I was a pretty unlikely candidate to marathon all the Star Trek movies. As noted when I started this Trek-a-Thon, I’m a casual Trek fan at best. Star Wars is my star jam. Trek is that other thing I sort of respect and kind of know because you can’t run in geek circles without knowing at least some Trek, but despite having seen many original series episodes, most of The Next Generation on TV, and all the movies through Generations, I’ve never been able to call myself a Trek fan.
So I was the last person who should have been revisiting these movies. Yet I’m glad I did, because it changed my perspective on all things Trek.
The first thing I learned from marathoning all these movies is that I probably can’t make the claim that I’m not a fan anymore. The reason is simple: the original crew is so damn good. Those guys are absolute legends. Even with little change in my fondness for William Shatner, or lack thereof, I cannot deny a blossoming love affair with this group of characters. There is something perfect about their uneasy chemistry that I always knew existed but that I never quite embraced until now.
Well, I am now in full-on embrace mode.
The strange brotherly love between Kirk and Spock may be the central Trek relationship, but for me the real joy is in Bones’ and Spock’s uneasy friendship and in the seamless way the supporting cast creates a foundation for the Big Three to do their thing.
No, the movies aren’t perfect — The Final Frontier is genuinely awful — but the crew certainly is.
If it’s occasionally been a mystery to me why Trek engenders such loyalty in fans, it is a mystery no more. I’ll probably be watching some original Trek episodes for the first time since my youth, and I’ll be doing so without irony.
The other thing is that my previous love for The Next Generation, a show I watched regularly with my old man and which I remember liking quite a but, now comes with a recognition of the crew’s limitations. All fine actors and decent characters, to be sure, but in four silver screen outings the creatives behind Trek were never able to elevate TNG crew into the larger than life icons they needed to be to fill that big screen.
That’s not merely a problem with the movies, though. It’s inherent in the entire Next Generation concept. Film critic Zaki Hasan, a guy with far more Trek knowledge and fondness than I, explains it wonderfully in his piece on Star Trek: Generations:
The problem with being of the moment is that the moment eventually passes. Such is the case with Next Generation, which represented the zeitgeist but didn’t anticipate it. Twenty years out, its production aesthetic is rooted in an ’80s sensibility that feels more quaint even than the original series, while its depiction of perfected humanity is so far removed from anything resembling the actual present day human condition that it’s impossible to view with anything but cold detachment.
Throw in the fact that Data’s “I’m a distant android trying to understand humanity” shtick is an old cliche that for some reason was a focal point of all four movies (ugh!), and the fact that no matter how awesome Patrick Stewart is (VERY awesome indeed) he is not meant to be the lead in big screen science fiction epics — even his pivotal role in the X-Men series is one of mentor, not lead — and you’ve got four movies where even the best of them would be mid-tier at best when set next to the original crew movies.
Also makes me disinclined to ever again revisit Next Generation episodes.
So basically, this marathon ruined The Next Generation for me, which in turned ruined a part of my youth.
But it gave me a new love and appreciation for the original crew and turned me into a bona fide fan. Seems like a fair tradeoff to me.
Thanks for reading along as this Trek neophyte said some stuff you already knew and offered some opinions you’ve already heard a million times before. May the Force be with.