Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Rings of Planet Star Trek

And the stories of creative dedication go on. “I’ll tell you one thing about Star Trek,” Nichelle Nichols said to writer David Gerrold. “ …everyone you worked with, the prop man, the sound men, the light men, they had a very personal attitude about that show, a very personal pride, a very personal sense of ownership. There were times when even a sound man wouldn’t let something go by---it may not have anything to do with sound---but he knew it didn’t belong on the Enterprise, so he spoke up.”

Those in that first ring of the Many Hands were principally responsible for all of those hours of Star Trek on TV and feature films. The second ring of the Many Hands planet might be the creators of Star Trek novels and games. The third ring is comprised of fans, the Trekkies and Trekkers, easily as maligned as any actor and nowhere near as well-paid, who supported Star Trek not only with their money and viewership but their enthusiasm, their feedback, their faith in what Star Trek meant to them and inspired in them, and their creativity in telling their own Star Trek stories in fan fictions, films, songs and artwork.

The outer ring is comprised of the Star Trek viewers, not as dedicated as the fans, but who sees the stories and appreciates them for what they are. At times, this circle includes millions of people, perhaps billions. They’ve been touched by Star Trek’s magic. It probably also includes those who create other stories, professionally or not, that are informed in some way by Star Trek. Its influence is so ubiquitous that most Trek references go by unconsciously.

It’s a commonplace to note how deeply Star Trek is established in popular culture, but it is not as often credited for expanding the minds of its viewers, nor for the sophisticated consciousness its viewers bring. For instance, a recent letter to the editor in the London Review of Books explained that viewers of Doctor Who and Star Trek “take convoluted plotting, metaphysical bricollage and intertextual playfulness for granted: they’re defining characteristics of the genre.” It’s not necessary here to define those advanced literary concepts, because if you watch Star Trek, you’re doing this: you’re understanding and appreciating the various levels and how they harmonize and link to each other.

Also among these Many Hands that make the Star Trek universe are the storytellers of the past who inform the Star Trek saga, and whose tales are retold and re-illuminated in its stories. Even in its first year, Star Trek took stories directly from classic novels, Hollywood films, Greek myth and Captain Video. Star Trek has done multiple versions of The Heart of Darkness and Moby Dick, including dead-on quotations from Melville in two of its best movies. Star Trek is a story of stories, a story universe. Its many hands reach across history and around the world, even as they reach out into the cosmos.

Happy birthday.

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