Friday, April 21, 2006

Lost in Space!

Holy crap! Variety is reporting that J.J. Abrams, creator of such smash TV shows as Alias and Lost and director of this summer's forthcoming Mission Impossible: III has agreed to write and direct the 11th film in the wildly popular Star Trek franchise, aimed for a 2008 release. And he's bringing Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk, the creative and producing team behind Lost with him.

Paramount is desperate to breath new life into the series which has struggled of late. The previous film, Nemesis, was a box-office disappointment, despite being penned by Hollywood screenwriting golden boy, John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, The Last Samurai). And Enterprise, the fifth series, ran afoul of both critics and fans alike and was the first Trek series to be canceled in mid-run. Still, the franchise is one of Hollywood's most durable and a cash cow for Paramount, worth billions of dollars.

The premise of the film is the one area I wanted Paramount to steer clear of like the Ebola virus—the early days of the Original Series characters, with new actors playing James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including how they met at Starfleet Academy and their first outer space mission.

The idea of going back in time to look at the beloved characters' early lives works well on paper and indeed, several books have been published on the topic. One such book, Best Destiny, literally changed my life a decade ago by rousing me from an induced funk and inspiring me to pursue an incredible job that, in many ways, set the course of my life from that day forward. But in the movies, the premise rarely ever works. In fact, I can think of only one film that pulls it off brilliantly—The Godfather: Part II with Robert DeNiro as a young Marlon Brando. I fear that a young Kirk and Spock will merely play as parodies of the real thing.

Still, I can't help but be shocked and elated that Paramount is making such creative and inspired choices in its effort to patch the holes in what is admittedly one of my life's foremost addictions.


Anonymous Nate said...

So then this means Lost will soon start its slide into suckness.

No one ever finishes anything out.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

You could say that about Felicity and Alias to be sure. When Abrams leaves, things tend to fall apart. Interestingly, Lost has not suffered with his MI:3 departure.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

That long time producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga will not be involved is the single best thing I could have read this morning, even better than J.J.'s addition.

If they REALLY want to spice it up, hire old producer Ron Moore! Though, I'd hate to see his influence and creative genius anyway diminished on the brilliant BSG.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't tell if this is a prequel or a re-boot.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Both I imagine.

I am glad that they are actually pursuing top-tier talent, something they have been so unwilling to do for years. The studio has been more interested in tossing out mediocrity with just enough nutritional value to whet fans' appetites, without actually filling our collective bellies. Now, that may change.

12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My fear is that whatever actor is cast to play Kirk will play Shatner playing Kirk.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...


12:26 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

At the home-grown Colorado Springs Science Fiction Convention, CoSine, held the last three Januarys here in town, there has been a discussion going on about what's wrong with Star Trek. The moderator of the panel discussion theorized, and I have to agree, that the problem is that Paramount thinks it knows what the fans want, instead of listening to them.

Since Gene died, none of the Treks have been as good as those that had his fingerprints on them.

Many of the Treks to date, with the exception, I believe, of Enterprise, have actually been written in part by fans who came up through fandom to write and work in science, or science fiction.

Although I'm probably not one to speak, I haven't seen *any* of the TNG feature films, yet, myself. I just never cared for Voyager (although I loved Janaway, no matter what everybody else says) and could not get myself interested in Enterprise.

And, Actually, Enterprise worked a little harder to go back to Original Trek, with re-introduction of 1st series aliens and so forth. I just don't think anybody cared.

Several flaws: Voluptuous Vulcans, (gotta have sex since sci-fi is all about 12 year old boys, right?) minor female roles, other than the sexpots, lack of relevance to life. It's NOT about the technology. It's about the stories. And Gene was a great storyteller.


1:13 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...


You're exactly right: "[T]he problem is that Paramount thinks it knows what the fans want, instead of listening to them."

At the StarCon convention in Denver, many years back, I confronted Shatner about what I felt was a fatal miscalculation to his character between Star Trek's IV and V. In IV (the one with the whales for all our non-Trek readers) Kirk was imbued with a much more comedic personality and it worked because it was a far lighter movie. Then came V (the one where the Enterprise finds “God”) and Kirk's character retained the comedic in the midst of a far more serious movie. (That that is but one element of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier's ghastliness is another discussion).
I thought it ruined the character for me and told him as much. He said that the studio ran polls (of course) and they came back saying people enjoyed him as a funny-man and so they wrote him that way in the next few films. Problem is, those weren't the fans, but the general audience speaking. Kirk never recovered. You can't tell me that the Kirk of V and the Kirk of II (The Wrath of Khan—yes, the one with the things in the guys' ears) are the same man.

Post Gene films sucked, huh? Well, while VI (the fall of the Klingon military empire) had flaws, it was still a strong film, maybe because Meyer was back on board; we all know his Wrath of Khan was the best. You can probably skip the TNG films, except for First Contact—it was superb.

I too hated Voyager (and yet still loved Mulgrew's Janeway). It started strong but fizzled terribly. They called Enterprise a bold new look but it was nothing of the sort—it was helmed by the same team that ran Voyager into the ground. I always said, they needed to can all the Trek writers and bring in fresh blood who had never done Trek before, give them a crash course, and turn them loose. Sadly, Enterprise did get good—in its final season! Bringing in new producer Manny Coto and scribes Garfield-Stevens was brilliant—but too little, too late. You're right about the fan writers though—TNG had an open script policy that anyone who wanted to could submit their work.

I so agree with your flaws: the sex started in Voyager (though it could be argued it was certainly there from the 60s!) and came to the fore in Enterprise. Talk about pandering to the lowest common denominator demographic. When stories become about special effects, recycled plots and deus-ex-machina endings in which our heroes are saved not by clever writing but by reverse Tachyon pulses, who know the show is over.

I for one have championed leaving Trek alone for a decade or so—at least the series'. Let everyone's enthusiasm return. Give them time to get the bad taste out of their mouths. Stop replacing crap with crap.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

I agree completely about it not being about technology.

My experience of Star Trek comes almost entirely from The Next Generation series, which I watched pretty regularly as a teenager. I was never a fan of the original, or any successive movies.
The TNG episodes that hooked me, (which it seems are held by consensus among "real" fans to be the best) share the same qualities that any great science fiction in any medium has: it's about life, the characters, and grand themes. When science fiction works as it was meant to, the technology facilitates some situation in a future world that enhances a depiction of human nature. One of the best, and most disturbing, episodes I remember is when a wormhole cause an infinite variety of "alternate realities" to exist alongside each other, and Riker was forced to destroy an alternate reality of himself that was captain of an alternate Enterprise with an alternate crew. They were just as real as he was, but he had to make a choice for the greater good. That's a pretty facile description of it, as my memory is foggy from a decade and a half, but that's the kind of thing I always look for, and most SF falls short.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

And as far as Abrams leaving, I would argue that this season of Lost, while not a permanent resident of Suckville, it tends to visit more often than the first season did. I may change my mind; we'll see how it wraps up.

1:50 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Re: Brandon's comment on a Roddenberryless VI.

Was it? I thought he had outlined the story before he died. But I'm not a fanatic fan, so I could be completely wrong.

I agree, VI was Excellent! Everybody says II, IV and VI were the only ones worth watching. I, personally, have a hard time with II, so I limit my "fave" list to IV and VI.

You are aware, though, that the film you challenged Shatner on, he directed, right? I mean, that could have also been part of the problem. It takes a damn fine director to direct him/herself in a film and have it come out well....and Shatner may be a great storyteller himself, but a director....uh....


3:04 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Oh yeah, Shatner was a LARGE part of that film's problem. It really was a terrible film...and me, it has some of the best golden Trek moments of all the films.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Well said, Nate. I love Sci Fi for its ability to project modern ethical quandaries into futuristic settings where they an be dealt with on even their most extreme positions.

I wrote about it here: here.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

And a well written series that was sir!

Too often sci fi (including ST) takes even this idea of exploring human nature and half asses it, the writers thinking they are plumbing some depth. I am not going to feel enlightened when the crew of Enterprise shows up on a planet where one alien race despises another because they are of a different color. Gasp! That's pretty lazy writing.

Where it's incredibly powerful is when moral quandaries are created that didn't exist before, and are only possible through some fictional version of reality. I'm thinking Minority Report: If we know someone's going to commit a crime, can we punish them before the act? Or A.I.: If the level of artificial intelligence reaches a level of sophistication that it is indistinguishable from life, does that make it life? Does it even matter? Do we now have an obligation towards this entity? Or clones (no longer fictional), and on and on and on. I'm definitely not throwing out anything new that hasn't been run into the ground in the past 50 years. Philip K. Dick may be the unmatched master of this stuff. He hated even being referred to as a sci-fi writer.
Perhaps that's why it feels like all the greatest sci-fi ideas have already been written. More than any other genre, maybe there is a finite amount of extrapolations of moral dilemmas.

No? Crazy talk?

3:46 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Now there's an interesting thought...and disconcerting too. I don't think (pray and hope not) that Sc Fi's best stories have all been told. If anything, I think the issues will become less tangible and more esoteric. Think of "Dark City," a phenomenal, but more cerebral take on human identity.

I think your idea of "moral quandaries are created that didn't exist before, and are only possible through some fictional version of reality" is exactly the reason I wrote that series of Trek ethics blogs (actually it was a college paper!). Always loved Sci Fi for that singular ability.

But don't discount the "simpler" stories. True, "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" (with the half white/half black race) was straightforward, but when it aired in the 60s, it was profound. Today, much less so. But we have our own contemporary moral dilemma to struggle through and perhaps simplicity is the best option. I can see it now--an alien race that wears a headpiece that is shaped like a turban on one half and a yamaka on the other. No, perhaps you were right...

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Yarmulke, Brandon. Jesus.

Usually I let your spelling slide, but I wouldn't want you to be accused of a hate-spelling.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Nate said...

Yes, but the premises of my examples, Minority Report and A.I., among other greats, are simple. Devilishly simple, and devilishly difficult to come to terms with. But they are problems created anew, yet somehow have connections to today.
The Black/White thing on Star Trek is a simple transferrence of a real problem from our everyday surroundings to a more exotic locale. It's a simple lateral move. That moral could just as easily be told in other ways: fantasy, post modern lit, whatever. I'm with you: there are things that sci-fi can do that just can't be done any other way, or at least not as well. It takes a kind of genius though that most writers don't possess.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

I don't suppose anyone has taken a peek at New Voyages, , some pretty interesting stuff going on there. They've managed to snag original writers of the original show, actual actors as Walter Koenig and George Takie (sp?), and other people such as the special effects supervisor for the new battlestar gallactica all willing to work on episodes for free.

Honestly, I wouldn't have known about it myself, but my father somewho managed to wiggle his way into participating in the filming of the episodes (and I'm the one going to Film School lol)...

4:12 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Yes, though I haven't visited in some time. I go back and forth between loving them and hating their cheesiness. But they are getting better with each episode and if someone came to me with a uniform (even a red one) and said, "Here, you're a crewman" would I really turn him down!?

4:47 PM  
Blogger Grinth said...

Hehe, I wouldn't fact that's one of the things my father did...I'll have to post the photos on my blog...they really are getting progressively better, and garnering more attentiion...its always cool to see a purely amateur effort garnering professional recognition.

5:11 PM  
Blogger Brandon Fibbs said...

Abrams Says Star Trek Report Inaccurate
Source: Empire Online
April 25, 2006

Empire Online caught up with Mission: Impossible III director J.J. Abrams who said that Friday's report that he will produce and direct the 11th Star Trek feature is not entirely accurate.

"The whole thing was reported entirely without our cooperation," Abrams said. "People learned that I was producing a 'Star Trek' film, that I had an option to direct it, they hear rumors of what the thing was going to be and ran with a story that is not entirely accurate."

Variety said the film will center on the early days of seminal "Trek" characters James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including their first meeting at Starfleet Academy and first outer space mission.

But the Lost and Alias creator said that "We've made a pact not to discuss any specifics." Abrams is a big fan of the Original Series, however, so don't be surprised if his film does take place around the era of Kirk and Co. "Those characters are so spectacular. I just think that... you know, they could live again."

9:38 PM  

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