Part 12 of the ST2009 review: the thrilling conclusion.
In Which There is Star Trek
That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom.
And this brings us to the end credits. We have a wonderful rendition of the adventurous TOS theme, while images of strange and wondrous places flash on the screen.
When I was watching this, something suddenly occurred to me. I was watching Star Trek. Not merely Generic Space Action Flick, but actual, honest-to-God Star Trek.
Why is that?
In order to understand that, we first must answer an important question. What is Star Trek, anyway?
Star Trek is not James T. Kirk. Nor is it Picard. Nor is it any character in the serieses. Nor is it any set of characters. Nor is it the Enterprise. Nor any of the ships of the serieses. You can have something be Star Trek without any of these characteristics. These are all part of the Star Trek canon, but canon is not what Star Trek is at its core.
So what is it? Well, let's look at it by analogy. What is Star Wars? Besides 6 movies, of course. That is, what is Star Wars about?
Just look at the key moments of each movie to tell. Star Wars is about making moral choices. The climax of A New Hope wasn't blowing up the Death Star. It was when Han Solo returned to save Luke.
This is mirrored in the nature of the Force. Indeed, the Force exists primarily to act as an external manifestation of moral choices, as well as a particular temptation for becoming evil.
However poorly written, directed, and acted the prequels were, even they kept to the basic theme. Young Anakin's often maligned line, “Mom, you said that the biggest problem in the universe is no one helps each other,” still keeps true to the basic underlying theme of Star Wars. The plot has presented Anakin, the de-facto main character of the whole series, with an ethical question, and he has chosen the moral option.
Lucas may not be a good writer or director. But you have to admit, he knows what his movies are about.
Also important is that there is a difference between holding to a theme and being good. The two are completely independent of one another.
So what is Star Trek about? As a franchise that has had more than 600 individual episodes, written by an innumerable collection of writers over more than 40 years, it is a very difficult task to pinpoint what Star Trek is supposed to be about.
The basic idea goes all the way back to TOS. And that is to use exploration of the galaxy as a framing device for exploring the nature of humanity. This can be basic allegories, like the half-white/black people in one of the TOS episodes. Or it can be played much more subtly.
You can see this theme in all of what are often held as the great episodes of Star Trek. In TOS, you may have Kirk agonizing over whether or not he has to let a woman he loves die in order for the future to be saved. In Next Generation, you may have Picard struggling to change his past, only to find that the past he so laments is what made him the great man that he is. In DS9, you may have Sisko slowly abandoning his principles over the course of several weeks until he covers up a murder, all so that the Romulans can be brought into the war the Federation is steadily losing. And so on.
As stupid and hackney as even Voyager and the Trek-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named got, even they carried on the theme. One of the most memorable Voyager episodes for me is the one where Torres wants to resequence her baby's DNA to make it less obviously Klingon, all because of her deep-seated fear that her and her mother's Klingon nature drove her father to divorce her mother. She's doing it because she's deathly afraid that Tom will leave her after a time, and she's willing to hijack the holographic Doctor's programming to do it.
How alien. And at the same time, how very, very human.
Indeed, in many bad Star Trek episodes, the theme still exists to varying degrees. Utterly atrocious that Threshold certainly was, they at least played lip service to the basic theme, in Paris's self-examination of his motivations. Like the Star Wars prequels, carrying the theme doesn't mean it is an enjoyable experience.
Which brings us to the Star Trek movies. First, I have to say that movies are not really that compatible with the basic theme of Star Trek. Maybe it has something to do with the expectation that movies are supposed to be massive epics and action flicks, whereas the Star Trek theme is generally served by more introspective fare. I don't know why; it just seems to work better on a 1-hour TV show.
The first Star Trek movie unquestionably holds to the theme, with the VGER plot almost entirely consumed by the running Kirk vs. Decker problem. Of course, it was actually the heavily padded pilot episode of a potential Star Trek revival series; which is why it feels like an episode of the series, not a movie.
Wrath of Khan has theme oozing out of its every orifice. Search for Spock has some aspect of the Star Trek theme, but it is very poorly handled. The Final Frontier was utterly deplorable in quality, but it was a search for higher meaning and the ultimate nature of the universe. The Klingons were always a Russian allegory in the TOS days, so it's no surprise that The Undiscovered Country turned the dials up to maximum, playing on the then modern ending of the cold war and outbreak of peace in the world.
Generations had a consistent theme of death, with the villain trying to escape death, ending of course with Kirk willingly sacrificing his life to stop him. First Contact brought us Picard's meltdown, when the exploration of the galaxy has actively damaged a human. Insurrection played lip-service to the theme with the basic question of whether it is OK to steal a world from 250 people in order to bring life-saving cures to billions (they totally cop out on the answer, of course). And even Nemesis, poor though it was, had the theme of uniqueness, with Picard's clone as well as Data's.
You probably noticed I skipped one. The Voyage Home pretends to have this theme, but it really isn't. The “whale probe” serves only as a reason for them to go back in time and have wacky hijinks. Sure, it was a very entertaining film, but it didn't carry through with the Star Trek theme.
And that brings us to Star Trek 2009. This movie looks like Star Trek. It has actors who play roles related to Star Trek. It has music that is reminiscent of Star Trek. And with its time-travel “alternate universe” plot, it even (mostly) sticks to Star Trek canon.
But it is not Star Trek. The end credits sequence is evocative of the theme, but it is the only part of the film that does so. The Star Trek theme is nowhere to be found here. No greater revelation of the nature of man is made or hinted at.
What the filmmakers have done is not resurrect a franchise; they have zombified it. It looks kinda like a person. It walks kinda like a person. It talks kinda like a person. But it's empty inside; completely bereft of its soul. It may be a pretty zombie, it may be a useful, even functional zombie. But it's still a zombie.
Not only isn't the Star Trek theme present, there's no theme at all. None of the characters develop at all; they never learn from their mistakes. There's no through arc of meaning or purpose in the story; nothing is affirmed. Oh, they tried to shoehorn that crap about cheating in, but Kirk's line to Nimoy-Spock was flat-out contrived bullshit. In short: ST2009 is a brainless action piece.
The Not-Named-Trek was abysmal. As was Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. But they were poor in execution of their theme (and of writing, plot, acting, and storytelling). They still made an effort to have the Star Trek theme. So as utterly unentertaining as they are, they have more right to the name “Star Trek” than this movie.
Is it Any Good?
This is a profoundly stupid movie. The main character is an unlikable Mary Sue jackass from when he was a child. He's a whiny, raving douchebag who is ultimately rewarded for his unceasing asshattery. He refuses to accept responsibility for anything he does, but he takes the credit for everything his crew accomplishes. He never learns his lesson or matures in any way.
As with any proper Mary Sue, characters are shoved aside to make room for him. At the same time, Kirk is not the only unlikable character in this film. McCoy is dreadfully underused, serving only as a plot device to empower Kirk; Sulu is a danger to himself and others when he's not wielding a Katana; Chekhov is incapable of even talking to the computer; and every single word out of Scotty's mouth makes one want to take a power drill to the temple. The only two characters that come out of this movie with some measure of dignity are Spock and Uhura.
Spock because he's (comparatively) well-written and well-acted (unlike McCoy who's just well-acted). And Uhura because she hates the Mary Sue from day 1 and she actually does something during the movie. Granted, that something generally revolves around being the emotional crutch for Spock, but it's better than McCoy, who is reduced to a plot device necessary to get Kirk on the Enterprise.
Not one character has any form of development. Spock seems like he goes on a character arc, but it really isn't to any place that he wasn't already. He gets anger issues, then deals with them off screen. That's it. No one else has anything even remotely like character development.
This film loves nothing more than to fellate Wrath of Khan, while simultaneously failing to understand how those lines actually worked in the original. It copies lines and dialog such that they not only don't make sense in context, they don't make sense even knowing where they came from. The closest thing to a message this film has is not just deplorable (cheating, it's what heroes do!), it's the antithesis of WoK's message. It's like watching a Seltzer-Berg-style shallow parody of Wrath of Khan: constant references, but no idea what they all mean.
The film is saddled with an incredibly self-contradictory premise. The “let's start everyone as cadets” premise is fundamentally incompatible with “Kirk becomes captain.” These two things cannot go together, not unless you are a very, very good writer. And JJ Abrams and co have proven that they most certainly are not.
The villain is stock, cliché, and utterly impotent. He is incapable of being threatening in anything but the most base “my ship is better than yours” way, and even that is undermined by the fact that he's terminally stupid. His motivations are bland and lifeless, his character is poorly directed and acted, and nothing he does has even the slightest degree of gravitas. Children's cartoon villains have more dignity and threat than this guy.
The cinematography is utterly deranged. The camera loves nothing more than drawing attention to itself, thus reminding the audience that they're watching a film, shattering the suspension of disbelief. When the camera isn't abusing dutch angles or making stupid camera moves, it starts shaking around when even the slightest bit of tension starts happening. Even in the vacuum of space.
And then there's everything I said about the theme of Star Trek. This is a film bereft of soul.
Despite all of this, there is one unassailable fact: I can't say that watching this movie is horrible.
When I first saw the movie, there were things I hated, but I couldn't in all fairness say that it was a terrible movie. I started writing this review knowing some of the things I was going to be talking about. But others I discovered during the process of making the review and examining the scenes.
After writing the meat of this review, I watched the movie from beginning to end again. And I kept thinking, “Why am I finding this tolerable?” Outside of a few truly unacceptable scenes, I think it all comes down to one thing: pacing.
Much of the material I used in this review was discovered in the act of making the review. I was watching each scene, following each line of dialog. What that meant was that I was taking each scene on its own. I knew what came before it, and I knew what came after it. But I was not experiencing it all in sequence, at the film's normal speed.
This is a very fast paced movie. Dialog is generally rapid fire, to the point where people are talking over each other. The camera, when it's not going batshit crazy, loves nothing more than to abruptly pan or cut between different angles. Almost no shot lasts for more than one second.
Because it is fast paced, it is much harder to notice things. Take the dialog between Kirk and Pike in the bar. It starts off with a lot of stupid. But because the dialog comes quickly, likely much more quickly than the way it was shot, it's harder to notice the problems with it and still listen to the movie. And because the scene ends on a strong note, the audience by and large can easily ignore the scene's problems.
Scenes stumble around, but the pacing of the scenes never give you time to really notice. And in many cases, there are hints of competence; scenes that end well or are actually good can counteract the hints of problems that might have gotten past the pacing. Another example being the scene where Spock surrenders to the scripts unflinching devotion to all things Kirk and gives him command. Patently stupid and horrible in so many ways. But it is immediately followed by the (mostly) well done scene between Spock and Sarek. This takes the edge off of the stupid.
The whole movie is like this. Kirk spends 3/4ths of the movie being a raving jackass and whiny fucker, but because the last quarter is spent with him in action-mode, it's forgotten. Kirk is primarily a douchebag to people who outrank him, but because he's now in command, there's nobody to bitch at, so it seems like character growth.
It's sort of like the inverse Law of Airplane. The normal version reads like this, “If one joke falls flat, don't worry; another one will be right along in a second.” They do kind of the reverse. Knowing that there are stupid bits, they dot in competence and reasonability to cover up things that they know fall flat.
Now granted, there are some scenes that even the editing and pacing can't save. Like the Kobayashi Maru scene. But then again, I hated that scene from the moment I first saw it, so I didn't reveal anything that wasn't there before.
This movie is not good, for all of the previously stated reasons. It isn't So Bad It's Good, because its faults do not make it enjoyable. It isn't So Bad It's Horrible, because it's just competent enough to be somewhat enjoyable to watch. It isn't even So Okay It's Average, because it has deep and very memorable stupidity all over the place. And it certainly isn't good. The movie actively defies classification.
Basically, what you have is a method for creating Fridge Logic. Your story and script don't really have to make sense; the audience just has to buy it for 2 hours. Once that time has passed, it doesn't matter to the filmmakers that their story has more holes than swiss cheese; they've already gotten your money.
I think I've stumbled across Michael Bay's formula for success.
Why the Reboot?
Let's wind the clocks back a year. These cops and lawyers wouldn't dare cross any of you. I mean, what happened? Did, did your balls drop off?
Before going into predictions of what the future holds for the Star Trek franchise, there's one issue that needs to be discussed. The Reboot. Specifically, why it was done to begin with.
Ask people why ST2009 needed to be a reboot, and they'll basically answer with some complaint about the series. They will also often cite this flaw as the reason the Star Trek franchise died. Thus effectively arguing that the only way to do another Star Trek movie was to reboot it, thus getting rid of the flaw.
Therefore, we can say that most reasons boil down to an answer to this question: “What killed the Star Trek franchise?” The other argument as to why it needed to be a reboot was that they wanted to do a Star Trek with the TOS cast.
We'll start with the first one: what exactly happened to the Star Trek franchise?
Let's wind the clocks back. 1987. Star Trek: The Next Generation comes out, after 4 successful Star Trek films. And the fandom rejoiced. For a few episodes. Episode quality was a problem in the early days, but the fandom kept the series on the air until the writers and actors figured the show out. It went on to become the Star Trek series with the highest ratings ever.
Now let's skip ahead a few years to 1995. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is off doing its own thing. TNG is still wildly popular, but they decided to quit while they were ahead. They do launch another spin-off. Star Trek: Voyager. They went with a different premise. The titular ship would be lost in uncharted space, and thus would be able to interact with new and utterly unknown alien species.
It should be noted that the reason for the change in setting to uncharted space was the general perception that there were no more stories to tell in the regular setting. They wanted to get back to the frontier feeling of the original series. They didn't want to be bound by continuity, so they could invent all kinds of different races and such.
Jump to 2005. The Not-Named Star Trek is going off the air, with no sequel series planned for it. The movie franchise is dead as well, with two back-to-back stinkers killing all audience interest. For the first time in almost 20 years, the franchise would not have a series on the air. It got so bad that Activision, the videogame rightsholders for Star Trek at the time, actually sued Paramount for running the franchise into the ground. They effectively alleged that, no matter how good quality Star Trek games they made, nobody would buy them because Star Trek had such a terrible name.
10 years. In 10 short years, Star Trek went from being very popular and a staple of Sci-Fi television to a laughing stock. What the hell happened?
Here's news for you. It wasn't the technobabble. It wasn't the continuity stifling writer creativity. It wasn't most of the stuff that people claim to have found annoying.
Next Generation and DS9 had their share of technobabble after all. Of course they did; they're set in the future; people will use words for things that don't exist today. Even TOS had its share.
See the problem with technobabble isn't the technobabble itself. It's when technobabble becomes the plot. The plot should be solved by characters who find solutions to problems that come from the story itself. When someone technobabbles the solution to a problem, it sounds a lot like Deus Ex Machina: some bullshit that comes right out of nowhere that magically solves the plot without any consequences for anything. And while it was common for this kind of thing to happen in Voyager, the previous 3 serieses all did reasonably well at keeping this to a minimum.
Here's an example. A classic TOS episode is where this not-water starts making everyone permanently drunk. Including Spock. The tension of the episode really begins when the ship is starting to fall into destruction and the people who could solve it are, well, drunk. McCoy's trying to get a cure, but there's no time for that. Instead, Kirk must find a way to get through to Spock, so that he can focus long enough to get them out of danger.
Yes, the ultimate resolution of the plot is that Spock whips up some magical technobabble solution. However, the focus of the episode isn't so much on Spock finding that solution, but on getting Spock to overcome the not-water long enough to be able to find the solution. The focus is on the characters, not how the solution comes about. Even the awful TNG reprise of this episode is focused on the characters and not on the particular solution to the problem.
As for continuity, consider this.
Sometime in late 4th or early 5th season of Next Gen, something magical happened. All of a sudden, the show started talking about the Cardassians, a completely new race. They'd never been mentioned before in 7+ years of Trek. And it's not even just a new race; they're a new old race. The very first Cardassian episode introduces not just them, but their history with the Federation.
Apparently, some time before Next Gen started, the Federation had a horrible war with the Cardassians. It's recent enough to be living memory for many on both sides. This fact is driven home in their introductory episode; indeed, this fact is what drives the introductory episode.
And yet, there was a whole 4-5 years of Next Gen before they're even mentioned. All of that continuity, and the writers were still able to plausibly inject an entirely new force in the galaxy, complete with their own backstory and history with our main characters.
So, what did they get out of this? The introduction of the Cardassians colors everything that happened from then on in all of Star Trek. The titular station of Deep Space 9 was built by the Cardassians Bajoran slave-labor, and the Cardassians play a very important role over the course of that series. The rest of Next Gen after their introduction uses them effectively as well. That's a lot to get out of a simple retcon.
In short, continuity is not an impediment to creativity or entertainment.
Also, if continuity was such an impediment, why did Voyager fail? After all, it was set in a region of space with no connection to established continuity. The writers were free to invent pretty much anything they wanted. These are many of the same reasons cited for Star Trek 2009's reboot, yet Voyager still failed.
No, the reason why Star Trek died comes down to one simple thing: shitty writing. All other problems people cite derive either directly or indirectly from consistent, prolonged bad writing lasting a decade.
Take the Cardassian stuff I just mentioned. Star Trek fans could easily have cried bloody murder over this obvious retroactive continuity, inserting an entire race with backstory into the series. But they didn't. Why? Because they were too busy enjoying the show.
The Cardassian introduction was well written. It may have come right out of nowhere, but that doesn't matter; it was a very good episode, with good performances by all sides, and with strong writing backing it all up. The audience will forgive you if you give them something suitably awesome.
And that's the problem. If you need your audience to buy into something that they may not want to, something that perhaps raises some uncomfortable questions that you'd rather they not ask, you need to make sure that everything else is of the highest possible quality. That way, the audience will be enjoying themselves too much to question it. And even when they do, they'll still accept it because it was enjoyable overall.
If you consistently fail to write well, to provide something entertaining, then the audience is free to nitpick. Something minor that they could have written off now suddenly appears to be a much bigger problem. A seemingly innocuous line of technobabble becomes a major faux pas, because they remember the last 10 episodes where technobabble was used to solve problems in place of characters.
Star Trek Voyager was not a good show. It had a fine premise, but the writers didn't know what to do with it. This can be seen most easily in the character of Janeway, who will almost never be written the same in two consecutive episodes. It's hard to get a read on her character because she was so inconsistent. One writer would make her as much of a Mary Sue as Kirk is in ST2009. Another will write her as Captain Hardass. Another will write her as Captain Mom. And so on.
Part of its initial premise is that half the crew is not Starfleet. This ought to have promoted tension among the crew, with the possibility of mutiny. That lasted for... about two episodes. After that, except for the occasional episode where the writers remembered this fact, the crew acted entirely as a single, harmonious whole. As though they had all been Starfleet officers, just like every other series.
Voyager eventually settled into a steady stream of mediocrity. You could count on the series being good for a waste of an hour of time. The TV equivalent of a bag of popcorn; tastes OK, but not filling at all.
Like Voyager, the Not-Named Trek also tried to change the setting. Instead of spatially, they went temporally. They went to pre-TOS times, and detailed the rise of the Federation. This had plenty of opportunity to tell stories about building empires, uniting worlds, etc.
It also failed. It failed because the same people who wrote it were writing Voyager. That series was written even worse than Voyager, with even more radical inconsistency. This was compounded by what can only be construed as flat-out idiocy. Every character always seemed to make the choice that made the least sense at the time. Bodily rape was considered suitable subject matter for Komedy!, and genocide-through-apathy was promoted as being perfectly justified thanks to epic-level misunderstanding of what evolution is.
And the last two Star Trek movies were also problematic. But here, writing wasn't the #1 culprit (it came a close second); I lay the problems of the Next Gen Star Trek movies on two people: Patrick Stewart and Brent Spinner.
Both of them wanted to move away from Trek. But, since they were the two most popular characters in Next Gen, their presence was vital to making movies. So they got to make arbitrary demands. Like, “make these movies all about us.” So they did. Look at the way the four TNG-era movies work in terms of plot. Every one of them is primarily about Picard and Data, with everyone else essentially reduced to bit characters. They also put Patrick Stewart in a lot of fight scenes, which doesn't fit with Picard's character at all.
Put all of this together, and you can see why the franchise died: bad writing, and bad writing alone. Consistently, over the course of years.
So tell me this: what the hell does rebooting do to solve this? After all, the problems came from the writers; if they wanted new writers, just fire the old ones and hire new ones.
Let's pretend for a moment that JJ Abrams and his writing staff were actually good. Let's say they didn't write Kirk as an awful Mary Sue of the level found in the average TOS fanfiction. Let's say they could write a decent villain with reasonable motivation and dialog. Let's pretend that they can write comedy that's actually funny without annihilating characters.
If all of this is true, why would they be unable to walk into the actual Star Trek continuity and make something good? We've established that continuity is hardly a limiting factor on quality writing. The only reason they wouldn't be able to work with existing continuity is if they explicitly choose not to. That is, if they don't want to work with the continuity.
And that's the problem. Because it's true.
They don't want to write a Star Trek movie at all, either in theme or in continuity. What they want is the Star Trek name. Because with the name comes money. It allows them to get away with their hackwork, because many Star Trek fans will swallow any shit with the Star Trek name on it. The name gives them Sci-Fi credibility, when their writing is completely unable to merit that credibility on its own.
This is also why they choose to reboot TOS. They wanted pre-made characters, because expending effort to come up with their own would require, you know, effort. TOS is not the best of the Star Trek serieses, but it is the one that is most well known. It is the one most ingrained into the public's consciousness. It is therefore the one most likely to make money, so they choose to leech off of its popularity. That's also why there was so much Wrath of Khan fanservice, because WoK is the most well known of the movies.
The writers do not care that they have zombified the franchise. They aren't interested in the soul of Star Trek; they're only interested in how much money they can make off of it. And if the zombified remains of the franchise is the easiest way to make money off of Star Trek, then that's what they'll do.
What the Future Holds
So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo.
So what will the next film be? I'll tell you what I would do later, but here's my guess as to what's going to happen.
Khan. I'll give you 4:1 odds that it's about Khan. They're going to do Space Seed meets Wrath of Khan all in one movie. The kind of person to put so much horrifically lame WoK fanservice in ST2009 is the kind of person sufficiently shameless as to believe that remaking WoK is a great idea.
The movie will open with a Reliant knock-off finding the Botany Bay. This ship will quickly be hijacked by Khan, successfully unlike his attempt on the Enterprise. The new Enterprise commanded by Kirk will be sent to investigate. From there, things will play out predictably, and stupidly.
It'll be what this movie was. Badly choreographed action scenes, lots of shooting, etc. A thin plot riddled with holes, no character development, no theme. On the plus side, Kirk probably won't be as whiny (if for no other reason than that he's captain and everyone will do what he says without question), but he also won't be any better of a captain. Unlike WoK, if someone contradicts Kirk, that person will be shown to be wrong, no matter how much sense it makes. Someone will say that the needs of the many outweight the needs of the few, but because these writers are cowards, nobody (important) will die because of it. Overall, it'll be mildly entertaining. But that's about it.
Now, what should they do?
Well, this movie ends with two major problems. One, Kirk is a whiny, piss-ant Mary Sue. And two, the theme of Star Trek is still buried even though the body is walking around. Both stones can be killed very easily.
Use the Organians.
For those not in the know, the Organians were a race from Organon. At the height of tension between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, when both sides are sure war is imminent, the Federation sends Kirk to Organon, held by the Klingons at this point, to liberate the world. The locals are pretty blase about all of this, though. Even after a hundred people are executed by the Klingons, the Organian leaders don't much care. At the end, when war is about to break out, the Organians intervene.
Apparently, Organon is the homeworld of a neigh-omnipotent species. The Organians look human, but they aren't. They decide that the Federation and the Klingons are now at peace; failure to comply with this directive will mean that the Organians will blow up all of that side's ships. All of them.
Kirk and the Klingon commander Kor are naturally quite upset about this. Because the Organians just prevented a war. So the two of them start alternately yelling at the Organian leader, while Spock looks on with growing concern.
This plot would fix both of these problems. Kirk would lose, by default. Everything he tried to do would be shown in the end to be wrong. And his bitchfest at the end would be a real moment of growth for him, as he finds himself arguing for a war. And this kind of story, that has a different resolution from what you would expect, is exactly the kind of story that Star Trek exists to tell.
The Big Three, down on Organon, would be able to engage in meaningful action scenes with Klingons, thus helping to fill the action needs of a film. This would also give McCoy something to do besides spout catchphrases.
Also, because the Big Three are off the ship for most of the movie, it gives the other guys on the ship stuff to do. We could have Sulu in command, having to deal with avoiding Klingon attacks and such. We can see how he wears command.
And best of all, outside of actual Trekkies, it's not a well-known episode. It would be perfect for a Star Trek movie.
Why don't I think they'll do this? Well, it really comes down to a lack of faith. If these writers were the kind of people who could recognize the mistakes they made in ST2009 and want to fix them, they would be the kind of writers who wouldn't have made them in the first place. They don't care about carrying the theme of Star Trek, and this movie would require a lot more effort than they want to put forth to make work. The ending wouldn't be a proper Hollywood movie ending, so they wouldn't bother trying to make it work.
Instead, they will do exactly what they did with ST2009: make something safe and marketable. The kind of Hollywood production that gives the word “Hollywood” a bad name.
But there is another reason why they won't do this. Because of people who defend and like this film.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a financial success but a critical failure. While Trekkies did help the movie make money, there was enough criticism about the film to force important changes. The production team was changed, with Roddenbery kicked upstairs and out of the way. Wrath of Khan exists as it does because of the entirely warranted critical complaints against TMP. WoK was an attempt to fix things that people complained about.
Star Trek 2009 by contrast is commonly seen as a pretty good movie. It consistently reviews well, on both IMDb (favors popular opinion) and Rotton Tomatoes (favoring people who should actually know better). It is widely held as a strong relaunch of a decayed franchise, rather than the poorly-written necromancy that it actually is.
Because there is no critical backlash to guide them, the writers have no incentive to change. Kirk was a whiny, immature Mary Sue from beginning to end, so he'll continue to be that in the next film. And so on. Why fix something that isn't broken, after all?
So with no incentive to fix any of the many, many problems this film introduced, how could you possibly expect the next film to be anything more than what we got here?