It’s amazing how recent years have seen geek culture explode into the mainstream. Superheroes, sci-fi, and fantasy are now all among the most popular stories permeating both film and television. But even so, few fandoms are as passionate about their franchise as those who hold Star Trek in high esteem. Last summer’s latest entry in the film series, Star Trek Beyond, was a modest success at the worldwide box office and garnered solid critical notices (despite its problems), and the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery will bring the beloved franchise back to its television roots.
However, as much as Star Trek fans hate to admit it, there are some elements about the series — and, yes, the same can be said of other franchises (looking at you, Star Wars!) — that can become frustrating over time or just plain don’t make any sense. For a multimedia franchise with 50 years of storytelling under its belt, perhaps that kind of thing is bound to happen sometimes. In any case, here are our thoughts about some parts of the series that confound us.
1. Episodic storytelling that lacks direction
The premise of the original television series was that the crew of the USS Enterprise was setting out on a five-year mission to explore new lands. While such a structure allows for Kirk, Spock, and company to confront a different adventure each week, this format also confines the possibilities of exploring the expansive, imaginative world that Star Trek exists within. Despite the fact that some stories in the franchise veer away from this directive, many of them still remain trapped within this original concept. In fact, Star Trek Beyond was praised by longtime fans because it hewed closely to this style of storytelling. We can’t help but think that Gene Roddenberry’s creation has more to offer.
2. All the aliens are humanoid for some reason
Star Trek takes place across an impressive range of planets. Yet, the vast majority of aliens the various crews come across still closely resemble the human form. When the franchise started back in the 1960s, this was clearly done to make makeup and costuming manageable on a TV budget, but nowadays, there’s so much more that can be done using today’s technology. Let’s bring in some crazier creatures to interact with the Enterprise crew soon.
3. Circular character development
Here’s another symptom of the franchise’s television roots that it has yet to fully shed. Ever notice how Kirk, Spock, and many of the characters remain static throughout their appearances? Sure, there are exceptions to that rule, but by and large, who a character is will be how they remain throughout most Star Trek stories. We get it. These are iconic, beloved characters, and the powers that be don’t want to mess with the group dynamic too much. Still, the joy in following these figures over time is watching how they develop and change due to both their interactions with each other and the adventures they come across.
4. Anything goes technology
The limitless possibilities of science fiction mean that Star Trek can literally figure out a solution for any obstacle and an explanation for just about any kind of technology one can think of. Teleportation and phasers are probably the two most well-known examples of the tools Starfleet uses over the various incarnations of the franchise.
However, it does become frustrating when seemingly nothing has lasting consequences and even death can be reversed. Remember how Spock sacrificed his life for Kirk in that heart-wrenching scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Doesn’t that moment feel a little bit cheapened by his subsequent return to the living? Yup, Star Trek technology is the answer to any and all problems.
5. Failure to move beyond Starfleet
As we’ve mentioned, the franchise has seemed tied to the USS Enterprise a few times over. However, that’s really just symptomatic of the series’ insistence on centering nearly all its stories on the ship’s crew. Seeing as the Star Trek universe has so much to offer, it seems incredibly myopic to insist that every tale be filtered through the eyes of a single crew. Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer have all led the cast of their respective shows, and while Star Trek: Discovery will reportedly not center on a captain, it will still hone in on a single ship’s crew. Starfleet has been done to death already. Why not mix it up a bit more and explore some new types of characters?
Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable
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