This one is likely to cause a reaction.
Let me be clear about one thing before I begin. I am a Star Trek fan. I Grok Spock. I went to opening night of the reboot, too. Kirk, Picard, Sisko…I even like Archer. Not Janeway, though. Never Janeway.
To be fair, I didn’t really become a Star Trek fan until much later than Star Wars; with the latter I was three when I watched it for the first time, and there you go. Star Trek had a lot of ground to make up after that.
Largely, I’d have to say that I started getting interested in Star Trek when Star Wars hit a dry spell in the late 1980s. There was nothing new to come there for a good long while, and at the time we thought it was all done for good and for ever.
In the mid-1990s, Star Trek was in the first wheezing coughs of the death throes for its initial incarnation. The body was sick and we all saw the symptoms. We stayed by its side, an old friend we wanted to support especially in the difficult times. We’d had so many good times in the past, what would it say about us to leave in the hour of despair?
Deep Space 9, while a superior effort in terms of story, felt different. It was a symptom of the schism forming behind the scenes among the production and writing teams. It’s no wonder that Ron Moore eventually left to develop the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica; in retrospect his fingerprints are all over Deep Space 9. But to be fair, it was a sign that the venerable Star Trek franchise was changing. DS9 was the tipping point where it would lead to better or worse.
Voyager was a complete dud, except among the most die-hard fans, which is why it lost me. It’s not that the captain was a woman, it’s that her character was weak. It’s not that the cast was forcibly diversified, it’s that they weren’t the best characters for the situations. They were so desperate to try to get people back they hired Jeri Ryan to slink through the stories in skin-tight outfits and try to replace the Spock-like “emotionless” character trying to learn how to be human. I will admit that worked for me for a couple of episodes, but it was never what Star Trek was supposed to be. It was supposed to be “above” using sex to sell (though I’m sure the Klingon sisters from the Next Generation did something for…someone…whom I have yet to meet).
The Next Generation movies were fairly weak. Instead of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, three characters we knew and loved and trusted, to lead us through allegory both subtle and ham-handed. By the time they got their act together and put together an interesting premise (Nemesis), it was too late. At the time, I overlooked a lot of flaws because I was such a fan of the show. If the movies had been two hour episodes, I’d stand by them (excluding Insurrection still), but the ensemble cast mentality doesn’t translate well to film format: there are too many characters with individual arcs for any truly effective plotlines to develop. Basically, by pandering to the fans to make sure everyone’s “favorite character” got “enough screentime” they took a wrecking ball to the driving idea behind a film, which is that every element should serve the main arc.
Good ensemble cast film: American Graffiti. Bad: Next Generation Films.
In short, we all knew that Star Trek was a shade of its former self.
But I’m getting ahead of myself on this whole thing. The overall point is that in the 1990s, things were very bleak for Star Trek fans. They were a bunch of OCD fanatics with nothing to be fanatic about. Even Babylon 5 went away.
So where did they turn? Star Wars. And being a bunch of good-natured people, we opened our doors.
At first, it seemed like a logical leap. Star Trek was a landmark sci-fi show, Star Wars the bastard child of Flash Gordon and Leigh Brackett. If not brothers, they were at least cousins. Recognizing the differences one could be a fan of both — as I and plenty of others are.
Unfortunately, our good nature was our downfall. Like opening the gates to the Ostrogoths and Visigoths, Trekkies (I will never call you Trekkers) toppled our Roman paradise with their dark, oppressive ways.
Before the 1990s Trekkie infiltration, I remember how we used to be. We were care-free, fun and while obsessive could poke fun at the imperfections of the films. Part of it was the overwhelming elixir of nostalgia; it’s hard to be harsh about something you associate with childhood. Ask any former female fan of New Kids on the Block: there will always be a special place in your heart where you acknowledge the shortcomings but relish the innocent times of which it reminds you.
However, Trekkies aren’t satisfied with simply liking something. No, they have to love it the way a stalker loves a Hollywood celebrity. It’s the type of love that requires restraining orders. This mind-set is infectious, and spreads quickly.
Before their insidious infection of our beloved host, we didn’t care that a parsec was really a measure of distance and not time. It didn’t matter. In fact, you could see that the scene plays out that Solo is a con artist, thinks he has a couple of rubes on the line for an easy payday and starts spinning a yarn. Obi-Wan’s face tells it all, as he leans back with a smirk that says, “How full of s*** can one man be?”
But no, that Star Trek mentality had to come in and obsess about the proper definition of a parsec being a unit of distance, not time. So much so that the “expanded universe” literature (a trilogy of books – naturally – about Han Solo’s past) had to explain how the run was through a nest of Black Holes causing space/time to warp. I thought it was a cute explanation, but was it really that necessary?
No, it’s a holdover from the mind-set that gave us technical manuals for spaceships that explained how Warp Drive and transporters supposedly worked. Such manuals were supposed proof of how attainable Star Trek technology would be, regardless of the mountain of bologna on which it was built.
Doubt that? Then tell me where we’ll find Dilythium Crystals or exactly WTF a millicochrane is, or how a “Heisenberg Compensator” can really adjust for the changing nature of atoms during transport of a living being. Oh, you mean it’s just some made up crap to sate those who can’t be satisfied with make-believe? Do tell.
And now we have manuals for the Star Wars technology as well. Although we shouldn’t. Because most of that stuff isn’t even close to being possible. So let’s just roll out “hyperdimensional travel” (which Star Trek later stole, by the way, in the Lore/Borg episodes) instead of just “ship needs to go fast.”
And yes, I blame Trekkies. Not fans of Star Trek, mind you, but Trekkies. We let you guys come into our sandbox, then you peed all over it and complain that the sandbox isn’t clean anymore.
So, in short, I’m glad that Star Trek got a reboot (though there were plenty of Trekkies dissatisfied with it, up to and including that “only Captain Kirk should say Space the Final Frontier”). At the very least, you jokers can go back from whence you came and let the rest of us alone.
I’ll see you in the theatre, of course. But let’s promise to keep an empty seat between us.