One Trek Mind #33: Wishes On J.J. Abrams' Birthday
This week marks J. J. Abrams' 46th birthday. What do you get the man who has everything? If you said unsolicited creative recommendations, you're right!
Under the assumption that Mr. Abrams gets text alerts each time a new One Trek Mind column is filed, I figure he might like to take a break from his birthday cakes and treasure baths and listen to some suggestions from an obsessive fan concerning his film. You know, the one that's already wrapped principal photography. (Star Trek fans are nothing if not willing to suspend disbelief, right?)
Keep in mind, I only know the same rumors about the Trek sequel that you all know. But here are five things that I'd like to see.
If Khan Is In It, Make It A New Khan
Is Khan in the movie? As of right now, we just don't know. There've been whispers about it for months, but then Simon Pegg has to up and say there's no Khan. And Benedict Cumberbatch, the man cast as “the main villain,” doesn't particularly look like a genetically-enhanced Sikh poet-warrior.
Perhaps this is a good thing. I gotta be frank; I was a little bummed when so many movie gossip sites suggested Khan was going to be in the sequel. I was ready to have our new crew go off and explore strange new worlds that weren't specifically mirrored in the stories we already love.
But I understand that marketing is important in multimillion-dollar filmmaking. Khan, whether true Trekkies agree or not, is Kirk's ultimate foil in mass consciousness. He's the Joker to his Batman. From a branding point of view, it just makes sense. However, how can anyone top the electrifying, Melville-quoting, thick-chested Ricardo Montalban? It can't be done.
The character of Khan is malleable, however. In the original episode “Space Seed” it is implied that The Eugenics Wars were a devastating period on Earth. However, Greg Cox's fantastic “The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh” books show that this was really more of a shadow war, played out through espionage with a relatively low body count. A more cerebral Khan might be an interesting way to go.
If Klingons Are In It, Do NOT Make Them New Klingons
Considering that Klingons were filmed then excised from Star Trek (2009), and a very art-directed shot of J.J. Abrams for the recent MTV Movie Awards had a Klingon in the background, I'm nearly certain the Warriors from Qo'noS will be in the new movie.
Strangely, despite my request regarding a new spin on Khan, I don't want anyone tinkering with the Klingons. Khan is one man, one actor, but the Klingons are a living, breathing culture.
Considering that I could, if I really wanted to, hold full conversations in Klingon, I feel that it is important Abrams recognizes that the Klingons – even in an alternate timeline – are bigger than just one movie. I want to see them drinking bloodwine, eating gagh, singing songs of glory to Kahless and using their bat'leths en route to their eternal reward in Sto'Vo'Kor. Anything less is going to feel like a Mok'bara punch to the gut.
Throw The Fans A Bone
In a similar vibe, I suppose, is my desire to see the edges of the Star Trek world sketched in familiar ways. I agree it is very important for Abrams and company to make it THEIR film. I've got no beef with canonical breaks like the destruction of Vulcan or Spock and Uhura's romance. But I'd like to see the team make better use of. . . all the cool crap they have access to!
Example: how great was it when Uhura ordered a Cardassian Sunrise in the last film? How much greater would it have been if the bartender was a Ferengi?
There are subtle ways to slip in fan service and, by God, we are fans that deserve all the tokens of appreciation as possible. The Centaurian Slug (formerly known as, but never officially named, the Ceti Eel) was a great way to work in a trope from pre-existing Star Trek in the new films. Same with making Gaila an Orion. I worry that maybe Abrams will think that he's already fulfilled his obligation with the last film and has no need for similar winks. I say, not so! An Andorian or a Gorn or a Tellarite or a Tholian or someone mumbling “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” in the background can be nothing but awesome!
Throw The Fans More. . . Bones!
The 2009 film does a terrific job of establishing how Kirk and Spock need one another to fulfill their destiny. For my money, though, this is just two-thirds of the way there. The magic comes when Kirk is flanked by Spock and Bones, keenly representing Freud's id, ego and superego. No one on this or any parallel Earth could possibly complain if Abrams gave us more Bones. Karl Urban's dead-on reprisal of DeForest Kelly's genteel southern space surgeon brought the house down in every one of the six public screenings I attended.
I would love for this new film to explore the troika, the trinity, the triumvirate of the Enterprise's senior officers. With humanist Bones and calculating Spock tugging on both sides of Kirk in adversity, that is when he best steps forward as a true leader.
Get The Money On The Screen
When I was a young man and discovering the TOS reruns, some friends would use the, how should we say, economic restrictions of the sets and props as a point of mockery. Little did these suckers realize just how advanced the effects on Star Trek were for the late 1960s! Nevertheless, this upcoming sequel certainly dwarfs any previous budget for a Star Trek production.
I'd really like to see some genuine whiz-bang action scenes in this new film. The “Space Jump” sequence in the last film was a marvel – I'd like to see this one top it. Yes, the star of Star Trek is and always shall be the characters, but J.J.'s no slouch at knowing where to put the camera and how to stitch it all together. I'd love the script to allow him an opportunity to play to his strengths and blast us all into the next quadrant.
So how about you? Figure Abrams has taken the day off but will be back in the editing suites tomorrow. Any messages you'd like to give? Let me hear it in the comments.
Jordan Hoffman is a freelance writer, critic and independent film producer living in New York City. He fell in love with Star Trek through TOS reruns just as TNG was getting ready to launch. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels. He has a funny story about the one time he met Leonard Nimoy. Click HERE to follow him on Twitter.