Where No One Has Gone Before, And May Never Go Again

“That’s what J.J. had in mind when he made the movie,” K told me.  We’d just finished discussing whether her husband would enjoy the new Star Trek movie.  He was never a fan of Star Trek and didn’t watch any of the series and upon hearing that, I said, “Well then he’ll probably love it.”

I wanted to love it.  I really did.  I was a big fan of Star Trek growing up.  I wasn’t a freak about it.  I went to one, I repeat one Star Trek Convention and it was enough to tell me that I never wanted to go to another one.  Star Trek fans are freaks, pure and simple.

But I liked the shows of my generation.  The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. But after Voyager, after Gene Roddenberry died and the production staff stopped adhering to his philosophy things started to change.

On December 19th, I wrote a blog entry on an old blog of mine about this phenomenon:

Lawaxana Troi as played by Majel Barrett Roddenberry

Lwaxana Troi died yesterday.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry and Gene Roddenberry

Majel Barrett who played Lwaxana Troi, on Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST: TNG),  died yesterday at the age of 76, from Leukemia.  If you care, and you want to read up on it, I’m sure you can find any number of stories about her and about her death (not to mention her life) on the internet today.  But what really bothers me, aside from the obvious sadness that goes with any loss of human life, is what this means for Star Trek.

The wife of Gene Roddenberry, who created Star Trek, Barrettt is one of the few actors who has been in every version of Star Trek ever to exist.  Most notably, she has provided the voice of the Federation Computer systems in every show (except Enterprise – I think) since the first Star Trek movie.  She is a Star Trek icon and things will never be the same.

Star Trek: The Original Series

I remember being a young boy in the ’80s, lying on my mother’s bed on Saturday afternoons, watching the original Star Trek series.  I remember thinking that this show must have been on forever.  I knew it wasn’t a current production but I honestly didn’t know the history behind it.  I didn’t know that the show was only on for three seasons.  I didn’t know that NBC canceled it after the first season and that it was brought back, only because of the outpouring of viewer objection and a letter writing campaign.  I just knew it was a fun show to watch and I liked Captain Kirk.  It’s funny how things change because in later years while watching The Next Generation, I remember reflecting on the original series as not being that great and thinking that the acting and the stories were lame and not liking Captain Kirk all that much.  For years, I have reflected on the original series as being hokey, and William Shatner as being a ridiculous caricature of a man.  His speech patterns and over-acting leave a lot to be desired, even now.  As Denny Crane on Boston Legal, he could only be laughed at for being such a buffoon.  But not long ago I watched a few digitized episodes of Star Trek:  The Original Series (ST: TOS), on HD Net.  I was quite surprised to see that I actually found Captain Kirk quite attractive, in his youth.

I have loved Star Trek for as long as I can remember.  Even when I did not like it, I loved it.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

After those original series episodes became harder to find, I forgot, to some extent that Star Trek existed, outside of the movies and then one day my family was visiting another family and the kids were watching this new Star Trek series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation“.  I was roughly 12 years old and I thought it was really dumb.  More importantly, I thought it would never work, “There can’t be a Klingon on a Starfleet ship” we said.  And honestly, if you watch that first season or two, you’ll see that it was pretty hokey.  But then the show caught on and, I’m sure, got more money and it started really improving until it became one of my favorites and a can’t miss show.

About five years in, a new series was introduced, Star Trek: Deep Space 9 (ST: DS9).  Being the natural born skeptic that I am I had a hard time imagining how a show about a space station could fit the Star Trek mold, but they made it work and ST: DS9 was another favorite, not to be missed show.  When ST: TNG went off the air two seasons later, I was disappointed.  It was, and remains to be, my personal favorite incarnation of the Star Trek Universe.  My disappointment that the show was ending, as All Good Things… must, was tempered only by the immediate announcement that there would be a ST: TNG movie coming out the following year.

Star Trek: Deep Space 9

Star Trek: Voyager

ST: TNG ended in May, 1994 and in January, 1995 the third, and to date, final “Next Generation” series, Star Trek: Voyager (ST: V) premiered.  Again, I was skeptical.  The ship was flung to the far side of the galaxy which means, none of the usual alien species would appear.  The hoke potential was considerably higher as a result, however, it turned out to be really well done.  This series debuted at a time in my life when things were really rough and I was very unhappy in my circumstances.  ST: V provided me with just a little taste of what “normal” was like for me, a taste of my life before I moved to Dead Beat Dad’s house and before my fiancé cheated on, and then broke up with me.  ST: DS9 ended in 1999 and then ST: V ended in May, 2001.

Star Trek: Enterprise

When I heard that there would be a new Star Trek series in September 2001, I was happy.  As far as I was concerned (and still am) there should always be a Star Trek series in production.  And then I heard that Enterprise (later known as Star Trek: Enterprise) (ST: E) was going to be a prequel.  That it was going to take place before the time of ST: TOS and I was really disappointed.  ST: TOS was created in the 1960s and the technology was far inferior to what we have today.  I felt that taking us back in time was a bad idea.  After we became accustomed to all the “modern technology” of that futuristic existence, how could they expect us to be interested in a show with switches and dials (instead of the touch screens of the TNG era) and how could they expect us to believe a “prehistoric” iteration of the show if it used the touch screen technology to which we were accustomed.  But it was a Star Trek series and of course I watched it.

I found ST: E disappointing.  They made some valiant attempts to keep the fans engaged.  The set designs and the technology of the times were actually successful, in my mind, though not as interesting because they weren’t so advanced as the serieses (seri?) that took place a couple hundred years later.  The show was fine for what it was, but it wasn’t a great Star Trek series.  Eventually, there was another television show that I wanted to watch that was opposite ST: E and I chose the other show.   (I wasn’t a proud owner of a TiVo or DVR yet.)

Enterprise ended in May, 2005 and for the first time in 18 years there would be no new Star Trek on television.  That is a void which still has yet to be filled in my heart.  Heroes makes an effort.  It’s an excellent SciFi show (though it’s quality is waning) and they keep bringing in actors from the Star Trek Universe (although it’s been original series actors only until this weeks episode with Michael Dorn) but it is no substitute.

Conner Trinneer, Commander Charles (Trip) Tucker III, on Star Trek: Enterprise

Recently I re-watched Enterprise on HD Net.  I had the opportunity to watch the entire series from beginning to end and was surprised to find that I liked it quite a bit.  I don’t know if I was just nostalgic for the good ole days of yore, of if the show really was that good and I just didn’t see it then, but I found the show very interesting and compelling and the two characters that once annoyed me, Hoshi and T’Pol, were now far more intriguing and appealing.  Of course with my new found certainty in my sexuality, I wasn’t afraid to admit that Trip (Conner Trinneer) was pretty fine to look at, as well.

The death of Majel Barrett, to me, solidifies the end of an era.  The Star Trek Universe has been slowly imploding ever since the 1991 death of creator Gene Roddenberry, when Rick Berman took over as head Trekker.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have loved the vast majority of the Star Trek Universe, but I have noticed on several occasions that Berman has not held true to Roddenberry’s concept.

It seems to me that Gene Roddenberry envisioned a show that would parallel the real world…the times we lived in, but with an optimistic, positive spin.  The Original Series so closely represented our nation in the time of the cold war, while simultaneously offering hope of a brighter tomorrow.  In my opinion, Star Trek was about hope, and faith, and peace.  Captain Kirk was a very physical man and often came to fisticuffs with the alien species du jur, but he was never the aggressor.  Violence was never the solution, it was the last resort.  Before Star Trek: Generations was released in theaters there was much discussion of the different temperaments between Captain Kirk and Captain Piccard.  Some speculation suggested there would be a physical altercation between the two men and whether Captain Piccard, he of the peaceful nature, could hold his own against, Captain Kirk.  In the end I think we saw that when pushed, Captain Piccard can hold his own against a good number of people.  But first and foremost these were both peaceful men.

Species 8472 from Star Trek: Voyager

Gene Roddenberry once stated that all the aliens in the Star Trek universe would be humanoid, bi-peds.  Of course, this was at least in part due to technological constraints regarding special effects.  In the 1960s it would have been much more difficult and much more costly, not to have the aliens played by actors in costumes and make-up and certainly in the 1990s and 2000s sufficient advancements had been made to make it possible for producers of the shows to use CGI technology to include other types of aliens besides humanoid bi-peds.  Nonetheless, Gene Roddenberry, made the declaration that aliens in the Star Trek universe would always be bi-pedal, humanoids.  So when, in ST: V they introduced “Species 8472″, I was bothered by the disregard for his preference.  Fortunately, Species 8472 had very few appearances on this show and therefore didn’t impact the entire thing.

Star Trek:  Enterprise, started out innocuously enough.  It was “just another” Star Trek series and I enjoyed it for what it was, but many viewers lost interest fairly quickly, and by the end of the second season, there was talk of cancellation.  I guess Paramount, who owns the Star Trek Franchise, and UPN, the now defunct network that aired it, wanted to give it one more shot.  The final episode of the second season, starts with an alien probe dropping out of subspace in orbit of earth and firing on the planet cutting a swath from Florida to Venezuela and in the process killing seven million humans, among them the younger sister of Commander Charles (Trip) Tucker , Chief Engineer.

In that moment the entire series changed and grew dark.  The ship and her crew were no longer on a mission of exploration and diplomacy.  They were out to find the bastards who attacked earth and stop them before they returned.

Xindi, Aquatic Species, from Star Trek: Enterprise

Xindi, Insectoid Species, from Star Trek: Enterprise

The weapon that had fired on earth was but a test, and the next one, would destroy the planet.  The race responsible for the attack was called the Xindi (pronounced ZEN-dee) and they were made up of five species.  Three of those species were traditional, bi-pedal, humanoids.  Two of them were not.  The Aquatics and the Insectoids were CGI and made semi-regular appearances on the show. For me, this detracted greatly as it seemed a blatant slap in the face of Gene Roddenberry’s original intent.

Star Trek:  Enterprise also had very little to offer in the way of positivity and optimism.  Captain Archer became dark and volatile after the attack on Earth (not that I don’t think that a reasonable response.)  As I’m writing this I’m realizing that the story then more closely paralleled our times with the attacks of September 11, 2001, and our desire to see the attackers brought to justice, but where the original series paralleled something that was an on-going (I imagine, though I’m too young to know) threat with no real result, September 11th was a very real attack, with real destruction and real death, and in my opinion, it was very uncomfortable to watch this sort of parallelism.

With the exception of the occasional nod in the TNG films, the other TNG series, DS9 and Voyager, were not deemed film worthy.  Yes, The Doctor from ST: V makes an appearance in Star Trek:  First Contact, and a post-Voyager “Admiral” Janeway, gives Captain Piccard his marching orders in Star Trek: Nemesis, but beyond that those other series might well have never existed as far as the Star Trek Film culture is concerned.

The presumed final Next Generation feature film, Star Trek: Nemesis came out in December, 2002 and while this film included, what appeared to be a lot of finality:  Will and Deana finally got married; Will finally accepted a promotion and his own command, leaving the USS Enterprise; and of course the sacrificial death of Lt. Commander Data, we are left slightly hopeful by the idea that Data’s predecessor, the “cleverly” named B-4, shows signs of being able to learn and make use of Data’s downloaded memory engrams.

Six years later, I’m less hopeful of an additional installment.

There is another Star Trek movie on the horizon, and while it doesn’t go back as far in history as Star Trek:  Enterprise did, it is still what you’d call a prequel and I’m not really sure why we’re doing it.  This movie will be about James Kirk and his crew in their younger, academy or possibly immediately post-academy days.  I watched a trailer for it the other day and I must say that, as an incarnation of Star Trek, I’m not impressed.  It’s dark and ominous and it doesn’t visually fit the Star Trek motif.  And with the comparatively dismal performance of the last attempt at a prequel, I’m really not sure what we’re hoping for here.  Are they expecting a resurgence of interest with the hopes of starting a whole new theatrical franchise or are they trying to squeeze one final drop of monetary blood out of a dying targ?  If this film flops will this be the end of the Star Trek legacy?  And if it doesn’t flop, then what?

It’s a Star Trek movie, and I will go see it, but a part of me can’t help wondering, shouldn’t we leave well enough alone?  If it must eventually end, and it must eventually end, can’t we let it end with dignity?  Do we have to squeeze and squeeze until we’ve gotten all the quality material out and then keep squeezing to get all the junk out too?  Might we be better off leaving well enough alone?

Earlier this year, Star Trek: The Experience, an all Star Trek themed exhibit at the Las Vegas Hilton ended its nearly eleven year run, an event which made me very sad at it’s closing and, simultaneously happy that I got the opportunity to see it myself.

Star Trek: The Experience, Las Vegas Hilton

I was never particularly fond of Lwaxana Troi, and I don’t know anything of Majel Barrett besides her Star Trek work.  As for the computer, she was just the voice and of course that’s easily explained away, if not merely replicated.  And yet some how, I have been truly moved by this.  I’m surprised by how sad this makes me, but it does.

With Gene Roddenberry’s death in 1991 the helm changed hands and things started changing.  Today with the announcement of the death of Majel Barrett, I just feel like, on some level, Star Trek has died with her.  Gene Roddenberry is gone.  Scotty is dead.  Dr. McCoy is dead.  William Shatner doesn’t want to play anymore.  Data is dead.  Will and Deana have jumped ship, so to speak.  Star Trek:  The Experience is gone.  And now, the voice of the computer is gone as well.

Lwaxana Troi died yesterday.  And, I think maybe, Star Trek died too.

I saw the movie this weekend and my thoughts are conflicted on the subject.  This version of Star Trek, on it’s own merits, was a decent science fiction action adventure movie.  The script had some troubled spots.  Eric Bana as the villain, Nero, was thoroughly unimpressive and his characters motivation throughout the film was not especially believable. Chris Pine’s portrayal of James Kirk comes off more as someone who accidentally saved the day and not a born hero destined for greatness.   His place as captain feels more like an error in judgment soon to be regretted than a natural fit.  Winona Ryder as Spock’s human mother, Amanda Grayson, is simply not believable.  Winona Ryder is not old enough to be Zachary Quinto’s mother and certainly not old enough to be Spock’s mother.  This was casting that I simply could not accept or ignore.  I could say more but with the movie in only it’s 4th day of release I would not want to be responsible for spoiling the plot for anyone who has not yet seen it.

More importantly to me, as an unabashed trekkie, this film ruined everything that is good about Star Trek.  It changes history and nullifies everything that Star Trek has been for 22 years.

K told me that JJ Abrams set out to make a Star Trek movie for the non-trekkie.  If that’s what he wanted he should have made a movie about an original, never before seen set of characters.  He should not have been allowed to make a movie that effectively destroys everything that is known and loved by existing Star Trek fans the world over.

Shame on you JJ Abrams!  And shame on you Paramount for allowing such a thing to happen.

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2 thoughts on “Where No One Has Gone Before, And May Never Go Again

  1. ok I won’t call you a nerd again. Ok yes I am.. the last time though.
    Maybe
    I wuffs you though even though u are a nerd.
    Ok really I’m done.

  2. Riggledo says: That’s OK. I’m secure in my nerduality! You may call me Nerd all you– waaaaah waaaaah waaaaah. OK, I too am done now!

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