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Old December 29 2011, 05:39 PM   #23
Paper Moon
Re: Trek Nation...Good, Bad, or Indifferent?

I just watched the rerun of this last night, and I gotta say, I really liked. Yes, there were issues: no mention of Roddenberry Sr.'s first marriage, a little (read: waaaaay) too much of Gene Roddenberry = Visionary stuff at the beginning, a paucity of interviews with the original actors (just Nichelle Nichols as far as I can recall).

But there was some really great stuff in there. I had heard Nichols' MLK story before, but not in that level of detail. (For instance, I hadn't heard that it was the only show MLK and Coretta would let their children stay up for.) And the people I was watching with, who are fans, and have seen many Star Trek episodes, but don't have the same amount of behind-the-scenes knowledge that I do, were profoundly moved by her story. I mean, for crying out loud, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Star Trek fan! And he thought it was important that Uhura stay on the Enterprise. How cool is that?

And we got new interviews with people that we, as members of the Star Trek community, owe a lot. DC Fontana, Ron Moore, Michael Pillar, and, of course, Rick Berman. (Say what you will about Berman, but without him, we would have a lot less to discuss here at TrekBBS. A lot less.) I thought the new interviews were interesting and had the benefit of more hindsight than earlier interviews, so we had new perspectives, etc. I mean, when was the last time someone sat down with Dorothy Fontana to talk about Star Trek and filmed it?

Also, we had George Lucas talking about Star Trek. Whoa. You know, he basically said that, without Star Trek, he would've had a lot harder time doing Star Wars, noting that Star Trek gave him precedent to not be realistic in space. I thought Roddenberry Jr. handled that sequence very well, and I liked the inclusion of the clip of Roddenberry Sr. talking about Star Wars.

On the downside, we really did have too much stuff about Gene Roddenberry being a "visionary," especially at the beginning. I thought they did a good job of bringing him back down to earth, but I think they set him up too high to begin with.

Yes, Gene had a vision of the future. And it was a beautiful one, too. Frakes summed it up perfectly: "In the 24th century, there will be no hunger, there will be no greed, and all the children will know how to read." When people ask me what Star Trek is about, that's what I tell them. And when you realize the time in which Gene had this idea, an era of Vietnam, JFK being shot, people rioting in the streets, the Cuban Missile Crisis... in many ways, it was a terrible time. And Roddenberry said that someday it won't be like this. We're not all gonna die in a mushroom cloud; it's going to be better than that.

But to call Roddenberry a "visionary," in my opinion, is a bit excessive. And it's much too easy to give Roddenberry waaaay too much credit. For example, I think it's safe to say that we owe TNG and everything that came after to the overall commercial success of Star Trek II, III and IV. And that only happened because Roddenberry was "kicked upstairs" and other people (Harve Bennett and Leonard Nimoy in particular) took over on the ground. TMP may have been a work of art, but it was far from a commercial success. Gene had a vision, but he had a hard time executing its portrayal effectively. And I think that's an important distinction to keep in mind.

I think this film is important to the Star Trek community for that very reason. It forces us in a healthy way to examine the man without whom we would not be having this discussion today. (For all his faults, we can say that about the Great Bird.)

Yes, Roddenberry Jr. has Daddy issues. But so what? Lots of people do. As someone who never knew his own grandfather, to whom I owe so much, I am frankly envious of Roddenberry Jr.'s ability to learn so much about his own father. I thought that the film did a good job of exploring a very poignant emotional question: how do I come to terms with the death of a man that I did not like in life but whom I now desperately want to know? I'm sure Roddenberry Jr. is not the only person to have grappled with those feelings.

Lastly, as someone who found Star Trek when he really needed to find Star Trek, I appreciated the inclusion of some stories about why Star Trek means so much to the fans. I know it is not a universal, but I think many Star Trek fans do form an emotional connection with the franchise that is hard to explain. And I appreciated Roddenberry Jr.'s effort to do so respectfully. And I think he succeeded.
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