Star Trek Fandom is Going Through What No Fandom Has Gone Through Before:
In this world where geek culture has grown so fast that people are actually pretending to be geeks and nerds to ‘fit in’, it’s difficult to even conceive of a time when being a fan of a geek-culture phenomenon like Star Trek was likely to get you stuffed into lockers in school. Star Trek was way ahead of the curve: fan conventions, letter-writing campaigns and all the facets of a large following all seemed to happen to Star Trek first.
But now that geek culture is so popular, it seems like the franchise of Star Trek is heading into uncharted territory: their own fandom seems to be choking the franchise right out of profitability.
Last year I went to the big Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. It was awesome. I got to meet almost the whole cast of Next Generation (Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes sadly weren’t there). The whole trip was quite pricey, but I found a quick sale on convention tickets, and then I researched and found some coupon codes for travelocity that saved me something like $50 off the flight, so it wasn’t too bad (I used the savings to buy some Star Trek whiskey glasses). Renting a car to go to conventions rather than flying is also getting quite popular as you can form a convoy with other fans and stop at fun activities and restaurants along the way.
Anyway, at this Convention people were more than ready to boo any mention of Star Trek Into Darkness. They had famously voted it as the worst Star Trek movie of all time. You didn’t see Benedict Cumberbatch or Chris Pine at the convention: the only actors from the new movies to make an appearance were Karl Urban and Simon Pegg. What was it that was keeping the nu-Trek fans away?
According to Simon Pegg, the script for the 3rd Star Trek film was too Star Trek-y, and that Paramount Pictures wants to figure out why their film makes $500 million at the box office and The Avengers manages $1.5 Billion. They want a more universally appealing film to be made.
Star Trek Into Darkness was essentially a fan-service created film that closely mapped Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. It was designed to appeal to Star Trek fans, and yet loyal Star Trek fans hated it. What gives?
Examining These Comments in More Detail:
When I watched Star Trek Into Darkness, I didn’t read any reviews or even watch the final trailer. I like to go into a film without preconceptions and enjoy (or not enjoy) the film as it is. But halfway through the film, when I realized that they were remaking Wrath of Khan with more modern special effects and a couple of not-clever inversions (i.e. Kirk dies saving everyone instead of Spock), I experienced a tremendous sadness.
It was like buying tickets to see a great stand-up comedian that you remember laughing yourself silly the last time you saw him years ago. You sit down, the comedian starts his act, and then you realize: he’s telling the same jokes. There are no new jokes.
So what does this mean? Are Star Trek fans so fickle that they can’t even be satiated by movies that blatantly cater to their geeky tendencies?
Quite the opposite, actually: Trekkers want to be entertained when they watch a movie, like anyone else does. They want to be able to bring their non-Star Trek friends to a movie and ‘convert’ those people into Star Trek fans themselves.
In short, they want good Star Trek. Notice how I mentioned that they wanted something ‘good’ first. They just want to be entertained.
If Star Trek continues along its self-referential path, it’s going to get stale. What ten year old child is going to be able to watch these movies without understanding 40 years of continuity? Science fiction isn’t meant to be a chore.
I’m optimistic about Simon Pegg’s comments that the next film will be more universal and inclusive. For one, he’s a Star Trek fan himself so he will help (hopefully) keep story-lines that would rip the hearts out of Trekkers. But if it’s just a really good adventure film…is that really so bad? I don’t want to see another vengeance film, which is what Wrath of Khan was.