So, I saw "Star Trek" last night and here's my two-word review: Frakkin' Awesome!
Certainly, no TV franchise has ever had the long-term success of "Star Trek." Despite the original series only last three seasons on CBS -- and it took one of the first-ever fan campaigns to the network to even get that third season in 1969 -- "Star Trek" has spawned four spinoff series, 11 movies and an animated series, not to mention the hundreds of book titles and comics.
What is it about this series that makes it worth the 43 years of fandom that still goes nuts for it?
For me, it's a variety of things. It's the optimistic future where humanity has joined together as one and seeks to better itself through exploration. It's the sense of adventure, battling Klingons and Cardassians and Borg and whomever else threatens humanity. It's the sense of fun, beaming down to a planet full of 1920s gangsters.
It's no secret that the "Trek" franchise had gotten stale. After "Next Generation" successfully re-introduced the brand and "Deep Space 9" carried to a new level, "Voyager" proved uneven while "Enterprise" just seemed tired. As "Battlestar Galactica" producer and former "Trek" writer Ron Moore has pointed out, there are only so many times you can write about a spaceship crew exploring something before it becomes repetitive.
So, how does the new movie stack up? Why is it not more of the same?
Because director JJ Abrams has re-invigorated the model, taking all of the elements that made "Star Trek" great originally and created something original out of it.
Every actor who took over the role of the original crew manages to create a perfect homage to that actor, yet still portray that character originally. (For me, Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy was the closest to the mark in that sense).
The pacing of the story is incredibly fast, yet it doesn't inundate non "Trek" fans with so much stuff where a person new to the franchise would get lost. Yet the new movie contains so many tips of the cap and hidden references to the "Trek" franchise that even the most season Trekker will have a hard time catching all of them the first time.
Abrams has managed to re-invent the wheel yet preserve the old one, thanks to a time travel element that allows the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy) to interact with elements of his past. Talking about the quantum theory that Abrams uses to tell the story would give too much of it away, but suffice it to say he takes a different tack to time travel than he does on "Lost."
So what was the best parts of the movie? Too many to mention, but I'll give a few: Allowing each member of the crew their moment to shine. Scotty (Simon Pegg) stealing every scene he's in. The visual effects, used to augment the story but not overshadow it. Seeing Nimoy in action. The surprising romance. Lots and lots of other things.
What was wrong with the movie? Very little. You don't see as much of McCoy in the second half as I'd have liked. A few incredibly nitpicky things that don't detract from the movie at all. (I don't think they would allow Orions in Starfleet Academy).
"Star Trek" has been ripped upon and marginalized by the so-called mainstream for much of the franchise's life, but with this new crew and this new style of storytelling, it's poised to become the next great franchise. Once again.
WEEKEND'S BEST BETS: "Fringe" (Fox, 9 p.m.) wraps up its first season tonight following last week's great twist with Alpha. Here's hoping that Fox renews it after spending much of the year trying to kill it. It follows a new "Prison Break."
CBS is all new with "Ghost Whisperer," "Flashpoint" and "Numb3rs."
On Sunday, "The Amazing Race" (CBS, 8 p.m.) wraps up as the final three teams head for the finish line. Let's hope they remember to use the rest room beforehand. It's followed by new episodes of "Cold Case" and "The Unit."
Jodie Foster provides the guest voice on "The Simpsons" (Fox, 8 p.m.), which lead off an all-new night of animation.
ABC has new episodes of "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters."
On regular cable, both "Breaking Bad" (AMC, 10 p.m.) and "In Plain Sight" (USA, 10 p.m.) are new, while on pay cable, "The Tudors" (Showtime, 9 p.m.) is new.