Adventures in Star Trekking

I’ve been re-watching Star Trek: The Next Generation over the past month-and-a-half. Most recently I watched the season five episodes “Unification Part 1,” and “Part 2.” They made me think about the recent franchise reboot because a part of the backstory left out in the film can be found in these episodes. When watching the movie, I wondered why Spock was helping the Romulans save their world when the Romulans were usually the bad guys in TNG. I just figured for some reason Spock wanted to help them in order to establish peaceful relations with the Romulans. Spock’s motives for helping the Romulans are explained in the two “Unification” episodes. So, in order to really get the whole story explaining Spock’s role in the newest movie, it is necessary (or helpful at the very least) to watch the “Unification” episodes.

That leads me to my next thought. Much of pop culture storytelling relies on the creation of a universe. Some are more broad and complex than others, but authors, TV producers, and so on rely heavily on the creation of a complex universe that cannot fully be explored in a single book, movie, or even medium. I think it probably started with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels because trilogies tend to be the norm in the case of movies, books, and even video games (The Matrix Trilogy, The Hunger Games, Mass Effect and so on). In order for consumers to get the whole picture, they have to consume all the material available. In the case of the Star Trek universe, this includes eleven films and six TV series! That’s a lot of consumption! So maybe only the most nerdy make it through all that Star Trek has to offer, but it is pretty rewarding catching on to a reference that you may not have understood before as I did while watching the “Unification” episodes. Most viewers probably won’t want to slog through literally hundreds of TV episodes in order to understand every reference to every event, but it is a fun experience when you realize that the writers/producers are referring to an event from one of the previous movies or TV series. 

I also admire the continuity of the recent movie with TNG. When creating a universe as vast as that of Star Trek, continuity errors are bound to crop up in some form or another. My friend was telling me how the series Star Trek: Enterprise tries to explain away the discrepancy in the appearance of the Klingons between the original series and TNG. There are some similarities in appearance, but they lack their “forehead ridges” in the first series that are a staple of every canonical appearance that has come afterward. I won’t comment on the explanatory episodes myself since I haven’t seen them, but I’m glad that J.J. Abrams and the other people behind the the new movie did their homework and tied everything up so nicely in the movie. It almost doesn’t feel like a reboot to me because of that strong continuity, but rather a “logical” progression from where TNG left off allowing the creators to form a new universe within the old one rather than simply rebooting and starting over as so many other franchises have done in recent years.

Hmm…perhaps “reboots” will be the topic of my next post. Until next time!

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