I bet you thought I’d forgotten about this series of essays didn’t you?
Well all I can say is shame on you.
I love writing these essays and there is no way I would neglect to finish the Star Trek installments. That being said it has been an extremely busy and emotional month. My kids are wrapping up their school year, the day job (at night) has been a massive clusterfuck, looks like we are going to have to move out of our home this summer because of the property changing ownership (although we now own my in-laws house so we can move in there but I don’t want to), I have not been getting nearly enough time with the people I love, and my beloved Bearded Dragon Tatsu passed away at the age of 5.
Not asking for sympathy just sharing the situation.
So now we move on and start looking at better days. This summer is going to be good, I can taste it. We are in the middle stages of getting ready for Gen Con where I’m making my debut on the convention circuit and I’m pretty damn stoked about that. To sweeten the pot there is a very good, and I mean VERY GOOD chance I will be quitting the day job and writing fulltime by Halloween. So I really have nothing to complain about.
Now, on to the final Trek Installment.
There is no Star Trek, other than reruns, on television these days. When Enterprise went off the air it was the end of an era. I’m still upset about it a decade later but television has never, in my life at least, been the only way to enjoy Star Trek. And while the secondary venues never had as much influence on my creativity as the shows they still warrant a mention.
I will not be speaking of the Toys in this essay. I was never a Star Trek toy person until I was an adult so unlike the toys of my youth they never had a major influence on my creative foundation. That being said as I write this I can look across the room and see my Deep Space Nine toy with miniature enterprise and a row of model starships from the various eras displayed in my living room. So while they weren’t influential enough to warrant space here I still love them.
I also fly them around the house making “PEW PEW” noises.
For a lot of Star Trek fans the movies are more important than the shows. I don’t fall into that category, for me the shows will always have pride of place in the Star Trek universe. That’s not to say I don’t like, and in a few cases absolutely fucking love, the Trek movies. But they can be a mixed bag at best. I’m going to give a quick rundown of the movies and how I feel about each of them. I’m not including the JJ Abrams flicks in this list. They will get their own entry at the end of this essay.
Star Trek the Motion Picture (STTMP): I don’t like the first Star Trek movie. It’s too long, it’s boring, the character relationships are completely gone, and the ending was predictable as fuck even for a kid of five. The movie did/does have two things going for it. The first is it was gorgeous to look at, I know the original effects may not hold up to today’s tricks and miracles but back then… damn it was a good looking flick. The second, and in my mind, best thing STTMP is McCoy. When we first see Doctor McCoy in the movie he has a full beard and looks like he was dressed by the same person who outfitted Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, it’s one of the greatest scenes ever committed to film. I am laughing as I write this because there is a GIF of the scene running right next to Word of my screen. Gods bless you Deforest Kelly! This movie did nothing for me as a creator, although grandma did get me some of the MEGO figures from Gold Circle. This movie taught me that even a hot bald chick and Disco Doctor McCoy can’t save a sub par film.
Star Trek the Wrath of Khan (STTWOK): I will say this right off the bat, STTWOK is the best of all the Trek movies. You are more than free to disagree with me… you are also free to be wrong. No I kid, I understand that some people do not prefer his one, I can’t comprehend why but I understand. For me this one has everything. I t has Genesis, space battle, amazing effects, and mother fucking KHAN!!! Oh yeah and at the end Mr. Spock sacrifices himself to save his friends from certain death and I bawl like a damn baby every time. The one thing this movie did for e as a creator was show me an awesome spaceship battle.
Star Trek the Search for Spock (STTSFS): This one is a seriously confused movie. Some of it I like (The Klingons and the return of Mark Leonard as Sarek) and some of it I absolutely hate (Bringing Spock back and giving the middle finger to his sacrifice). In the end it’s a serviceable movie but does nothing for me as a Trek fan or as a creator. Although the look on Shatners face when he’s informed that the Klingons have killed his son is epic. I learned from this movie, and from X-Men comics which I will get too later, that if you give somebody a noble death don’t cheapen it by bringing them back.
Star Trek the Voyage Home (STTVH): If it wasn’t for STTWOK this would be my favorite Trek movie with the original cast. There is nothing about this movie I don’t love. It was the first Trek movie I saw in the theater and the first I ever owned on VHS. This movie has the right mix of action, comedy, and the social commentary Star Trek has always been famous for. And if you don’t like it… well DOUBLE DUMB ASS ON YOU! This movie taught me you can weave humor and social commentary into a tale and not have it be trite.
Star Trek the Final Frontier (STTFF): I hate this fucking movie. I wish this movie could be erased from the cannon of Star Trek films. After the amazing STTVH I was amped for the newest Trek movie. It was the first time I ever walked out of a theater and wanted to punch a hobo in the face. There is nothing redeeming about this movie. It’s boring, it’s stupid, it panders to the audience, and it’s the only thing that has ever made me ashamed to be a Trekkie. The only thing I learned from this movie is what not to do.
Star Trek the Undiscovered Country (STTUC): This movie saved the entire Star Trek movie franchise for me. The story was smart and action packed. There was mystery and humor. There was a Klingon General quoting Shakespeare. But the capper was Captain Hikaru Sulu commanding officer of the USS Excelsior. This isn’t just a really good Star Trek movie this is an excellent Science Fiction film. From this movie I learned that even if you royally fuck up the last thing you do you don’t give up. Instead you double down and try harder next time.
Star Trek Generations (STG): I liked this one, I know that’s a controversially position to take on the movie which transitions from Original to Next Generation crews but I stand by it. Kirk dies in this movie and we get to see the new crew on the screen for the first time. I really liked how the Kirk/Picard interactions were handled and I though the two powerhouse actors had excellent chemistry. It wasn’t a perfect movie but it was fun. This movie convinced me it doesn’t have to be excellent to be good.
Star Trek First Contact (STFC): This movie amazing. I’m not sure what else to say about it. If I didn’t have the nostalgia for STTWOK that I do I would say this was the best Star Trek movie of all time. My childhood pinnacled with this flick even though I was twenty some years old when it came. This movie showed me how to do it right.
Star Trek Insurrection (STI): Trek fans really seem to hate this movie. I don’t understand that mindset. It’s not the nest of the Trek flicks but damn it’s a fun movie. In my mind it is the spiritual sibling of STTVH. It’s funny, it’s smart, it has good action, and it’s a rocking ride. I mean damnit Counselor Troi and Doctor Crusher talk about the firmness of their tits. What isn’t awesome about that? This movie showed me that just because I love something doesn’t mean everyone else will… which mean they are idiots.
Star Trek Nemesis (STN): This movie is magnificent and it killed the Star Trek movie franchise for a long time. This is the only Star Trek movie to use my favorite Star Trek villains The Romulans. The story is solid, the action is intense, and the acting is first rate. So why was it an unmitigated flop? Because it opened against The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, it’s just that simple Warner Brothers and Peter Jackson killed Star Trek on the big screen. This movie showed me timing is everything.
This section is going to be short and sweet. Star Trek has been a giant presence in the realms of books, comic books, Roleplaying Games (RPGs), and video games for most of my life. Unlike the toys and some of the vintage board games the influence the secondary sources have had on my creative bedrock has been minimal.
Comic Books: You would think that as big of a comic book fan as I am Star Trek would have been at the top of my pull list. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I have never been a fan of the Star Trek comics. Compared to the novels (I’ll speak of them in minute) and the shows the comic books are weak sauce at best. I’m not saying they’ve been bad, although some of them have been atrocious, but they just aren’t great.
Video Games: I’m a moderate video game player at best. I’ve played a fair sampling of the Star Trek games and they range the gamut from awful to awesome. But video games have never been very influential on me.
Roleplaying Games (RPGs): Much like with comic books you’d think I would have been massively into Star Trek RPGs. Well I wasn’t. Not because they were bad, I’ve read a lot of them and they are pretty decent, but because I had nobody to play them with.
Novels: The novels are the exception. I started reading the Star Trek novelizations when I was a kid in the 80’s. Some of them were amazing and some of them were mediocre but at the end of the day they were always something new. The novels, like all of the secondary venues, aren’t cannon in the Star Trek Universe and for a long time I had a problem with that. I wanted everything to dovetail nicely and make sense with everything else. It took me until I was an adult to realize I was being myopic on the issue. In a multiverse where all things are possible I needed to relax. Just because the stories didn’t take place in the TV/Movie universe didn’t invalidate them. The novels taught me to look beyond my preconceptions of what was the right way to do things, this was reinforced when JJ Abrams rebooted the series.
We went a lot of years without new Star Trek on the large or small screens. When it was announced television wonder kid JJ Abrams was bringing Star Trek back to the theaters I was cautiously optimistic. I’d been a fan of his television work for years and thought he could maybe do something fresh and exciting. Then it was announced he was rebooting and not continuing the franchise.
I like many were devastated.
This was the end of our Star Trek. Forty years of continuity and awesomeness were finished. We were going to have to forget what we loved and try to embrace a “Mirror Mirror” version of Star Trek. It felt like a part of my creative soul had just been tied to the altar and the feather headed priest was holding the obsidian dagger above me. I started to hope Quetzalcoatl was a just a fair god.
Then there was hope.
It was leaked, probably on purpose, that Leonard Nimoy would be integral to the movie. This was a confusing revelation. Were we being played? JJ was notorious for misdirection and there would be no way of knowing what was true and what was fiction until the movie was released.
When it was everything changed.
Star Trek 2009 (ST2009): In the end after all of my fears, JJ saved the franchise. This movie is wonderful. I was already a working writer when it was released so there has been minimal influence on me. But I love this movie for being Star Trek, in every way it has the heart of Trek while taking it in a new direction.
Star Trek into Darkness (STID): Yet again I find myself at loggerheads with many of my fellow Trekkies. I really liked this movie and every time somebody tries to tell me why it’s awful I just look at them and shake my head in confusion. Sometimes I just don’t understand my fellow fans.
I’ve been thinking about these two movies and my initial assessment that there has been no influence on my creativity from them. I think I may have spoken too soon. These movies are a prime example of how something long cherished can be reinvented and elevated without debasing the source material.
You would’ve thought Battlestar Galactica would have taught me that.
Alright boils and ghouls, that’s a wrap on the Star Trek section of these essays. I probably could’ve made it longer and maybe I should have made it shorter, but in the end I am happy with it. Next time I will move onto a new focus of this series, not sure which direction I’ll take but I’m sure t will be geeky and filled with excessive cursing.