“Star Trek Into Darkness?” Unfortunately, Yes - Herbie J Pilato

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I didn’t hate Star Trek Into Darkness.

I just didn’t love it.

I always want to love anything that has to do with Star Trek, and/or classic television in general.

That’s just my thing.

But I’m a tough customer and I’m very protective of my genre.

And that’s just the way it is.

That said, from the second I first heard the title, Star Trek Into Darkness, I sensed there might be some issues, beginning with the last word “darkness.”

Herbie J PilatoI’m so very exhausted by the recent obsession in film and television with the apparently required “dark” and “edgy” tone, cinematography and content of everything. Yes, it was clever for those in power (director J.J. Abrams and company) to be the first in the Trek film franchise to actually make the title the closest thing to a sentence (without a colon, as in Star Trek: Into Darkness). But still – enough with the dark stuff.

Remember when Star Trek used to be filtered with bright colors, imagination, stunning visuals, amazing stories, eye-opening elegance of exploring “strange new worlds”… going boldly “where no man… no one… has gone before?” Remember all that? It was all part of the unique genius of Gene Roddenberry’s original Trek TV series, and to a lesser extent, that first show’s small screen sequels and the earlier Trek feature films.

Unfortunately, it’s not part of Star Trek Into Darkness, or for that matter, Abrams’s initial 2009 reboot of the Trek features.

Ok, fine… they got the costumes right in the new Trek movies… the somewhat correct shades of mustard, red and blue are all there. And it’s very cool that these new Trek films take place in an alternate time period from the original shows and movies, which allow for parallel changes (i.e. like Kirk now being taller than Spock (as opposed to the other way around). And I guess we could assimilate that to Trek’s original episode Mirror, Mirror on steroids.

But where are the NEW stories? Where are the NEW aliens? Where are the NEW concepts? The NEW civilizations? The NEW mysteries? The NEW sophisticated inventions and gadgets? Where? 

Not in Star Trek Into Darkness, that’s for sure.

Ultimately, this new Trek film is a pseudo remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (thus far and most likely forever the best in the movie series), but without the heart and soul. The grit is there. The action/adventure is there (maybe too much so). The attempt to please original Trek fans is there but not much else.

The Trek cast is top notch in Into Darkness. Chris Pine is fine as Kirk. Zachary Quinto is precise as Spock. Benedict Cumberbatch is great as yes, Kahn. And so on. And there are cool cameos by key classic Trek figures. And that’s all fine and dandy, but still, there’s much to be desired.

Although there may be certain “behind-the-scenes” reasons why things happened the way they did.

Shortly before Into’s world premiere, it was announced that Abrams would be jumping (space) ship and now also be responsible for rebooting, of all things, the Star Wars franchise - Trek’s main competition. At first Abrams declined, but then, apparently, his wife convinced him otherwise. It soon was made known in the press that certain ownership issues with Trek merchandising was one of the reasons why Abrams would leave Trek for Wars.

Upon seeing the half-hearted attempt of Star Trek Into Darkness, Abrams must have made the decision to leave Kirk and crew behind half-way through his work on the film.

All of that said, Star Trek Into Darkness is a very nice action-adventure science fiction movie – but overall - it’s not Star Trek.

And I'm not sure any potential new Trekproducer will ever be able to please my portended vision of Trek. I’d love them to. But I just don’t know if that will ever come to be.

In looking back over the near fifty years of the franchise, all any true original Trek fan ever wanted was the original actors (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelly, etc.) back on TV in a new Star Trek TV series. No one asked for a feature film (the first being 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture), or any other TV Trek like a Next Generation, a Deep Space Nine, a Voyager, or (yikes!) an Enterprise. Those were all very nice sci-fi shows.

But they weren’t Star Trek.

And certainly now with the original cast in their very senior years, and two key members now gone (Kelley and James Doohan), Star Trek with the initial cast back on the small screen, every week, is never going to happen.

And in waiting for some producer/director somewhere to finally at least make a solid attempt to recapture Roddenberry’s original brilliance and grace, I’ll close with a few Star Trek Into Darkness thoughts.

The closing credits were extremely well done. But why were these clearly-opening credits placed at the end? This same format was also utilized with Iron Man 3. And both times the style was retro in nature, with regard to pacing and music, etc.

But again... why at the end?

How astonishing would it have been if Abrams had in fact opened Into Darkness with for once, the iconic and original TV Star Trek musical theme that was employed at the film’s close?

Maybe he was afraid that the rest of the movie wouldn't have lived up to such opening credits? Or maybe he wanted to save it for the end, in order to create a sense of "Now... we can begin the actual five-year-mission?"

Sadly, it so far has taken Abrams two new films in his Trek reboot to even re-start that legendary five-year-mission – which is where they should have been from the get-go.

Abrams’ first Trek movie should have been the first new exploration of that historic five-year-mission, instead of over-doing the origin story as was presented.

That said, in the original Trek episode, Amok Time (NBC, 9-15-67), Spock is forced to fight Kirk for what he thinks is a duel to the death back on Vulcan in order for Spock to win over his true Vulcan lady love (T’Pring, played by Arlene Martel). To save Kirk’s life, and yet retain Spock’s honor, Dr. McCoy (Kelley) is able to simulate Kirk’s demise during the fight.

In doing so, Spock wins his true love, but he decides that his victory is a hollow one. The presiding Vulcan queen T’Pau (Celia Lovsky ) wishes him to “Live long and prosper,” but he replies, “I shall do neither. I have killed my captain and my friend.”

Spock then walks over to T’Pring and concludes, “I have found that having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting. It is not logical… but often true.”

That’s kinda’ how I feel about Star Trek Into Darkness.

Herbie J Pilato is an actor, writer, producer, and singer who has worked for Syfy, A&E, TLC, Bravo, The Discovery Channel, Universal, Warner Bros. and Sony. As the author of a number of acclaimed classic TV tie-in books (such as The Bionic Book,Life Story -The Book of Life Goes On, The Bewitched Book, Bewitched Forever, The Kung Fu Book of Caine, The Kung Fu Book of Wisdom, and NBC & ME: My Life As A Page In A Book), Herbie J is the Founder and Executive Director for The Classic TV Preservation Society (a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gap between positive TV shows and education; the Creative Director for Erie Street Entertainment (a TV production company that is geared toward sci-fi/fantasy, and family-oriented material); and the President of Pop-Culture Consultants (an entertainment consulting firm). Herbie J makes frequent television appearances on shows like the TV Guide Channel's 100 Moments That Changed TV and Entertainment Tonight. He's performed on daytime soaps such as General Hospital and The Bold and The Beautiful, as well as on classic TV shows like The Golden Girls and Highway to Heaven. Herbie J's newest books include Twitch Upon A Star: The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery, which was published by Taylor Trade in November 2012, and The Essential Elizabeth Montgomery: A Guide To Her Magical Performances, which Taylor Trade will release in October 2013. For more information, log on to http://www.herbiejpilato.com/.

Read all Herbie J's MediaBizBloggers commentaries at Herbie J's Classic TV Corner.

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