When You Lose Your Sense of Play (Or Never Had It In The First Place)

Last night I was rewatching the Star Trek so-called “re-boot” film that came out in 2009. I say “so-called” because it isn’t really a re-boot. It’s an AU, and this is a critical distinction when it comes to opinions on this film series, which among Trekkers seems to be either love or hate, with little in-between.

The occasion for this viewing was my recent purchase of Star Trek Beyond, the third film in this new series. I neglected to watch this film when it was in theaters, to my regret, as it is one hell of a movie. I was not overly fond of the second film; despite having Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain, they made him Khan, which makes no sense, and the scene where Kirk dies (as a mirror to the iconic scene in Star Trek II) and enrages Spock to revenge, came off as forced and mawkish, something to be laughed at. I’m overjoyed to say that Beyond has redeemed it.

So last night I watched the first again, for probably the twentieth time. I wish it were more obvious to those who are determined to dislike the films that this is an AU, and what that means, but I realized that not everyone is familiar with the medium, or likes it. And that’s OKAY.

However, missing the whole point really isn’t. What I take issue with are the fans who whine incessantly that it’s not really Star Trek, it doesn’t follow the same series of events, this didn’t happen, that didn’t happen that way, blah blah blah whine whine whine.

When the Romulan ship Nerada appeared through the black hole and caused the destruction of the USS Kelvin, and George Kirk along with it, the events of that dimension (as I believe firmly that it is NOT the past of the Prime dimension that we’ve been watching for fifty years) were irrevocably changed, as it fundamentally changed the life of one of the people so instrumental in shaping its future. The characters say as much themselves in the movie later on, when Spock states that with the destruction of Vulcan, their destinies have changed.

That is the essence of the AU, the Alternate Universe. You take the familiar and change a certain event or events so that what comes after is also different, and the fascination can come with watching how those events unfold. Perhaps because I’ve been writing for over twenty years and have written a number of AUs, this appeals to me where it doesn’t for others. And that is also okay.

It does, however, make me sad, since in many cases it represents a lack of playfulness and creativity among a certain subset of fans, and I have noticed a direct correlation between those fans and the ones so virulently against any kind of change or addition to their Sacred Canon, and who see themselves as guardians and protectors of the only right way to view the fandoms they love. This alone was evidenced by the huge (and neckbeard-spearheaded) backlash against the new Ghostbusters film; those who viewed the original films as sacred and inviolable did their best to torpedo the film and harass at least one of the stars just for being in it, all before the film was even released. Most of them declared that it sucked without ever having seen it (a normally laughable bit of stupidity but less amusing when you see so much of it). Even when Dan Aykroyd (who came up with the original idea long before Ramis was involved as co-writer) came out in support of the film, there were fans who basically said he didn’t really know what Ghostbusters was REALLY about, and they were the ones who did.

That kind of delusional hubris is nearly impossible to overcome.

So that may be part of the problem with the new Star Trek films. Those too in love with the original series cannot comprehend anyone having a different vision, or wanting to play around with what-if ideas to see what happens. That kind of rigidity and close-mindedness is sadly human but disappointing nonetheless.

I’ll just keep enjoying the new adventures of Captain Kirk and crew and hope they keep playing.

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