I can't remember the last Star Trek movie that I saw. I can't even remember the last time I saw one of the TV shows. I have the sense that the movies were losing steam, creatively. And financially.
I have, however, spent some time recently watching clips of Galaxy Quest on YouTube. I love Galaxy Quest. They nailed something in that movie. There are three groups in the movie, all with completely different relationships to the TV show. The actors who were in the show are mostly burned out, utterly sick and tired of it. The Thermians, the aliens who watched the "historical documents," are the exact opposite: they treat the show as the gospel truth, and believe every word of it so faithfully that they have recreated the ship. The teenage fanboys straddle the line between truth and fiction; they know it's only a show, but they really, really want to believe in it. The actors have never taken it seriously beyond their paychecks; the Thermians have taken it seriously enough that the very survival of their civilization depends on it. The fanboys are the kind of geeky teenage males who are inclined to take it just a wee bit too seriously.
But part of the accidental genius of the original Star Trek is that it's almost impossible to take it too seriously. Tribbles? Please. The other part of the accidental genius of the original is that there is stuff within it that does deserve to be taken seriously. Relations with other races/cultures, emotion vs. logic - good stuff.
By not taking it too seriously, we give ourselves permission to go ahead and take it seriously, after all. This is what Trekkers/Trekkies (I have no idea what the difference is) do: by playing up the camp factor, they let the world know that they know it's a joke, and that they're in on it. But then they have their own joke, which is that they manage to find meaning in it.J.J. Abrams has pulled off a variation of this trick in this movie, except that he almost skipped the "not taking it seriously" part. First of all, he's made a damn good movie. There's no other way to say it. It's just a damn good movie. It's got a great blend of humor and action. The casting is just about perfect. Simon Pegg as Scotty? Genius. Tyler Perry as the head of Starfleet Academy? Points for that little surprise. Winona Ryder as Spock's mother? OK, that one was a little weird.
At the end of Galaxy Quest, the Thermians have shown the actors that the show was worthwhile after all; "Never give up, never surrender!" really was something to believe in. J.J. Abrams has done the same. He has accomplished the rather impressive feat of convincing a fair segment of the population that Star Trek is not only still worth taking seriously, it was worth taking seriously in the first place. See also: Stewart, Patrick.
And then he delivers to them (and us) an even greater gift: he makes it all cooler than it ever was. Beam me up, Scotty, there's a lot of intelligent life around here. Warp factor ten, Mr. Sulu, we need a sequel.