J.J. Abrams directs Star Trek movie

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Star Trek is being revved up for another big-screen treatment, slated to appear in 2008. According to Variety, the new film will be directed by Lost creator and Mission: Impossible III director J.J. Abrams.

The new film will focus on the origins of the characters James T. Kirk and Spock, made famous in the original series and films by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, respectively. The script will be written by Abrams and MI3 writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.

The film will feature the first meeting between the two characters, when they are cadets at Starfleet Academy, as a futuristic version of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" plays on the soundtrack. The cadets embark on their first adventure together, a space mission wherein Kirk does his first sideways jump-kick. Presumably, younger actors will be cast in the roles.

The deal with Paramount comes only weeks before the release of the company's mega-budget summer action picture, MI3, starring Tom Cruise, which is also based on a popular '60s TV show.

Abrams is the creative force behind the hit shows Alias and Lost. The spy show Alias will wrap in May after five seasons of solid performance. Sophomore show Lost is one of TV's top hits, routinely placing in the Nielsen top 10.

Star Trek is one of the most profitable entertainment franchises in history, having produced five series, 700-plus TV episodes, and more than $1 billion in theatrical revenues.

The original Trek premiered on NBC in 1966 to mediocre ratings. The show was canceled after three seasons, even though the storyline was that of the Starship Enterprise on a "five-year mission." In 1979, Paramount launched a big-budget film franchise, eventually making six films with the original cast. The highest grossing of the original six was 1986's Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, which saw the crew head back in time to modern-day San Francisco to find whales and learn "colorful metaphors" like "double dumb-ass on you." The film earned almost $110 million at the box office.

A Saturday-morning animated series premiered in 1973 and ran for two seasons. The show featured the voices of original cast members Shatner, Nimoy, DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy, James Doohan as engineer Scotty, Nichelle Nicols as communications officer Lt. Uhura, George Takei as navigator Lt. Sulu, and Majel Barrett as Nurse Chapel.

In 1987, a second series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, aired in syndication and ran for seven seasons. The series was set 95 years after the first and featured a new Enterprise, a new crew, and souped-up special effects. ST:TNG was responsible for working the word "wormhole" into the cultural lexicon. Four movies were made with the Next Generation cast, the most successful being 1996's First Contact, about the inventor of the warp drive and the origin of the hive-like villains the Borg. The film grossed $92 million.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in 1993 and ran for seven seasons. This series chronicled the inhabitants of a space outpost, Deep Space 9, that sat at the edge of a wormhole. Michael Dorn, who played the Klingon Worf in Next Generation, joined DS9 in season four.

Star Trek: Voyager premiered in 1995, also running for seven seasons. The show told the story of the Starship Voyager and its crew, led by Kate Mulgrew as Captain Janeway. While in pursuit of an enemy ship, the Voyager was thrown through a wormhole and ended up lost in uncharted space. This series featured the return of the condescending Vulcan, in the form of Tuvok.

In 2001, Star Trek: Enterprise premiered, telling the story of the Federation before the events of the first series. The show never generated much love from fans, partially due to a cheesy theme song that was reminiscent of Bon Jovi. It folded after four seasons.

The last Next Generation movie, Nemesis, landed in theaters in 2002 and grossed a meager $43 million. Industry insiders concluded that Star Trek was suffering from a newly discovered malady known as "franchise fatigue."

Lost and Star Trek have at least one thing in common. Both shows have inspired legions of fanatical fans--Star Trek has Trekkies or Trekkers, and Lost has Losties. Paramount hopes Abrams can get the two together at the box office.

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