The new versions of Star Trek and Star Wars have rejected, but not refuted, the hopes they once entertained.
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin has a review of the new Star Trek film. Ilya liked the action in the movie, but believed that the movie did not take on the serious questions about the future that the Star Trek shows addressed.
I agree with Ilya that the new movie fails to address the serious questions, but I think that was largely true of all of the Star Trek movies – especially the good ones. It was the series – and especially some of the individual episodes – that really addressed these matters. And, of course, it is a lot easier to do that in a series. A smaller percentage of the public watches these series, and one can devote a minority of the shows to the serious questions, without devoting the entire season.
This last claim connects to a more general point: the importance of the type of medium or genre of popular entertainment. The modern cable and pay TV series – like Game of Thrones or Madmen – can do in 10 or 12 episodes what a movie or a traditional series of 26 episodes that were broadcast could never do. We owe the current golden age of TV to this new medium of entertainment.
Getting back to the Start Trek movie, the new movie and the rebooted movie series were able to accomplish something that the old movies never achieved: the first two consecutive movies were both good. The old series of movies, peculiarly but consistently, generated one good movie only to be followed by a bad movie. That was frustrating. Star Trek: Into Darkness was able to avoid this affliction.