Captain’s Log: Modern Day

It’s one of those nerd questions you’ll answer eventually: who is your captain? Kirk? Picard? Janeway? Those other guys from the Star Trek series that I didn’t watch? Usually after giving your answer, you justify it. Kirk was the original captain and the heroic space-cowboy. Picard was the diplomat. Janeway was tough as nails. And so on.

Picard has always been my pick for captain, but my reasons go beyond the fact that The Next Generation was my favorite series. Part of the reason is that Patrick Stewart is just an amazing guy.

If you want an example of the kind of person I think all men should aspire to be, take a look at this video of a fan Q&A session at a convention. The entire video is excellent but it’s at about 5:44 that really stands out as Patrick Stewart discusses his own childhood experience watching his father’s domestic abuse of his mother:

As a child in my home, I heard doctors and ambulance men say, Mrs. Stewart, you must have done something to provoke it. Mrs. Stewart, it takes two to make an argument. Wrong. Wrong. My mother did nothing to provoke that. And even if she had, violence is never, ever a choice that a man should make. Ever. 

It’s a cultural cliche to scorn people for regarding actors and celebrities as heroes. Kids shouldn’t look up to movie stars, not when there are doctors and soldiers and police and scientists and so many others who are working hard to save lives without any of the fame or fortune that the celebrities of the world receive. And those people are heroes, undeniably.

But I think it’s important to recognize, too, the contributions to the world that a person like Patrick Stewart can make with moments like these. When a person like Patrick Stewart speaks, people listen. The power of language holds within it the power to change minds. It’s a power every bit as real and valuable as any new technology, maybe even more-so.

So it’s important to recognize those who use their voices and their status to help champion these messages. Star Trek seems to be a bastion for these types; I’ve already talked about why George Takei is excellent. Whether it is on behalf of gay rights or speaking out against violence against women, I’m glad that their voices are being heard. I’m glad that sometimes, the people who play our fictional heroes turn out to be pretty heroic in their own right.

The woman in the video who asked the question has her own write-up of the moment that’s worth your time. It has a few pictures that are particularly poignant.

Thoughts On “Star Trek Into Darkness”

It took a bit of doing after finding out that my favorite theater was closed, but we did manage to attend a showing of Star Trek Into Darkness last night. The problem was finding a showing that was “just right” and gave us enough time to get there but not so much time we’d be walking out of the theater at 2:00am on a work night. The answer turned out to be a 9:00pm show at the El Con theater which is clear across town from me, but whatever.

Harkins Theater, I miss you already.

Anyway, let’s talk about the movie. In fact, let’s talk about the movie after a page break, because there are going to be los spoilitos in this post. That’s Spanish for the spoilers, fyi.

Continue reading “Thoughts On “Star Trek Into Darkness””

The Last Outpost

On a whim, I decided to watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation today. There was no particular reason; I just found myself thinking about it and the fact that I’ve only seen bits and pieces of TNG over the years as a result of watching it on the arbitrary demands of cable television. How did we ever function without instant streaming? How could we follow the complex and nuanced plot development without watching back-to-back-to-back episodes on season DVD binges?

The episode I selected was season 1’s “the Last Outpost.” I think this was the fourth or fifth episode in the series and promised “the introduction of the Ferengi.” Now, I’ve seen enough Star Trek over the years to know about the Ferengi. I know Quark, even if Deep Space Nine was my least favorite series of the three that I watched primarily (TNG, DS9, and Voyager, although now Voyager would probably be more annoying to me). I thought I knew what to expect about the Ferengi.

Except, not really. I didn’t realize (or else had forgotten) that they were intended to be an antagonistic race, like the Klingons or the Romulans. This blew my mind to a group described as “18th century Yankee traders” were intended by the writers to be a major antagonist. Was the original plot of the social meant to be an allegorical battle between communism and capitalism? Actually, it probably was, now that I think about it.

Also, it seems that that standards for writing dialogue in 1987 for television shows were a lot lower. This can only mean that pop culture and the Internet have made us all smarter. There can be no other possible interpretation of this single piece of anecdotal data.

I was very surprised to see that the Ferengi were meant to be scary. I mean, they did have the sharp teeth, which always seemed to be a little weird for a comedic character in the later shows, but really? That’s your effort at a space monster? I really want to know the “behind the scenes” reasoning for this; it’s not like this episode was made befoer we knew how to make scary aliens. We’re already in a post-xenomorph world in 1987, we knew how to make scary aliens.

Okay, maybe the xenomorph was a little too scary for a television show, but still. There’s a middle ground between the most nightmarish avatar of destruction and sexual imagery ever imagined and a race of stunted, vaguely goblin things that bounce around too much, wave their hands around for seemingly no reason, and have all the terror factor of . . . actually, I can’t think of anything less scary. I was going to say the flying monkeys from The Wizard of Oz, but honestly, those were pretty creepy when I was a kid.

It was an interesting little experience. I might pick out more episodes and random and see what it’s like. I suppose I could watch all seven seasons (they’re on Netflix, after all), but honestly, I think that would probably take me the better part of a few years. We’ll see how it goes.