One of the most common chants coming out of the camp of current and existing Star Trek fan bases is “You have to please the fans”. It sounds nice. Power to the people and all that good stuff… but does it really make any sense? No. No it doesn’t. Saying the makers of the new Star Trek film should try to please Trekkies is sort of like saying a battered woman should go out of her way to make a nice dinner for her abusive husband.
No my friends, the makers of the new Star Trek film need to respectfully find a way to subtly disassociate themselves from the current crop known as Trekkies (and please keep in mind as you read this that I myself and a Star Trek fan. I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie, but a fan of the franchise nonetheless).
It’s much like how most of the current Republican nominees for President are disassociating themselves from George W. Bush. They are still Republican, but they know when there is a dead horse in the stable, and they don’t want the stench of the carcass to get on them too. Bush’s popularity amongst his people is beyond low, and although Republican nominees would like Bush supporters to vote for them, they don’t want to risk his “unpopularity” rubbing off on them too. And so it is with the new Star Trek.
Like the Bush analogy, the new Star Trek franchise does indeed want existing “Trekkies” to get on board with them and drop their money to hit the movie theaters. HOWEVER, what they don’t want attached to the new movie is the stigma of being just another Star Trek movie… because Star Trek has never been more unpopular than it is now (even the most die hard of Trekkies will tell you so).
They want to make a new Star Trek with new potential and a basically a clean slate… but they want to avoid the current stigma of Star Trek. Then don’t want to general public perception to be that this is just another Star Trek movie. They want a much LARGER audience than the previous incarnations were able to produce. They want the appeal of this new Star Trek to go well beyond the traditional “Trekkie” fans… who haven’t been able to prevent Star Trek from decaying over the past decade.
Like most fan groups, Trekkies vastly overestimate their size and influence. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that there aren’t respectable numbers of Trekkies out there, there are. However, they’re not the world moving army that they seem to believe they are. The number of Trekkies have consistently shrank over the years without ever adding new blood to their numbers. It is a movement that has been losing old fans… while failing to add new ones.
If we want a more concrete example of why Paramount and the new Star Trek movie aren’t all that concerned with appealing to the status quo Star Trek fans, one need look no further than the box office result of the last 5 Star Trek films:
1989 – Final Frontier: $53 million
1991 – Undiscovered Country: $74 million
1994 – Generations: $75 million
1996 – First Contact: $93 million
1998 – Insurrection: $70 million
2002 – Star Trek Nemesis: $43 million
The last Star Trek movie to break $100 million was over 20 years ago with Star Trek IV The Voyage Home in 1986. And as you can see, the last Star Trek film crawled in with just over $40 million. So where are they? Where are these legions and armies of Trekkies we keep hearing about? They’re there… but they’re just not large enough to carry and sustain a major sci fi motion picture. The studio needs to not break away from current fan… but rather break beyond them if they want to reinvigorate and breath new life into the franchise. The best way to do that, is to ignore what old status quo Trek fans have to say. I know it hurts to say that… but it’s true.
To go back to the Republican illustration for a moment. The new Star Trek movie is still republican, they’re still called “Star Trek” and they still have all the mainstay characters in there. But this will be a new Star Trek, and that will be tough for the old Star Trek guard to accept.
True Star Trek fans will be there to see the new movie regardless (for the most part… there will obviously be exceptions). The key here is not to appeal to those people… but rather the vast majority of other people… namely people who AREN’T already Star Trek fans… and to do that… they need to ditch the “Trekkie” image. I’m not saying that’s the way the world should be… but that’s the way it is.
Live long and prosper.
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