Book Review: Star Trek

Author: Lyle

I’m not really a big fan of the book-version-of-a-movie-script that always come out accompanying a major movie.  This one was a gift, the Alan Dean Foster version of the “reboot” of the Star Trek franchise.  I read through this one because the movie was a little hard to follow; with all the focus on special effects and action the inevitable pseudo-science of Star Trek and time travel left some confusion.  Alan Dean Foster has been adapting Star Trek scripts as long as I can remember (I probably have some in a box in the basement still from the 70’s) and he writes well, so how bad could it be?

The book is well written.  It was enjoyable without the need to mentally tie it into the images of the movie, and there is nuance added to the thoughts and movements of the characters that was built from the movie.  Either lots of originality, or lots of watching scenes over and over again (I’ll assume some of both) to catch tons of detail that I missed in the theater.  So, I give the adaptation a thumbs up.

But, I’m just left with an overall negative impression of so much of the Star Trek “canon” of work.  This, of course, is no judgement on Mr. Foster’s work on this book but more of a disappointment in the lack of vision or coherence with the whole Star Trek universe.  “Franchise coherence loss” is prone to happen when the creator of the series leaves us and the franchise continues to be developed by others.  Star Wars, in contrast, continues to be the vision of George Lucas and is tightly controlled.  Say what you will about the quality of the story, but the database of characters and events maintains its integrity across decades of movies, books, and television.

Star Trek suffers from the loss of original vision.  Sometimes a franchise continues by a single person or family member that keeps the vision and history intact (think “Lord of the Rings”, or “James Bond”).  In the case of Star Trek, the ownership passed from Gene Roddenberry to Paramount Pictures to dozens of others, each seemingly eager to plant their personal imprint on the vision.  We’ve gone through the original series, the next generation, the outpost of Deep Space Nine, the wayward Voyager, the television reboot to the first Enterprise, and now a film reboot to replace all the actors with young sexy ones.  Along the way we’ve had to deal with mind bending developments like “Q”, the Borg, the science of warp drive destroying the environment, navigable wormholes, Kirk living in some twisting Roman Candle, star ships that crash on planets, star ships that can land on planets, and of course the Enterprise which cannot take of or land but seems to be built on Earth.

But nothing hurts my continuity of Star Trek more than the endless series of time traveling adventures leaving behind them a wake of broken history.  The shame of it is that we’ve seen Star Trek use time travel with great positive impact.  The City on the Edge of Forever is a brilliant piece of work, and for 1960’s television a great piece of acting and production as well.  Star Trek 4 had great humorous moments without altering our understanding of the future events of Star Trek.

This story, of course, leaves giant muddy footprints across the library of the Federation.  Vulcan no longer exists, Romulus is informed of a future, violent end, and legions of terrorists now know about a mysterious red goo that can cause a black hole.  Just the Vulcan issue alone throws away tons of known adventures, including Amok Time which established so much of our understanding of the Vulcan people.   For the new Star Trek fan (new with this movie), I’m sure all is fine.  They know that in the future we apparently give starships to crews of 24 year olds with six-pack abs who get to chase future mini-skirts across the galaxy.  But for old-timers like me someone talking about Star Trek makes me ask “which one, original, real old, old, kind of new, or new?”.

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