How do the Trekkers feel about Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’?

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

As information about the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” movie begins to trickle out--today we learned that Eric Bana will be playing the bad guy--we thought we’d check in with the “Star Trek” fan community to see how they are feeling about the latest developments.

Of course, Paramount is likely not too concerned with what these die-hard fans think--they’ll come see the movie no matter what happens, even if only to hate it.

For the new “Star Trek” to be successful, what Paramount needs, and what Abrams knows, is that regular folk need to be intrigued enough to spend money to see the film. Only then can the franchise be reborn.


But nowhere are the latest details of the film, slated for a Christmas 2008 release, more closely watched than on the “Star Trek” fan sites and message boards. And while the film’s financial success will depend on the non-"Trek” fans, Abrams and his team of writers and producers are trying to make sure that the Trekkers will be happy as well.

A year and a half ago, when it was first announced that Abrams would work on a new “Trek” film, we put out calls to a group of fans to hear their response. We assumed they would be jumping for joy that a high-profile genre director would be taking over their beloved franchise, but instead they treated the news with a skeptical “we’ll see” attitude. This is a group that has been burned in the past (“Enterprise” anyone?), and who can blame them if they have little faith in anyone.

But as more information has come out--the movie will be about the earliest adventures of the original series characters; it’s said to be “Spock-centric”; at least one of the writers is a genuine “Trek” fan himself; Leonard Nimoy will be involved--it seems the fans are generally pleased with what they’re hearing.

Bonnie Malmat, board manager at Trek BBS, says she’d sum up her board members’ reaction to what little is known about the film as “cautiously optimistic.”

“Old school ‘Star Trek’ fans might have more interest in the story line than someone who was a fan of ‘Voyager,’ but I think pretty much across the board people like Kirk and Spock, and people are interested to see what [Abrams] will do with the characters,” she said.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said James Garner, who also works as a moderator on Trek BBS (he’s a reference librarian by day). “The only J.J. Abrams project I’ve seen so far was ‘Mission Impossible 3,’ but I was very impressed by it. And at this point we just needed to bring anybody new in to give things a new direction.”

Christian Sparborth, who founded the fan site, said he thinks people have been getting more and more interested in the film as time goes on. After explaining that “Trek” fans have been pretty dejected because of the bleak ratings for “Star Trek: Voyager,” the failure of the last “Star Trek” film (“Nemesis”) and the early cancellation of “Enterprise,” he said he thinks the decision to hire Abrams has proved to be a good one--partially because having Abrams on board has upped the cache of the franchise, partially because it looks like Abrams cares about the history.

“Thanks to J.J. Abrams and his team, ‘Star Trek’ suddenly seems cool again,” he wrote from his home in the Netherlands. “For a lot of fans, that automatically means they worry that a lot of what made ‘Star Trek’ special over the past 40 years will be sacrificed to appeal to the mainstream. Fortunately, its become clear these past few months that the people making this film are just as much fans as the rest of us who will just be watching it, so I think most fans are optimistic we’ll get a combination of an inspired new outing for the ‘Star Trek’ franchise, and something that will stay true to 40 years of much-loved tradition.”

We also spoke with “Star Trek” novelist Keith R. A. DeCandido, who has written more than a dozen “Star Trek” books for the Simon and Schuster imprint Pocket Books, as well as “Star Trek” comic books and e-stories. He’s thinks setting the film back in time is a mistake -- “the franchise succeeds when it moves forward” -- but says he’s not going to worry until he sees the film.

“I think cautious optimism is the right way to go,” he said. “The franchise needs something to recharge it. The most recent versions of ‘Star Trek’ didn’t work. ‘Nemeisis’ didn’t work. ‘Enterprise’ didn’t work. It is a possibility that this film will. It’s definitely worth finding out.”