.journal 2001.08.22
A Star Trek rant.

Now listening to: Delerium, Reflections II
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Drawing Blood; Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems
Now playing: Chu Chu Rocket (Dreamcast)

My sister always says she hates it whenever Star Trek has any kind of anniversary, because it reminds her of how old she is. I'm not enough of a trekkie to remember what year Star Trek first began airing, but I think my sister is either a year older or a year younger than the show, I can't be sure. The phrase "close enough for government work" would normally spring to mind, but given that we are in the age of Dubya and all that phrase could apply even if my sister was born in 1832. But I digress.

Like I said, I'm not really that much of a trekkie, but I do generally like most things Star Trek. My mother absolutely loved the original series, and back before the days of widespread cable it was syndicated reruns of the original that kept myself and my mother enraptured on weekends. She even admits nursed a long-time crush on William Shatner, which meant that I was also forced to endure T.J. Hooker and Rescue 911 when they aired. I was always a big Leonard Nimoy fan myself, but I still liked Star Trek enough as a series that I became as attached to it as far as any eleven-year-old can get attached to stuff like that.

As a whole, science fiction generally doesn't hold my interest. I've never watched Babylon 5 and have no desire to, nor do I care for any of the myriad of sci-fi movies that come out on a weekly basis. But I'll make an exception for the Star Trek universe, simply because it hooked me very early and I think Gene Roddenberry did an admirable job of creating his own futuristic universe and templates for characters and their interaction that generally withstand the test of time.

I've almost gotten myself disowned saying this before, but I do consider Star Trek: the Next Generation to be the best series of all, even above the original. I think it may just be a function of my age, but looking at the original series now it just seems about five degrees shifted from my point of view and I can't get into it like I used to. Every time McCoy makes a biblical reference, I just want to cringe, even though I realize that at that point every show was doing stuff like that. I'm not doubting the original series will be timeless for most, but for me I guess my time with the original series has pretty much come and gone.

Jeff and my sister talk Next Generation an awful lot (if only because Jeff thinks Jonathan Frakes is a brilliant director and my sister thinks he's a piece of shit), and as is usual whenever the two of them start talking about anything, I can't get a freaking word in edgewise. But I sometimes sit by and listen, and my sister's biggest complaint about Next Generation is always the lack of enemies for the Federation. "It's like, oh, we're at peace with everyone and there never has to be any fighting anymore," she goes.

Ignoring the Romulans, Ferengi, Cardassians, Borg and other countless races that have at least severely antagonistic relations with the Federation (then again, my sister always did have a Klingon fixation), I think my sister fails to see that Next Generation, itself, is a product of its time, written in the waning days of the Cold War when we all wanted peace and it was more reassuring for us to take a peek into the world Kirk and Spock left behind twenty years prior to see that maybe we could befriend those nasty Klingons after all. (Although after the course I just took at the University of Toledo, I can say unequivocably that if Roddenberry based the Klingons on any "real" people, it was the Japanese.)

Actually, I think it was precisely that lack of always having this big battle to fight that tuned me on to Next Generation all the more. As a writer I can tell you that having an "enemy" to fight makes for easy writing; not always having this cop-out, Next Generation writers made the series more about an exploration of the characters, which is far more enjoyable for me to watch. Face it, Kirk was never really anything more than a ladies' man in the original series, it was only in the Star Trek movies that he really developed any kind of personality of his own. Those personalities were present from the start of Next Generation, and makes it easier for me to relate to the series as a whole.

Because Toledo cable sucks and I'm stuck with it at the hotel, I've found myself watching a lot of Next Generation recently, although that will change next week when I start having a 07h wakeup time because I can only catch Next Generation at 01h. They just finished the end of the final season so they started with the original episodes again a couple of weeks ago, and I have to admit it's kind of hard to watch the first couple of seasons because of the same problems that plagued the first couple of Star Trek episodes: incongrinuities. Data using contractions and smiling is much like Spock's looseness, I was never that big on Denise Crosby, and if I may be so polite, kill freaking Wesley Crusher. I liked most of his cameos after he left as a full-time cast member, but good grief do I feel like throttling him in these first couple of seasons.

As far as Deep Space Nine goes, I tried watching it, I really did, and I really liked the first few seasons, but then they had to do the big cop-out and set up these big wars one after the other to make things easier to write about. I admit that the premise of being on a set station where going different places and meeting new races is a big handicap from a writing perspective, but they should have known about that going into the series. Later developments, like giving the Defiant its own cloaking device, just pissed me off to no end because I could swear I could see the writers' hands behind the television screen reaching for that kind of nonsense.

Actually, I'd like a chance to sit down someday and watch Deep Space Nine all the way through because my viewership did flag there in the middle and eventually dwindled down to nothing at all. But unfortunately at this point buying the VHS tapes makes no sense because anything like that I'm going to do, I'm going to do on DVD, and unfortunately there are no Next Generation, Deep Space Nine or Voyager DVDs out. I don't know what's up with that, and I can't say there isn't other stuff on DVD for me to get in the meantime, but given the propensities of trekkies and trekkers I'd think getting all things Star Trek out on DVD as soon as possible would be a no-brainer. Mind you, the original series is out there, and maybe I'd pick that up for my mother but not for me.

I had a strong interest in Voyager when it first came out, but unfortunately that was while I was at Antioch and I actually had a social life there. Not to mention that Antioch had all of two televisions on campus while I was there - one in the C-Shop (student-run coffeehouse) and one in SVAHA (the TV room in the Student Union). I remember coming into SVAHA partway through the first episode and liking what I was seeing, but between the time my academics took up and actually being able to hang out with people I could identify with for once in my life, I wasn't about to start making another weekly habit that involved the boob tube.

Recently I've run into Voyager in syndication and I've been trying to get into it, but unfortunately without watching those first few episodes I really can't appreciate the show like I want to because I don't really understand the characters. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I embarrassingly realized that the Vulcan (and I can't even remember his name off the top of my head, how pathetic is that) was originally a member of the Maquis. But Voyager's syndication run starts at midnight around these parts, so it's going to be out of my viewing time here in a week as well, and again no DVDs mean no chance for me to research and figure this stuff out.

And that would take me to Enterprise. I don't watch that much UPN these days, what with the Red Wings out of season and the Tigers sucking to high heaven and all, but I have caught some promos for the new series and may I be the first to say I can feel Roddenberry turning over in his grave? I realize I should really watch a full episode before saying something that harsh, but from the previews this is looking like Star Trek written by people from my generation - and that is a very very bad thing. And I'm not talking about my fellow artistic types or anything like that, I'm talking about the dregs of culture who think Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit and Drowning Pool are the epitome of musical talent.

Never mind the logistical nightmare of figuring out what pre NCC-1701 computers are supposed to look like and still be identifiable to people, who in the hell thought hiring Scott Bakula was anything even remotely resembling a good idea? I like Bakula a great deal, don't get me wrong, but sci-fi types have a real problem dealing with that kind of cross-pollination of series. The moment they get Dean Stockwell to do a cameo or they have Bakula's character say "Oh boy," we may have the exact kind of war on our hands that Roddenberry was hoping would never come to be when he sat down to create Next Generation.

Not that I haven't been tempted to see what I could do within the confines of the Star Trek universe, but writing Star Trek fan-fiction is to writing what covering "Stairway to Heaven" is to music; everybody does it, and you're lucky if you meet one person in your lifetime who actually does it well. Besides, there's that whole issue of Microsoft cracking down on stuff like that, and I've had enough legal dealings when it comes to Websites in my lifetime already, thank you very much. It'll be an unfulfilled curiosity of my life, but not one I'm going to lose any sleep over.

Anyway, everyone take care and be well, and I'll see you all soon. Hopefully with something a bit more meaningful to talk about.

- Sean