Thursday, September 17, 2009

J.J. Abrams Says 'Star Trek' Will Boldly Go Allegorical

Whenever J.J. Abrams, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are pinned down, the talk inevitabley turns to the Star Trek sequel. They're only just beginning to toss around story ideas, but Hero Complex managed to pry a little more news out of Abrams & Crew, who hinted that Trek might start tackling contemporary issues.

"In many ways a sequel will have a very different mission. It needs to do what [Gene] Roddenberry did so well, which is allegory," says Abrams. "It 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."

Orci echoed Abrams, noting that it had been one of the biggest criticisms of the new Trek. "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." When asked if "modern day issues" meant war, terrorism, and torture, Orci agreed that was "an approach" they were taking.

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The quotes have caused quite a discussion in the movie news-o-sphere to a mixed response. Many feel that the films should reflect the original 1960s series and hint at social issues. Others feel that such blatant allegory can make a film feel very dated in a few short years, and want Trek to just stick to telling good adventure stories. After all, taking a political stance stands to alienate many moviegoers, though controversy is always welcome from a publicity point of view.

Star Trek is definitely heading into problematic waters. Sci-fi has always been at its best when it reflected the modern world, but it is such a fine line to tread because you don't want your sci-fi epic to be full of thinly disguised Communists when the geopolitical climate changes. While I think issues of pre-emptive strikes, war, and torture might be general enough to be forever relevant, I worry that trying to tackle them will just be clumsy. It already feels dated in some ways, and it's difficult to imagine Starfleet saying anything new on the subject. If Star Trek is going to tackle something I hope they go gentle, and tackle prejudice through Spock and Uhura's relationship. There's some racial and gender issues there just waiting to be mined for a background story.