I went to go see the new Star Trek movie – twice. Once on a regular screen and once on an IMAX screen – and I loved it both times. As a Trekkie, I was definitely satisfied – but as a hobbiest Star Trek writer, I was a little disturbed.
My #1 hobby is writing Star Trek audio drama, so I was left with questions about the consequences of the new Star Trek movie on the older canon. One of the golden rules of writing for Star Trek has always been to put your toys away when you’re done playing. That is, you need to write a “close-loop” episode (or season, series, etc.) that effectively puts the Star Trek universe back where it was before you started writing. Anything you break needs to be fixed (First Contact), anything you create kinda disappears (Insurrection), and anyone major you kill needs to somehow find a way back (Search for Spock).
It looks like J.J. Abrams has -temporarily- suspended this rule.
*** Spoilers Begin Here ***
Consequence #1 – Things Will Break, People Will Die, and We’re Okay With That
Every somewhat versed Trekkie had a moment of acknowledgment when the major characters started discussing the Alternate Reality hypothesis. Spock’s “Whatever course our lives might have taken before…” line. That was J.J. Abrams telling us that this was *his* universe. The candy buttons, single, centered view screen, and cold brushed steel of the other timeline don’t exist here.
You might have noticed there’s also a black hole where Vulcan used to be. Not only is that a major tourism killer, but the fact that J.J.’s writers either didn’t care to – or haven’t yet decided to – set things right and repair Vulcan or the timeline means that the old rules just don’t apply anymore. Major players can be taken out. If they were able to destroy Vulcan without a second thought, imagine what perils this could mean for our favorite characters.
Consequence #2 – Back Home, Spock is Gone!
I’m of the opinion that the warm and fuzzy canon we’ve come to know and love still exists as a parallel universe to the one J.J. Abrams created. There are plenty of supporting examples for this (TNG: Parallels) and I don’t think J.J. Abrams’s intent was to “kill off” existing canon. As a functional way to bring back The Original Series cast as well as tell new and compelling stories without having the ending already known, the Alternate Universe thing was a great way to do it.
In fact, the major pieces supporting my theory that things can live hunky-dory side-by-side is that Spock made absolutely no attempt to correct the timeline. Generally when someone breaks the timeline, Starfleet Officers take it upon themselves to set it right at any cost. He never mentioned fixing the timeline to Kirk, he didn’t travel back with him to help (young) Spock re-capture the future Vulcan ship with the Red Matter, or any other lengths we’ve seen Starfleet Officers go to to set things right. Picard with the Borg in First Contact, Kirk and Spock with McCoy in the TOS episode Guardian of Forever, and so on. That Spock failed to do anything to set it right in this case seems a little mysterious – unless there’s some secret dynamics of Red Matter that we’re not aware of – or perhaps more character driven – that Spock could not bear the thought of a universe – even a parallel universe – without Vulcan.
But for the folks back home, in the old universe, Spock is friggin’ gone. Which also means…
Consequence #3 – Back Home, Romulus is Destroyed!
The reason Nero went on his killing spree – Spock failed to save Romulus from the supernova. So now we’re short a Spock and the Romulan Empire is without a homeworld. Do you need a moment for that to sink in? I know I did. Romulus, in our nice, fuzzy and familiar timeline, is destroyed.
As a writer, I have to live with that – unless I want to create my own Alternate Universe. I kinda did with Dimensions – I put the story in the Mirror Universe, set in a period that we’ve know nothing about. Even so, if my characters ever make it back home, they’re living in a universe where Romulus is doomed.
Star Trek: Remixed
This is all an assumption. We could posit that Spock (the old one) wasn’t actually from our warm and fuzzy familiar canon universe, but yet another alternate universe – and the same for Nero. For all we know, in the warm and fuzzy familiar canon universe, Spock could have saved Romulus and Nero went on happily as a married miner.
As a long-time Trekkie and Trek writer, though – I feel like maybe warm and fuzzy isn’t where Trek should be anymore. My fiction is definitely darker for a reason – I don’t think Warm and Fuzzy is where the world is at anymore. People can’t identify with that. Let’s take some risks. Let’s blow up some planets and do some things that aren’t so safe with our favorites. If we miss ‘em, we’ve got the warm and fuzzy universe on our DVDs and VHS tapes, but now we also have this new playground to play on… and a few more fans who’ll want to play too!