Star Trek vibes

Maybe I picked up the vibrations of the recent ST convention, because it’s been on my mind – sharing all those videotapes with Catalin and Raz en route to Shemaya. 😉
The NY Times had a story today, Fans Hope Suns Can Rise Again on Star Trek.
Full text of the article is in the extended entry. Why do I love Star Trek? Besides the fact that the crew from the original series were my best friends while I was growing up (!), the vision now embodied in I.D.I.C. – “infinite diveristy in infinite combinations” and the way they deliberately try to forecast current events into the future has always inspired me.

Fans Hope Suns Can Rise Again on Star Trek
August 31, 2004
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 30 – Could “Star Trek” be dying? It’s
enough to make Mr. Spock laugh.
“This is so funny,” said Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr.
Spock, directed two “Star Trek” feature films and produced
another. ” ‘Star Trek’ has died several times and come back
stronger than ever.”
Over the weekend Mr. Nimoy joined others from the cast of
the original “Star Trek” television series at a fan
convention here organized by Planet Xpo to honor James
Doohan, who played Scotty, the Enterprise engineer, in his
last convention appearance. Mr. Doohan, who is to receive
his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Tuesday, is showing
signs of Alzheimer’s disease, a family spokesman said. So
with the exception of DeForest Kelley, who played Dr.
Leonard McCoy and died in 1999, the Enterprise crew
gathered one last time on Sunday.
There are reasons to question “Star Trek’s” continued
viability. Though the feature film series has grossed more
than a billion dollars for Paramount, the last two outings
have sputtered at the box office. The most recent release,
“Star Trek Nemesis,” could not hold its own against
installments of the “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter”
film series in the summer of 2002.
And since “Star Trek: The Next Generation” received an Emmy
nomination as best dramatic series and left the air a
legitimate hit in 1994, subsequent “Star Trek” television
dramas have slowly lost ratings ground. Completing its
third season last spring after a generally rough ratings
year for television drama, the current series, “Star Trek:
Enterprise,” faced cancellation by UPN.
In an echo of the original series’s fate, it was saved
after a fan letter-writing campaign but rescheduled on
Fridays at 8 p.m. for the coming season, beginning in
October. Both the UPN president, Dawn Ostroff, and the
Paramount television president, Garry Hart, point to the
example of “The X Files,” a series aimed at similar
viewers, that found its audience on Fridays. (They are also
happy that “Enterprise” will no longer be competing with
“American Idol.”)
Still, Friday has also been a graveyard for shows meant to
appeal to young adult viewers, including the original “Star
Trek” in 1969.
Even Mr. Nimoy sees cause for concern. He likens the
current situation to the period after the first “Star Trek”
feature film, when “I felt that ‘Star Trek’ was like a
beached whale,” he said. “I think something similar is
happening now. ‘Star Trek’ is in this stranded situation.
The ideas that were propelling it have run dry.”
Some people suggest the problem is audience fatigue. Some
say it is creative exhaustion. One solution to both,
several actors, writers, producers and directors of past
“Star Trek” incarnations say, may be to stop making new
“Star Trek” stories for a while.
“As soon as one series ends, the next one begins right
away,” said Denise Crosby, an actor in “Star Trek: The Next
Generation” as well as executive producer of the new
documentary “Trekkies 2.” “How can you sustain that? The
bar has been raised so high with sci-fi films. I’m not
talking just about special effects but interesting,
elaborate tales. You need to step back and refocus on
what’s pertinent to this moment in time.”
LeVar Burton, who directed 27 episodes of four “Star Trek”
series and was a star of “The Next Generation,” also favors
a hiatus. ” ‘Star Trek’s’ just not special enough, not
anymore,” he said. “They need to shut the whole thing down,
wait five years, create an interest, an excitement, a
hunger for it again.”
The convention here offers an opportunity to look back at a
40-year cultural phenomenon that has produced 10 movies,
hundreds of hours of 5 TV series and some of the most
devoted fans in entertainment history. On Tuesday Paramount
is releasing “Trekkies 2” on DVD. it is about those fans,
and the DVD set of the first season of the original “Star
Trek” series.
Trekkies are of two minds’ about the franchise’s
trajectory. “There’s a large group that thinks it’s time to
give “Trek” a rest,” said Michael W. Malotte, president of
the International “Star Trek” Fan Association, with 230
chapters worldwide. “There’s another group that says, ‘I
enjoy Trek, I don’t agree with a lot of what they’re doing,
but I still enjoy watching.’ ”
Those who are rooting for more new “Star Trek” are buzzing
this summer about Manny Coto, the new co-executive producer
of the current series, “Enterprise,” which is set in the
century before Capt. James T. Kirk, the original commander.
“My goal is to deepen and expand its relationship to the
‘Star Trek’ universe,” Mr. Coto said, “to fulfill its
promise as a true prequel series.”
This relationship will be made visible with the appearance
of Brent Spiner (who played Mr. Data in “The Next
Generation”) in a story told over three episodes, the
coming season’s preferred format. Mr. Burton is to direct
the third of these episodes. Negotiations are under way for
a similar appearance by William Shatner, perhaps even
playing Captain Kirk.
Another arc of stories will concern civil war on Vulcan,
Mr. Spock’s planet, which Mr. Coto says will covertly
examine “the war in Iraq and the direction of the country.”
That story line reflects “Star Trek’s” longstanding
commitment to, as Mr. Burton puts it, “comment on our
present condition by examining it in a future context.”
Even if a pause could be creatively useful, commercial
calculation will probably determine “Star Trek’s” fate, and
its recent problems may not be decisive.
“Movies cost so much to make that apparently the only thing
that strikes the studios as worth doing is
franchise-related,” said Nicholas Meyer, who directed “Star
Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” and “Star Trek VI: The
Undiscovered Country.” “Whether it’s other movies, comic
books, video games, it doesn’t matter, as long as there is
some presale. Which is not to say they can’t turn out a
good movie. A lot of good things are done for the wrong
Though he acknowledges that the performance of “Star Trek
Nemesis” was disappointing, Rick Berman, the film’s
producer and the executive producer of the current
“Enterprise” television series. noted that it was the 10th
film in the series, “and I highly doubt it was the last.”
Discussions about the next film are “in a very preliminary
stage,” he said, adding that the story being considered
“would not involve any of the casts that have existed in
previous films and television series.”
Mr. Hart, the Paramount executive, said that while another
“Star Trek” television series was not being planned, he
doubted that there would be more than a season or two pause
after “Enterprise” before the next incarnation.
” ‘Star Trek’ has been the most successful franchise in the
history of television,” he said. “I have no doubt there
will be a demand for more ‘Star Trek’ on television.”
Even if “Star Trek” pauses or stops, most people agree that
the fan clubs and conventions will continue. In some ways,
fandom has become self-sufficient. For years fans have
created and disseminated their own “Star Trek” stories,
first on mimeographed pages, then on fan fiction Internet
sites. Now, with increasingly accessible digital
technology, they are creating their own films.
“They are no longer bound by what the TV tells them to do,”
said Eugene Roddenberry, the 30-year-old son of “Star
Trek’s” creator, Gene Roddenberry, who recently agreed to
help produce a live-action fan film. “They can go do it
themselves, which I love.”
Eugene Roddenberry is also working on a documentary called
“Trek Nation,” which highlights “Star Trek’s” impact on
world culture and its fans’ lives. Fan organizations
typically do charity work and public service, and some
require it.
“Many fans live their lives by these philosophies like the
Prime Directive and I.D.I.C.,” said Roger Nygard, director
of “Trekkies 2.” The Prime Directive was to avoid
interfereing with less advanced cultures, and fans have
adopted it as a principle of noninterference. I.D.I.C.
stands for “infinite diversity in infinite combinations,”
the Vulcan motto adopted by fans to summarize Star Trek’s
commitment to diversity and equality.
Over the weekend the original “Star Trek” actors emphasized
those themes to their convention audiences, as they usually
“Because the fans are loyal to Gene’s dream, we are loyal
to the fans,” Nichelle Nichols said on Sunday. She played
Uhura, the communications officer.
The bond goes both ways. “In a society with so much
violence and stupidity, the conventions are an oasis where
you can find some genuinely good people who believe in
humanity and respect the rights of others,” said Walter
Koenig, who played Ensign Pavel Chekov, the assistant
navigator on the Enterprise.
“Star Trek” is notable for having created its own elaborate
history of the future, which together with its themes, best
stories and strongest characters add up to a modern
mythology. “You’d be hard pressed to find anybody who
doesn’t know what a Klingon is, or doesn’t know what ‘Beam
me up, Scotty’ is all about,” Mr. Berman said. “It is a
phenomenon that will continue to exist, and whether it will
continue to exist after a pause or not, probably in the
long run doesn’t matter.”
Just one indication of “Star Trek’s” intersection with real
life came at the convention on Saturday night, when the
featured speaker at the banquet honoring Mr. Doohan was
Neil Armstrong, the first human to walk on the moon.
Ending a talk full of “Star Trek” references, including a
wish for a Federation starship for his next command, Mr.
Armstrong addressed Mr. Doohan: “From one old engineer to
another: thanks, mate.”
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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