Before JJ Abrams Star Trek’s Prequel Was About Kirk’s Ancestor In An Earth-Romulan War

By David Wharton | 7 years ago

KirkSpockI can understand why Paramount went with the reboot instead.
That’s not a dig on The Beginning, mind you, not at all. But with this script, Paramount would have been gambling on yet another return to the Trek well which had been running short on water for years at that point. They’d already tried spicing things up by exploring an earlier era in Enteprise, but that wasn’t the shot in the arm for the franchise that they’d hoped it would be. Star Trek was in danger of growing stagnant and irrelevant, and it makes perfect sense to me from a business standpoint. Really, if you changed the names of the alien races, The Beginning could easily have been just another generic science fiction thriller. There are few known, recognizable characters in it, and absolutely none who would be recognizable to anybody who wasn’t already a dedicated Trek fan. Paramount wanted a way to breathe new life into the franchise, and The Beginning, while a fun read, also smacked a bit too much of “more of the same.”

Love it or hate it, Abrams’ approach of rebooting an alternate timeline made sense because it provided a theoretical jumping-on point for new fans without bogging them down in decades’ worth of trivia and fictional history. (Disney is now facing a similar problem as it streamlines the Star Wars canon in preparation for Episode VII.) It also gave them the chance to tell new stories with beloved characters, to examine how their lives might be different in a universe that had been changed in ways both fundamental and trivial. Sadly, with the exception of Vulcan’s destruction, they haven’t really used that potential to its utmost. Whether you like their take on Khan or not, the second movie was too soon to revisit the franchise’s most beloved villain.

At any rate, the “new timeline” allowed them to reuse by far the best-known and most iconic of all of the Trek characters, the crew from The Original Series. Even if you never watched an episode of Trek in your life, most people are familiar with Kirk, Spock, and McCoy enough to give you a general description of them. That core trio serves as a brilliant narrative device, with Spock and McCoy representing different aspects of Kirk’s personality. That also provides endless opportunities for humor and banter, something the Beginning script doesn’t really do well.

Hollywood is notoriously risk-averse, especially in this age of reboots, remakes, prequels, sequels, and so on. In the end, it’s not at all surprising that Paramount went with J.J. Abrams’s “new but familiar” approach. However, his departure to helm Episode VII means Trek 3 will be in the hands of another director, one who will hopefully serve up a new film that both die-hard Trekkers and latter-day fans can embrace. And Star Trek: The Beginning remains a fascinating but flawed bit of Star Trek history.

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