Paramount+ recently announced that filming has commenced on the newest Star Trek movie, SECTION 31, with Academy Award Winning actress, Michelle Yeoh.
Which is fantastic news for fans who have been waiting for a new Star Trek film. Especially since the last film in the franchise came out in 2016.
The fourth movie in the Abrams Trek line has been in flux since then, with constant updates and retractions and corrections. We can talk about all the glory of development hell in a later post.
Suffice to say, it has been a minute since audiences have seen a Trek film, and the appetite is real.
Now, is this post going to pedantically mention that this Section 31 film is being billed as a movie event for Paramount+?
That it's a television movie?
That perhaps it should be discussed more with the New Trek series like DISCOVERY and STRANGE NEW WORLDS as opposed to THE WRATH OF KHAN or FIRST CONTACT?
No. Of course not.
As a Trek fan, I have way more plot specific details to be pedantic about.
(I mean seriously...there is no way Khan could recognize Chekov in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, when Khan first appeared in season one and Chekov didn't join the cast until season two)
But with all the hype for the new SECTION 31 film, I think you can't go without talking about The Curse.
No, not the one on Showtime...
I'm talking about The Star Trek Curse.
The one that says all Even Numbered Trek films are goods and All Odd ones are Bad.
There have been officially 13 films in the Star Trek Film Franchise: 6 original series films, 4 Next Generation Films, and 3 JJ Abrams "Kelvin Universe" films.
And along the way, as each film premiered, fans began to notice a pattern with the overall audience reception to each film. Movies that came even (so 2nd, 4th, 6th) ended up being beloved and bigger hits, while their counterparts (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc.) were seen as less than, or even disliked by the fandom.*
Reportedly, this was solidified by the generally reviled STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER, directed by William Shatner. Kirk fought God. Uhura did a fan dance. Spock had a sibling he never told anyone about (which I guess is now a core motif of the franchise?)
It's glorious and weird and a lot of fans hated it. Especially given the popularity that STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME received.
*There is a caveat: The Curse supposedly flipped between movies nine (STAR TREK: INSURRECTION) and ten (STAR TREK: NEMESIS). Both were reportedly "less than stellar", and the eleventh movie (JJ Abrams' STAR TREK) was acclaimed. Some say the curse was broken. Others say that the 1999 film GALAXY QUEST (a Star Trek Film if there ever was one), flipped the curse.
Take a look at the Rotten Tomato scores of the "Evens":
Versus the scores of the "Odds":
So as you can see, there definitely is a disparity going from film to film. Every time the franchise took a step forward, there seemed to be a step back. To the point it became a recurring joke.
But it begs the question: when the cast, crew, studio, and audience begin to expect a new film to be a success/flop depending on where it comes in the sequence, does it impact the perception of the film?
Michael Piller, in his book FADE IN: THE MAKING OF STAR TREK: INSURRECTION, even notes that the producers were aware when making the ninth film.
During one of the initial screenings, critics liked the film, but were not as passionate of it as they were the previous film FIRST CONTACT. He even notes a nearby audience member audibly sighing and remarking over the end credits:
"Well, it's an odd number."
Michael even points out how this reduced two years of his life to a simple phrase. And not just his life. Hundreds of lives and people working on the film, trying to make it the best it can be.
And indeed, some critics and fans felt that the lighter adventure of INSURRECTION did not live up to the galaxy saving adventure of the previous film.
But many critics and fans loved the character interplay. The romance. The nostalgia. The old Trek spirit behind it. And as time has passed, more and more fans have come to appreciate the themes and camp that made them fall in love with the characters in the first place.
Piller noted one review that a critic went in to hate the film and was pleasantly surprised.
Is the curse a self fulfilling prophecy?
Or more importantly, given how fans have come to love the film over the years, does the initial response forever mar a feature's legacy?
Said Simon Pegg (Scotty in JJ Abrams' Star Trek Films, and cowriter on the 13th film, STAR TREK BEYOND):
Simon Pegg: [...] In Spaced there is a line where Tim says something about every odd number Star Trek movie being shit which is a huge irony considering I’m starring in Star Trek 11. So it is funny how those things come back to haunt you. Obviously the rule doesn’t apply anymore [laughs].
Writers, if there's any lesson to take here, it's that you try to make the best film that you can.
Some people are going to hate your film.
For arbitrary reasons.
And they will watch the film with it in mind, and it will color how they see the film.
So pay them no mind. Keep writing your story. Seek constructive criticism, yes. But not from the haters who will go in expecting to hate it.
(And yes, sometimes the hate is earned...)
Who knows what kind of reaction SECTION 31 will bring. Will it reverse the curse again?
Or will it reinforce the idea that every other Trek movie isn't worth its salt?
Or maybe, will that matter at all?
As fans, we are super excited to see a new feature chapter of Trek.
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Let me know what you think of the Trek movies below!
For more on Michael Piller's thoughts on The Curse, check out FADE IN: THE MAKING OF STAR TREK: INSURRECTION by Michael Piller. You can purchase it directly on this site!
Until next time...