Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Spirit of Trek Part I: The Originals

Well, for the first time since the premier of Next Generation, there is soon to be no Star Trek on TV, as this season will be Enterprise's last. This has got me ruminating on Star Trek, the state of the franchise, and my relationship with that franchise throughout my life.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Star Trek.

One of my earliest childhood memories (back in the primitive 1970's) was watching the original series on Saturday mornings. That's right, in the midst of the "Creature Feature" (bad horror/50's sci-fi fest where I saw many I *thankfully* would not see again until Mike and the bots had their way with them) and the cartoons was this live action sci-fi show.

I'm not exactly sure how early this was in my life, but to give you an idea of how early it was in my development it was during one of these broadcasts (an episode I had seen several times) that I realized the show wasn't happening live. That's right, I thought Bill and the boys were putting them on live every week.

I didn't even know what sci-fi was, but I knew the show had aliens and spacecraft and a whole bunch of other stuff I wasn't seeing anywhere. This sparked a love for science fiction of the adventure variety (as opposed to the kind that reads like a combination of a physics textbook and stereo instructions) and led to me reading a ton of cool books, including the Burroughs John Carter of Mars and Hollow Earth books.

And during the 70's the love affair continued in the theaters. The first time I remember standing in line at a theater was to see Star Trek: the Motion Picture. The FX blew me away. I loved it. It wasn't till years later I actually realized the movie was kind of plodding (though I'd be willing to bet it's a MUCH nicer experience on the big screen).

And then of course, there was Wrath of Khan. Now this was what Trek was all about. Ships were blowing up, creatures were placed in bodies to control minds, Kirk was screaming, McCoy was pissed and Spock had a plan up his sleeve.

The movies were fantastic. The Search for Spock introduced the best Klingon villain ever (I still think Christopher Lloyd is the best bad-ass Klingon, although Duras, Lursa and B'tor are close), and the Bird of Prey is easily one the best starships ever seen on the shows (top 5 starships: Original Enterprise, Bird of Prey, Defiant, Exclesior, Original Klingon).

Still, as good as these movies were, and as well as the original shows held up to the passage of time, it was hard to describe Star Trek as an actual universe or setting. We always saw it through the eyes of Kirk, Spock and the crew of the Enterprise.

What was the rest of the universe like? Was everyone in Star Fleet above the rank of Captain insane? Was every starship commander a maverick? Why the hell did a "peaceful" organization like Starfleet have standing general orders a ship's Captain could give to wipe out all life on a planet?

Well, when the show returned to the small screen, we were about to find out how well this vision Gene Roddenberry had of the future would hold an audience's interest without Kirk there to kick ass and take names 5 seconds after announcing that he came in peace.

To be continued...

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