On Tuesday EW.com released a preview picture of the U.S.S. Enterprise from director J.J. Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek. (More can reportedly be seen as of today in the new trailer appearing in front of A Quantum of Solace.)
And I have to say…
…I’m really not all that impressed.
There are already many, many comments on the EW site and elsewhere, and they tend toward extremes—one camp of people accusing Abrams (and designer Ryan Church) of abusing their childhood memories and debasing the Trek mythos, another accusing the critics of being basement-dwelling geeks who need to get a life. Much of the discussion degenerates into disputes over the merits of the reboot in general, rather than over the design.
I have no particular problem with the idea of a Trek reboot. The original series is by far my favorite era of Trek, but obviously there’s no chance of a new project with the original cast. Besides, post-Roddenberry producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga pretty much exhausted (and abused) the franchise to the breaking point, and it was time for some new creative blood. I’ve enjoyed (some of) Abrams’ other work—most notably Lost, of which I’m a big fan—and Paramount could certainly have done worse than to give him the reigns. Abrams is apparently aiming to recapture the spirit of upbeat optimism that characterized classic Trek, in place of the uber-grittiness that tends to characterize most recent SF films (and even recent installments in the Trek franchise).
So my geek sensibilities are all abuzz, and I’ve been cautiously optimistic. I’m withholding judgment on the new cast, but I’ve enjoyed most of them in other roles. I’m a bit skeptical about the antiseptic Apple-store vibe of the reimagined bridge, but on the other hand I very much like the new uniforms—evocative of the originals in their basic look and color scheme, yet with more textured fabric and a different cut around the collars.
But this ship?…
…is just not the Enterprise.
I don’t mind the idea of a tweaked starship design in the abstract: it’s just this particular design that’s problematic. The saucer section is fine—reminiscent more of the previous movie version than of the TV series, but okay nevertheless. I don’t even object to the somewhat bulbous look of the new nacelles (as first revealed in the “under construction” trailer months ago). But taken as a whole, the ship’s profile just looks off-balance. It’s front-heavy.
Two specific problems jump out vividly as the cause of this disproportionality. The support strut for the saucer sweeps back past the middle of the engineering hull, losing the sense of forward momentum so evident in the original design; and (even worse) most of the engineering hull itself has been carved away, tapering to an end right where the nacelle struts begin, leaving one wondering where on earth the shuttle bay is supposed to be located.
One fan (going by the username “Spockboy”) has already Photoshopped a much-improved version, correcting those two features and resulting in a redesign that’s updated, yet still captures the ship’s classic proportions:
Unfortunately, that’s not the version we’ll be seeing onscreen next May 8th.
Trek’s design aethetic has always been a big part of the show’s appeal, and it seems to be missing here, or at least somewhat bungled. EW quotes Abrams himself as saying, “if you’re going to do the Enterprise, it better look like the Enterprise, because otherwise, what are you doing?” That’s an excellent question. Even veteran TNG-era Trek design guru Rick Sternbach has weighed in, prompting Church himself to leap to the new design’s defense with (some) explanations.
One commenter on EW’s site remarks that Church’s version may wind up being the “Bat-nipple-suit” of Enterprise designs. Let us hope at least that nothing else about Abrams’ Trek evokes the kind of damage Joel Schumacher did to the Batman franchise. Let’s hope the ship design is the worst thing about the film, and that the rest of it successfully captures the sense of awe that makes Star Trek so special.Tags: J.J. Abrams, Star Trek