasn't until my sister sat me down and made me watch it that I finally tried it on. I then proceeded to buy it on Blu-Ray and watch it copiously, because it was just a simply fun movie with an incredible cast and a passable story line. It wasn't until Star Trek Into Darkness (yeah seriously, where is the colon?) came out that I realized that my initial reaction was really incredibly accurate. J. J. Abrams revitalized a series that already had a fanbase of thousands, if not more, I assume for the same reason anyone does this sort of thing: $$$. His problem was that he missed the point, and his successor who has recently released the trailer for Star Trek Beyond (seriously, does no one in Hollywood use colons anymore?) has missed it even more, if the trailer is any indication.
Star Trek isn't about space, really. It's not even really about technological advances. It's about relationships and how they work, about how we as a culture should respond to racism, about how we as citizens of a free country should respond to government overstepping its boundaries. I hold out hope that the new TV series will pick up where Star Trek: Nemesis (yes. a colon.) left off.