Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Future of Star Trek: Revising an Old Medium (No, I am not referring to Patricia Arquette)

Even the casual readers of the blog know that I score very high on the overall nerd index. This index is different from the standardized nerd index which measures nerdiness relative to one or two criterion. Hence you have a math geek who is somewhat different from a science nerd which differs again from a sci-fi fan (hardcore or otherwise: this can be broken into a subset between hard science fiction and soft sci-fi but that is really a subject for another post.) At any rate, I score high on several factors and therefore am an overall nerd. Trust me; if you were to ask those who went to college or high school (or seminary for that matter) with me, the evaluation hovers between massively ackward socially to crushing bore. At any rate, all of this is preface for making a point about one of my many hobbies: Star Trek.

Many folks have made the case that Star Trek has tapped out all the possible story ideas. I would disagree, but would admit that new ideas would require a wholesale, go for broke attitude toward characters and situations. Personally, I have made the argument for a series in which a massive civil war breaks out in the Federation after the Klingon Empire enters the Federation. The series would be one long story arc per season culminating in the fourth season called "Open Warfare." The series would conclude without resolution except for knowing how everything started. I followed this strain of ideas from the last several Star Trek novels I read in which there was a sense that the Federation has lost its purpose and needs to get back to its roots. Those who have read the Titan series know what I am referring to. But this isn't the only way in which Star Trek could be revitalized.

In the 1970's Star Trek was featured as a cartoon. (As a funny aside, Paramount doesn't consider the animated series as "canon" for the continuity of the show although they have broken that a few times. There is a vote going on a as to whether the animated series should be considered canon. What amuses me is even a show like Star Trek needs a canon. If a TV show needs an authority to say what does and doesn't belong in that fantasy universe why wouldn't the Church need a final authority to decide disputed matters.) Animation is the way to go. Animation would free up the writers to envision and to realize all new species and situations that normal flesh and blood film making couldn't do. Now, this doesn't allow the writers to get lazy coming up with all kinds of flash without substance behind it. It calls the writers, I think, to aim higher because now more than ever the words on the page are affecting every aspect of the production. Again, anyone who has read the first three books of the Titan series can catch my vibe.

Of course, this always comes down to the one force more powerful than Q: money. It's always about the money and I can sympathize with this when it comes to animation. Given the generally poor quality of computer animation when it comes to realism (with due exception to the work of Pixar), you are generally stuck hand drawing or computer framing or some ghastly combination of these effects for each and every frame. Working that out is hard. For action to appear seamless, you must have twenty-four frames per second rolling past the eye. Most half-hour shows are 24 minutes in length. So that would be 24 frames * 60 seconds in a minute * 24 minutes or 34,560 frames per show. Double that figure if you are talking an hour long feature. Given that it took Pixar almost four years to make "Cars" you can see why animation, even when computer rendered, is not an easy or cheap process.

But that's what it takes if you want to head in a new direction. You have invest resources and effort and time to make something which you think is valuable valued by others.

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