Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Star Trek Civil War That Should Have Been, Part One

As it came time for Star Trek: The Next Generation to end its run on television, it became clear that there was a market for a new Trek movie featuring the new cast. The writers got together and produced two feature-length scripts. One served as the series finale "All Good Things..." and the other became Star Trek: Generations, and featured Captain Kirk fairly heavily in a "pass the torch" kind of apperance:

Here the two Enterprise captains can be seen making breakfast together. No joke. That happened. But it was fine, I promise. At any rate, Generations was good. Not great, but solid. Kirk dies in it. That happens. Twice actually. Both scenes are fantastic. Top-notch stuff. Befitting Kirk's legacy.

So, Generations does pretty well at the Box Office, netting over $81 million, enough that Paramount wants to do another one. With the torch passed, the obvious choice for the next movie is to revisit Next Gen's most fearsome enemy, the Borg. There were some loose ends to tie up with the whole Picard being assimilated thing. Throw some time travel in there. Always a good combination. Long story short, Star Trek: First Contact is good. Second only to J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, I'd say, which isn't really even a fair comparison in a lot of ways. You should see it:

Told ya. After the success of Generations, the studio felt confident enough to give First Contact a bigger budget, and it paid off, netting over $100 million.

What next? Well, they decided to tone it down a bit for the next movie, opting for something much smaller in scale, much closer to something like an extended episode, and we got Star Trek: Insurrection. It's good. Better than Generations was. More importantly, however, it was called "Insurrection."

Almost unthinkably, Star Trek went completely against its heritage and had Starfleet officers go against the orders of their superiors and take a moral stand. Turns out that, not just some admiral, but the entire Federation council has decided to ignore the rights of a small group of people and re-locate them Trail of Tears-style so everybody in the Federation can have eternal youth. Picard and the rest of the crew don't stand for it and rise up against Starfleet.

So the people in question inhabit a planet in the middle of nowhere, so we don't get an all-out war or anything, and it's very, very disappointing. Consider the following speech by the movie's main villain (played by F. Murray Abraham):

Think about the situation that's been set up at the end of this movie: "The Federation is old." It's beginning to disobey its own rules and finds itself mired in endless bureaucracy. Its flagship captains are being forced to lead all out revolts against their superiors, and their crew are participating without even raising an eyebrow. To borrow an analogy from an episode entitled "The Chase," the Federation has become a corrupt and "bloated empire," overstepping its bounds at every turn, barely able to keep the barbarians from pushing past its legions and sacking the capital (as nearly happened in First Contact).

After Insurrection's mediocre box office performance, it was clear some "new life" needed to be injected into the franchise. Insurrection was about aging, the young rising up to replace the old, and putting the principles of nature before those of technological advancement, which is another way of saying putting justice before utility. This is the perfect set up to do what Marvel Comics did when their universe needed a shake-up: start a Civil War. All the building blocks are there:

An important and influential Captain willing to go rogue in defense of his principles; a loose confederation of (in this case) planets, who will be more than happy to split into factions should they feel their corporate government is too big and slow to protect them from threats, exterior and interior; a hot button issue to push everybody further into their own corners and lessen the likelihood of a compromise being made before somebody overreacts.

The stage is set. Next up: what should have come next.

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