Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Some Thoughts On Star Trek

For a long time, I forgot that I was ever a Star Trek fan.

If I thought of Star Trek--and I didn't, much; I wasn't a Trek hater, just not a fan--it was with a sort of vague, indifferent contempt. The show would be on, sometimes 'Next Generation', sometimes 'Voyager' or 'Enterprise' (I never seemed to catch episodes of 'Deep Space Nine') and it would always have a sort of dull sameness about it. A bunch of people in uniforms would speechify about some contrived moral dilemma...or worse, about some technobabbly crisis that was threatening to destroy the ship...and then at the end, it would all get resolved either when Picard/Janeway/Sam Beckett made a particularly speechified speech, or when Geordi/Seven of Nine/the Vulcan in the skintight outfit came up with a particularly long and incomprehensible string of technobabble. (I found out somewhere along the line that Trek writers would actually just write "[TECH]" into their scripts, and let someone else fill it in later. This came as absolutely no surprise to me.) None of it ever seemed to even stick in the memory. I'd watch an episode, and five minutes later I couldn't tell you what I'd seen. (With a couple of obvious exceptions. "The Inner Light" is just damn fine TV and I would never say otherwise.) I not only wasn't a fan of Star Trek, I couldn't even imagine being one.

A couple of things changed that this year. First, I watched the excellent J.J. Abrams movie. Actually, it was more than just excellent. It felt like...it felt like when I sat down, my ten-year-old self sat down next to me and said, "Here. All those times you used to watch Star Trek as a kid...this is what you were seeing, in your head. Bigger-than-life heroes, exciting battles, great one-liners, fun fight scenes, and characters that just seemed to be so much fun to watch. Oh, and your imagination filled in good special effects for all the bad ones, too." I remembered how much fun I used to have, watching Kirk and Spock and McCoy banter. I literally didn't even remember that I ever enjoyed the original series until I saw this movie; it had been covered with the dust of dozens of gray, lifeless episodes. This movie blew that dust away.

Second, I read Wil Wheaton's book "Just A Geek", about what it was like to work on 'Next Generation'. Oddly enough, I found more emotion in his passion for making the series than I ever did in watching it. I remembered how much I liked all those actors, Frakes and Burton and brilliant Brent Spiner (was he ever not funny in his guest shots on 'Night Court'?) and especially Patrick Stewart, in everything else they ever did. And it reminded me that even on a series I never managed to like, I liked the chemistry that the cast had.

And thirdly, someone directed me to Wil Wheaton's blogs about the first season of 'Next Generation'. Going back and reading his thoughts, simultaneously from the perspective of an intimate insider and someone who hadn't seen the show in so long that it was basically new to him...it brought me back to that time in a way that only good writers can. It reminded me of the excitement I felt when they announced a new Star Trek series! (Hell, it reminded me that I actually felt excitement at one point for a new Star Trek series.) And as I read his disillusionment with the scripts, his discussions of the rough going behind the scenes, his critiques of a series he deeply wanted to love and do well on, it reminded me...it was hard to love Star Trek for a long time. It was hard to sit through "The Naked Now" and "Code of Honor" and "Lonely Among Us" and still find enthusiasm for Trek. And then they went and did seven years of 'Voyager' on top of that.

It was so hard for so long that I stopped caring, that I forgot I ever did care. But I'm glad I remembered.

Those are some of my thoughts on Star Trek.


kreetrapper said...

Well, then you will probably be happy to hear that Wil put all these columns, polished them a bit and is now going to release them as a book: Memories of the Future

John Seavey said...

Actually, yes, I very much am. Thanks for the heads-up!

Austin Gorton said...

Also, DS9 is awesome. At it is the least Trek-ish (in terms of what you mentioned, the people in uniforms moralizing and/or dealing with technobabble) though certainly those things are present from time to time.

In much the same way "Inner Light" is damn fine TV, period, so is Deep Space Nine's "Far Beyond the Stars".

Check it out, if you can.