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Subspace Rhapsody


The corporate philosophy behind making Star Trek has changed drastically only once in its 57-year history, and that was around 2007 (I presume).


For the most part, the studio’s attitude used to be, “We don’t understand this, but clearly a lot of weirdos like to watch it. So can you make it as cheaply as possible?”


They recognized that sometimes they’d have to spend a lot—to launch a new film, or a new series that would spearhead a network—but each and every time, they realized that no matter what they tried, with occasional, unrepeatable exceptions (Star Trek IV, Star Trek: First Contact), Star Trek had pretty much the same loyal audience.


So why not just continue to make it, but cut costs?


That changed when Paramount hired J.J. Abrams, after he revitalized their Mission: Impossible franchise with the third M:I movie, to do the same to Star Trek.


And after it was a big hit, CBS turned to one of Abrams’ screenwriters, Alex Kurtzman, to make new versions of it for streaming.


Ever since 2009, the mandate has been, “Spend whatever you need to spend—but can you make it as popular as possible?”


The studio’s attitude was simple: “This is Pepsi. Make it bigger than Coke!”


Looking at Strange New Worlds, I am continually stunned by the enormity of the sets, the cinematic size and scale, and the obvious expense of it all.


And look...without sabotaging my career or insulting any of the amazing people involved, it’s clearly more like a Y.A. show than it ever used to be. I react to a lot of the way a lot of the old farts do, thinking, “This isn’t my Star Trek.”


Incidentally, the Spock character in this show seems more like the intended Xon replacement in the never-made Star Trek: Phase II of the late 1970s—a young Vulcan attempting to fit in with a human crew.


So they just did a musical episode, “Subspace Rhapsody.”


I liked it.


There have been almost 900 episodes of Star Trek (I checked). It’s hard to think of something new. But suffice it to say, we haven’t seen this before.


The music was very well done, in a kind of contemporary, La-La Land style. The cast pulled it off marvelously. (I’m sure they loved it.)


Seriously, while some of the actors have obvious singing chops (Christina Chong actually is a recording artist), whatever they had to do with the newbies—whether it was narrowly tailor the ranges or do a million takes—they totally nailed it.


I don’t really understand the “improbability field” premise. I thought they’d excuse the singing by having it be aliens trying to communicate—but they’ve used that trope too often, including in an episode only a few weeks ago.


There are now a million reviews online of whether this episode was a good idea or not, so I guess this is a million-and-one.


I have a complicated relationship towards the movie musical. By and large, the genre drives me crazy, and the typical Broadway style makes me like this guy (on the right):

But I love West Side Story. I think Singin’ in the Rain is amazing. I quite like La-La Land.


So I’m tempted myself, sometimes, to want to make a musical. I always think, there’s gotta be a way to make it so I connect with it!


Ironically, this was the same attitude J.J. Abrams had towards Star Trek that gave us all this razzle dazzle in the first place.


So I guess it’s like this old Vulcan proverb:

When they broke out singing on the decks of the Enterprise...I liked it.


It made me smile, and I thought they did a great job.


And when it gave an excuse to play a version of the 1966 theme music, as a gentle kind of lullaby to wrap up the episode—that really was “my Star Trek.”


And if you hated it, remember this captain’s words:

“It’s just a TV show!”

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