Monday, December 16, 2013

Star Trek, The Mother Load

Yes. It looks like a penis.
It's Star Trek.  

It's always been Star Trek. 

Where else can you find the widest range of fans around--or fans with such longevity?  Some of the most meaningful Trek is over 40 years old; some of best Trek is the most recent iteration.  Trek, and its fans, can encapsulate the very best about popular culture, television viewers, and, I daresay, humanity itself.  In the 1960s, the fandom latched onto the notion that with cooperation and understanding, peace and prosperity could become a universal ideal.  To that end, fans have seen the (then) far-fetched notion of a multi-racial incorporation of individuals who advance based on their skills, not adherence to the old boys club.  Just consider the bridge of the Classic Enterprise: Black, Asian, WASP, Jew (insofar as Misters Nemoy and Shatner are Jewish), Russian, and Southern American (this last one being its own category in some circles).  Aside from Uhura being made to wear a skirt to work everyday, all are blindly equal.  This is what Trek fans have embraced.

Then there's the seedy underbelly--and underbelly fed by the 1980s glut of Trek.  They were high times then: films every few years, the start of The Next Generation, and merchandising.  Ah, the merchandising that was eaten up by any loyal fan.  Toys weren't for children--they were collectors items!  Pocket Books wasn't for pedestrian paperbacks--they were for semi-official Trek novels, of which one needed to read... all of them!
He's an Admiral now.

And then there were the fan clubs.  Hello, my name is Matt, and I'm a recovering Star Trek fan club member.  I know of what I speak, having inauspiciously served "aboard" the USS Challenger for a time in my pre-driving teens.  My parents, I'm sure, were thrilled to drive me and my friend to our monthly meetings.  And what a bunch it was, meeting in an empty, cold, sparse first aid building.  In retrospect, it was like the worst up-and-coming religion ever, just kind of sitting around and praising great god Trek.  Captain Bob was engaged or dating the first officer; she, in turn, seemed to have some rather serious illness.  The typical meeting started with some sort of whole group "thing" (perhaps a report of whoever had gone to the latest convention), and there would be a look ahead to upcoming things (probably the upcoming convention).  Then we'd break into "section time," or some such name.  I was in engineering.  The... sigh... yes, I'll say it... "chief of engineering" was in the process of overseeing our ships... sigh... refit.  How one refits an imaginary ship, and how it takes longer than a moment, I do not know.  I do recall that he was dead set on the ship having four engines (which I'd venture gives you little benefit but more work for the engineering crew), and demanded that the new boat be painted in gunmetal gray.  He spat hate talking about how the stupid show dared light its ships, claiming that the bad guys couldn't shoot what they couldn't see.  I, as an early teen, dared not point out that a) the bad guys used sensors that detected more than the visual spectrum and b) it was just a show.  He further stated that he had never watched TNG, as it was impossible to build a ship with curved, fluid lines.  I dared not point out that the whole of Star Trek was rather silly, from a nuts-and-bots, realistic point of view: aliens, transporters, warp drive, etc.

I stopped going to Challenger meetings shortly before my 13th birthday.  You see, at the time there was a funny television program called Saturday Night Live.  I think that it has no relation to the unfunny show of the same name on now.  Patrick Stewart hosted, and even though the show was in decline at the time, I as a Trek fan, watched.  It wasn't that great.  The "erotic cake" bit seemed like the future of SNL: drawn out and stupid.  But here's the kicker: everyone at Challenger saw the episode.  Live.  The night before our Challenger meeting.  And you know what everyone did after "section time?" We went into the next room to watch Patrick Stewart on SNL.  For the second time.  In a little over 12 hours.

This was also the time that I stopped being a part of "Starfleet," the national officially-sanctioned Trek fan club.  They had the most stupid of controversies: some Vice Admiral (running for election as Head of Starfleet or whatever stupid title was bestowed upon the president of the fan club made) made a joke about Klingons.  Pan-de-mon-ium broke out. She (a woman of color, ironically) was branded a racist.  In classic "how not to handle a crisis" mode, she first fought the onslaught, then gave a half-assed excuse (she was speaking "in character as a movie-Trek-era person," then ultimately had to give up her aspirations to be Head of Starfleet.  The pound of flesh was her resignation from the organization.

Thus, then, is what makes Trek the mother load for crazy-ass fans.  Born of an aspiration for a better world, its fans at the height of the franchise would meet in cold first aid buildings to watch a lousy show because it had "a guy from Star Trek."

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