Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

For the World is Hollow . . .

In some ways, it seems silly to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the premier of a show that limped along in the ratings until it was mercifully killed off at the end of its dismal third season. But, of course, Star Trek is so much more than a failed TV show. Like many cultural phenomena, Star Trek was not well understood by those in charge of its fate on television.
As a child of the 70s, Star Wars, with its cinematic luster and cutting edge special effects, loomed larger in my young mind. Star Trek, like Lost in Space, was a relic of an earlier, less cool era. I was 7 when The Motion Picture was released. Not that my parents were likely to have taken me, I had no interest in seeing it.

My love of Star Trek began with books. My brother had a copy of Death's Angel that I borrowed when I was maybe 9. More aliens that were more alien than 1960s television production technology could have permitted, much less the budget. Let's say I was intrigued. This was not the lame show that came on in reruns after Saturday morning cartoons. More books came from the library, until I was primed for The Wrath of Khan (even though I had never seen the episode that inspired it.) And then Spock died. And this ten-year-old bawled.

Then came The Next Generation. More movies, more shows. I've attended a few conventions, including the 25th Anniversary TrekCon in Los Angeles with my brother (we could only afford passes to the vendor floor). Made my ex-wife watch so many episodes that my nerdy daughters were shocked by her Trek Fu when they were watching reruns decades later. Scooter and I are in the middle of a Voyager re-watch, and I'd love to actually see all of Enterprise (military deployment caused me to miss a couple seasons).

I was so excited by the new Star Trek (Kelvin timeline). While Into Darkness was disappointing, I wanted to see Beyond, and finally got my chance this past Saturday. It was amazing, and has me excited to see where they take the franchise next.

It's been 50 years since Captain Kirk led the crew of the Enterprise on a trek through the stars and into our imaginations. Countless people have been inspired to pursue careers in science because of Star Trek. Others have been inspired to pursue the kind of society where everyone can fulfill their potential regardless of their race, gender, or whatever makes them seem different. People have met, fallen in love, and had children because of Star Trek. Is it silly to celebrate a show that made history and impacted (created) so many lives, including my own?
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  1. Star Trek was in reruns when I was a kid (just 4 years or so behind you), and it was a big part of my childhood, along with Doctor Who and the original Twilight Zone. It's a big part of why I am still fascinated with astrophysics and astronomy. TNG was good for my teen years, and DS9's moody, murky approach was even better. Voyager was hit or miss, Enterprise was underwhelming (even though I like Bakula), and none of the movies really work all that well for me. 2 and 4 were passable, but the rest are just aimed at a different audience than the shows seemed to be, especially these recent ones. They aren't bad, really, just... not what I want out of 'Trek.

    I've read most of the novels, though, and there's a lot of gold to be found in those books. Plenty of goofy bits, true, and some weird out-of-character tangents were run early on (the Blish books are ones I remember being particularly odd in places), but on the whole, I've found a lot to like in the books. Commander Hwiii, Captain Calhoun and the Challenger books are ones that stick out in my mind, as well as the handful of TOS and TNG crossovers. Andrew Robinson's "A Stitch in Time" Cardassian book and the DS9 series' "soft reboot" are good as well.

    It was perhaps most heartening to see Nimoy's eventual embrace of the property. He had his concerns with the show, as they all did, but he became a great ambassador for the optimism of the IP eventually. In many ways, he's the heart of Star Trek for me, as Spock brought seriousness to the show that the hokey sets and goofy jokes could have squashed. He made it possible to accept the show as thoughtful, far more than just "human procedural drama in space" could have.

    Worf had a similar effect for me later, and Michael Dorn is my favorite of the TNG/DS9 era. Sure, it was the Data/Picard show, but Worf resonates more in my book.

    1. I originally became a fan of Leonard Nimoy through the "In Search of . . ." series. It was a fascinating show about unexplained phenomena, and he narrated it perfectly. I know Mr. Nimoy struggled with the . . . burden . . . of Spock for many years before embracing it. I would also say the movies which seem to be the most Trek-y had his fingerprints all over them. In the end, he understood the value of Star Trek to our culture more than anyone else involved in the production.

      I've read a ton of the books from the 80s and 90s, and a few of the Blish novelizations. They were odd partly because he fit Star Trek canon into his own literary universe (the name of which escapes me). I fall off reading the novels (and books in general) in the late 90s as my home and professional life got busier. Whereas at one point I could read several books in a week, now I'm lucky if I read maybe three a year (not including audiobooks).

      TNG came out when I was 15, and quickly became "my" Trek. As it turns out Wil "Shut up, Wesley!" Wheaton is my age, so I could relate to his awkwardness and struggles. Unfortunately I missed about parts of the 5th and 7th seasons, and the entire 6th, due to being out of the country. But there were always reruns! :D I never really got into DS9 because it started during the same time frame.

      While I agree that none of the movies stand up to the best of the episodes of the series, they are a good deal better than a lot of turd episodes. John Scalzi recently pointed out that many of Star Trek's (all the series) episodes while being excellent morality plays, lay on the moral really thickly (anvilicious is the term often used).

      While the latest movie, "Beyond," has a lot of action and may even be a little light on the morality play, it has some excellent themes that run through the best of Trek. Are we happy with our careers and our lives, or are we trying to live up to some expectation or reputation? What do we do when that is not enough any more? Are we more that what we were born into? Can we adapt, as individuals and as a people, to changing circumstances? Or do we cling to old bitternesses, and perceived wrongs? What will happen to us if we do cling, or if we adapt? It only takes a few scenes interspersed among the action to convey those themes and questions.

      Thanks for stopping by. :)