Bringing the JJ-Trek movies into Star Trek Online is a terrible idea

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Did you think that Star Trek Online: Agents of Yesterday was only going to focus on jumping back in time to the original, classic series? So did I, at least until this week when the rumor that there was going to be a tie-in with the new Star Trek movies (JJ-Trek) was confirmed. Now we’re going to be doing at least one crossover with what Cryptic is calling the Kelvin timeline.

And boy does that take the wind out of the sails of my excitement here. Cryptic, it’s a bad idea and I wish it wasn’t too late to pull the plug on it.

Let’s back up and let me explain my stance on all of this. From what I have observed, among the Trek faithful, the new movies are generally either reviled for turning Star Trek into a mess of contradictions and purpose or somewhat tolerated. Maybe there’s a large group out there who loves them, I don’t know.

I’m generally on the fence about the new movies. It was an interesting idea and there was some effort to connect the movies with the prime universe instead of doing a true reboot. I liked some of the technology, hated the new Enterprise design, enjoyed Karl Urban as McCoy, disliked how McCoy got shoved into the background, found the action fun but the plot full of holes. The more I think about the movies after watching them, the more I find things to dislike about them. Into Darkness was a second (!) attempt to copycat Wrath of Khan, and boy did all of that backfire.

Elements like Tribble blood bringing the dead back to life, transporters whisking people across the galaxy (why do we need starships now?), and a Starfleet that would put a jerk ensign into the captain’s chair of the fleet’s flagship gets under my skin in a big way — and I’m not really that much of a Trekkie as I used to be. The movies are brainless fun at the expense of jettisoning the spirit and thoughtfulness of Trek.

And no, I do not hold high hopes for Star Trek Beyond. Mention the Beastie Boys trailer to Trekkies to see them wince in agony.

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But I made peace with it because the movies were to remain separate from the prime universe (which, to be honest, has some pretty big story turds floating around in it), so whatever wacky liberties the filmmakers wanted to take with the movie series, at least there was a refuge where that silliness did not apply. I’ve been very glad that Star Trek Online has kept its fingers out of the JJ-Trek universe, apart from a comment about Spock and Romulus here and there.

Now we have to face a crossover, and that barrier keeping the silly-stupid out of the game has been removed. The membrane has been breached, and the poison of that universe could infect the rest of the game. OK, sure, I might be a little melodramatic here. This could be a one mission, one-time thing, just a little tie-in with the summer’s film and the Star Trek 50th anniversary. But this is also Cryptic we’re talking about, a studio that’s always been looking for more Star Trek designs and content to explore and use — particularly in its cash shop. We already know that we’re getting TOS ships, so how much you want to bet that the costumes, ships, and tech of JJ-Trek will be coming to the game at some point?

It doesn’t help that the official word on this crossover has been pretty limited. They’re bringing in one incredibly minor actor to reprise his role, which does not have me tittering with glee.

I’m just afraid that once JJ-Trek gets its foot firmly in the door of Star Trek Online, there will be no purging it, no matter how the players feel about it. And that kind of makes me disappointed, because STO has spent a lot of time building up its universe as an exciting, intricate place to game. It’s risen above the TV series in many ways, and I sincerely don’t want to see its quality dragged down to the new movies’ low standard of Trek.

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12 thoughts on “Bringing the JJ-Trek movies into Star Trek Online is a terrible idea

  1. Roger Edwards (@ModeratePeril) June 22, 2016 / 10:32 am

    It’s just one crossover story/episode. I really don’t see it as a threat or a problem. STO will still be very much driven by the prime universe and its back history.

    Furthermore, after the tragic death of Anton Yelchin and the departure of J J Abrams, I have a suspicion that the alternate timeline universe will probably end after three movies.

    Hopefully STO will tie in with Bryan Fuller’s new show which sports a robust pedigree and sounds very promising.

  2. Green Dragoon June 22, 2016 / 10:56 am

    I enjoy your articles, but I have to call you out here. This is a knee-jerk reaction to JJ-Trek and has nothing based in fact as far as it comes to this mission. I get it, you don’t like the movies, but if the Numbus missions have show anything, it’s that the quality of the STO mission isn’t dependent on the quality of the source material.

    I was able to play the mission last night, and I can put some of your fears to rest. The mission, while set in the JJ-verse, or the Kelven Timeline as it’s apparently officially called, does not tie into any plot from the new movies. In fact, without getting into too many spoilers, the plot elements are heavily inspired by Star Trek: Enterprise. We even get to see a location featured in that show.

    I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the mission. The JJ-style of the sets gives a nice “other worldly” quality to your excursion into this parallel universe. The theme of the mission is really showing how the current conflict extends well past our own universe.

    In the end, if even the faintest ‘whiff of the new Star Trek movies are too much for you, you won’t have to put up with it for long, as these appears to have been only a one-off mission. I hope though that you’ll give the mission a try before you jump to any conclusions. After all, it’s only logical.

  3. Gamera977 June 22, 2016 / 11:27 am

    Thanks GD for filling us in there, I hate the Abrams movies with a passion. Frankly he seems to take great movies and just remake them bigger, louder, and stupider. ‘Into Darkness’ was one of the five worst movies I’ve ever seen, and one of only two I thought about walking out halfway though and asking for my money back. And this is coming from a guy that has ‘Manos: The Hands of Fate’ and ‘Plan Nine From Outer Space’ on DVD.

    However; does sound interesting from what you’re describing GD and I really want to play this mission now. Although if they wanted to do an alternate reality of Trek I’d rather they’d went with the Mirror universe though. It would be funny to see my PC and bridge officers suddenly get beards or ripped-out sleeves for the guys and bare midriffs for the gals! They already have the costumes even!

  4. Winged Nazgul June 22, 2016 / 11:41 am

    People who love the new JJ-Trek movies are not real Star Trek fans.

    Sorry, it has to said.

  5. Wilhelm Arcturus June 22, 2016 / 12:45 pm

    Oh good, I get to be the dissenter on this topic! There always has to be one!

    I liked the new Star Trek movies, and I speak as somebody who grew up on TOS and TAS and remembers when the first Star Trek movie was released. I went the day it opened… oh, the pain.

    The body of work we’re talking about here had a lot more awful in it than otherwise long before JJ stepped up to bat. I’ve been a fan all my life, but there has been so much disappointment over the years that I’m just happy when anything works for me. Complaining about the new stuff is like saying something stinks at the fish market. You have to discount a lot of stuff before something like Into Darkness even begins to stand out on that front.

    Of course, I don’t like STO… add that to the long, long list of disappointments… so I won’t be seeing any of the fresh new lens flare effects that this will no doubt bring to the game.

  6. Ocho June 22, 2016 / 12:59 pm

    The reality is that JJ-Trek had it’s foot in STO’s door since well before STO’s release.

    From what I’ve read and inferred over the years, one of the biggest reasons that STO was so half-baked when it launched was *because* of JJ-Trek. STO had a Romulan story arc filled with lots of Borg shenanigans (which they still mostly tried to keep), but the first reboot Star Trek movie went and blew up Romulus in the Prime Universe. In the Kelvin Universe (name makes sense… the ship that crossed the barrier between universes was called the Kelvin), the planet that ended up being blown up was Vulcan. This caused the writers and everyone to scramble as suddenly STO’s universe wasn’t compatible with the Prime Universe anymore, which was their biggest selling point. Which that led to the fracturing of Romulan society (I heard once that Romulans were supposed to have been at launch a third faction), and they really didn’t get caught up with the movie fallout until they released Legacy of Romulus.

  7. bhagpuss June 22, 2016 / 1:08 pm

    “People who love the new JJ-Trek movies are not real Star Trek fans.”

    That’s a point in their favor, surely.

    I’m old enough to remember when liking Star Trek was seen as proof that someone wasn’t “a real SF fan”. All you ever have to do to see the uncool become cool is live long enough. Some of (actually, most of) the popular culture shibboleths that get touted nowadays were objects of derision by fans of their respective genres when they were originally made.

  8. Sylow June 22, 2016 / 1:34 pm

    Wow. Some people here are much tougher than I am. They actually watched the second movie still.

    For me, I watched the first: “Pubescent teenagers in space, fighting about who is boss at the moment and accidentally saving the world while doing so”. This left me with no desire ever, to watch any more of that series.

    Unfortunately it really seems like from a financial point of view, JJ Abrams was a good idea, these non-Star Trek movies seem to make a lot more money than the actual Star Trek movies ever made. But despite I never saw and still don’t see myself as a Star Trek fan, I just can’t stomach what JJ produces. It’s a lot of shinies, but no substance at all. 😦

    For STO, I don’t know if this is good or bad news. I sometimes ponder a return there, but these news just tell me that my time there definitely is over. If on the other hand this change can attract enough players to make it worth it, I am unable to tell, but I fear it does.

  9. tithian June 22, 2016 / 3:07 pm

    You may hate the JJ-Trek movies, but it has done the franchise a huge favor: Star Trek became mainstream again. People actually don’t wince now, when you mention the TV shows.

    It may sound horrible to you, but ST was in its death throes for a while now, ever since Enterprise got cancelled. You know your franchise is in a bad spot, when a fairly unpopular MMO (I’m the only among my ST buddies that plays the game) is the sole source of new stories.

    So, to the purists out there: suck it up. And this is coming from someone who has seen all seasons of all series at least 3 or 4 times (and loved them every time).

  10. Nick June 23, 2016 / 2:22 pm

    I cannot stand the new Trek movies; a few good ideas, and it was great to see Nimoy as Spock… but there was so much of it that made no sense (as you mentioned, Syp, like the chain of command and putting the rookie in a Captain’s chair). Into Darkness was a travesty on the level of Batman v Superman on using and abusing the content and spirit of the source material.

    All that aside, though, I’m actually looking forward to this. While they do love their lockboxes, they’ve also shown that they prefer to put stuff in there that’s esoteric enough that it won’t hurt sales by denying people the ship (like, say, tucking the Kelvin Enterprise into it) and also making them tangental to the overall story and season arc.

    The one-off encounters also have been handled well in other instances, like with the Mission Night of the Comet, that puts you with Scotty and Bones. Sure, they’re more loved in the canon than these movies, but also messing around with the stuff like that can cause problems. They were a fun aside to the rest of the story, and I think STO does things like that exceptionally well.

    More than that, one thing they’ve also done well is by taking things on the margins and making them pretty interesting. Turning Sela into a primary antagonist, revisiting one-shot villains like the bugs in Conspiracy, the Vauudwar, and the Solane, and more than that, making them interesting. It’s a game that’s self aware of certain things, and handled well, I think a one-shot tie in to Kelvin can work out well for us.

  11. ZombiePirate June 24, 2016 / 7:57 am

    I grew up with sci-fi, sat down with family to watch TNG and then DS9 (my personal favourite) and Voyager. I’ve consumed all the Trek I’ve come across and you know what? I like the new movies. Yes they’re not the Trek we know and love already, but, I made peace with the separate time line shtick and can just watch them and enjoy them on their own merit.

    Sadly, these days it’s all too easy to call out people who enjoy the newer stuff as “not real fans” and say “I hate those movies” and take some kind of perceived moral high ground with a hipsterish “I liked it when it was original!”

    However, I see enough to just enjoy things for what they are. Are the new movies perfect? No. Are they watchable as sci-fi action flicks? Absolutely. People might want more from their Trek, I know I’d love another proper TV series, but I’m happy that we get anything at all and I’ve actually enjoyed the newer stuff for what it is.

  12. JJalternatebrahms July 9, 2016 / 1:00 am

    I know people have been fed this idea that JJ Trek “saved” the franchise, but really it did nothing of the sort. There are two reasons why I say that:

    First, forget about the raw numbers bandied about: $485 million in revenues is nothing unless you calculate the Return on Investment. In this case, take the revenues, halve it to get what the studios probably got, then take the cost of production, add around 10% for promotion and marketing, then divide costs into studio returns to find out the ROI. Do this for all the movies and a pattern emerges: Star Trek has been slowly making less ROI ever since its high-point, Wrath of Khan (the real one from 1982). This is why the studio wanted JJ Trek 1 to make $550 million: it needed to make that for a decent ROI in percentage terms. What JJ did was reverse the fast slide of the last few TNG-era films. I’m not certain if that was JJ, or just “luck of the draw” (See the films Nemesis went up against to see what I mean).

    Second, JJ Abrams took a franchise that had a whole backstory, mythology, and underlying philosophy… and proceeded to gut it. He threw away pretty much everything but some general shapes and words. He then took those pieces, jimmied them into an action movie he was making that was set in space, and then put the “Star Trek” moniker on it. It’s Star Trek in terms of this veneer, together with some quite random Squirrel moments (“Look over there a squirrel! A TOS actor! A tribble!”) but these things can be removed without making any difference to the films. And because the backstory/mythology/philosophy is not really there, JJ presented something missing Star Trek’s soul.

    In other words, JJ Abrams did not save Star Trek. He cannibalised it for some other franchise. He then proceeded to cynically rupture the fan base with his PR spin about “either you love what I’ve done… or you should love what I’ve done.” If we ever see Star Trek again, it will be the television show in 2017. If that fails to revive Star Trek’s soul, I’m afraid that’s probably going to mean, “curtain call”.

    In terms of Star Trek Online, it represents a solid group of Star Trek fans, many of whom were sold on the above-mentioned JJ Abrams PR spin. My understanding is that JJ’s ships are getting bought by the bucketload, and the outfits are part of the timeline special pack. Getting in there was probably part of trying to give this “Fast and Furious in Space!’ film some promotion, but the result will be Cryptic Studios looking at the sales and seeing Dollar Signs. I would not be surprised to see STO end up with more JJverse random objects and missions in future.

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