May 21, 2009

  • "Call me Jim"


    This new Trek conflict has sent me reeling back into a tizzy of rewatching old Trek.  The hunger for reaffirmation is overwhelming, the grip to set things back to right in my brain almost feels urgent.  I'm flinging myself around like a pinball through the original series, NG movies, Enterprise marathons.  I even cruised by the library to start work on the Vulcan's Heart and Vulcan's Soul trilogies.
    Today I watched Generations, drank it in like an aged wine, savoring the sights, sounds, emotions...  They made that one nearly 15 years ago.  I originally saw it in the theater, actually cried as the saucer section of the Enterprise crash landed on the 3rd planet in the Veridian 3 star system, suddenly realizing what it must feel like ~inside~ the crashing UFO, strangers from far away desperately trying to save their lives in a last ditch effort, and falling right out of the sky in the biggest vehicle crash ever on the big screen, only to see them blow up when Soren's probe took out the sun, and a level 12 shock wave violently burst the planet into messy chunks.
    As I watched that again today, I recalled the first time I ever saw the Enterprise blow up.  It was even longer back, more than 20 years ago, and even though I was nearly penniless and my cupboards were practically bare, I spent my last dime renting a VHS player to hook up to my junky old tv set, and plugged in the rented movie, and watched with every hair on my arms prickled as Kirk and Kahn played a horrible game of chess over the Genesis planet, trying to save Spock (who had died in the previous movie and left us all hanging in shock), and watching the Enterprise blow up, leaving him stranded on a planet in its death throes.  I found myself ~standing up~ shouting NOOOOO....
    That was before fancy CGI, before digital filming...
    As I watched Generations today, I remembered the jeers that went up all around when the movie came out.  Kirk was too fat, 3 old men were wrestling around on an old steel catwalk, of all things, and I heard every imaginable joke about Kirk's death scene, including a lot of mean comments about how it was time he was killed off.  As I watched it all again, 15 years older, I realized I'm almost as old now as they were then during filming, and I sat there going wow, they're in pretty good shape for 3 old guys...  And then I realized-- all THREE are still working.  They are ~really~ old guys now.  And I *like* them.
    And after I realized all that, I thought about the new generation of young people getting a whole new Trek.  I thought about our long-standing (decades long) tradition of jeering and cheering Star Trek, of hundreds of thousands of people around the world putting on costumes, writing fan fiction, collecting merchandise, and all the spoofing and spoofing and even more spoofing by so many other shows and comedians and even serious people.  I thought about how ironic it is that no matter how much and how many people have laughed about Captain Kirk, he is the most iconic fictional character on our planet in so many uncountable ways...
    It was a sobering thought.  We've laughed all these years about Kirk-- the acting, the pompous promotional shows about how everything we have now came from Star Trek, the 'reality' show, the Priceline commercials (I think those are awesome, by the way).  And in the end, when it all boils down and new Trek comes along, those are some pretty big boots to fill.  That's a pretty tall shadow over most of my life.  When I saw Kirk in Generations today and watched his death, I was terribly overcome with how I'm going to feel when William Shatner truly passes on.  I cried.
    I think what we see missing from new Trek is Legend.  We see a CGI cartoon put into its place, the kind of modern storytelling that this next generation has come to expect.  We can look back on old Trek and laugh about all the silly crappy sets and acting and *forgive* all that because that's all they had and all they knew back then.  Back then that was truly groundbreaking, to have several races represented and tackling taboo issues.  And as Trek evolved and grew into more and more Trek, we grew along with it, evolving our thinking, realizing we can hope for a global community, a political oneness, a freedom from tyranny through the galaxy and the grit and determination to forge a new Federation, a new unification of differences.  We've spent the last 40 years having our thinking challenged, and forging a new unification of fans from all over the world like no other diplomacy was ever able to conceive or accomplish.
    And I ask you-- what will this new Trek do for our next generation of young people?  Where do they have left to go?  Will they be challenged to think and feel, or will they be easily sold on filming gimmicks and cute bodies?  Lose the story, cute things up a bit, throw in some cheap thrills and a little comedy relief-- it's FORMULA.  Not one of those new characters will ever become iconic enough to stand for something meaningfully deep, and neither will they earn the loyal jeers that have come to be a tradition with Trekkies.  All they can say is, "Wow, what a great movie!"  Ask them why.
    I don't think this new Trek direction will spawn 40 years of movies, spin-offs, and die-hard fans, much less scores of books, artwork, conventions, soundtracks, and dressing up as a Vulcan.  After all, Vulcans are an 'endangered species' now.  Who wants to emulate an unknown race of logical pointy-eared green-blooded aliens if they don't exist any more?  Can the new Spock become the icon the old Kirk is?  Can he take on the burden and keep the flame alive?
    Abrams = Nero.  That much symbolism was abundantly clear.

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Apologies for the missing vids, another upgrade during the server migration swept through like a scan sweeping through the Enterprise. I'll fix those later, kinda busy...

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