Friday, May 13, 2005

Where No Man--or Woman--Has Gone Before

The final episode of the final Star Trek series (so far) ends tonight. Star Trek: Enterprise will be decommissioned and sent to TV drydock, possibly to appear in syndicated reruns like its predecessors. I’ve grown up with Gene Roddenberry's view of the future, wishing that humanity could evolve into benign, peace-loving explorers like Captains Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway. Some of my favorite television moments as a child were watching the good ship Enterprise gallop across the galaxy, discovering new worlds and going where no man—or woman—had gone before. Roddenberry’s world enriched my imagination with ideas and opportunities beyond what my white, poor-folk, under-achieving upbringing had yet to offer.

My family didn’t have a color TV in those days. On Friday nights we’d drive in our old International Scout to the home of my parent’s best friends to watch Star Trek on their color TV. They didn’t have kids and they treated us to home delivery foods from “Pizza Man: He Delivers” and “Want chicken tonight? Call Chicken Delight.” While my mama and Jane played canasta, my stepdad and Jim wrestled with the world’s problems in deep, existential debates that I loved to eavesdrop into. They were both latent beatniks, with brilliant minds, but lackluster motivation. Sometimes they played Joan Baez records, which swept me away in rich balladic episodes that nourished something deep inside I’ve yet to discover. But I regress.

Star Trek was broadcast on Friday nights in my viewing area. Running prior to Star Trek were those quintessential 1970s sitcoms, The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family. The middle of three sisters, it’s no surprise that I found The Brady Bunch about as exciting as a baloney sandwich. Was I jealous of Marcia and did I find my identity with poor middle sister Jan? In truth, while The Brady Bunch amused me in those hours before Star Trek, the posh world of the Bradys was so far from my reality that I could not suspend my disbelief to appreciate it. My mother was divorced, not widowed. I had a stepfather, but no fun and frisky brothers. We lived in a stucco cubicle with old cars and hand-me-down clothes. I was short and brunette and cursed with a warped body image. It’s not hard to see why the leap to Roddenberry’s universe where women could wear a mini-skirt, achieve success, find love, and still be respected, appealed to me. And they didn’t have to look like Marcia Brady.

The original Star Trek episodes that I adored as a child became cult classics in college. I thought Captain Kirk was a fairly desirable leading man and heroic leader until The Next Generation emerged. While Patrick Stewart's brilliant acting empowered the new captain of the new Enterprise, it was the character of Jean Luc Picard that enchanted me. He was the ideal champion, a warrior poet who could quote Shakespeare as easily as he could vanquish an enemy. It took several episodes of the first season with Next Generation for me to get past my prejudices in favor of classic Trek, but I grew to appreciate New Generation's fresh vision and stellar writing. I found subsequent Star Trek spin-offs spiraling down to inter-galactic soap operas which were entertaining in a grand scheme, but lacking the imaginative wonder of classic Trek and Roddenberry’s revisionary Next Generation.

The truth is, I never could get into Star Trek: Enterprise. The characters were all too wooden to me. The concept of filling in the years between the emergence of space travel and where classic Trek began was fraught with problematic errors in Federation and Star Fleet history. Still, I’m sorry Star Trek producers haven't come up with another brilliant concept to keep the Roddenberry universe alive.

I’d love to read anyone’s Star Trek raves, reviews, or rants. What were your favorite Trek episodes from any series? Click on the blue COMMENT link below and share with us.


Jackie said...

Just before TNG launched as a series, I was irate -- positively beside myself -- over the very idea of a Klingon ((gasp)) being on the bridge of the Enterprise. Outrage! Unspeakable!

But over time, the writers got to know the characters, and boy, did those characters grow. Wolf's hair became a tad wilder. Bill Riker quickly became Will Riker, and the ladies swooned. I still think the idea of having a councelor on the bridge is idiotic, but hey, no one ever asked my opinion. But I still cheered when Deanna realized she was technically a commander, and she started learning more about that role (and wearing ((gasp, again)) a Starfleet uniform).

I enjoyed the campy original Trek. I came to love the character-driven TNG. I never got into DS9 or Voyager, although not for lack of trying. And as much as I'm a fool for Scott Bakula, I couldn't get into Enterprise.

Star Trek will always strike a chord with me.

danielle said...

I loved the original Star Trek, especially Bones and the way he'd get Spock to raise that one eyebrow.

TNG was super, too. I agree, Captain Picard was one to lust after but I wouldn't have minded hanging out with Wild Bill for a night or two.

Nice blog!