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As an addendum to my post yesterday encouraging people to nerd it up by watching a video documentary about Spock, and to once again mark the release of Star Trek, here’s the classic Saturday Night Live skit involving Wlliam Shatner lashing out at people nerding it up. (As so often is the case, the link is from Jaime J. Weinman).
It seems odd, looking at this now, to think that it actually offended people at the time. Not just because I’d hope nerds might have a better sense of humour than this, but also because of how snarky the nerds themselves have become. The internet, and the forum cut-and-thrust on sites like Ain’t It Cool, seems to have bred geeks into a more argumentative, sarcastic breed (a la The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy) than the sheltered losers in this sketch.
A key element of this is constantly professing to hate the things that they obsess over; the current Star Trek nerd is more likely to express contempt for Shatner than Shatner is for them.
You may have noticed the site spluttering back to life in the last couple of weeks, with reviews of Mary and Max and Star Trek following a period of some inactivity. The irony of this, as I’ve mentioned before, is that I’m actually doing more film writing than I have for ages: it’s just that it’s for a PhD, not this site.
I hope to have a detailed retrospective essay up in a about a week or so, but in the meantime, a quick round-up of various things…
Star Trek (J.J. Abrams, 2009)
I’ve said this before: the seeds of the problems with the Star Trek movie franchise were planted right at the start.
When they made Star Trek: The Motion Picture back in 1979 they tried to make an epic. They got an A-list director in Robert Wise (keep in mind that just a few years earlier his Sound of Music had been the highest grossing film ever) and treated it as a prestige production along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey. But Trek has always been a bit silly, and taking it too seriously killed the fun. So for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn – still widely considered the best film of the series – they went back to lower budgets and lesser ambitions. It worked, and Trek was fun for a long time, but it was never again particularly adventurous or grand or spectacular. Ultimately, the film and television Trek experiences blurred together, until there was simply no reason for either fans or the more casual observer to go to the cinema and see a Trek film. So when I reviewed the last Trek film, Nemesis, I suggested that Paramount needed to cut off the supply of Trek for a while, let some demand build, and then come back with something big.
This year is shaping up as a particularly big year for what you might call the “mega-franchises”: the really big, big franchises that are particularly prestigious and long-running: there are new installments scheduled in the Batman, Indiana Jones, Star Trek and James Bond series.
The last few days have seen interesting developments on all of these properties, so I thought I’d do a quick run down on all of them.
Ain’t It Cool brought my attention to this post by writer Bryce Zabel about the treatment he wrote with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski to “re-boot” Star Trek. You should read the treatment yourself, if you’re interested, but basically it involved starting from scratch, and doing a new television series about the original characters (Kirk, Spock, et al) on their five year voyage. Effectively, it’s giving Star Trek the Batman Begins treatment, which seems all the rage these days (what with Superman Returns and Casino Royale both on the way).
Have you ever had one of those geek moments where you say: “Yeah, Star Trek is pretty cool. And Lord of the Rings is pretty cool. But imagine if somehow those two franchises could come together in glorious union?”
For you I present: Leonard Nimoy singing “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”
Star Trek: Nemesis (Stuart Baird, 2002)
There has been a long-standing tradition that the even-numbered Trek films are good and the odd numbered ones mediocre or bad. Star Trek: Nemesis - the tenth Trek film, and almost certainly the last involving the full “Next Generation” crew – mixes enough good, bad and indifferent elements that it would have been held up as vindication of that theory whether it was been odd or even numbered. The villain of the piece is Shinzon, who has masterminded a political coup in the Romulan empire by the empire’s underclass, the Remans. Story logic would dictate that Shinzon would be Reman himself, but Nemesis is founded on twin contrivances: firstly, that Shinzon is a clone of the captain of the starship Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard, and secondly, that Shinzon has somehow come into possession of a prototype for the android Data. These plot points are, on close examination, patently absurd, but they serve their purpose of providing a personal link between the villain and the hero of the piece.