Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I believe that the camaraderie of the characters is so affecting partly because it emerges from the working camaraderie of group creativity. That experience is perhaps less storied and less well known than that of soldiers, but it has qualities in common with it---often long hours, bad conditions, uncertain fates, and even physical danger now and then---and it has special qualities I tried to indicate in my little personal tale.

Plus these actors worked together over so long a span of time. In some ways their lives and careers were so different from that of anyone else, even other actors, that they had no one but each other to understand much of what they experienced and felt. They had a common history, which involved overt battles, simmering feuds, grudges and misunderstandings, perhaps even some reprehensible behavior. But it also involved real caring and mutual support. Shatner once stopped production and carried Nichelle Nichols to get medical attention. Cast members supported each other when one lost a loved one.

The friendship of Shatner and Nimoy is a fine example. Probably as different personally as their characters are in Trek, they have grown more loyal to each other. It was Nimoy, after all, who woke Shatner up with a very early morning telephone call, to read to him the laudatory review of Star Trek V that just appeared in the L.A. Times. Just as the comradeship of Spock and Kirk helped the friendship of Nimoy and Shatner develop, their friendship deepened their characters and gave them more dimension. It was a feedback loop that seems to have fostered growth all around.

And perhaps by this time, some old lessons were learned that helped to salve old wounds. I noticed for instance that some crucial lines spoken by Captain Kirk in the novel version of V were spoken in the film by Uhura, the reversal of a chief complaint against Shatner by some cast members. All the accounts by others I've seen laud Shatner as a director who respected the creativity of others, and worked with them in a caring way. (Though there were some complaints about what they were asked to do in the film, the supporting cast all got their moments. And as DeForrest Kelley once wisely noted, a Star Trek film depends on those moments.) It also helps that they were all playing characters who live, work, play and risk their lives together.

The naturally self-mocking quality of camaraderie gives verisimilitude to that kind of humor in this movie, while the somewhat ironic quality adds a dash of surprise and energy and daring to what could have become too predictable. Could you really predict a scene in which Kirk says, "I miss my old chair," and Spock tilts his head in sympathy just so? Or as Kirk is about to embrace Spock for saving his life and Spock demurs: "Not in front of the Klingons?" This is well-delivered, well-directed comedy which adds dash but doesn't diminish the characters or story.

Shatner's account of the making of Star Trek V is full of stories of creative camaraderie among not just the cast but the crew and staff, which is the other aspect of it: like soldiers in war, creative people can rise to another level, to do greater things together than are otherwise possible, if they care enough about the creative work they are doing, and about each other. Creative people too can be heroes.

It's my belief that it's impossible to understand the meaning of Star Trek without at least some understanding of the power and importance of shared creativity---of different talents coming together, and with of a strong idea strongly felt, from their individual creativity, their interplay, even their conflicts and misunderstandings--- that is, from everything human about them, they create something beyond anyone's understanding. I've called this the Many Hands Theory, but it is also in many ways not only a key to the soul of Star Trek, it is the soul of Star Trek.

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