A Protest Against Unnecessary Darkness

It’s entirely possible this is going to come off as fandom rage. If so, I apologize in advance. I try to stay pretty level-headed about such things, but I am not always successful.

I’ve noticed this trend, probably over the last decade, of taking something and redoing it darker. Sometimes this works awesomely. A lot of times it works awesomely, actually, but it’s almost become a requirement, and it sometimes seems like you can’t find genre anymore that it isn’t dark. The grittier and more realistic, the better.

Sometimes, though, it seems like this added darkness takes away from the original idea.

I’m kind of grumpy about this lately because, as I’m sure you know, J.J. Abrams has been named as the director of the new Star Wars movies. And these articles keep using the phrase “since Abrams saved Star Trek.”

Herein lies the fandom rage. Was Star Trek dead? No. Did it have issues? Yes. I’ve been a Trekkie practically since birth, but even I didn’t watch Enterprise, and I don’t consider any of the Next Gen movies past First Contact in my own personal head cannon. It got bogged down in its own mythology, and the people in charge were seemingly unable to come up with any decent new directions. And it did come down to the point where it seemed like people were beating a dead horse.

So, yes, the 2009 Star Trek movie did some good things for the franchise. It got new fans interested, a lot of whom went back and then fell in love with the series. But it didn’t really feel like Trek. It gets away with it with the whole “alternate reality” thing. To an extent.

(I have plot and character issues, but then this really will turn into fandom rage, so we’ll leave that be for now.)

And now, we have Star Trek Into Darkness coming out in May, and I find myself feeling very anxious about the state of Trek. It’s got “darkness” right there in the title, and I’m worried that Abrams is going to take away the thing that separates Trek from most of the rest of science fiction: its optimism.

Star Trek has always showed the good in humanity. We didn’t destroy our planet. We didn’t wipe ourselves out, we weren’t invaded by extraterrestrials. We banded together, we formed a peaceful planet-wide government. We went out into the universe, peacefully, and made friends. Look at us! Hoorah!

Sure, there’s some darkness there. There’s torture, genocide, murder, conspiracies, you name it. But overall, people are good. Humanity is good.

Or at least it was, in Roddenberry’s time.

But we can’t have that in today’s culture. Everything is dark, gritty, and humanity is doomed to failure. Why? Why do we need that? Why, when real life is bad enough, do we need darkness in our fiction too? Why can’t things be happy and rainbows and unicorns every now and then?

Opinions, Squiders? About the trend towards darkness, Star Trek, or anything in between?


10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Christopher on 2013/02/05 at 5:59 PM

    I agree with you that sometimes “turning dark” works, and that at other times, it doesn’t.

    I noticed it a long time ago, though, in 1999. That’s when Del Rey took over the publishing of novels set in the “Star Wars” expanded universe– and they promptly turned “Star Wars” into emo-goth trash that I no longer bother with.

    Frankly, I hope that the scriptwriters for Episode VII avoid that– I believe that there’s hope– and that Abrams both stays away from “darkening” the universe– and darkens the *visual aspect* of the movie, because really, I’m sick to death of his OBSESSION with lens-flares! 😀


    • I belong to a Trek community, and there was a period when everyone was making macros of various characters, and the lens flare got one of its own.

      I really really hope they pull from some of the earlier books. A movie version of the Thrawn trilogy would make me very happy indeed.


      • Posted by Christopher on 2013/02/05 at 8:52 PM

        From things said, they won’t be making movies of the Thrawn books (dammit!), but may well draw on them for some background…. I’d love to see it, but my faith in film makers is, shall we say, pathetically low. I won’t count on it *until* I see it.

        I’m a fan of Star Trek as well as Star Wars, and I used to read the novels. Seemed to me that those only rarely got “dark” in the way you mean. I wish other franchises would learn from them!

      • I’m a little worried about the new movie, just because the books have always been considered canon, and I’m worried that they’ll go against the established EU timeline. But we’ll have to see. It’s still a few years before we’ll get the movie.

      • Posted by Marc on 2013/02/06 at 11:52 PM

        Um. Lucas himself has specifically said that none of the EU is canon.

      • Hm. Perhaps “canon” was the wrong term, but I know that the SW books have always been closely controlled and many fans include them in their own personal headcanon, unlike some other series (*coughTrekcough*).

  2. Posted by Dianna on 2013/02/05 at 6:00 PM

    …I think you got it right when you said ‘optimistic’. I’d argue that darkness in fiction is okay, if tempered by hope and light…

    Because let’s face it: no hope is why people spiral down in reality. And unless you’re trying to show THAT, it feels cheapened.

    You’ve made me rethink some stuff. Now I’m not sure what to do with my novel. Am I doing it okay, or am I doing it wrong? *considers*


    • I think as long as what you’re doing is true to the story you’re trying to tell, and not added just because, you’re probably fine.


  3. I would think it fair to say Star Trek was pretty dead before the Abrams movie. The last movie had been a tired, lethargic affair interesting only in how big a flop it was. The last TV series had been off the air for four years and nobody had cared. Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise had all failed to appeal to people who weren’t already fans, and dribbled away what fans there were pretty reliably.

    There are quite a few things I can quibble with about the 2009 movie, but one thing I love about it is that it had passion. It looked like the people making it cared about the outcome, and if the new movie is able to keep that air I’ll be optimistic about the results.


    • I’m going to have to disagree with you on some points–I know plenty of people who started with DS9 or Voyager as their first Trek.

      They did try to make sure they weren’t alienating anyone with the 2009 movie, but I’m worried that we’re going to turn Trek into something it’s not in order to appeal more to the general masses.


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