(Mods, I wasn’t sure if this was more appropriate in CS or IMHO)
Lets say that the owners of Star Trek (or another long running science fiction series) have decided, for a variety of reasons, to reboot it by jettisoning all of the actors and starting over. They put you in charge. What method would you choose?
A. Adhere closely to the canon, keeping all established events and facts in place. Have new actors play the young versions of the familiar characters. Like Young Indiana Jones.
B. Adhere closely to canon. Create new characters and tell an original story about their adventures. There may be some crossover original characters, but still no contradiction of anything already established. Like Deep Space 9 did with the Next Generation universe.
C. Adhere to canon, except where you could fix continuity errors in such a way that the universe ‘holds together’ better. Essentially, do some retconning (if I understand the word).
D. Throw out almost all the details, but keep big stuff like names, specific fictional tech necessary to the universe (transporters, warp drive), general characteristics of aliens and political arrangements. No explanation beyond “We’re doing it differently this time.” Like the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie.
E. Pick and choose what to keep, but work up a semi-plausible in-universe explanation for why so much is different. Like the new Star Trek movie.
F. Something else entirely. Please elaborate.
I’d go with option D.
A is a prequel, B is a sequel, and C is just retro-continuity, which isn’t quite the same as a reboot.
Of the two remaining options, I would pick E. If I were throwing things out left and right, I’d rather just take plot elements I like and incorporate them into my own story instead of taking a hatchet to someone else’s work.
A is a prequel (don’t know why I didn’t recognize that), but B is not necessarily a sequel. If, for instance, you were to make a Star Wars movie about the exploits of the early Rebel Alliance, set years before A New Hope, without showing any existing characters onscreen, it would still fit the description for B, but would not be a sequel, right?
I’m probably using ‘reboot’ too broadly, substitute revisit or redo, if that makes things clearer.
I still don’t think B or C would be a “reboot,” but I don’t see the point in nitpicking the choice of words when it’s pretty obvious you’re asking about different ways to restart a franchise.
A: The problem with prequels is, if audiences know we’re sticking to cannon, they know what the fates of the original characters were, severely limiting suspense. Although I think this can work with younger audiences that might actually appreciate the familiarity and security, it makes things less interesting for older audiences.
B: This would be my choice in general. With Star Trek specifically, however, it had been tried multiple times with diminishing results.
C: This isn’t really a standalone option, is it? I’d combine it with B.
D: This works fine when there’s no well-defined canon (as with Robin Hood, which is really a hodgepodge of folklore, ballads, movies, comic books, etc.) and you can do pretty much whatever you want (although making Morgan Freeman the lead “merry man” took some stretching). It’s also fine when the source is completely out of steam, like Buck Rogers or Battlestar Galactica. I wouldn’t have tried it on something like Star Wars or Star Trek where there’s still an ample, active fan base for the original and thriving “extended universes” (books, comics, etc.). It also works when adapting to a completely different media. (Most Tolkien fans weren’t really that upset by Jackson’s changes to The Lord of the Rings because we were happy to see it successfully adapted for the screen.)
E: It’s hard to argue with success, but I find this one unsatisfying because it leads to huge implausibilities, like the exact crew of season two of the original series ending up aboard the Enterprise on its maiden flight. Better to not even try to explain it.
F: I was one of those who thought the only way to save Trek was to give it a rest for 10 years or so. I may have been mistaken.
I have no idea how they handled the new 90210. But it is an example you all can discuss.
IMO, the only truly “successful” reboots in the last decade have been Nolan’s Batman movies and Moore’s “Battlestar Galactica.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that both followed option D. It’s the only option that allows the new creative team to take only what they want from the original franchise, and then use that to tell the new stories they’re interested in telling.
Moore, for example, was able to take the apocalyptic premise of BSG and really explore all of its political, social, and psychological implications, in a way that the original show never did. His choices alienated pretty much every fan of the original BSG (at least at first), but the end product was all the stronger for it. He recognized that when your goal is to restart a moribund franchise, you need to focus your attention on acquiring new fans, because the population of old fans is too small to carry the franchise on its own, by definition. And if the aspects of the franchise that attracted the old fans will no longer attract new ones (or even worse, if they would drive potential new fans away), it can be valid to drop them without explanation. This goes double if such an aspect of the franchise requires lengthy exposition to introduce newcomers (cough cough Spock Prime). Bogging down the narrative to please the canon-nazis = poor storytelling. Better to just drop it entirely.