Documentary Sidebar : “Trekkies”

Posted: June 6, 2013 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



I’ll start things off here with a confession — I’ve never been the world’s biggest Star Trek  fan. I don’t have anything actively against it — in any of its iterations — per se, but I never really quite figured out its appeal, and consequently the absolute devotion to it that its enormous legion of die-hard partisans displays has always felt, I dunno — kinda weird to me, somehow. Maybe even a little bit sad and/or pathetic.

Mind you, this is coming from a lifelong hard-core Doctor Who fan who once even owned a Tom Baker scarf, so not only would you be quite correct to take anything I say here with a grain of salt, you’d also be well within your rights as a sane and functional human being to wonder “who the fuck is this guy to call anyone else pathetic?”

But ya know, thanks to fellow Twin Cities area native Roger Nygard and his superb 1997 documentary Trekkies, I can honestly say I have a new-found respect for these folks who speak Klingon, give each other the Vulcan hand sign, and argue over the most pointless minutiae of each and every episode of their favorite show. I still don’t quite “get it,” true, but I’ve at least come to view it as a relatively harmless phenomenon — hell, for some, immersion in this collective fantasy world might even be a positive thing.

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Okay, yeah, there’s nothing inherently normal about the idea of, say, a Trek-themed dental office, or people writing a Klingon dictionary, or the forewoman of a jury showing up in regulation Starfleet uniform, but shit — it’s not really hurting anyone, is it?

To his credit, Nygard never really loses sight of how all of this might look a little bit ( to say the least) weird to an “outsider,” but he gives an even-handed portrayal of all the various subjects he follows around, and by and large shows them to be mentally healthy, well-rounded individuals who just happen to share a mutual obsession. Choosing Star Trek : The Next Generation star Denise Crosby as his narrator was a wise move, as well, as it shows us all that the primary goal of this film is to respectfully explore, at times even celebrate, the Star Trek  universe, rather than to poke fun at it, and helps establish a “we’re on your side” tone that puts most of the film’s participants at ease — no matter which side they might take in the whole “is it ‘Trekkie’ or ‘Trekker’?” debate.



What’s perhaps most amazing to witness for someone not a part of it, though, is how admirably inclusive the whole Star Trek “thing” is. Gay or straight, black or white, male or female (or, as the photo above demonstrates, somewhere in between), it just doesn’t seem to matter — if you love Trek, those who also love it will accept you. All differences are small potatoes compared to the one thing that binds them all together. Methinks there’s a lesson to be learned there for society as a whole.

The on-camera interviews with many of the show’s stars are pretty revealing, as well, as they explain in very personal terms what their involvement with Gene Rodenberry’s fictional universe has meant to them, and how they feel it’s affected not only popular culture, but human culture as a whole, as well. Leonard Nimoy, for instance, reveals how the values espoused by Trek influenced the work of visionay “underground” cartoonist Sue Coe (of Dead Meat fame), and Nichelle Nichols relates the story of how her performance as Uhura inspired none other than Whoopi Goldberg  to pursue a career in acting. Hell, no less than Buzz Aldrin himself makes an appearance, vouching for how the show has helped to keep humanity’s dream of reaching for the stars alive and well.



All of which, I guess, is my roundabout way of saying that not only does Trekkies do a good job of laying out the territory for the “uninitiated,” but it goes further than that to show why it all actually matters, and even if you haven’t partaken of the Star Trek  Kool-Aid (metaphorically speaking), you’ll probably walk away from the film with a better understanding of those who have done so.

Yeah, okay — a Trek convention still looks like foreign territory to me, and not even one I’d be too terribly keen on exploring in person, but ya know what? If that’s your idea of a good time, you’re A-Okay in my book. Go knock yourself out.


For those of you sufficiently tempted to give Trekkies a whirl, it’s available as a bare-bones DVD from Paramount, where it’s presented full-frame with stereo sound, and at 86 minutes long it’s just enough to keep the average viewer fascinated without bludgeoning us with just too damn much — and  If I were a Trekkie (or Trekker, as the case may be), this flick would leave me feeling very satisfied, even happy, with its depiction of my world and my fellow fans. You can’t ask for a better endorsement than that. So hey, Trek fans — I may not be one of you, and I may not even want to be one of you, but live long and prosper, my friends. Live long and prosper.



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