It's the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek." And Paramount is celebrating like it's 2299.
Coming up on July 22 is "Star Trek Beyond," the third movie in the J.J. Abrams' reboot. It may or may not be the last in this series, but both Chris Pine (Captain Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (Mr. Spock) are signed for a fourth movie, should one materialize, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
There's been some mild controversy, in that it's been leaked that Mr. Sulu (John Cho) will be portrayed as gay in "Beyond." That hardly seems surprising; one of the central themes of the show is tolerance — as startrek.com says, "Star Trek" "envisioned a world where technology and science improve the human condition and where peace and unity transcend conflict and separation." Ergo, gay people should exist in "Star Trek's" 23rd century, and further, that fact should be utterly unremarkable.
What drove this controversy, though, is that George Takei, the actor who played Mr. Sulu originally — and who is himself gay — disapproved publicly. He felt like the Sulu he played wasn't gay, so the character should remain straight.
Far be it from me to argue with Mr. Takei. So we're agreed: The Hikaru Sulu that Takei played wasn't gay. But this is a different Lt. Sulu, one from — literally — a parallel universe. A universe where, it should be noted, Mr. Spock is knocking boots with Lt. Uhura, something Leonard Nimoy's Spock would never have done (without a whole lotta Pon Farr goin' on).
All of which may be moot, because the next "Trek" on the screen is a new TV series, scheduled for January 2017. It will feature entirely new characters, and will be executive produced by Alex Kurtzman, who was involved in producing and/or writing "Star Trek" (2009) and "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013).
But there's a catch. CBS is going to air only the premiere episode on network television. After that it will only be available on CBS All Access, which CBS describes as its "digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service."
Let's apply the universal translator: It's going to cost money to see the new "Star Trek" series. CBS All Access costs $5.99 per month. Now, CBS All Access does have all the previous "Star Trek" series available also, as well as thousands of episodes from CBS' current and past seasons.
Before that we have Comic-Con International: San Diego (July 21-24), which will have more "Star Trek" panels than you can shake a phaser at.
The main one is titled "Star Trek: Celebrating 50 Years," and stars William Shatner (the original Captain Kirk), Scott Bakula (Captain Archer on "Enterprise"), Michael Dorn (Lt. Worf on "Next Generation" and "Deep Space Nine"), Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine on "Voyager") and Brent Spiner (Lt. Data on "Next Generation"). Other Trek programming includes NASA astronauts, astrophysicists and engineers on how the TV show has influenced real space exploration; Smithsonian experts on working Trek technology, a preview of the Smithsonian's Enterprise exhibit and clips from the upcoming "Building Star Trek" documentary; and, of course, strange new worlds of makeup, thanks to MAC Cosmetics.
There's plenty more; go to startrek.com/article/star-trek-50-comic-con-details-revealed.
Meanwhile, there are two Trek-related Humble Bundles:
The Magazine Bundle: "Star Trek," presented by Titan Comics, runs through July 20. Various prices bring varying amounts of "Star Trek" magazine and special issues, all originally published in the UK.
The Humble Comics Bundle: "Star Trek" presented by IDW ran until July 13. IDW Publishing is the current holder of the franchise, and has been publishing Trek comics since 2007.
Yes, that one's already over. But all that material is still available in collections, as well as tons of other Trek material from the publishers who've boldly gone where virtually every publisher has gone before.
Among the highlights:
• The first six issues of the first "Star Trek" series (Gold Key, 1967-79) were written by a guy who'd never seen the show and drawn by artists in Italy working from stills. They had absolutely no idea what the show was about. The Enterprise would land on planets on its tail, like a 1950s rocket ship, and a hotheaded Mr. Spock was as devilish as his appearance. Virtually everybody's uniforms were the wrong color, and the artists didn't have a still of James Doohan — so Scotty was entirely made up.
• Paramount restricted the first Marvel Comics series (the publisher has had the franchise twice) to just the concepts introduced in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (1979). So no Romulans, or Andorians, or Tellarites, or even the Squire of Gothos! The crew wore those awful beige uniforms for the entire boring series, which only lasted (mercifully) 18 issues.
• Various Trek comics have been set in school ("Star Trek Academy"), on Captain Christopher Pike's Enterprise ("Star Trek: Early Voyages") and in writer Peter David's spinoff series of books ("Star Trek: New Frontier").
• When Marvel published "Star Trek" a second time, the crew met the X-Men. When DC published "Star Trek," they met the Legion of Super-Heroes. At IDW they've teamed up with Green Lantern; had a crossover with Ghostbusters, G.I. Joe and Transformers; and even visited the Planet of the Apes ("Star Trek: The Primate Directive").
IDW still has the franchise, but its ongoing series about the rebooted crew is coming to an end next month, likely anticipating changes in the status quo from "Star Trek Beyond." Meanwhile, legendary writer/artist John Byrne is still creating new adventures of the 1960s crew by Photoshopping film frames from the original show ("New Visions") and a new six-issue anthology series beginning in September ("Star Trek: Waypoint") will include stories from every iteration of the show, from "Enterprise" to "Voyager."