Star Trek Sequel May Contain Pointed Modern Commentary

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OK, so JJ Abrams, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and a talented cast (to whom, if things are really fair, a lot of the credit must be given) successfully rebooted Star Trek. Obviously there will be another film, and if nearly thirty years of films in the franchise have taught us anything, it is that making a crappy Trek film is all too easy. So what next for the series? More Shakespeare? Or something else? Based on recent comments, it sounds like Star Trek 2 (or whatever it will be called) could get all sorts of modern, at least from a thematic standpoint.

Trek has done allegory in the past, though often much more successfully in the various series than in the films. Based on what he told the LA Times, JJ Abrams is actively thinking about the thematic point of the second film, having done so well setting up the characters in this year’s chapter.

[The next film] needs to tell a story that has connection to what is familiar and what is relevant. It also needs to tell it in a spectacular way that hides the machinery and in a primarily entertaining and hopefully moving story. There needs to be relevance, yes, and that doesn’t mean it should be pretentious. If there are simple truths — truths connected to what we live — that elevates any story — that’s true with any story.

But just because the story has to be relevant doesn’t mean it will be directly linked to current events and/or political topics. (Which can have exactly the opposite effect of making the film relevant, instead making it feel tremendously dated.) But evidently someone wants the series to deal with real current issues, and they’ve said as much to the team. Orci tells the LAT:

…one of the things we heard was, ‘Make sure the next one deals with modern-day issues.’ We’re trying to keep it as up-to-date and as reflective of what’s going on today as possible. So that’s one thing, to make it reflect the things that we are all dealing with today.

Problem there is that as soon as they start tackling ‘real issues’, those things can seem a lot more important than just telling a proper story. Fall into that trap, and suddently Trek is exactly where Abrams said it wouldn’t be: pretentious. Not that it’s an unavoidable trap; all the team has to do is look to the recent Battlestar Galactica series to see how modern political and wartime issues can be tackled by science fiction. That first-season episode with Starbuck interrogating the Callum Keith Rennie Cylon? Frakkin’ fantastic. But Galactica‘s luxury was the timespan of a recurring episodic structure. What two-hour story do you write for Trek 2 that deals intelligently with modern issues without feeling clumsy, obvious and self-important? Can’t wait to see where they take this one. Me, I’d be perfectly happy with a decent adventure story.

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