Star Trek Isn’t An Action Franchise, And It’s Best When It Remembers That

For many years, however, these action-based moments in “Trek” were outliers. In Gene Roddenberry’s idyllic future, conflicts would be solved with words and understanding, not with might, military force, or brute strength. The action episodes were, as this Trekkie sees it, a small break in the diplomatic status quo. There’s a reason why so many early “Star Trek” video games were so bad: it was difficult to mine a peace-based franchise for the interactive mayhem that video games so often required. When nerds idly pondered who would win in a fight between a Galaxy-class starship and, say, a Star Destroyer from “Star Wars,” good Trekkies would instantly ask if diplomatic negotiations between the Federation and the Empire had broken down prior to the battle. Who cares who would win in a fight, Trekkies posited, if we don’t know why they are fighting? 

This writer can’t point to the exact moment when it happened, but sometime in the 1990s, “Star Trek II” became generally accepted as the best of the “Star Trek” films. Many enjoyed the action-packed ending, and the villainous title character played by Ricardo Montalbán. Unlike the slow and contemplative “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Khan” was exciting, fast-paced, and violent. After the canonization of “Khan,” much of “Trek” — the movies in particular — became much more action-forward. It didn’t matter if the cast was ill-suited to combat and phaser battles, they would be included. Indeed, all of the “Trek” films since 2001 — “Nemesis,” “Star Trek” (2009), “Into Darkness,” and “Beyond” — have featured revenge-minded villains who seek to destroy either the Federation or a Starfleet captain. 

The 1996 film “Star Trek: First Contact” was also very much an action flick, albeit with a Borg supervillain, not a revenge-based one.

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