Star Trek New Voyages

Star Trek New Voyages January 20, 2006

Trekkies [*], rejoice! 

New TOS ("The Original Series", for the unitiated) episodes are being made by fans and are available for free download.  It’s called "Star Trek: New Voyages" [this is a site hosted by Wired;  the real site loads painfully slowly, but it’s worth the wait if you can do something else in the meantime], about which Wired says

The original Star Trek set out on a five-year mission that network execs cut short in 1969. Now a new confederation of amateur Kirk worshippers and studio renegades is repairing the space-time continuum and finishing the job.

One amusing tidbit:  A fanatical fan, one of the founders of the series spent years building a perfect replica of the bridge of the Enterprise in a barn!

I haven’t downloaded the first episodes yet. 

It was interesting to look at the cast photos.  With the notable and lamentable exception of Lt. Uhura–who’s played by a woman who looks barely "ethnic" (Is she Latina?), much less Black–they managed to do a good job in matching people.  The guy playing Kirk not only looks the part, but manages to ham it up even in the way he sits in the captain’s chair.  The likeness in the case of Bones is really striking.

The photos of the actors playing extras and minor characters are also there.  A perusal of this long gallery of mug shots is entertaining. 

The first thing you notice is the dearth of non-white faces.  Unless I missed something, every single actor involved appears to be white.  Perhaps this is just another example of the funny things middle class white people do when they have too much free time on their hands–remember, this is a labor of love by diehard fans, not a commercial production–but those demographics remind me of how science fiction and fanstasy in general tends to be made for and by white men.  There are notable exceptions (e.g., Octavia Butler, Ursula K. LeGuin, …), but it remains a decidedly WASPy and testosterone-filled genre (e.g., the playful but very white & male  "Starship Troopers", which I really enjoyed as a white and a male), as far as I can tell.

Speaking of race, I see that they’ve returned to TOS system for Klingon appearances.  Anyone who’s watched much Star Trek knows that Klingons on TOS looked very different from today’s Klingons.  In the original series, these baddies were basically dark-haired, ruddish-hued white guys of normal build.  In TNG (Star Trek The Next Generation) and DSN (Star Trek Deep Space Nine), they decided to make them more "alien" and fierce-looking, adding all sorts of ugly facial ridges and wigs to their heads and casting large muscular (and usually black) actors.  [It would be interesting to know how many aspiring black actors got work due to this policy change by Paramount.]

It’s also interesting to see all these red shirts (the infamously short-lived security officers in Star Trek wear red shirts).  I wonder if this new series maintains the old Aztec-style ritual of sacrificing the hapless and nameless red shirts to an angry god.  The book, All I really need to know I learned from watching Star Trek–whose premise I feel was stolen from me, as I’ve long said that all of life’s lessons can be found in one episode or another of Star Trek–sums up the gory red shirt phenomenon quite wittily (unfortunately, I don’t have the book, so I borrowed the quote from here):

Anyone with even a passing interest in Star Trek should know this rule: Never, ever, ever wear a red shirt–not under any circumstances. Don’t do it.

Pick any episode. Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, a series regular like Uhura, and some guy you’ve never seen before are standing on the transporter pad. If the guy is wearing a red shirt, he will not live past the first commercial. Somewhere on the planet below certain death awaits.

I’ve watched these guys in red shirts get shot, be blown up, be disintegrated, have all their blood drained, have every cell in their body explode and otherwise meet the most painful and horrible deaths imaginable.

The endings aren’t even especially heroic. First a guy beams down, then he’s dead. At least it’s usually quick. Nine times out of ten, the poor fellow doesn’t have a clue what hit him. Within seconds, Bones examines the fallen crewman with a tricorder, turns to the captain and says, "He’s dead, Jim." By the next scene it’s as if the guy never existed. There’s no wake, no funeral and most of the time his name is never spoken again.


* I note sadly that there are some skin-deep fans who sniff at the term "trekkie" and demand to be categorized instead as "trekkers".  As the old saying goes, it it looks, writhes, and leers like an Orion slave girl, it’s an Orion slave girl! 

All these sissy fans who fear the mockery of the ignorant, non-sci fi-inclined masses.  Does a connoisseur of Impressionism care a whit whether some philistine who considers hologram posters art approves of her taste in paintings?  Get some backbone, Trekkies.  Say it and say it loud:  "I’m a Trekkie and proud."

In a world where Bill Gates is be the alpha male–That film "Revenge of the Nerds" was eerily prophetic!–we have nothing to be ashamed of.  Wear your pocket protectors with pride, guys.

Speaking of the infamous Orion slave girls, it just occured to me that they are basically a cross between the Incredible Hulk and the popular conception of the  houri.  I wonder what happens when they get mad.  Umm, nevermind.

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