What Does Nicholas Meyer Think of J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek?’
At a recent press event to promote the new History Channel mini-series Houdini, screenwriter Nicholas Meyer – who directed Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country – was asked very point blank what he thought about the rebooted J.J. Abrams’ franchise. As the man who helmed two of the most acclaimed and beloved films in the franchise, our ears were open: how did he react to the all the changes made in Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness?
His response was initially a gentle deflection, but when pressed, he made an analogy that compared his approach to updating Star Trek to J.J. Abrams’ approached, which called attention to the fundamental alterations made in the reboot franchise that resulted in these new movies, arguably, not really being Star Trek at all.
“The truth is that I used to read J.J. bedtime stories,“ Nicholas Meyer said. “And he came up to me at the Fox commissary, I don’t know, about four years ago, and he said, ‘Do you remember what you gave me for my Bar Mitzvah?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You gave me the annotated Sherlock Holmes, and my son is reading it now. So it was the gift that kept on giving.’”
His response prompted CraveOnline to ask, “So you liked his movies, or…?”
“It’s very complicated to say,” Meyer continued. “First of all, I should preface this [with] the observation that artists are not the best judges of what they’ve done. They’re certainly… the word ‘definitive’ doesn’t belong, in my opinion, in any conversation about art. Somebody says ‘It’s the definitive something,’ I’m always recoiling.”
“I think, and I’ve made this analogy before, that Star Trek is a bottle into which different vintages can be poured. Over the years a lot of different vintages have been poured. Give you another way of looking at it: if you know the Catholic Mass, you know that many, many composers have set that mass to music. You know that the Brahm’s German Requiem has no relation to the Mozart Coronation Requiem, or the Haydn Mass… you would never know you were listening to the same piece because the music transforms the words, and the vintage may transform the bottle.”
“So my reaction, and I remember somebody saying ‘Not your grandfather’s Star Trek‘ when they were talking about J.J.’s stuff. And I was thinking, I can’t really be a judge of this because it is so different from what I understood. I made a lot of changes when I came to that Star Trek thing, because I used to say, ‘Well, why are they all wearing pajamas?’ I made it into the Navy. It was about the Navy in space. But I didn’t think I changed the characters. I thought Kirk and Spock and those people were who they were.”
“And I think the biggest thing that shocked me about J.J. was Spock beating the shit out of somebody, and thinking, ‘No, that’s changing the shape of the bottle.’ And it may be very entertaining, and it may make a gazillion dollars, but that’s changing the shape of the bottle. I guess that was my thought.”
“King of a long-winded thought,“ he concluded, jokingly.
Is Nicholas Meyer right? Has the J.J. Abrams-verse changed the shape of Star Trek into something that only bears a superficial resemblance to the identity of the franchise? And if so, how much does it matter to you?