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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Star Trek: One man's passion
Voyager
Voyager: The third Star Trek spin off
With the new series Enterprise about to start, William Gallagher tries to understand why he likes Star Trek despite overwhelming reasons not to.

All the aliens speak American, the stories can be trite and the characters weak and yet in my shame I have to face it: My name is William and I am a Trekkie.

I am embarrassed to like Trek because I am a drama nut and this is just melodrama with some flashing lights on.

Yet, I am following Deep Space Nine and I grabbed the script to the new show Enterprise when it was leaked to the internet over the summer.

There is a buzz about Enterprise, an anticipation about it that has spread to even normal people even though its first episode will be - do wait for this - Star Trek's 636th story.

William Shatner
William Shatner played Captain Kirk in the original show
Yet, oddly, Enterprise should be the freshest addition to Trek of them all because it throws away about 634 stories to take us back to a time before the most of the shows and films were set.

It is a clever move by the makers because it means you do not need to have seen any of the rest of it to enjoy Enterprise.

To be fair, though, I cannot claim you ever needed to see that many before you would know immediately how every one of them was going to end.

Captain Kirk, for instance, invariably solves intergalactic conflict between entire civilisations by slugging a lone bad guy across the jaw and kissing a *good/bad alien/human black/green (*delete as applicable) woman.

Mr Spock
Mr Spock's ears were legendary
None of which would do for Captain Picard who would naturally see all sides of the argument and negotiate a solution in the closing moments of the episode.

And not that any of this would be fast enough for Captain Janeway of the USS Voyager who would generally resolve any problem from galactic war to cold coffee by rotating the frequencies of the shield harmonics in the upper EM band.

Admit it, that was on the tip of your tongue.

But then Captain Sisko of Deep Space Nine would in his turn usually pull off some actually very clever political move while all the time understanding that ultimately there are no solutions and the problem is only going to get worse next week.

True fan

Careful now, that's nearly drama.

From the first show through the Next Generation and the films, Star Trek has resisted drama in favour of being a kind of television group hug and its Starfleet has presented a uniformly boy scout view of the universe.

I hate that but it always will do so because - ask any true fan - the show succeeds because of its optimism and its positive view of the future.

Nuts to that.

It is because of this positive view that creator Gene Roddenberry dictated that nobody on The Next Generation could disagree with one another, not at all, not over anything whatsoever.

Candyfloss danger

How the man found work is beyond me.

This dramatic failing, the unwillingness to foster argument or real risk because that might upset us, is unarguably true of every Trek series and the candyfloss danger is as much a barrier to greater audiences as is the show's incessant technical babbling.

Voyager was the worse for, well, everything really but particularly for babbling and in comparison The Next Generation's stories tended to be good puzzles.

The show Yesterday's Enterprise was a tour-de-force time travel thriller, for instance, while the most famous story, The Best of Both Worlds, was a battle that was followed by a comparatively quiet and even introspective little gem called Family.

Yet each of these worked mostly because they fought against the Trek norms and so you feel Trek succeeds in spite of itself.

Anti-Trek

Even the original series had City on the Edge of Forever which, while not remotely as good as its fans claim, breaks the philosophy of Trek and so consequently was easily the best of that run.

Deep Space Nine's whole format was anti-Trek with great episodes or at least great episode titles such as Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges ("In time of war, the law goes silent").

It is too early to tell whether Enterprise will be drama fighting the Trek constraints or Star Trek with just new costumes but that leaked pilot script is a good read.

Maybe by shaking off Roddenberry's daft orders and all the years upon years of other stories, this could be the show that lets me stand tall, that lets me say I am a Trekkie and I am proud.


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See also:

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12 Jul 01 | Showbiz
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Fan stalked Star Trek actress
20 Jul 00 | UK
Queue long and prosper
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