LONDON, ENGLAND - In newspapers all over Europe, and even as far away as the Dominion of Canada and the United States of America, critics have been pronouncing themselves on the latest entry in the world's longest-running operatic franchise, Star Trek: Twilight of the Empire. Though muted by a number of dissenting voices, the verdict so far has been largely unfavourable.
"The same old tired routine," opined French writer Marcel Proust, of the Tribune Moderniste. "Characters in silly costumes stand around the stage singing for two hours, then everybody dies at the end. When will the producers of the series realize that this sort of stilted, predictable nonsense went out of style at least three decades ago?"
Twilight was scored, produced and directed by Richard Wagner, the 89-year-old composer who has been at the helm of the Trek conglomerate since 1853. The libretto was written by Wagner in collaboration with Richard Strauss, a newcomer to the Trek franchise. It had been hoped by many that the involvement of the young and talented Strauss -- he is only 38, and is regarded as one of the hottest properties on the European opera circuit -- would bring some badly needed vigour to the newest Trek opus, but this has evidently proved to be wishful thinking.
Franz Kafka, of the Berliner Kritikschrift, slammed the opera for its lack of freshness. "The score is nothing but a rehash of leitmotifs we've heard a hundred times before," he complained. "The characters lack depth, the dialogue is bombastic, and the action is driven by a paper-thin plot full of clichés and contrivances."
A more tempered evaluation was provided by Thomas Hardy, of the Central London Despatch. He expressed disappointment with the hackneyed storyline, calling it "another stereotypical battle for control of an ultimate weapon -- in this case, a double-edged bat'telh that is actually the fabulously valuable prototype for a new model of twin-blade razor."
He conceded, however, that the opera's production values were of the high standard fans have come to expect from the series. "The stage design is as lush as anything we've ever seen. And while some will no doubt consider the Klingon costumes to be a little overblown, they are fully in keeping with the ethos of their warrior culture."
Mark Twain, of the high-tech American Telegraphic Information Syndicate, gave the opera an unabashedly upbeat review. "This is the first Trek opera in a long time to fully recapture the bold spirit of the original Italian 'Viaggio' series. Not since Handel revived the cancelled franchise in 1749 with his monumental 'Star Trek: The Operatic Production'" have dedicated fans been so well rewarded for their loyalty."
Stephen Leacock, of the upstart Canadian Marconi Wireless News Service, was even more enthusiastic. "The special effects in this new production will blow the audiences away," he affirms. "Georges Meliés and his team of electromechanical wizards have truly outdone themselves this time around: the paper-maché thunderbolts are utterly convincing, and it takes the eye of an expert to notice the cables which support the flying horses."
Still, there was a broad consensus among seasoned Continental reviewers that Twilight may be the final curtain-call for a saga that has grown increasingly stale over the past century. In the words of Progressive Herald columnist T.S. Eliot, "If it weren't for all the singing and acting, this would be a great opera. No one will dispute that there's some magnificent orchestral music to be enjoyed here, but the producers will have to do better if they want Star Trek to appeal to a broad audience of intellectuals such as myself."