[M]y gut feeling is that the franchise hasn’t lain fallow long enough to remove the stigma of being for a hard-core cult audience…. [T]o be truly effective, the franchise needs a Doctor Who or Battlestar Galactica length gap between old and new versions; long enough to make the old fans happy it’s back, but also long enough to make the wider audience comfortably nostalgic for it. At this point, it doesn’t matter how many pretty young men you pack into the film […], the general public’s opinion of Star Trek is that it’s something for nerds, by nerds, and no one but nerds would have any interest in it.
I agree generally, but am a little more optimistic about Trek ’08’s crossover appeal. While I can’t really back up this sentiment in any meaningful sense, my gut feeling is that the general public thinks of Star Trek as having two parts: Original (Kirk & Spock) Trek, and Everything Else. Maybe TNG gets a third part, because I can see people separating it from “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” and “Enterprise.”
Generally, though, everything which came after Original Trek’s TV run* can be, and I think is, seen by the G.P. as “qualified” Star Trek. Either Kirk & Crew are old, or it’s a different crew, or there’s no Enterprise, or some combination thereof.
Accordingly, for the better part of the last 40 years, there’s been no “unadulterated” Star Trek** for the G.P. to latch onto. Instead, the Trek offerings have attempted to expand the existing universe. Twenty-five seasons’ worth of expansion has, in turn, cemented Trek’s nerdy stigma.
However, because Trek ‘08 appears to ignore all of that, I think it gets a pass from the general public. Wikipedia says Doctor Who got a 16-year break (1989-2005), punctuated by a 1996 TV movie; and Battlestar Galactica’s break was 24 years (1979-2003), except for “Galactica 1980″’s short 1980 run. The last original-cast Trek movie was in December 1991 — but Trek ‘08 isn’t really an original-cast movie, either, so it doesn’t have to follow up on those events.
Therefore, depending on when you consider the last Original Trek adventure to have occurred, the wait between it and Trek ‘08 could be as little as 14 years (November 1994’s Generations, which I think is a stretch) or as much as 39 1/2 (June ‘69’s “Turnabout Intruder”). Both of those are extreme positions, and I feel the most comfortable going with 17 years for Star Trek VI. That’s an appropriate interval if we’re using Who and Galactica as yardsticks.
Of course, the more people find out about this movie, and the closer it comes to being part of the vast Star Trek tapestry, the more stigma attaches to it, and the shorter that interval becomes.
* To me it doesn’t matter whether you include the animated series in this. I’m not sure if the G.P. is really aware of it, and if they are, they might well count it as a curiosity attached to the regular series.
** I’m not counting fan projects like “New Voyages” or “Starship Exeter,” because (regardless of their merits) I’m pretty sure the G.P. hasn’t heard of ’em.