Monday, 13 October 2014

Retreading Old Ground

I swore to myself that I wouldn't get caught up in this debate but sometimes I just give in to temptation. 

For the past few weeks my news alerts have been filled with the news that William Shatner had been approached to reprise his role as Kirk in the third installment of the rebooted franchise. The world rejoiced and then Shatner promptly said he hadn't been approached - and then backtracked again and said that he had and that he'd be more than happy to do it.

For me all the machinations of who told who and who agreed with what and when are by the by but having a couple of weeks to digest the news and step away from the maelstrom has allowed me some time to think about it and I can't say I'm too happy.

For the past two rebooted movies Abrams has utilised Leonard Nimoy to return as Spock and "bridge" the two universes with his Prime Spock character. In the 2009 movie this worked exceptionally well aside from all the amazing coincidences that occurred around him such as purely by chance meeting both Kirk and Scotty on the same planet (predestination?) and it did indeed help link the two, very different, imaginings of the Star Trek universe.

The didn't-know-it-would-happen cameo in Star Trek into Darkness though did feel desperate as if JJ knew this was a bit of a dud and he needed a rock to shore up against. It was unnecessary and if Quinto's Spock hadn't realised that Khan was flippin' dangerous by this stage then he needed relieving of command. In the last 17 months since it was released in cinemas I have a new-found admiration for the second reboot movie and can enjoy it for what it attempts - to be an action-adventure movie for the 2010's but what would a Shatner appearance alongside Nimoy do for the reboot?

Personally I think it'll do a lot of damage. OK, Shatner did a skit as Kirk for the Emmy's last year but his final Kirk appearance was back in Generations...followed by Shatner bringing him back for his series of novels in the 90's (The Return, Preserver etc...) and for many, including myself, this is how it should stay. 

Death in the Star Trek universe has never been that final and in some cases it's been a career move - Scotty died, Worf died, Picard died and all of them came back. There are others that didn't and Kirk should remain one of those. I theorise that because of Shatner's age it could well be a future Kirk from the JJ timeline but who knows. I seriously fear that bringing Shatner in is a way to get bums on seats, make some money and try and appease fans after the disappointment of Star Trek into Darkness and if that's all then it could be more detrimental to the franchise than good.

The last decent idea to bring Shatner back into the fold was the mirror universe concept which we might have seen in season five of Enterprise. Archer and the crew would have discovered a planet where all the victims of the Tantalus Field from that alternate dimension ended up including the mirror-Kirk now older but still as angry hence providing a great opportunity to allow Bill Shatner back into the franchise in a sensible and acceptable manner. I would have loved to see that and I genuinely hope it either gets made by Continues or produced as a novel in the Rise of the Federation series (note to Christopher L Bennett.....).

Why else would it be bad? Because it's showing reliance on those original actors and I thought that the whole point was to move away from that aspect and let this version of the Roddenberry vision live on its own. OK, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise all had their episodes where there were character crossovers but not every single time. Would this mean Nicholls, Takei or Koenig turning up in Star Trek 4? Another turn by Nimoy? Get your JJ Abrams Star Trek bingo sheet ready to tick off the recurrences. If it's just all hype then great, it's producing interest and seeing as Shatner couldn't let Kirk go after Generations then all credit to making him live once more, even if it's just in people's imaginations. 

Would there be good reason to get him on screen? Well the fans would go crazy to see the original Kirk in action one more time just as they were about seeing Spock in the 2009 movie or whenever a crossover happens - RelicsUnification, Trials and Tribble-ations...the list goes on and coupled with the 50th Anniversary prospective release date it would go some way to recognising the reboot's origins and making it an anniversary to remember in every way possible. The 25th and 30th were amazing, the 40th not so big but this has to be the celebration to end all Star Trek celebrations. Having Kirk there might just be the icing on that cake. I guess it would have to involve time-travel or a flashback to make it viable - or a new twist on The Deadly Years with an aged Kirk since this third movie is supposed to be more in keeping with the episodic nature of The Original Series.

Personally I think that's where it should stay. Use Mr Shatner for publicity, get him to big up the third installment but don't rely on him to make it better. Drop some nice little homages into the script, some Romulans, Talos IV, the phaser rifle from Where No Man Has Gone Before, an M-113 salt vampire, a trip to Bajor, start out in the Badlands or in the Mutara Nebula...there's a ton of material to mine which will make fans just as excited and happy. Adding Nimoy into the last one didn't save it from scathing criticism from fans in fact it only added fuel to that fire. I am sad if William Shatner has sold out for a paycheck BUT I have to assume that he would only do it if the role was considerable and didn't damage his portrayal of Kirk from '66 to '94.

Talking of letting characters lie, talked to Michael Dorn at Destination Star Trek about the much-vaunted Captain Worf series. It never died and he's still waiting for Paramount to give the word since first writing the pilot back in 2012. Dorn is looking at potentially bringing back Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton and even Patrick Stewart for the first episode to send him on his way and there seems to be some traction with fans as nearly 80% of those who answered the poll as part of the article wanted to see a Captain Worf show.

I however was one of the minority. This goes back to the whole Shatner/Star Trek 3 argument I've already discussed - things need to move forward, the franchise needs to learn from it's past and strike out as the 2009 movie did and indeed every Star Trek series has attempted since 1987. Be different, be unique. OK, Deep Space Nine nicked O'Brien and Worf from The Next Generation but the others were standing on their own feet from day one. Worf has had an exceptional run of eleven seasons and four movies stretching from 1987 through to 2002. He's the character who's been in the most episodes and that's not bad for a role that was an after -thought for Encounter at Farpoint.

A part of me really would like to see a classic character and a much loved franchise actor tread the boards once more and restore us to the Prime Universe but with the current wranglings and focus on the JJ-verse that's STILL unlikely. Paramount might look at such a pilot script but that era is over and gone. We do love it but we have to move on and a new series needs a new approach and a new twist on the classics. Something that adds a new angle to the reboot movies would be fantastic (and would be no doubt a bigger winner and better made than Agents of SHIELD).

It would be good as fans, including myself are always wanting to see more about the Prime Universe rather than just reading the next David Mack or Una McCormack novel but how long would it survive, who would be in it alongside Worf? Would we grow tired of the Klingon? Would we just be wanting something to take us back to an era that effectively came to an end over a decade ago?

Your thoughts are welcomed...

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