Friday, December 05, 2003

Star Track

You've heard me bitch about Star Trek before. As we all know, I'm a big Trekkie. Not a "Trekker," by the way; I don't need to make up some sort of bullshit moniker to try and hide how big of a fucking loser dork I am. Anyway, this article got me thinking about the sorry state of the franchise yet again.

I really wish Paramount would give Trek a rest for the time being. After the most recent two series, we're not in a good place. Voyager, with the exception of the Holodoc and Seven of Nine when she first arrived (and no, not just because she was hot, but that was part of it), was total shit. Enterprise isn't much better. Like I said in that linked post, a couple of characters are cool, the rest of them are not. Besides, when one of the best characters is the hick, that oughta tell you a lot.

Star Trek, as a franchise, has lots of problems with it. One of the biggest, I've always felt, is Rick Berman, the man who took over after Gene Roddenberry died. Berman really doesn't give a shit about anything other than doing what he wants and what he likes. This was never more evident than with his comments one time about the atrocious opening theme of Enterprise. This fucking opening song is nearly universally reviled as being the worst piece of shit ever, anywhere, at any time. But will Berman do anything about it? No, because in his words, "I like it." Nevermind what might actually be pleasing to fans. If ol' fuckhead Berman likes it, it goes.

It isn't entirely Berman's fault, of course. Sure, it's real easy to pick on him, but there are plenty of other issues. Like the fact that Star Trek is fucking old. I mean, nearly 40 years. That's a long time for an entertainment franchise. Shit has been hashed, then rehashed, and then rehashed some more. There's only so much that you can do before you've run out of unique, interesting ideas, but they're trying to pretend to do it with a total of 10 movies and five TV series thus far.

That last set of figures points out another problem: overexposure. We've been bombarded with so much shit, with a good deal of it being actual shit (like, Voyager). Part of the problem there is that a lot of the overexposure has come well past Trek's prime. The franchise hit a peak in popularity back in '94 when The Next Generation was going off the air (at least as far as I've seen in my lifetime). I mean, even mainstream media was paying decent attention to Trek, which doesn't happen all too often. Liking Star Trek almost wasn't as nerdy for about six seconds.

Since '94, we've been hit with the last several seasons of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and four movies. That's a decent amount in 9 years coming mostly from just one team.

Even though we'd still be close to where we are now, things wouldn't be so bad if not for poor execution. Take for instance the end of DS9. DS9 was decent for the first five years, even though it lost my interest for awhile, but then was pretty good the last two seasons. And how do they reward us? By wrapping up waaaaay too much shit (like a fucking war) in the last half hour of the series. This was followed by Sisko leaving his son, new wife, and unborn child behind so he could hit the pub with his buddies, the Prophets. Oh, yeah, and a bunch of other fucking people packed up and left the station, too. That disunity just left me with a real sour taste when I though of how Next Gen ended: with the last shot being the main cast sitting around a poker table playing cards. "All Good Things..." is how you end a fucking series, my friends. "What you leave behind" is not.

Okay, the lack of unity amongst the cast sorta makes sense if the rumors that they all hated eachother and wanted to get the fuck out of there was true. Still, it doesn't change the shitty pacing of things, nor does it excuse making Sisko look like a total dick, even if he was going to hang out with gods.

Speaking of bad endings, that brings us to Voyager's last episode. I liken this to sitting there being fucked in the ass for seven seasons, and then just as you're getting used to that unpleasant feeling, they shove a big juicy cock into your mouth for you to choke on.

Even though I mostly lost track of Voyager after a couple of seasons, I watched on occasion up to the last episode. Then there were people who were there for all seven fucking years. Seven years of watching this ship and crew trying to get back home. And how are we all rewarded? With a big fight against the Borg for most of the last episode, with the ship getting back to Earth at the very end of the episode, and then... We're done! No "welcome home" celebration, no getting an idea as to where the characters' lives will go now that they're back, nothing. Just a shot of the ship in orbit of Earth superimposed on an image of Berman giving you the finger, then the credits.

As another point of poor execution, let's talk about the Borg for a minute, and how Voyager ruined them. Remember how they Borg were once really scary, and you were like, "fuck, how they hell is the Enterprise going to get out of this one?" when they showed up? Then Voyager came along and totally pussified them, driving them so low as to bringing them to the level where they could be bargained with. Shit, thanks to Voyager, I almost feel that if the Borg walked into my office right now, I could fucking take them. Oh, yeah, then there's the whole "we rehabilitated Seven of Nine after years of being a Borg," which just made Picard look like a total cold-blooded killer in First Contact.

These are just a few of the lowlights, of course, but we might as well get Enterprise into the mix. I already mentioned some problems with the show in that earlier post (shitty, apathetic writers, lame characters, no concern for continuity, etc.), but one huge one, for me at least, was the whole fucking premise of the show. "A Star Trek prequel! Neat!" Not neat. Out of all the ideas I heard being thrown around for a new series back when Enterprise was in the planning stages, a prequel was the worst one. I hated the idea of going backward, when one of the principles of the whole goddamn franchise was about looking forward. And it wasn't just going backward, it was going backward in a manner that could potentially trample on all sorts of shit that was already well established. Plus, the dork in me wanted to see something further in the future just so we could see cool new shit, instead of a goddamn ship that doesn't even have shields. Makes me wanna polarize someone's hull plating, alright... Whatever the fuck that means.

Clearly, if Trek was going to continue, they had to move out of the 24th century. Three series set in the same time period had fucked the life out of that time period. But why the hell did that have to go back in time? This isn't a fucking Huey Lewis song, goddammit, no matter how much I happen to like Huey Lewis.

In the end, what all this amounts to is that no one cares about Trek anymore. They're burned out, they're fed up, they're gone. Yeah, there's some hard-core fans out there who still support the franchise. There are some people who will never leave, because they'll eat whatever shit Paramount shovels at them so long as it has Star Trek written on it.

This to me is just sad, that the venerated Trek saga has just become an old, abused whore. It's sad because Trek was more than what most people knew it as, namely, a sci-fi fest that nerds wet themselves over. Yes, the cool technology and the outer space shit is neat to all of us, but to me, Trek (the good parts of it, at least), has always been so much more.

Ask any dork why he likes Star Trek, and you'll probably get some variant of this: "It represents a positive view of the future of humanity!" God, I get so sick of that bullshit, overplayed, canned response. It's partly because of people like this (who are often at cons in pointy ears or a full-on Klingon getup, or, worse yet, fucking know the Klingon language which, yes, they have actually made up) that Trek has such a bad rep, one that people never get past.

Yes, the "positive view of the future" stuff is true - but that barely scratches the surface. Star Trek's roots are in the sixties, the time of the peak of the Cold War, Vietnam, Civil Rights, and what have you. A good deal of the original series, Next Gen, and even DS9 is pure social commentary. Each episode is more than just people in spandex running around space; each episode is like a mini-morality play. The show has always been more about that than being a sci-fi show; it's commentary which is merely packaged in the futuristic setting. Probably surprising to many is that I really don't like sci-fi as a genre, but Trek really appealed to me because it offered more than just spaceships and aliens.

Again, of course, even I get a hard on for phasers and warp cores. I'm pretentious, for sure, but not so pretentious that I won't cop to that fact. Fuck, I own theStar Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual; I know how warp drive is supposed to work. I couldn't run from that nerdiness even if I wanted to.

An entertainment writer once questioned as to whether or not The X Files was "thinking man's sci-fi." Yeah, for a stupid man, it is. This is nothing against X Files, because I really liked that show, before T1000 (AKA Richard Patrick's brother) showed up, of course. X Files, though, was pretty low-common-denominator stuff, and didn't really require a lot of thought to figure out what the hell was going on. It was still fun, nonetheless, but I would have to say that Trek long ago took the role of "thinking man's sci-fi" if ever a series deserved it.

Despite this proud history, nowadays Star Trek is not just a sci-fi fest that nerds wet themselves over, it's a sci-fi fest that nerds wet themselves over that's a piece of shit. This lousy situation has me wishing that Paramount would quit raping Roddenberry's corpse, cut their losses, and just let things die out already. Maybe in ten years or so do another movie at a time when people might be excited about the prospect of new Trek, maybe even craving it.

This, of course, won't happen. And I understand why; Paramount is in business to make money. Even if I can understand the pragmatism behind the drive to keep Trek on the air, I still think it sucks.

No comments: