Kobayashi Maru & The Tao Of William Shatner

As always, hyperlinks are in colors.

Although the subject changes, the joke goes something like this:

How many Star Trek fans does it take to screw in a light bulb?  Two hundred.  One to change the bulb and one hundred and ninety nine to bitch about how much better the old bulb was.

Months ago I got into an argument at the comic store about Star Trek.  If you have never seen a nerd fight over something amazingly insignificant, find your nearest comic book store and wait twenty minutes.  TJ, is a hulking man often wearing shorts and a KISS t-shirt.  He owns a mobile car detailing business and plays guitar in a band.  He will tell you Gene Simmons is a God.

The conversation went from the film Cloverfield (2008) to upcoming reboot of Star Trek (in theatres May 7, 2009), both which involve director/producer JJ Abrams.  TJ was panicked.

TJ: He’s not going to do that shakycam shit with my Star Trek, is he?

JIM: No.  He didn’t direct Cloverfield.  He just produced it.

TJ: Well, I don’t know that.  They should just leave Star Trek alone.  It’s fine the way it is.

JIM: Actually, it’s been a mess for decades.

TJ will also argue that he doesn’t know anyone that doesn’t like the last three Star Wars movies and I will argue you could put a lightsaber fight in the Hannah Montana movie and Star Wars nerds will drink the Kool-Aid and tell you it’s fantastic.  Denial is a powerful thing.

TJ: It doesn’t matter.  It’s going to suck.  He’s messing with a powerful thing and there is a huge Star Trek fanbase that will just get pissed no matter what.  I wish they would just leave it alone.

For those who are Trek challenged, Star Trek was a television series that debuted in 1966 and in the three short years it aired was threatened with cancellation several times.  It was kept on the air because of ardent fans and letter writing campaigns, the first of their kind in days before the internet when you actually had to do something.

Keep in mind, these people probably never wrote their congressman or their grandmothers but felt the need write NBC to save Star Trek.

Cancellation.  Death comes for everyone.  The show is quickly revived as a Saturday morning cartoon and then a series of six movies, four spinoff series, four more movies, hundreds or books, comics, toys and games and forty two years later, here we are.

For the better part of two decades the franchise has become stale.  Paramount decided never to let a cash cow die and are reviving Star Trek next summer is a preboot (prequel/remake/reboot) of the original series with new actors.


For many, it’s hard to imagine Star Trek someone else in the daddy chair being called Kirk.  For those who don’t care, try to imagine it with someone current you like.  Peter Parker done by Daniel Radcliffe or Indiana Jones via Hugh Jackman.  That sense of uncomfort you feel in your spine is the same as a few million Trekkies setting their phasers for “kill.”

It always irks me when someone says, “you can’t remake that,” or “Robert Downey Jr is the only Iron Man.”  I live with the knowledge that it’s very possible when George Lucas is dead and buried and I am in my sixties someone will look at a sixty year old film called Star Wars and say, “we should remake this.”

And I would be all for it.

I don’t think there are any sacred cows.  Wizard of Oz was made five times before the definitive version in 1939.  Ben Hur (1959), Ten Commandments (1956), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)… all remakes and we were better off for it.  Movies aren’t bad because they’re remakes… they’re bad because they’re bad.  There will be good ones (King Kong (1933)) and bad ones (King Kong (1976)) and ones people refuse to admit are good because you dared remake a classic (King Kong (2005)).

The point here the character of Captain James T Kirk and the Starship Enterprise is bigger than William Shatner the same way Robin Hood is bigger than Errol Flynn or Sherlock Holmes is bigger than Basil Rathbone.  I apply the same logic to Superman, Batman and Indiana Jones.  Keep in mind we went through three Supermen to get to Christopher Reeve and six Batmen to get to Christian Bale.  There were two Battlestar Galactica series before the current one (and people threw a fit over a female Starbuck).  To think one actor steps in a role (and is William Shatner, no less) and suddenly he’s the definitive Jim Kirk is ridiculous.

With that, I leave you with the first images of the new Star Trek film.  I’ll judge it when I see it but it looks like Star Trek to me.  Actually, I’m surprised at how much it looks like Star Trek.

PS – And those who are wondering about the title, the Kobayashi Maru is a simulator at Starfleet Academy that is (unknown to the students,) unwinable.  It’s purpose is to judge how a Captain reacts in a losing situation.  The only person who has ever beaten it is Kirk because he doesn’t believe in unwinable situations and rigged the simulator to put the odds in his favor.  JJ Abrams will have his own Kobayashi Maru next summer.


One thought on “Kobayashi Maru & The Tao Of William Shatner

  1. tell me that’s supposed to be riley, and not kirk, in the gold shirt in the top pic. if that’s kirk, i’m getting old. he looks like he’s 16.
    are they going to redo the same storylines too, or write a new one?

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