Weekly Wire
Metro Pulse To Boldly Go

Trekkies takes us deep into the heart of all that Rodenberry wrought.

By Adrienne Martini

JUNE 1, 1999:  Gabriel Köerner is one of those kids who is never going to get laid. Obsession and compulsion, coupled with a megalomaniacal streak bigger than even that of film reviewers, virtually guarantee that no other person will ever be able to withstand his smarter-than-thou attitude. Which is not to say that he's a bad teen—I doubt that he'll ever shoot up a school, do a lot of drugs, and/or listen to speed metal. But he is one of those kids for whom the word "trekkie" was invented; Gabriel's life revolves around the Star Trek universe simply because it is the one in which his particular geekiness best fits. Despite the demise of Deep Space Nine, another in the great line of Rodenberry-inspired creations, as long as there are kids like Gabriel, there will be shows like Star Trek.

So what makes a die-hard Star Trek fan? It's hard to say, really, but Trekkies does its darndest to try to find out. Host Denise Crosby (who played Tasha and Sela Yar in The Next Generation) takes us on a tour of fans—from those who only dig the Kirk episodes to those who can only stomach Voyager—in an effort to sum up just what makes this universe a cultural touchstone. Even though the sheer volume of material that Crosby and director/producer Robert Nygard collect is vast, it never quite manages to congeal as well as a Klingon's half-dead dinner.

Still, it's a fun ride. Crosby, given her status as a cult figure, is given carte blanche by her subjects to pick their carbon-based brains—which makes one wonder if these fans would have been as candid had Nygard asked the questions instead of Crosby. Most of the profiles are oddly charming; it's difficult to not have great affection for the people who have made this show the cornerstone of their lives. But there's something oddly unsettling in the director's portrayal of these fans.

Take, for example, Barbara Adams, a Little Rock copy shop worker who was selected for the Whitewater jury—and who chose to wear her Starfleet uniform each and every day of the trial. Adams has truly embraced the philosophy of Star Trek, lives it in her real-life life, and fully believed that she should reflect this while doing a civic duty. She has taken it further, wearing her rank pips (she's a Lt. Commander in the local fan club), tricorder, phaser, and communication badge to work. While this eccentricity is accepted by her co-workers—who really see it as similar to a die-hard sports fan wearing all of his favorite team's gear—one can't help but feel that Adams is dedicated, bright, yet amazingly delusional, a point that the filmmakers do little to clear up with her and other fans. And Nygard only exacerbates the problem by choosing to use extreme close-ups—close enough to see every tic, every pore, and every unplucked hair—during the interviews, which only serves to make these fans more grotesque and freak-show-like than they need to be.

Star Trek stars past and present get kinder treatment under Nygard's microscope—not a surprise really, since the actors are simply caught up in the fan-madness and know better than to bite the hands that feed them. It doesn't help, though, that Crosby keeps pitching them powder-puff questions. Nothing all that controversial comes out of the mouths of these celebrities, even Shatner's—a surprise since he wrote Get A Life, his new book aimed at the soft-underbellies of Star Trek fans. What these stars do relate are stories about trekkies that are equal parts pathetic, heart-warming, and hysterical.

What Nygard does best, however, is examine every last detail of the Star Trek phenomenon, from the development of a real Klingon language to the growth of the Kirk/Spock erotica genre to the creation of a tourist industry in Iowa towns (a tangential story but a fascinating one). It is this focus on the minutia of Trek that makes the film really cook and, in fact, could have allowed Nygard to drop one of his fan profiles (I'd suggest axing the one about the man, the woman, and the poodle), which become strangely similar after a few iterations. And it's a little odd that Trekkies seems to include very few "normal" fans—the ones who don't dress up or buy every last toy—in favor of packing in one more flashy extremist. The less extreme fans have been left out in favor of punchy visuals, even though Nygard has really done his homework.

The timing of the Trekkies release is genius on Paramount's part, despite the documentary's flaws. Just as the nation is in the grips of Star Wars mania, along comes a film (and another choice besides Lucas' opus at the multi-plex) that tries to figure out the mania's causes while simultaneously subtly shifting the spotlight back onto this small-screen brand of space product.

Weekly Wire Suggested Links

Page Back Last Issue Current Issue Next Issue Page Forward

Film & TV: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Cover . News . Film . Music . Arts . Books . Comics . Search

Weekly Wire    © 1995-99 DesertNet, LLC . Metro Pulse . Info Booth . Powered by Dispatch