By C.K. Shortell
If you had asked me in the mid-80’s if I still expected, nearly three and a half decades into the future, to still be treated to new Duran Duran albums and new Star Trek movies, I would have probably said no. As huge as Duran Duran was, even as a teenager, I knew these things don’t last forever. Iconic bands like The Police, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles had not managed to survive—for various reasons—and there was no reason to think Duran would be any different. Likewise, as much as I loved Star Trek and enjoyed both the syndicated reruns and movies, the cast was aging and there was no guarantee that the studio would continue to fund a sci-fi “space opera” franchise based on a cancelled 60’s TV show. And yet here we are, nearly halfway through 2013, and I’ve just seen the new Star Trek movie, and am anticipating a new Duran album within the next 18 months. That is amazing when I stop and think about it.
In a recent blog, Amanda wrote of her experience in seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness on opening night with friends and family. Her descriptions and emotions about this element of Trek fandom were spot on. I was lucky enough to see Star Trek VI on opening night while in college and I’ll never forget that experience. As she has written about before, there are many parallels between Star Trek and Duran Duran fandom: for every Duran lineup change and different musical direction taken, there are different Star Trek television shows and casts and movies that spark as much debate in the Trekker fandom as any argument you’ll find here in Duranland. However, for me personally, a different type of Star Trek and Duran Duran connection hit home over the last few weeks: balancing affection for the “old stuff” with gratitude and acceptance of the “new stuff.”
If you’ve read my previous guest blogs or posts or tweets, you know that I am a huge fan of Duran’s 90’s era. I am also a huge fan of their original work—like I always say, I’m like the guy in Office Space who “celebrates their entire catalogue.” I am not in the “Andy camp” or the “Warren camp” or the “Dom camp” but really find a lot to like from all eras and lineups. Maybe that puts me in a completely different camp, or maybe it does tilt me more to the new stuff because I’m putting it on a par with the classic Duran, and die hard classic Duranies would never agree that anything has come close to matching the ’81-’85 output. Regardless, my point is that I have always kept an open mind about the “new stuff” and have tended to like most of it.
Then there’s Star Trek. Seeing the new movie opened my eyes to a very curious thing: I realized that when it comes to Star Trek, I am exactly the opposite: I most certainly do not like the “new stuff” as much as the original. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying I didn’t like Into Darkness or the 2009 Star Trek movie. It’s great that J.J. Abrams has brought Star Trek back from the cinematic and pop-cultural graveyard. I think the new cast is good (not great—but good) and obviously the special effects are the best that the Trek franchise has ever used. And I also think Abrams and his writers have gone out of their way to acknowledge the rich history of Star Trek in these films, whether it’s through a line of dialogue, a reference to something obscure from one of the television series, or even the way a shot is framed that mimics similar shots in the old movies.
But it’s not really Star Trek to me. The new movies seem strangely shallow in comparison to the earlier ones. The new films seem built around a handful of action sequences, and the underlying plot that drives the action is filled with holes and implausible coincidences and actions (even for a sci-fi movie!) (e.g. how Kirk comes to command the Enterprise in the 2009 film and how he happens to find Scotty and Spock Prime; the whereabouts of Scotty in Into Darkness, to just name a few). And while I like the cast, in many instances they seemed to be just caricature of the original actors (e.g. Scotty’s overdone accent, McCoy’s constant one-liners).
My reaction bugged me because I wanted to like Star Trek: Into Darkness more than I did. And I felt a little ashamed—shouldn’t I just be happy that someone is still making these movies, and that they are doing well and maybe drawing in a new generation of Star Trek fans? So what if there are more explosions and gratuitous action sequences—that’s par for the course for today’s action/sci fi movies. Maybe this momentum could even lead to a new television series – the possibilities are endless. As I devoted way too much time to this train of thought, my self analysis took another turn and that’s when it hit me: I was exactly like the Duranies who feel that nothing will measure up to the early albums.
For all these years, whenever I would read criticisms of the latest Duran project (going all the way back to Notorious), I would get highly annoyed. Why were people constantly comparing the new album to the classic ones? Those were in a different time and place. Didn’t they—the fans, the critics, the general public—get that? Did they really want Duran to regurgitate the same sound over and over? Couldn’t they stop being so closed minded about the new songs? It’s still Simon singing! There are still synths! Probably too many synths! It’ll sound awesome live! Give it a chance!
And yet here I was, making exactly the opposite arguments in my head and having the opposite reaction when it came to the new Star Trek film.
Somehow, I had become so enamored of the “new stuff” and so sick of the earlier material that I had forgotten how good it truly was. I had become too dismissive of the magical quality—yes, I said magical—of those first three Duran albums. I was too caught up in whatever moment I was in, whether it was rocking out to Proposition (see Andy! You didn’t have to leave! Lots of guitar! You could still be here playing this!) or savoring the piano in Palomino or clinging to the hope of Ordinary World or dancing to the end of the millennium with Big Bang Generation.
I’m not doing a 180; Medazzaland is still one of my favorite albums and I think I could argue that AYNIN is their best album (another day…not today!). But now I won’t be so incredulous that someone I interact with on twitter or some message board can’t see the haunting beauty that I do in Pop Trash Movie or admit that The Valley kicks ass live. It’s fine. I get it. It’s not your Duran Duran; it’s not the same sound or magical quality that got you hooked, and nothing can ever replicate that. There was something so unique and special about the original lineup that we hold dear, and they set an impossibly high standard. You can hate the new stuff. I may not agree with you, but after seeing Star Trek…I get it.
C.K. Shortell is a lifelong Duran Duran fan who lives in the northeast with his wife and two sons, both of whom love watching concert footage of the band. When he’s not struggling to explain to a three year old why the guitarist always looks different or just what exactly Nick is doing, C.K. is constantly reminding co-workers and friends that the band never broke up.