Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Like the Beatles, Star Trek rebelled against various high art traditions while it absorbed and used elements of that tradition. In Star Trek’s case, it was the form and content of story.

In a general way, Star Trek was part of several storytelling traditions: literary (both the supposed low form of science fiction, and the higher forms of classical literature) and dramatic. Science fiction, which began (with H.G. Wells, at least) in the late 19th century era when literature in the form of the novel was a primary popular storytelling form, was in Wells’ hands (and those who followed him) a ready-made way to bring classic literary ideas into the present, and forward to the metaphorical future.

As television drama, Star Trek was in a long line of literary and dramatic adaptation, or theft. Crucial to its creators were the movies. Everyone from GR to Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner had movie palace matinee memories. When George Takei got to display his previously nonexistent swordsmanship in “The Naked Time” episode of the original series, he was thrilled because he loved Robin Hood---not from reading the stories but from the movies. (He loved the Erroll Flynn classic version and when he sought fencing lessons, he happened to wind up learning from the man who taught Flynn for that very movie, and who did Basil Rathbone’s sword-fighting in the film itself.)

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