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The Trek Nation - Star Trek: To Be or Not To Be

Star Trek: To Be or Not To Be

By Michael Hinman
Posted at December 30, 1999 - 6:00 AM GMT

If you loved Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, then you will probably agree with General Chang that William Shakespeare is best in its original Klingon form. However, a funny side note is that the phrase "To be or not to be" from Hamlet could not even be translated into the originally developed Klingon language. They actually had to bring in the original man who developed the language to translate the phrase for the 1991 movie.

Almost since its beginning, Star Trek and Shakespeare have been intertwined in more ways than imagined. Shakespeare's works and themes can be found throughout all four series, and most especially the movies. Khan Noonien Singh and the aforementioned Chang both were big fans of the late playwright.

Going even deeper, it seems at times that Star Trek is becoming as much a part of pop culture as Shakespeare did in the centuries after his death. Although I doubt 100 years from now that there will be two people sitting in a subway, and out of the blue, one blurts out, "Remember" and the other quickly responds, "Star Trek II, Act IV, Scene 26."

Whether it ever becomes accepted by mainstream society or not is hard to predict. However, how important is it to be popular to more than just the fans? To the fans, it is fine that they be the only ones they know who love Star Trek. However, to the bean counters at Paramount, the more people who buy into the Star Trek phenomenon, the better. Of course ... what better way to get more people on your boat than by distracting their attention elsewhere.

There is definitely going to be a fifth Star Trek series (or, for you non-canonical purists, a SIXTH Star Trek series), but although it will be Star Trek in both principle and design, will it be Star Trek by name?

The current rumors circulating around Trekdom is that next Star Trek series will not have the Star Trek name attached to it. Why? Quite simply, the popular culture has put a somewhat negative impression of Star Trek into people's minds. With every open Star Trek fan, there are probably at least 10 closet Trekkies. In this day and age, being a Trekkie means you have no life, you are a nerd, or you work at NASA.

Although those stereotypes are normally far from the truth, most people don't want to be associated into the same category. I have considered myself booksmart when I was in school, but I would rather goof off and be considered the class clown rather than get the label of "nerd," so I can see why many people don't want to be associated with Star Trek.

To go to a sports bar and shut off all the screens with the big football game on it to yell, "I LOVE STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE" would probably get people throwing empty beer bottles at you. However, if you walked in, did the same thing, except yelled "I LOVE XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS" everyone would probably get up on the tables and start dancing and cheering.

For some reason, it's much more cooler being a fan of say Babylon 5 or Star Wars, than it is to be a fan of Star Trek. Although Trek is not the father of science fiction, it is, in essence, the father of modern science fiction.

Several years ago, Paramount did what they felt was a test of Star Trek's viability with and without the name. When "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" was released in the U.S., it came with the full name intact. It went on to become the biggest Star Trek movie of all time. However, it did even better than expected in Europe. Mainly because it was advertised simply as "The Voyage Home." If the name "Star Trek" appeared anywhere, it would be in the fine print.

Apparently, it was more kosher to say, "Hey, let's go see that 'Voyage Home' movie" rather than saying, "Hey, let's go see that new Star Trek movie!"

It's sad, but it's a reality. You could have replaced Jack Dawson with Captain Kirk in "Titanic" and left the name alone, and it still would have made more than a billion dollars. But, add Captain Kirk and then change the name to "Star Trek: Titanic" and you'd be lucky to break $90 million.

I am not exactly for calling the new Star Trek series something other than "Star Trek." To me, it would be like taking William Shakespeare's name off "Much Ado About Nothing." However, I am for seeing more Star Trek in the future, and if a maneuver like this would keep bringing us Star Trek for years to come, than more power to Paramount.

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Michael Hinman is the webmaster of Sci-Fi news site SyFy World, and a regular contributor to the Trek Nation.