They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

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Going, Going... Gone?

Locus Online has a link to an article in the LA Times: Orson Scott Card says good riddance to Star Trek. In it, Card argues that Star Trek was a 1930s SF show made popular because it was the only SF that people in the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. ever saw. And that before VHS, DVD, MPEG and TiVo, the only way to watch an old TV show, was if someone syndicated it. Thus spawned all the letter writing campaigns and later the whole fandom thing.

He also mocked the thought that people might base a career move on whether or not the new city had Star Trek re-runs. I suspect that might be true. I once vowed to never live in an area which had GTE as the local phone company, so horrified was I at some of the issues which showed up with people I knew who had to wrestle with GTE in the pre-AT&T Break-up days.

But think about it. Is it so crazy? My mother always said, "You go where the job is." Remember, though, that my parents went through the Great Depression, World War II and an era where employment-for-life was a distinct possibility if you kept your nose clean and worked hard. When you move, though, if you a have a choice, don't you choose communities with good schools, stores, parks, recreation...? And if watching Star Trek is your thing, do you really want to change? (We're not arguing whether this is a healthy obsession or not -- grin.)

Time to Die

In his opinion piece, Card mentions some of the shows which are so much better, more imaginative. He mentions Firefly as an example of doing 1930s SF in modern times better. Yeah, but...

My wife and I recently watched all the extant episodes of Firefly on DVD. And my wife isn't into Westerns at all. Yet we found the show charming, complicated on the interpersonal level, and fresh. And cut off too soon. There's lots of commentary on the web about how FOX-TV screwed up the show, screening the episodes out of order to destroy the story arc and introductions -- intentionally or because they "just didn't get it." There's a whole lot of shows out there, at least those not in the Law & Order/CSI universes, which networks are no longer willing to give a running chance to. While other shows are proclaimed The Greatest Newest Hit in the promo for next week's episode -- after you've just watched the Series Premiere, so how the hell do they know it's a hit? A few shows are sleeper hits, and they re-run early episodes or do a summary show, as they just did with Lost the other week.

So maybe some of the hostility comes from the fact that the Trek crowd actually pulled it off -- turned a less-than three year run into a more than thirty-five-year run.

Star Trek: Enterprise was the last in a line of shows (OST, ST:NG, ST:DS9, ST:Voy, plus the movies) and arguably the least popular. Of course, the fact that no one watches UPN couldn't have anything to do with that. Or that in the Grand Rapids area, the local station frequently preempts the regular time slot for sports, and so you have to catch as catch can the episodes. Syndication is supposed to make the show available -- not hide it.

It's been very interesting comparing ST:E with that other Gene Roddenberry also-ran, Andromeda. Both are more wild universes -- not nearly as antiseptic as Picard ran into. But ST:E has "front story" (as opposed to back story) and part of the fun has been watching old friends and enemies in their first contact stages. Of course, both Enterprise and Andromeda have also taken long detours for story arcs which may have driven away some of their audience. Oops.

Is It Real Sci-Fi?

The two greatest SF franchises are Star Trek and Star Wars. And 2005 is a big wind-down year for both franchises. What are the huddled masses to watch next year? (grin)

However, Star Wars is arguably not SF to many critics. It's just set in space. And loads of people have fallen in love with Lord of the Rings without diving headfirst into Fantasy in general, as well. (Some similar arguments can be made with Harry Potter, as well.) In fact, part of the reason that Sciffy types sniff at Star Trek and Star Wars, is that their successes don't always add to the field. And this isn't just sour grapes about the money. (well, mostly)

However, I think you can waste a whole lot of time worrying about whether what is successful and popular is the "right" sort of SF. Face it -- Hollywood is going to waste money in the wrong direction and ruin perfectly good novels/series no matter how much you rail against them. The numbers, pro and con, are never going to work out right. I recall during the incredible six-month run of Titanic in movie theatres, that CBS pitched one of their trashy shows by saying something like 7 million people had seen Titanic -- and 42 million has watched their show in ONE night.

Even if Hollywood accounting makes no rational sense, it is still a business and with a business, money and numbers matter.

So Should We Just Lay Down and Accept Trash?

Hell no. We live in a society where we are free to express opinions and vote with our pocketbooks. And we can rail against anything we like.

Star Trek in all its incarnations, and with all the attempts to make motion pictures without anyone remembering that the success of the shows had a little bit to do with having a plot, inspired great loyalty and interest. There really is a Klingon Language Institute, which is much more than just a bunch of drunk fans quoting TV dialogue -- turns out in the business and scholarship of language analysis and research, it is handy to have a "non-human" language to test theories on. So when these guys get serious, it isn't an act. Supposedly a number of the researchers are CIA and NSA types, who can test code-breaking theories with Klingon texts. Yikes! (That is so cool!)

And a lot of Star Trek fans, like SF fans everywhere, have a strong "justification" discriminator, whereby we explain away inconsistencies and outright mistakes, just in order to try to make the whole thing together. It's more a form of entertainment than a cottage industry. And believe me, we've all done it in one form or another. The "willing suspension of disbelief" also includes a "wishful thinking" component.

Whither Star Trek?

Is this it for Trek? I doubt it. While I'm not sure the fund-raising campaign to continue Enterprise will ever succeed, I'll betcha that someone in Paramount, like the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, "has a plan." And having a hiatus and hoping everyone will desperately flock back for another fix in a year or two or three -- is a plan. Hey, it worked for George Lucas and his silly little space opera. (ouch! tongue severely in cheek)

Are Star Trek fans too dumb to deal with "real SF"? Aw, geez, come on. I like Star Trek and I've never put a latex bumpy head on my face in my life -- and don't ever intend to. If you want to be mean, you can pick on just about any sort of the extended SF and fantasy universe, from Buffy fans to Japanese anime to Dungeons & Dragons to Xena Warrior Princess to the recent publication of All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories and the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and claim that while these fans and enthusiasts have drunk some Kool-Aid, it wasn't the "right thinking" Kool-Aid and so they are unworthy. Puh-lease.

You might as well takes sides in the gourmet versus gourmand debate and declare one side as unacceptable. I know a lot of serious readers and some serious writers who also like cheese, comics, sleaze and camp. And some who like that stuff completely.

Without Trek, we'd never have gotten Galaxy Quest and that truly would've been a shame.

I guess I like my tents really big -- with lots of little sideshows.

Dr. Phil
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