Monday, March 2, 2015

Regarding Star Trek

I've got lots of other things to write about (kind of...if they were coherent, organized essays, they'd probably already be posted), but I should probably put them off to write a minute about Star Trek, considering the recent passing of Leonard Nimoy. Reading about his death has led me to a little reflection on my past...and isn't that part of what this blog is about (tooling over my thoughts and memories?)? is.

In the past, I have often identified myself as a "not fan" of Star Trek, or (more often) contrasted it with my super-fandom (somewhat) of Star Wars. While both franchises take place "in space" and are considered part of the "sci-fi" genre, there's a number of major differences between the two. Star Wars is fantasy and operatic, with battles between good and evil; it takes place in a fictional galaxy "far, far away" and is a simple adventure story with sci-fi tropes applied. The rubber masked aliens one encounters have all the same desires and issues one finds in any normal humans...culturally, there just ain't much difference between Jabba the Hutt (for example) and any human crime boss.

Star Trek, on the other hand, takes the opposite is (nominally) set in our own universe: the humans one encounters are all from standard Earth stock, not Corellia and Alderaan and Tattooine. But they are a more evolved-enlightened type human...a futuristic human and not of the cynical dystopian, cyber-punk-like variety found in other "Earth-based Sci-Fi" (see Total Recall, Blade Runner, etc.). The rubber-faced aliens encountered often have very alien wants and needs based on their own strange cultures and physiology, and whereas only the wookies (of Star Wars) stands apart with a non-human mentality (compared to Greedo or Dax or...well, just about anyone), even the human-looking aliens in Star Trek (like Nimoy's Spock character) exude alien "otherness." Non-humans are clearly inhuman in the Trek franchise, and a major part of the drama explores the dynamic of how the humans' values interact with these other sentient beings.

[leave aside the arrogance of purporting that Earth values are more "just" or "good" than those of most of the aliens encountered. It's a human-centric franchise written for and by good old Earth humans. Such arrogance can be forgiven, I think]

Star Trek, while an adventure program (each episode or film being its own "adventure") is, in some ways, a much more introspective raises questions to be considered by the viewer. Star Wars, despite its "episodic" structure, is really just a single story (well, each trilogy of films is its own story) and introspection be damned! It's about slam-bang action in a spectacular (visually speaking) galaxy. So, of course, me being me, I tend to prefer the latter.

[plus laser swords...I'm all about swords]

But to say I'm not a Trek fan is a bit inaccurate. Or disingenuous. As a child, I watched the syndicated reruns of the original series regularly, loving it. I wouldn't change the channel if it was on. I watched the first four films, loving them (and still enjoy The Wrath of Khan...whenever it's on TV I'll watch it). I even watched most of the first season or so of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I remember the episode when Tasha Yar got killed off and felt surprised by the event and disappointed with (the cheesiness of) her "memorial recording."

[you know Denise Crosby wouldn't have made a bad Wonder Woman]

That was back in 1988 and it was about that time that I stopped being interested in Star Trek. I never watched the fifth film of the franchise (which was released in 1989), nor any other Trek films until the 2009 reboot.  Notice I say "stopped being interested;" I'm not so sure that I actually lost interest in Star may have been more of a conscious decision than an actual "growing out of" the show. I honestly can't remember. But 1988 was a crazy, often difficult year for me...the end of middle school, the beginning of high school, and I had a severe falling out over the summer with a group of friends who'd been my best friends (and my core gaming group) for about seven years. Star Trek, with its idealistic universe and introspection was not something I was really interested in exploring anymore...real life was far from idealistic.


These days, I still don't identify myself as a Trek fan, though that's more out of habit (yes, habit) then actuality. Hell, I remember owning Star Trek dolls (of the 12" variety) back in the brother had Spock and that was the coolest one to play with. I remember seeing George Takei live at an event at the Seattle Center and thinking it was the height of awesome (I always loved Sulu...probably the fencing thing).

Everyone gets old, everyone dies. Time...being able to live for a good, long us some perspective over the events of our lives. From what I've read, Nimoy embraced his status as "Spock" in the last decades of his a symbol, as something that had touched and impacted the lives of many people. He may have preferred to have been better known for his other accomplishments: his charity, his stage acting, his writing and directing. But time gives us perspective and a chance to embrace (or at lest accept) those things which we, at first, resist. Introspection can be painful at times (and worse: it can be stagnating if you do nothing with it), but it can be a useful tool, too.

So long, Spock.

[by the way, I'm pretty sure I've posted this in the past, but for a truly awesome Star Trek RPG, please check out C.R. Brandon's Far Trek. You can download the free PDF from this site over here...very cool indeed]


  1. 1988 was a great year, as that's when I finally graced the world with my presence :p

    Sorry about the falling out. I certainly know what that's like

    I never really got into Star Trek. I tried a couple times, but First Contact and what episodes I happened to catch on TV kinda bored me as a kid (Star Wars was more my thing. I used to be obsessed with that before the prequels came out). Wrath of Khan was pretty good, though. Haven't gotten around to Search for Spock yet, but now's probably the perfect time

    1. @ Prof Oats:

      Certainly it wasn't a terrible year, but it was a challenging one (at times) for me personally.

      Being born in '88, your experience with Trek would be far different than my own. Realize that the original series ended in the 60s (before *I* was born); the syndicated reruns were all anyone saw for two decades. There were only four or five networks showing "TV shows" at all back then (movie channels like HBO only showed movies, MTV only played videos, no ScyFy or Discovery or History or AMC or TNT or Bravo or whatever...even for folks with cable). It wasn't really a choice of "getting into it;" if you wanted to watch a "space TV" show, that was it...well, except for Buck Rogers and the original Battlestar Galactica (oh...and Space 1999...THAT was some trippy-ass shit!).

  2. Just got to read through Far Trek. Awesomeness.

    1. @ Chris:

      Yeah, it's quite good. Haven't had the chance to play it, but it's got a lot of cool features (I think) that work well with the setting.