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Star Trek’s 2009 Reboot Changed Everything

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Star Trek has been an important fixture of sci-fi TV for decades, and alongside its continued existence, movies have helped further flesh out the characters. But in both the movies and TV, the early 2000s weren’t kind to the franchise: 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis was a critical and commercial disaster, and Star Trek: Enterprise had a respectable four-season run, but the shortest of the shows since the original series. Change was in order, and it was eventually decided that would take the form of a reboot that took everyone by surprise.

Star Trek—that is, the reboot film released May 8, 2009—is one of those movies that showed up at just the right moment. At the time, movies based on old TV shows like Starsky & Hutch and Charlie’s Angels had found commercial successes, which gave this reboot some cultural context. It also helped that it was being helmed by a trio of filmmakers who knew how to make hits: J.J. Abrams was still riding the high off directing Mission: Impossible 3 (speaking of movies based on old TV shows), along with the almost-ended Lost and the still young Fringe. Writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman had written Mission and were further on Paramount’s good side with the first Transformers movie. If there was anyone who could make a new Star Trek flick that’d get anyone’s attention, for better or worse, it’d be these guys.

It really can’t be understated how much Paramount was banking on this new Star Trek being a hit back then. The studio wanted, more than anything, to get audiences to care about Star Trek again, and how best to do that in the 2000s? By hyping up its action scenes and Kirk being quite the ladies man. That didn’t entirely go over well, much like Abrams’ comments that the movie would mainly be for non-Trekkies. Even with that, the movie couldn’t help but look interesting. Those trailers didn’t tell you a dang thing about its actual plot, but they had good vibes, and made you want to see how the Enterprise crew would come to be the adventurers our parents and grandparents had fallen in love with back in their day.

Star Trek – Trailer

And fall in love, people did: the reboot movie was met with critical acclaim and later four Academy Award nominations, ultimately winning one for Best Makeup and being the only Trek movie to net an Oscar. Despite mixed reactions on the movie splitting off into its own timeline, critics and audiences loved the young cast’s takes on the original characters—especially Zachary Quinto’s Spock and Zoe Saldana’s Uhura—and their chemistry. With a $385.7 million box office, Star Trek succeeded in making people care about the franchise once more. But its high ended up coming down quicker than you’d think, and in the years since, the movies have been marooned in space.

A few years later, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness left an odd taste in audiences’ mouths. It still made money, but something about it felt off: maybe it was how it did a more convoluted retelling of Wrath of Khan, or maybe it can be owed to its very weird B-plot with 9/11 parallels that feel like they belong in a completely different movie (or another franchise entirely). Star Trek Beyond, conversely, went for a considerably simpler approach and just functioned like a regular episode of the show. That energy, combined with a still-incredible needle drop, was the right move, even if the film wasn’t a smash hit when it dropped in 2016. Paramount’s spent years trying to get a fourth movie off the ground since then, and it’s anyone’s guess as to if it’ll actually happen.

Things have gone much better over in TV land: Star Trek: Discovery and Lower Decks, a pair of well-liked shows, are both ending after their respective fifth seasons—a run that feels like a miracle these days. Star Trek: Picard gave Next Generation fans the legacy sequel they’d been wanting for years, and Star Trek: Prodigy, despite how messily its schedule was handled, brought younger audiences into the fold. It’s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds that’ll be spearheading future TV plans, which currently include a Starfleet Academy show and the Paramount+ film focused on Michelle Yeoh’s Discovery character Phillipa Georgiou.

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Image: Paramount

Star Trek 2009‘s biggest aftershock came outside of its franchise with the big reboot and legacy sequel boom of the 2010s. New takes on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Power Rangers, RoboCop, and Evil Dead were born from this movie’s success, even if it was just to revitalize its own series. Abrams, Orci, and Kurtzman went on to become even bigger names in Hollywood: the former famously went on to revive Star Wars for the big screen, and is a producing powerhouse. Orci and Kurtzman went on to be involved with the Amazing Spider-Man movies, and create or executive produce shows like Sleepy Hollow and Fringe. When the duo separated, Kurtzman—following his directorial debut The Mummy, which failed to launch Universal’s Dark Universe—effectively became Star Trek’s equivalent to Kevin Feige. Orci, last we heard, was writing a Spider-Man adjacent movie for Sony that’s gone quiet in the years since its announcement.

All-in-all, Star Trek was a game-changer, and for better or worse, you don’t get our current movie landscape without it. With how big the franchise is right now, it’s understandable why Paramount’s wanted so much to get a fourth film off the ground—but is it possible by this point? That hypothetical (and surprising) Star Trek 4 has been waylaid by shifting creatives for years, to the point you feel like someone should finally make the call to pull the plug. Not only did Beyond give the Kelvin universe its cleanest end after the passings of Anton Yelchin and Leonard Nimoy, fourth movies can sometimes be dicey, especially when their franchise wasn’t really built with it in mind. And it’s anyone’s guess as to if a Starfleet prequel set in the same timeline will rejuvenate it for more films or just be a small detour before we head back to Prime time.

In 2022, Chris Pine said the best way forward for Star Trek movies may require they be less bombastic, more geared toward fans, and cost less to make. It’s an easy sentiment to get behind, and that may really only be possible by junking Trek 4 and doing it with another movie. The Enterprise of the Kelvinverse had a good run, and after 15 years, it’s more than fine to boldly go in a new direction.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.



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