Trekking With The Enterprise Crew
Wednesday - May 24, 2006
Want to feel young and old at the same time? Just catch one of those reruns of Star Trek on cable. The episodes have been digitally remastered, making them look crisper and more brilliant than they did back in the day. I watched an episode based on an old submarine movie named Run Silent, Run Deep and was struck by a number of things.
For one, the show was darn good, something we tend to forget in this day of Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Modern-day special effects are so flashy and utterly convincing, the Star Trek cardboard sets and shaky explosions look quaint and downright cheesy by comparison. But I forgot all that as I became engrossed in a plot involving a cat-and-mouse strategic battle between Kirk and the Romulan commander. I forgot that, over time, the show would become a parody and William Shatner would morph into a caricature of his TV self. Tonight, Kirk was as handsome and dynamic as he was when I was a kid. Maybe it was the crystal clear picture; maybe it was because I haven’t bothered to watch the old episodes in years. But on this night I was transported, and it felt great. This was, after all, the series that shot us into space, the final frontier.
The Enterprise was a microcosm of our world with its multi-ethnic (and multi-alien) cast. The ship was our vehicle to explore other worlds, and in doing so allowed us to examine issues that included racism, class and caste, war and peace, and the human condition. At its best it was exhilarating and heartbreaking, as in The City on the Edge of Forever. It could also be silly and smarmy, as in The Trouble with Tribbles. The fact that I even remember the names of the episodes puts me squarely in the geek column, but hey! I wasn’t alone. We Trekkies adored the show so much we turned it into a cult classic that spawned a whole bunch of baby Star Treks. But none inspired the fanatical following of the original.
Why am I waxing nostalgic? Well I just read that some Hollywood types are thinking of creating yet another Star Trek series-this one would take place at the famous Star Fleet Academy and focus on the lives of young teens who in the time-bending alternate universe of Star Trek would some day become the crewmembers we watched grow old in too many awful movies. That’s right - Kirk, Scotty, Spock, Bones, all young, idealistic cadets with their lives ahead of them, still wet behind the ears and getting ready to plunge into TV history.
Gee, I feel oddly conflicted. Why can’t we just let these characters die? On the other hand, seeing them again all dewy and fresh may be just what a certain (ahem) maturing boomer population needs to feel rejuvenated again.
Young and old, both at once. Weird. But fitting for a generation that refuses to grow old and die.
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