Leftover Star Trek thoughts (and a defense of the fanboys)

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Posted May 8, 2009 by Kristian Lin in Blotch

With the release of the new Star Trek movie, your local movie theater will once again become nerd central. With it comes a wave of press about how the Star Trek fans have taken over and how much our president resembles a Vulcan. The computer geeks played a big role in our nation’s economic prosperity in the 1990s, and somewhere around that time they got confident enough to proudly proclaim their nerdiness. You might think that the fanboys don’t need any defending, but I’m taking up their defense anyway.

You see, now that jokes about Trekkies being 40-year-old virgins living in their parents’ basement are finally passé, a new line of attack has opened up: The fanboys are bad for moviemaking. They’re blinkered. They obsess over minutiae. They don’t see the big picture. They stare at you blankly if you mention Pedro Almodóvar. They’re so loyal to the old stuff that they won’t let anybody mess with it, even to improve it. (That’s the point of this video from The Onion that’s now making the rounds of cyberspace.) All they do is sit at their computers and write typo-laden rants aimed at the creative people — you know, the ones who are so creative that they’re making movies out of old TV shows and graphic novels instead of coming up with new stories — until the artists are paralyzed with fear of alienating the fanbase. That’s how the fans ruined Watchmen.

There’s some truth in all of these, but I still side with the fanboys (and girls), and here’s why: They give a crap. They don’t think a movie should only be a way to kill two hours. They think a movie should be awesome. They think it should expand our minds with possibilities and present us with a world that we can lose ourselves in. That thinking will keep them away from seeing stuff like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and good for them. Granted, some Trekkies (or Trekkers) are unhealthily obsessed, but any hobby can be taken to an unhealthy extreme. Many Trek fans could do with mixing in a few Almodóvar films with their diet of sci-fi, but the same could be said of many non-fans, and more than a few members of the fanbase do indeed cast their cultural nets far beyond this particular universe.

And yes, when I see two people discussing the political structure of Cardassian society, I’ll think, “Dorks!” Then again, are they really that different from someone who can recite, without prompting, the lineup of the 1986 New York Mets? Or someone who instantly recalls the names of the comprimario singers from Sir Thomas Beecham’s recording of Tosca? Or someone who can identify a Maserati just by hearing its engine rev across a crowded parking lot? Large numbers of people seem hardwired to some form of geekdom, more than would care to admit it. Without the passion that geeks bring, the world of movies would be a lot less interesting.

Star Trek parodies are easy enough to find, but I thought I’d link to a parody from In Living Color back in the 1990s that features a pre-fame Jim Carrey channeling Shatner’s Kirk. This article argues that Galaxy Quest is the best Star Trek movie ever. It is a sorely underappreciated comedy, and it’s coming out in a 10th-anniversary DVD release.

The film shows Chekov’s Russian accent interfering with his ability to pronounce v’s, something I’m told is left over from the TV show. This makes no sense. In real life Russian speakers have no trouble making the “v” sound. (They do have trouble making the “h” sound.) The word that trips up Chekov is “Victor,” which is a common enough name in Russian, so it makes even less sense that he’d have problems with it. He’s using the NATO phonetic alphabet, which I alluded to in my post about Dollhouse. Its words are chosen specifically because they can be pronounced easily in many languages.

Speaking of linguistics, here’s a linguist’s appreciation of the Klingon language. The Klingons are notably absent from the Star Trek movie. They exist offscreen and are referred to, but they never show up. Klingon is widely believed to be the world’s most popular invented language. Dr. Esperanto would be heartbroken.

Cameo appearances in this film: Winona Ryder (in age makeup) as Spock’s mother … Tyler Perry as the head of the Starfleet Academy … House’s Jennifer Morrison as Kirk’s mother … Alias’ Rachel Nichols (in green body paint) as Uhura’s slutty roommate … Greg Grunberg — a childhood friend of J.J. Abrams who has acted in every TV show and movie he has done — as the telephone voice of Kirk’s stepdad.

Our intrepid Cole Williams informed me that the scene involving Kirk’s rescue of the Kobayashi Maru was referred to in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. As I mentioned in my review, I wouldn’t have known that. I appreciated the scene on its own because it was funny, especially the way Chris Pine plays it. The only Trek movie I’ve seen is Nemesis, which nobody seems to like, and for good reason. I know there are more references and in-jokes that I’m missing here. Feel free to enlighten me in the comments section, readers. Let your geek flag fly.


5 Comments


  1.  

    Klingon is widely believed to be the world’s most popular invented language. Dr. Esperanto would be heartbroken.

    World’s most popular, perhaps, but certainly not the world’s most widely used (the way one would use, say, English or Spanish): Esperanto wins that title hands down. According to Akira Okrent’s article:

    … very few people know how (Klingon) really works. There are maybe 20 or 30 people who can hold their own in a live, unscripted Klingon conversation and a few hundred or so who are pretty good with written Klingon. But most Star Trek fans who buy the dictionary skip the grammatical rules … simply popping dictionary words into English sentences. So Star Trek discussion boards end up peppered with … seriously bad Klingon.

    Compare that to about 2,000,000 people who actually speak the language Esperanto, and for more than just conventions and discussion boards.

    Was that chuckling I heard coming from Dr. Zamenhof’s grave? :-)




  2.  
    inga johanson

    Dr Zamenhof died of broken heart in 1917.
    This year 2009 is his 150 years anniversary.
    But he wrote this poem – Oh, my heart!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlsMbKL3LDc

    Give mi this in Klingon, if you can!




  3.  
    Cole

    Hey Kristian, thanks for the defense of geeks. I especially like the “they give a crap” part. I know I certainly don’t feel that a summer movie just has to be a way to kill 2 hours, and that it can be something grand and touching (the lack of anything looking to be as deep or close to as good as The Dark Knight this summer means I’m not looking forward to much). I know some fans can be nit-picky and be narrow minded when it comes to what they watch or read, but that’s usually a minority. But as we all know, the extreme iteration of something different usually becomes the norm in our views (see: how some people see christians, atheists, muslims, conservatives, liberals, etc etc etc). I also like the “everyone can be a geek for something” idea, which I read on a web comic about that kinid of thing a while back, though I forget its name.

    As for my thoughts on the movie, I’m not a big Trek fan, though as a geek I’ve got a healthy appreciation for it (can name the captains, most of the major races, etc). I really enjoyed the movie, though I don’t think it did anything new with Star Trek except have more energetic directing, new camera angles and a bigger budget. I thought the story was a little too lightweight considering what happens, and Nero (Eric Bana) wasn’t that great a villain (though I hear the comic book prequel Countdown does a good job of making him a more tragic figure, as well as including some familiar Trek faces). I also thought, as you pointed out in your review, the movie is funny; funnier than Trek usually is (save maybe movie 4). Still despite its flaws its a great time.

    And now that Trek is cool again…well, it was always cool. Maybe now that its more approachable people can check out some of the other movies and TV shows to see what the fuss is about. Kristian, you said you’d only seen one other movie, Nemesis , which I haven’t seen. To all newcomers, I heartily reccomend Star Trek: First Contact , Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and, of course, the best of them all, and a great beginner for any new viewers or people wanting more after this movie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan .




  4.  
    Cole

    I also wanted to add my thoughts on sequel possibilities. Despite fans clamoring for them, and though it would be nice to see them again, I actually hope the Klingons aren’t the main villains of the next film. They’ve been the bad guys in plenty of movies, lets give someone else a shot. I’d like to see bigger sci fi concepts used (I always thought V’ger and the examination of it in the first Trek movie was cool). Star Trek has always been about exploration and discoery; let’s see something new!
    Though I have to admit, there are two old things I’d love to see again in the next movie: tribbles, and the young Kirk and crew’s all new, different encounter with the gentically engineered superman Khan. The question is who could play him after the fantastic job by the late Ricardo Montalban?




  5.  
    William

    Apparantly they had Chekov use the “w” not because that’s actually how it works in Russian, but because that’s what Walter Koenig did and they wanted to bring that over as a recognizable character trait. Most famously, “nuclear wessels,” and now of course “wictor, wictor.”





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