I’ve been thoroughly enjoying J.J. Abrams’ “reboot” of Star Trek. A friend and I just saw the second film over the weekend. It was a rollicking, schmaltzy, action packed space opera in the grand tradition, shamelessly pandering to the faithful. We loved it.

The entire premise of this reboot — placing familiar characters in an alternate universe — is deliciously ripe with possibilities. But these things must be handled delicately, or you hurt the spell (to quote one of my favorite movie characters).

There are definite constraints that must be respected. These constraints are neither physical nor technological — they are constraints of character. There is a certain mix of friendships, rivalries, conflicts and familial ties that constitute the core reality of any fiercely loved fictional place, be it Tara or Tardis, Pemberley or Sunnydale, Shire or Diagon Alley.

You can mess with plot and possibility all you want, and audiences will go there with you. But if you screw up the essential relationships, then no matter how blithely you throw around words like “alternate” or “reboot”, those audiences will turn on you in an instant.

I am happy to report that J.J. Abrams and company do not screw it up.

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