|by C.J. Chase|
Despite its humble beginnings as a campy, low-budget, short-run TV series, Star Trek has grown to be a multi-billion dollar industry and nearly unparalleled cultural phenomenon. I asked around to see if anyone in my circle could think of a similar pop culture success, and the only comparable suggestion was Sherlock Holmes, the legendary detective of book, stage, radio, and screen.
The original Star Trek series lasted only three seasons (76 episodes) before NBC dropped it from the lineup in 1969. Compare the production quality of the series to that of the original Star Wars movie made less than 10 years later (1977), and you can see how unsophisticated the Star Trek set really was.
And yet, in syndication, it gained a cult following such that Hollywood funded a full-length feature film starring the original cast. And then another. And another. And five more Star Trek series for television – for a total of 722 television episodes and 12 full-length movies, of which Into Darkness (released last week) is the most recent.
The Chase family went to the theater to see Paramount’s latest offering in the franchise. (Have I ever mentioned that as the only female in my household, I usually see “guy” movies?) The new movie merges characters from the original series (played by a younger cast) with the high-tech special effects of a Hollywood blockbuster. No, the effects were beyond special. They were incredible.
Perhaps part of the original Star Trek’s enduring appeal is that, for all its campiness (i.e., Kirk throwing punches and meeting a different attractive alien each week), the series offered up not-so-subtle commentary on social issues of the day. Consider, for instance, the presence of a black, female officer on the bridge (during the height of the Civil Rights movement) or the cooperation between the American and Russian officers (practically unimaginable so soon after the Cuban Missile Crisis and as the Vietnam War was heating up).
The television series began with basic plots focused around exploration. Remarkably human-looking aliens served as foils to the real humans, often making a point about the foibles of the human condition.
The Star Trek movies and later Star Trek series moved toward a more high stakes save-the-world (or even the universe) theme.
I asked my oldest son his impression of Into Darkness. He liked it better than I did. Perhaps he’s just easier to please than I or perhaps as a lover of SciFi and Fantasy fiction, he understood it more than I.
The plot is very complex, with multiple villains each having his own motives. Now I love a plot with lots of twists and surprises. However, I felt it deviated too far from my expectations of a typical Star Trek plot for me to truly enjoy the story. The conflict was internal to Starfleet. No exploration. No hostile life form threatening to exterminate humanity . Perhaps the plot just seemed weak when held against the dazzling special effects.
So what did I like (besides the special effects)? Benedict Cumberbatch (best known for his role on the BBC’s Sherlock) makes a great sympathetic villain. And the snappy dialogue had the trademark Star Trek wry humor, even in the tensest of situations. Having just recently read an excerpt of a book with NO humor or laughter by the characters, I noticed right away how the writers were able to incorporate sarcasm and wit into all but the darkest moments.
For example, here is a particularly memorable line, spoken by Doctor McCoy while he
And then there was gem when Kirk accused Spock of using a technicality: “I am Vulcan. I embrace technicality.”
Overall, I enjoyed Into Darkness. If you are a long-time fan, you’ll want to put this on your to-see list. If you are a diehard Trekkie, well, you’ve probably already seen it – but if not, you’ll want to see it on a big screen with surround sound. However, if you are basically unfamiliar with the characters from the original series, you’ll probably find it beneficial to preview the 2009 Star Trek to get familiar with the characters first.
Oh, and the 82-year-old Leonard Nimoy (Spock from the original series) makes a cameo appearance, so I’ll leave you with this Spock vs. Spock commercial. Cultural phenomenon, I tell you.
UPDATE: For everyone who enjoyed the Audi commercial, here's the inside joke about the song Nimoy is singing while he drives (about 1:10 mark). Um, you needn't watch/listen to the entire thing to get in on the joke...
After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her current release, The Reluctant Earl, is now available in online bookstores. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at www.cjchasebooks.com