14 May 2009

My History With Trek

With J.J. Abrams's Star Trek hitting the big screen, I've been reading a lot of blog thoughts regarding all things Trek.  A lot of aging geeks have run off at the mouth regarding their history with the franchise, as, like the generation before them, they watch themselves become "the older Trek fans." 

Here's my contribution.

First off, I think it's nice and semi-refreshing that Abrams's  reboot has everyone looking back at the original, original series and re-examining it. For a solid two decades now, the Star Trek franchise has been mostly about legacy sequels and endless "old crew" jokes that were never all that funny to begin with. I'll admit to some lingering affection and dedication to the original series, to Kirk and Spock and Bones, and to "The Shat". But it's been a long time since I carried any sort of torch for the property.

I'm due to see the new movie soon, cause the wife is hyped for it.  I have no objections to going, but no real enthusiasm, either.  All indications are it's a fair flick.  I have some reservations, but they're nothing to do with violating Star Trek mythology.  Rather my reservations stem from the already predictable moves being made by this blockbuster-by-the-numbers: its propping up of impossibly young protagonists for the sake of demographics, its shaky cam shooting and After Effects lens flares, its empty nostalgic riffs for the older fans, etc., etc., etc.

As far as I'm concerned, the original Star Trek series is forever bound up with  my childhood in the seventies (not the sixties).  Sunday dinner coincided with the reruns of Star Trek on the CBC, so Star Trek was basically a tiny, third parent during my childhood.

Like a good many people my age, I've seen every episode of what is now called "the original series" at least a half dozen times. At one time I was capable of identifying an episode seconds after it began.  My older sister and I used to make a race of it. 

It would take me considerably longer to identify any of it now. I haven't watched a full episode in better than a decade. Still, I'm intimate with the great episodes (City On the Edge Of Forever, Balance Of Terror), revere the really fun episodes (Shore Leave, A Piece Of The Action) and acknowledge the ridiculous shows (Spock's Brain and many, many others).

I was too young to see The Motion Picture in the theatre (I might have done, I don't remember), but I was absolutely shattered by Wrath Of Khan, only to have the subsequent Star Trek movies pull the Eighties Franchise Slow Death Of Shame on me just as I was growing up and could notice the cracks developing.

I shrugged off the Dead-Not-Dead Spock Movie, endured everybody else's insufferable satisfaction with the Too-Cute-Gonna-Barf Whale Movie, rubbed my temples through the Shatner-directed God Movie, and fell completely out of sync with the popular concensus as the the Insufferable Greatest Hits Sixth Movie was hailed as some sort of significant improvement.

By then, Picard and his crew of tech-babbling careerists were on the scene, managing somehow to endear themselves to a fairly large audience of which I was one only numerically.  I watched, but, apart from the casting of Patrick Stewart, whom I already knew from I, Claudius and Excalibur, nothing about this new series sat well with me.  I was put off by the new show's very un-Roddenberry-like prudishness, its militaristism, and its characters's unending and depressing  ethnocentric neuroses.

Of course, Star Trek's always been a bit of a schizophrenic property, as might be expected.  It was developed in the free-love sixties by an aging World War II vet, a show written by science fiction heavyweights but helmed by a well-meaning hack.  Still, not long after Roddenberry's death, things really got out of hand. The Star Trek universe became crammed with duty-hemmed reactionaries. Worse, it being the nineties, the birth-decade of the era of super-victimization, the main characters were genetic slaves to their racial DNA, ethical slaves to the status quo of their careers, and, despite the invention of the high-heeled, skin-tight cosmic cat suit, emotional slaves to some sort of self-imposed, gee-shucks sexual repression.

They were often insufferable.  They weren't any damn fun when they were serious, and they were downright painful to watch when they were trying to be whimsical.  So, in one way, it's good to be getting back to violent, sexy and charismatic again. But somehow I wish it were all being helmed by a hack from an earlier generation, a Greatest Generation, and certainly not a next "next-generation" generation.