Does it make me more of a nerd to admit that I think Star Trek is really cool? Or does it make me less of a nerd because I’m only just now admitting that in writing?
I guess I should start by saying that in this case, I’m talking specifically about Star Trek: The Next Generation, because I happened to catch a few episodes of those recently. But I’m not opposed to any of the others. Quite the opposite; when I was a little baby Voltech I used to drift off to sleep thanks to the lulling tones of reruns for TNG, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager. (Not Enterprise, though -- I don’t remember there being any reruns, at least none that threw themselves at me.) Most of the show’s dialogue was lost on me, naturally, but these days? If and when I catch reruns of TNG, I find myself pulling a Shulk and going “I’m really feeling it!”
In all honesty, though, I’m still a greenhorn when it comes to the franchise. So what do you say we unpack this for a bit? I’m sure it won’t be that hard, seeing as how it’s already off to a strong start. As if you needed a reminder that SPACE IS AWESOME.
I’m gonna have to bookmark that video one of these days.
So I don’t know about you Star Trek fans out there (wherever you are, if not here), but I find it hard to sit through an episode without a big smile creeping across my face. It’s the characters that make a story, and everyone’s going to have their favorites by tale’s end, but the optimal state is for a person to have a lot of trouble deciding just who their favorite is -- if at all. That’s the situation I’ve found myself in with TNG. I mean, Picard is so cool! But Riker is also cool! And Data’s cool! And Geordi’s cool! And Worf’s cool! And Troi’s cool! And Dr. Crusher’s cool, while also having a name befitting a supervillain for a 2X coolness bonus!
All of these characters are bursting with charm and charisma, so that anyone who names them as a favorite has every reason to. And there are even more characters than that that deserve some praise, because the core seven don’t exist in a vacuum. So in a way, I guess what impresses me immensely about the show is just how much it can get out of inaction -- with just a bunch of people standing or sitting around and chatting it up. There’s a level of tension in a conversation with approaching aliens than there is with just a bunch of lasers and torpedoes going off. And by the same token, seeing these people converse when there aren’t lives on the line is a reward in its own right.
My understanding of the ST universe is that it takes place in an era where pretty much all of the world’s problems and conflicts are solved. People from all walks of life (alongside aliens, in a lot of cases) go out and do cool space stuff for the chance to broaden their horizons. So anyone who needs inspiration to make a story that isn’t a dystopia or post-apocalyptic, here it is. Setting that aside, the conflicts don’t always have to be physical; they can be based on nature -- well, space-nature -- or just a clash of ideas.
I’ve said before that TNG had allure for me because it seems like a number of episodes deal with mysteries instead of “shooting up aliens”. Recently, I saw an episode where the entire crew of the Enterprise lost their memories. How do they handle it? One systematic search through records and management of ship power/resources after another. You know it’ll work out by episode’s end, but TNG makes it interesting by exploring the ramifications. What happens when the chain of command gets shattered because no one knows who the captain is? Legitimate conflicts of interest, wherein Worf thinks that getting the weapons systems back online takes priority over all else. What happens when the crew learns what their ranks are? Worf actually apologizes for being so rash and out-of-place, and asserts his loyalty to Picard and the cause.
Fun fact: the key to my heart is a character who loves him some LOYALTY.
I could go on about stuff I like about TNG (I’m seeing Riker in a whole new light), but I feel like I can’t talk about ST without talking about its present day form -- which in this case would be the reboot films spearheaded by JJ Abrams. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the films for myself (seen bits and pieces via stuff like CinemaSins), so I won’t pass any judgments. I certainly won’t do that now with news that perpetual badass Idris Elba might be attached. But if there’s one complaint I’ve heard, it’s that even if the movies are good action movies, they’re not good ST movies.
The spirit of wonder and exploration has been lost, some would argue, so that ST can be just like every other big blockbuster. To put it in video game terms, it’s like how the Tomb Raider reboot of 2013 had maybe one tomb in total and a whole bunch of murder. Now to be fair, it’s not as if other ST movies or even the original show never had big dumb action; First Contact might be awesome, but it’s still got a suited Picard firing a machine gun at heartless cyborgs. Sometimes compromises have to be made to bring in audiences, because even if I could dig a movie/show all about slow-burn conversations and meditations on interspecies interactions, there’s no guarantee anyone else will. Then again, that calls into question the audience for a ST movie -- whether it’s best to cater to fans and earn a little money, or take a different approach and embrace corruption for big bucks.
…This is an increasingly-complicated issue. Let’s have Riker with a trombone to diffuse some tension.
I guess something like First Contact had the TV show to allow a “change of direction” -- that is, because they did lots of talking in the show, they could explore a different avenue with the movie without too much of an uproar. People (wronged fans) had something to fall back on. The Abrams movies don’t really have that, do they? I’m sure there are supplementary materials floating around, but by and large it’s been the 2009 reboot, Into Darkness, and the upcoming third one. They have no such cushion, so they’re judged for being “what Star Trek is now”.
On the other hand, is that such a bad thing? Part of the fun of a franchise like this -- or any long-running franchise, on the same axis as the Zelda games -- is that it’s got the luxury of being able to reinvent itself according to a creative team’s whims. Which iteration is the best of them all? It’s hard to say conclusively, because of that pesky thing called an opinion. But I will say this: whether it’s the old ST or the new one, I’m always down to see what comes next in the franchise.
So with that all in mind, it’s your turn. Set a course for contemplation with the question of the day: how good is Star Trek, really? Got an opinion? Know the canon inside and out? Want to caress Riker’s beard or whisper sweet nothings into Worf’s ears? You know what to do then.
Side note: holy crap, I can’t believe there’s an English to Klingon translator. How much dedication does it take to set all that up -- the language, the translator, and all of that? Well, whatever. Let’s give this baby a whirl.
wa' cha' wej Huch jIHvaD dough nob Qo' bashed jIH je'laH 'e' baj 'ej vIneH
Only my brother will get that. As consolation: