Ahead of next Friday's release of the new JJ Abrams take on Star Trek, it's worth taking some time to remember some other movies, TV shows and comics that boldly followed in its warpdrive trail.
Perhaps understandably (The show's second season showrunner was a Trek veteran), Gerry Andersen's moonbase drama went from 2001-style cerebral sci-fi to Trek-esque adventure as it tried to avoid cancellation. In came an alien science officer, as well as a lot more action and even short skirts for the sexy female crew members, as the show tried to "Americanize" itself in order to win viewers... and each change made it that little bit more like original Trek. And, if you were a kid watching at the time, more than a little bit better.
Oh, to have been Australian and of television viewing age in 1970. Then, I could have seen Phoenix 5 instead of just reading about it on the internet and catching up with snippets on YouTube. Sure, the Phoenix 5 is no Enterprise - three crew members ("and their computeroid, Carl!") doesn't really allow for an endless supply of securitymen and interns to be killed - but look at those outfits and shitty special effects, and tell me that a mission to keep the peace in the 26th century isn't just a little bit ripped-off of Gene Rodenberry's dreams. Bonus points go to the show for having better theme music, as well:
Yes, yes, I know; there are many Babylon fans who think that, not only is J. Michael Straczynski's television space opera epic not a Trek rip-off, but that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was actually ripped off of Straczynski's original Babylon pitch. Nevertheless, the intergalactic political backdrop of the show - and the visuals, especially the alien make-up - still strike me as strongly reminiscent of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Albeit, in terms of the writing, perhaps handled better), and the epic scale of the story overreaches in the same way as the original Trek's best episodes as much as any of the admitted influences. "Rip-off" may be too strong a term, perhaps, but surely we can agree on "heavily influenced"?
(And this is where the flames start.)
Warren Ellis' 2003 graphic novel may have started out as a joke, but it's one that stays funny throughout its short (72 pages) lifespan; essentially, "what if the Enterprise was crewed by bastards?", Honey apparently got its origins when an episode of Star Trek: Voyager made Ellis imagine a Trek where Ray Winstone was captain. The result? The kind of Star Trek that you'll never see on television, and that's a good thing.
Sure, it's a Trek parody, which really protects it from being accused of being a rip-off. But by the end of the movie, when there's such a heartwarming message of self-empowerment that would make even Harve Bennett blush (not to mention all manner of technobabble and action), it somehow transcends parody and comes back around the other side as something more akin to... well, a Star Trek rip-off. That's the problem with affectionate parodies, sadly; they really just want to be loved by the things they should be making fun of... but it doesn't stop us from having a soft spot for this movie, anyway. Blame it on Alan Rickman.