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Beam me up, Scotty! Beam me up, Scotty!
by Thanos Kalamidas
2008-09-09 09:58:18
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Does watching Star Trek make you a nerd? I could never give an answer to this question and to be honest I never really felt like a nerd, actually I was never called a nerd either. Going through eras like the mods and beat doesn’t really fulfill the stereotype of a nerd but …I just always loved Star Trek. My problem goes as far to have a collection of Star Trek books, cartoons and of course models of the spaceships. Not to mention all the series on DVD!

Is it the sense of escaping into outer space or the need to explore? I will never really know and I don’t think I ever thought about it till somebody asked me. I have no idea what is it but I can tell you that times I was in a good mood, even happy, and times I was depressed for some reason Star Trek was there, and that I must have watched all the episodes from all the series at least five times including the ten films. And not just that, the interviews, the funny moments, the extra moments, the specials and the annuals! All of them! And remember, I’m not twelve-years- old!

How many times I have used Captain Kirk’s misappropriated phrase "Beam me up, Scotty"? Countless, and I have to admit that Uhura was one of my first loves.  I have the feeling a lot of boys had feelings for her at the time. When 'The Next Generation’ came I was much older with a lot of obligations and not much time to watch television. Well you think so… I found the time! That period I had an assistant who knew that every Friday – when television was broadcasting Star Trek episodes - I had to leave the office before four o’clock so I could avoid traffic and be home on time for the new Star Trek episode and because… I can see the next question coming… of course I was recording the episode on my VCR.

Another thing my assistant knew was not to bother me while the episode was on; I would not answer any kind of calls! And then came ‘Deep Space Nine’ and I think my assistant had enough, because I was watching DSN and the same period I was watching the replays of TNG and of course I was recording everything! But I was not a nerd.

Escapism? I’m not sure; the weird thing is that I don’t like to watch on television things that continue even if that means independent episodes, I never did except Star Trek. And with Star Trek I did it again and again and again because Voyager followed DSN! I think one reason is my interest is science and Star Trek was the first sci-fi series that somehow made sense and had some kind of logic. Yes the aliens, especially in the original series were all made from cheap materials and most of the time you could ‘see’ the man or the woman behind but still they made more sense than the Japanese style monsters that were taking life in most of the sci-fi films at the time.

Exploration? Probably; I had grown up with Jules Verne, I had traveled with him around the world and in the depths of the deeper see, I had gone to the moon and back so Star Trek was the natural continue to the adventure. Star Trek took me to new frontiers where no man had been before. The most amazing thing with these series was that aside the adventure, the entertainment and the thrill Star Trek could give real lessons on friendship, understanding and tolerance and most of all in a really weird period lessons on anti-racism and equality! Uhura became the heroin not only to young boys but for obvious reason she became a symbol of all the anti-racist movements of the time. A black woman as equal officer in a spaceship that represented a United Earth! I’m afraid that the whole thing sounds like Utopia even today!

Another thing and this has to do with me and I’m not sure if it applies with others is that I never really got connected with any of the series heroes. I never really saw myself as Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock. I did quote them, I was daydreaming walking around the ‘Enterprise’ but I never seen myself as any of them. Somehow that was one more thing that made unique both the series and its heroes.

Why do I still watch it? No clue and the amazing thing is that I still have the same thrill like then and I have enjoyed all the series even the new ones. Actually and that has surprise me, the series DSN has become my favorite, perhaps the style and the stories are more contemporary with a lot of environmental messages not to mention that the battles have something more epic than any other before. The question if I identify myself as a nerd by watching Star Trek is definitely no but if I like Star Trek is definitely yes and now I have to apologize but since talking about it good time to watch one of the start trek films I really like, First Contact! Come, Scotty …beam me to my sofa!!!


    
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Clint2008-09-09 14:08:44
Save a space on the sofa for me Thanos my anorak is fastened and ready to go.


Emanuel Paparella2008-09-09 14:23:33
Philosophy begins in wonder and that may explain the fascination with Star Trek. At the beginning of your piece on the subject you Asa ask “Why do we want to go back in time to another galaxy when we could remain in our own and jump a few hundred years into the future?” and Thanos asks “Why do I still watch it? No clue and the amazing thing is that I still have the same thrill like then and I have enjoyed all the series even the new ones.” Actually there is a clue and it is given by Nikos Kazantzakis in Report to Greco where he describes the process of evolution as the result of a divine creative activity. He personifies this activity as a “Cry.” This is what he writes:
"Blowing through heaven and earth, and in our hearts and the heart of every living thing, is a gigantic breath—a great Cry—which we call God. Plant life wished to continue its motionless sleep next to stagnant waters, but the Cry leaped up within it and violently shook its roots: “Away, let go of the earth, walk!” Had the tree been able to think and judge, it would have cried, “I don't want to. What are you urging me to do? You are demanding the impossible!” But the Cry, without pity, kept shaking its roots and shouting, “Away, let go of the earth, walk!” (continued below)


Emanuel Paparella2008-09-09 14:24:22
It shouted in this way for thousands of eons; and lo! as a result of desire and struggle, life escaped the motionless tree and was liberated. Animals appear—worms—making themselves at home in water and mud. “We're just fine here,” they said. “We have peace and security; we're not budging!” But the terrible Cry hammered itself pitilessly into their loins. “Leave the mud, stand up, give birth to your betters!”
‘We don't want to! We can't!’
‘You can't, but I can. Stand up!’
And lo! after thousands of eons, humans emerged, trembling on their still unsolid legs.
The human being is a centaur; our equine hoofs are planted in the ground, but our body from breast to head is worked on and tormented by the merciless Cry. We have been fighting, again for thousands of eons, to draw ourselves, like a sword, out of our animalistic scabbard. We are also fighting—and this is our new struggle—to draw ourselves out of our human scabbard. Humanity calls in despair, “Where can I go? I have reached the pinnacle, beyond is the abyss.” And the Cry answers, “I am beyond. Stand up!” All things are centaurs. If this were not the case, the world would rot into inertness and sterility.”


Emanuel Paparella2008-09-09 14:29:39
P.S. I suppose today the Cry shouts to all of us couch potatoes: get up and go boldly...


Emanuel Paparella2008-09-09 17:21:04
P.S. For me personally the fascination with Star Trek is closely connected with my fascination with Homer's The Odyssey. Both the Odissey and Star Trek are connected to what Kazantzakis alludes to.


Sand2008-09-09 18:57:02
After going through all of Verne and H.G.Welles and Burroughs when I was a kid in the 1930's I discovered John Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction where real science was explored by hard headed extrapolation and the space opera stuff never had much fascination after that. The "Gray Lensman" series was space opera and somehow unsatisfying. Asimov and Heinlein and Kuttner and Tenn and a few others who were not only intelligent writers but well versed in actual technology and the speculations of scientific theorists grabbed my imagination. Early TV like "The Outer Limits" were more in line with that world than Star Trek where Kirk frequently solved problems with extra-terrestrials with a punch in the nose and was frustrated when the monsters had no nose.


Emanuel Paparella2008-09-09 20:27:22
Here is some more food for thought on Star Trek by way of an excerpt from an essay written by John Lyden in the Journal of Religion and Film (Vol. 1, n. 2, Oct. 1997) titled “To Comment or to Critique? The question of Religion and Film Studies”:

Caron Schwartz Ellis writes in regard to Science Fiction films which feature "saviors" from the sky that "our spacemen are important to us. They give us hope in a world in which our vision of the stars is obscured by pollution and the potential for nuclear holocaust." And Andrew Gordon's essay, written in 1978, analyzes the mythological form of Star Wars (which George Lucas developed out of Joseph Campbell's work) and so argues that the film is a "myth for our times." He then concludes:
"The fact is that each generation must create its own myths and heroes or regenerate those of the past. (continued below)


Emanuel Paparella2008-09-09 20:28:16
We are in a period in which the heroes have been cast down through such national catastrophes as Vietnam and Watergate, when the lines between good and evil grow cloudy, and when sexual identities have been redefined by the women's movement. Meanwhile, we have created a machine world for ourselves, a world that seems drained of spiritual values, a world in which we feel impotent and alien. We desperately need a renewal of faith in ourselves as Americans, as good guys on the world scene, as men and women, as human beings who count, and so we return to the simpler patterns of the past."
It is Gordon's remarks in particular which show the problematic nature of this sort of analysis. In being ready to applaud the fact that the film makes the viewer "feel good," he has concluded it is valuable precisely because it offers an easy dualism between good and evil, so avoiding the ambiguity of world politics and feminism. Americans fall into this sort of dualism easily enough in any case. Should one commend those films which encourage in our "popular culture" a dualistic attitude of "us versus them"? Are such films flawed in seeking to avoid any challenge to our hegemonic structures? It can be asked whether Star Wars really does this (or whether it only does this), but the question here is, are the values Gordon cites really the sort one should uncritically accept as an aspect of popular film?


Thanos2008-09-09 21:37:36
After watching ‘star trek nemesis’ film I have to admit there is only one thing to say … I’m looking forward for the next one!!!
For one thing I don’t think star trek has anything to do with the quest for god on the contrary they show great respect to ideas and believes expecting the same from the others.
I really like Campbell’s work but I have to admit that A. Clark is my favorite sci-fi author.


Sand2008-09-09 22:09:05
Interestingly, science fiction was regarded with contempt for the many years it was popular in pulp publishing because at least a hefty portion did not fall into the formulaic patterns of dealing with good and evil which possessed the outlook of writers in the more conventional realms. There were, of course, space opera stories in the genre of horse opera fiction transferred to the realm of space-ships and interplanetary travel which permitted someone oriented towards current cultural norms to visit alien cultures to explore to a surface extent some radical differences in understanding reality but to a large degree these space operas fell into the patterns now commonly seen in the adventures of 007 or Star Wars which were basically trite battles between good and evil in the manner of the old and tired Christian morality plays and were classified as science fiction only in the costumes and props they used. Real science fiction such as Hal Clement’s “Mission of Gravity” or Arthur Clarke’s “Childhood’s End” and “Rendezvous with Rama” or William Tenn’s “Child’s Play” or Henry Kutner’s “All Mimsey were the Borogroves” (under the pen name of Louis Paget) or Maurice Hugi’s “The Mechanical Mice”, or Heinlein’s “Methusela’s Children” or Van Vogt’s “Slan” and many, many others were not concerned with good and evil or the stereotypical and frequently boring heroic exploits of some superhero but with discovering how strange the universe really is and how it can easily venture into the fascinating realms of the unknown that require the readjustment of only one small variable to turn the world upside down. They were adventures of the intellect of which the old master H.G.Wells was supreme and put much of the nonsense of fairy tales and heroic legends dressed up in space suits and rocket ships to shame.


Eva2008-09-10 11:54:40
Thanos, so what size tattoo is it?


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