Will Star Trek feel like Star Trek?

SNL Get A Life

So, this was my most recent experience as a Star Trek consumer: Earlier this year, at the Presbyterian Women’s book sale at our church, I picked up a trio of old Star Trek episodes on VHS for something like 50 cents a pop.

When I got home and my 12-year-old daughter saw the tapes, she pointed at me and screamed, “Neeeeerrrrrd!”

And she hadn’t even seen the Saturday Night Live episode where William Shatner asks a Treekker played by Jon Lovitz, “Have you ever kissed a girl?” and tells the whole crowd at a Star Trek convention to, “Get a life.” (The video is above, and the Shatner portion starts at the 2:30 point.) Yes, Star Trek‘s reputation as the benchmark show for sci-fi obsessed geeks still residing in their parents’ basements has trickled all the way down to today’s tweens, which makes the impending opening of the Star Trek movie this week really interesting.

Left to right: Chekov (Anton Yelchin), James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), and Uhura (Zoë Saldana) in "Star Trek." Photo from Industrial Light and Magic.

Left to right: Chekov (Anton Yelchin), James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Bones (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho), and Uhura (Zoë Saldana) in the new "Star Trek" film, which opens Thursday. Photo from Industrial Light and Magic.

Yes, there is a Star Trek movie opening this week, the latest in the reboot trend that has touched franchises such as James Bond and Batman. Normally, it would be silly to say, “yes, there is a Star Trek movie opening this week,” for the latest installment of a franchise this iconic. And yes, the movie is getting a lot of ballyhoo.

But then again, some of the ads for Star Trek, like ones rolling during the NBA Playoffs, have almost been unrecognizable as Star Trek. There are lots of hot young actors, hard charging music and things blowing up real good. One of the headlines on the current issue of Entertainment Weekly touts Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana as “Sexy new Kirk & Uhura.” Sexy? Star Trek?

Well, that is one of the delicate lines this reboot is dancing, as do other reboots: recrafting the old show for a new audience with new sensibilities while leaving enough of the franchise in to make it recognizable and satisfying to the established fans.

How well director J.J. Abrams pulls that off will be the key to whether the Star Trek brand, now 43 years old, continues to live long and prosper.

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