Monday, April 17, 2006

The idea that Star Trek could be reconceived has pretty much filled me with horror for one basic reason: I don’t see anyone who can do it. There’s a lack of understanding, even a lack of sympathy, for the essence, the soul of Star Trek, even among many of the Trek alums.

While I deeply admire much of the work writer/producer Ron Moore did at Star Trek, and I recognize the creativity and achievement of his re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica, I don’t want to see Star Trek turned into a so-called “realistic” war series with futuristic/sci-fi twists. Especially since what “gritty” and “realistic” seems to mean to that generation of writers is all based on movie versions of World War II. I’ve found it more than a little ironic that they denigrate the view of war and peace in Star Trek, which was created by actual veterans of World War II.

I’m not saying Ron Moore would do that. But I fear a lot of other writer/producers would. The Berman & Braga regime of the past decade seems to have soured people on the idea that the Star Trek universe and ethos can still generate creative ideas. But I sure don’t want to see what seems to be the alternative: some combination of Star Trek aliens and technology with war and espionage video games. I don’t want to see Star Trek as a futuristic “24.”

The post-9-11 emphasis on terrorism and war, while it was never as dangerous to most of us as World War II was to our parents and grandparents, seems to have captivated the imagination of a generation of writers. I don’t even much like the Dominion novels in the Star Trek series, nor was a fan of the Dominion war episodes of DS9, which too often centered on war stories that were clichés that even the Horatio Hornblower novels avoided.

This even makes me fearful of a Romulan War movie, let alone a trilogy. There are possibilities for fascinating untold stories about how earth really got itself together, and how earthlings confronted their history of exploiting along with exploring, as well as how the attitude of peaceful exploration and the Prime Directive came to be such an important tenet of that future. And then how all these ideals were tested and evolved in conflict with Romulus. But I have no confidence that anyone in Hollywood would tell those stories. It would be all visual effects explosions and cliché conflicts and cliché heroics. The drama would be of personalities and not about the consciousness required by the future, in the hearts and minds and actions of people.

So that’s one reason I am all for a waiting period, before Trek begins again, unless it continues with the Next Generation crew at its center. As I’ve said before, I could see a mixed generations movie with the Next Generation in the lead for Star Trek XI. But the time for that may be escaping. We’ll see.

But getting back to the reboot, my confidence in anyone being able to re-imagine Star Trek now is not high, but it has just gotten a bit of a boost, from England.

Like Michelle at Trek Today, I’m quite taken with what I’ve seen of the new Doctor Who---the first season episodes airing on the Sci-Fi Channel. I’ve only seen two, but I must agree that they’re really good, and “Dalek” was really excellent (it even addressed the old joke about the wheeled Daleks being made helpless by stairs.)

But unlike Michelle, I do know the series. Back when I lived in Pittsburgh, there was a new public TV channel on cable and UHF, channel 16. They called themselves “sweet little 16,” because their programming was very modest. They did show a lot of old series’ from England, and their first hit was “Dr. Who.”

It was such a big hit for them, in fact, that they had a Dr. Who convention, and after airing all of the Tom Baker episodes (the Fourth and most famous Doctor, who reigned the longest, 7 years in the 70s and 80s) they started right at the beginning. So I saw at least some of the episodes of the first 7 doctors, (Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davidson, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.)

I’ve seen all of the Tom Baker episodes, which remain my favorites. This was also the Douglas Adams era, who was a writer and producer for Dr. Who while he was creating The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And to show how small a place and yet fascinating a time it was: Lalla Ward was Baker’s costar and also his wife. She divorced him and married Richard Dawkins, the eminent writer on genetics. How is this possible? The connecting link was Douglas Adams, who was friends with them all. He also got one member of Monty Python and a costar in a Beatles movie to appear in an episode of Dr. Who.

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