Friday, 28 October 2016

Kelvin Timeline: The Next Generation

It appears I'm on a Star Trek: The Next Generation kick here and I don't particularly care. It's awesome. Live it. Love. it.

After another successful foray into J.J. Abrams' Star Trek film reboot movies this past summer, I'm not so much looking forward to another adventure with the Original Series' cast but rather a similar reboot to my favourite Trek, The Next Generation. 2017 will mark the 30th anniversary of its debut which makes it ripe for a redo! The "Kelvin Timeline" of these past three films allowed Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, etc. smexy makeovers that realized their potential in a short amount of time and revitalized the public's love for Star Trek. It's time TNG got a modern update too!

I won't sit here and pretend I love reboots. They're largely awful. But any opportunity to see the crew of the Enterprise-D reimagined would give great Oo-max. That was a Ferengi sex joke. Try and keep up here.

A few housecleaning items. Given the J.J.-verse's treatment of the classic crew's movie adventures, I will concede that my beloved characters would be a bit more cartoon-y than the original lauded series. I'll also be keeping in mind how the characters were presented in season one as they were fresh from Gene Roddenberry's show treatment versus how they evolved over time. Lastly, I don't want to propose dream casts as this is being written in late 2016 and who knows what amazing new talent could pop up between now and an inevitable reboot. We clear? Great. Engage!

First up is, of course, the Enterprise-D herself. Looking at its design now, it's rather clunky but still much more streamlined than it's predecessors. Given how the recent Kelvin timeline's Enterprise was modernized, I'd love to see the Enterprise-D equally streamlined. Luckily, the underappreciated series, Enterprise, gave us a pretty great template with their future-ier glimpse at the Enterprise-J. Not my favourite design but it certainly felt like a natural evolution of Starfleet's most infamous vessel and holds up well by today's standards.

Next up is Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Stoic, enlightened, classy AF! Patrick Stewart's Picard set the tone for the show and ensured it held up as a thoughtful science fiction masterpiece. I would imagine him to be the least changed character from a personality/presence/sex symbol perspective. However, for the purposes of a two hour movie, I'd also imagine him to be more of the man-of-few-words Spaghetti Western style captain. Like a bald Clint Eastwood staring gravely into that viewscreen.

And for God's sake, make the actor actually French this time!

Picard's Number One/Man Friday is Commander William T. Riker who, over the course of the series, grew under his Captain's wing to be a respected and thoughtful leader. Yawn. Originally, however, he was much more ambitious and brash. A real stallion. Then came the beard and the grave responsibilities it bestowed upon him.

For a movie, I would rather enjoy seeing him as he was originally portrayed which, coincidentally, was how Commander Shelby from the seminal The Best of Both Worlds episodes came across. Her bossiness, take-charge attitude and boundless ambition was a stark mirror on how comfortable Riker became serving on the Enterprise. Sparring his reckless energy off of the calm Picard would make for great chemistry and drama.

Counselor Deanna Troi got no respect but was actually one of my favourite characters because of her untapped potential. Initially conceived by Roddenbury to be the smartest and wisest member of the crew, that role was scooped by the barkeep, Guinan, and relegated to stating the obvious and "lookit-mah-boobs!" costumes.

For a movie franchise's purposes, I again defer to her earlier appearances in the series. Marina Sirtis' Greek heritage and layered accents helped her stand apart. I'd love to see her as more exotic alien than human. Likewise, her insistence that, as a mental heathcare provider, she not wear a military uniform also ensured she visually popped against a sea of walking Crayons.

But most importantly, she had telepathic powers, was raised in a wildly liberal culture, and was in a position to speak frankly about mental illness. She could be spectacular as a voice of reason; the Big Momma in the room who tells you to sit down, son.

Brent Spiner's Lt. Commander Data is perfection. A comedy relief. An endearing commentary on the human condition. An aspiration to be more than the sum of your (android) parts. I would change nothing.


Spiner essentially killed the franchise when he admitted that while Data may be ageless, he himself is not and had to gracefully bow out. Since we're not on a TV budget here, I'd rather not see a dude in glittery body paint walking around on screen. Rather than go the CGI route I would love to see one of those hyper-realistic robots coming out of Japan play Data. Y'know how they look SO real but... there's just something not right about 'em? That. I want that. Essentially human but your eyes and brain just can't register them as such.

Dr. Beverly Crusher absolutely had her own interests and character growth but was generally regarded based on her relation to other characters.

And, sadly, I'm going to do the same here.

A widow, a mother of young Wesley, and reluctant to serve aboard the ship commanded by the man who was both an old friend but also ordered her husband's death, she came in with a lot of intriguing baggage and history that was jettisoned quite casually. Her sexual chemistry with Picard was also renowned to the point where it was fan theorized that Wesley may indeed be a Picard/Crusher lovechild. Oooooh, the drama! Throw in her Bechdal-approved friendship with Troi and she's ready to really mix up the character dynamics!

Who doesn't love Lt. Commander Geordi LaForge? A blind engineer who could see everything differently thanks to a VISOR that helped his brain "see" electromagnetic signals across the entire EM spectrum.

And I lost ya.

Point is, he was "disabled" in the future which practically gave him super powers that weren't utilized enough. Throw in the fact that, especially earlier on, he was the funny, wide-eyed everyman we the audience saw ourselves in. So many eyesight puns. Too soon? Anyway, he's the Flash to TNG's Justice League. The glue that binds them together.

Lt. Worf is arguably the most complex character of the series. Admittedly, I was never Team Worf but I can't deny the vast storytelling potential he lived up to. An orphan of a disgraced Klingon house, raised by an adorable Russian couple on Earth, he yearned for the romantic warrior lifestyle his own people could not provide as they languised in political intrigue instead of glorious battle.

In the first movie alone, his uneasy ties to the Klingon Empire and loyalty to the Federation could propel the story featuring him caught in the middle of a coming war. Not to mention a certain promotion he inherits...

Yeah, I had to throw Lt. Tasha Yar in as a bonus. The Enterprise's Chief of Security hailed from a hyper violent planet where she grew up avoiding rape gangs and fending for herself. She had the most dark origin of anyone in Star Trek but the actress, Denise Crosby, decided to quit in season one. As such, Tasha was killed off, letting Worf inherit the security chief mantle.

And y'know what? She's dead meat in the movies too. I give her half an hour. Tops.

If a TNG movie succeeds, who knows? Perhaps we could see more Romulans, more Ferengi, the Q Continuum watching intently, and inevitably MORE BORG!

So them's my thoughts on what character beats might work for an ensemble movie and what potentially fits within the J.J.-verse films' next incarnation. Trek fans tend to argue that the new films are more flash than substance but hell, let 'em! They're entertaining! They bring in the crowds and the money! And if they also bring new fans into the fold to discover the much more understated and brain-do-thinky-stuff television series, then so be it!

"So... five card stud, nothing wild. And the sky's the limit!"

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