My Star Trek Story

official Star Trek 50th Anniversary logo

I first encountered Star Trek at a library. They displayed the 25th anniversary VHS set on a shelf under a window, placing it at eye-level for two budding sci-fi fans desperate for something to watch other than Star Wars (which I love, but once you can recite every line of dialogue in A New Hope from memory it’s time to broaden your sci-fi horizons). When all the videos were checked-in, they formed a picture of the most beautiful spaceship we’d ever seen. Star Trek aired 23 years before I was born and yet I was obsessed before seeing a single episode.

star trek VHS My mother’s only experience with Star Trek was seeing Wrath of Khan in theaters, which convinced her it wasn’t child-appropriate. So my sister and I followed the course of action that worked when we wanted to watch Star Wars. We talked to Daddy. He remembered watching Star Trek with his dad, so we got the go-ahead to bring home one of those marvelous videos.

The Motion Picture wasn’t quite what were were expecting. I’m ashamed to say I was a bit disappointed. Who are these people (and why are they so old)? Why isn’t anyone happy, and why’s Spock trying to get rid of his emotions? Where are the space battles? This plot doesn’t make sense! We were undaunted, though, and Daddy sent us on a quest to find TV episodes. We came back with “Where No Man Has Gone Before.”

This was more like it! I instantly fell in love with Spock and my sister with Kirk. We watched several episodes as a family, which was made doubly interesting because my Dad shared his memories of watching The Original Series with his dad. One of those memories involved his dad’s coinage of the word “scrooched.” You can find this in dictionaries with the definition “to crouch or bend,” but the much better definition is “to bring under alien influence.” As in, “That red shirt’s going to get scrooched if he investigates the suspicious sound.”

Star Trek’s 50th birthday is this week on September 8. It’s a great time to be a Trekkie. We got a fantastic feature film (I liked the first two movies set in the Kelvin timeline well enough, but Beyond was the best. It felt like “real Trek,” just as Simon Pegg promised). A new series is coming next year after 11 years without Star Trek on TV and there was a new episode of Star Trek Continues released this past weekend (this fan-made series is fantastic — it’s like getting a season 4 for the Original Series!). My sister and I are watching “Embracing the Winds” together this afternoon, ready to be those two little girls awed by the U.S.S. Enterprise and giddy about the prospect of quality sci-fi once again.

The Essence of Star Trek

A couple days ago, we finally got a new trailer for Star Trek: Beyond that felt a bit more like “real Star Trek.” Now, there are Trekkies who will say none of the new films are “real Trek,” but I’m not one of them. Though parts of Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) irritated me as a life-long Trekkie, overall I thought they were good stories and I’m nothing but pleased with the cast’s performances of my favorite characters (especially Karl Urban as Doctor McCoy).

The Essence of Star Trek | marissabaker.wordpress.com

image credit: my screenshot from Star Trek Online

I did, however, feel these films were missing a focus that has always been core to the idea of Star Trek. Star Trek’s mission is about exploration, science, new cultures, and ideas. It’s not a space-battle heavy type of science fiction nor was it a “crisis of the week” type of show. It’s much more thoughtful than that. The new movies engaged with ideas of this nature to a certain extent, but they were also fast-paced, explosion-heavy, and largely earth-centric blockbuster films. The first trailer for Star Trek: Beyond made it look like the new film took that to an extreme. It was so bad that Simon Peg admitted he “didn’t love it” and told Trek fans “hang in there, be patient.”

In this new trailer we get discussion about Kirk’s motivation and character. We finally see hints of exploring new worlds, engaging with different cultures, and wrestling with tough ideas. This makes me happy because, at its core, Star Trek is about people trying to do the right thing in complicated situations. Trek should engage with current cultural topics in a unique way. It should support the idea that “good” and “right” are a real things rather than abstract concepts while also acknowledging it’s not always easy to know what’s the good and right thing to do.

Here’s some examples of what I’m talking about. I could list many others (the TNG episode “Measure of a Man,” for one), but for the sake of space I limited it to three episodes. *Spoilers for all episodes below*

TOS: City on the Edge of Forever

Written by science fiction legend Harlan Ellison, “City on the Edge of Forever” is regarded by many as hands-down the finest episode in the Original Series and perhaps all of Star Trek. After Doctor McCoy inadvertently alters earth’s history, Kirk and Spock travel back to the 1930s to repair the time-line, at which point Kirk (predictably) falls for a woman who needs to die for history to play-out as it should. Edith Keeler is a social-worker who runs a soup kitchen and seeks peace for the entire planet. In the correct timeline, she dies in a car accident. If Doctor McCoy saves her life, her peace movement delays U.S. involvement in World War II.

Kirk is the product of a society with the type of peaceful, one-world government Edith dreams of and fights for. He agrees with her ideologically, but he also knows that if she lives Germany’s victory prevents the formation of his unified future-earth. The whole episode grapples with the ideas of responsibility and accountability. Letting someone die is wrong, but letting a planet’s future die would also be wrong. Which is the lesser evil? Can we allow one personal tragedy in order to prevent a global catastrophe? Those are questions we’re still wrestling with today.

DS9: In The Pale Moonlight

While not one of my favorite episodes, “In the Pale Moonlight” is a good example of what we’re talking about today. The story is set during the Dominion War, and the Federation is losing. To borrow from Memory Alpha’s description, “Captain Sisko enlists Garak’s help to ‘persuade’ the Romulans to join the Federation/Klingon alliance to win the war. Sisko unwittingly learns that to save the Federation, he may have to sell his soul and the values Starfleet stands for.” Sisko, and the audience, wrestle with the question of how far the “good guys” can or should go to win a war. He begins with “good intentions,” but they’re the sort that proverbially pave a road to hell.

As the plan becomes ever more complex, he moves from spying, to fabricating false evidence, to paying off dangerous criminals with the ingredients for biogenic weapons, and finally he becomes complicit in an assassination. But Sisko hasn’t gone off the deep end — he simply came up with a plan, received approval, and kept moving forward with sanction from the Federation. Though the assassination wasn’t part of the original plan, there aren’t any repercussions for it. Romulus declares war and the Alpha quadrant is saved. Mission accomplished. But not without great moral wrestling. The episode ends with Sisko staring into the camera ending his personal log with the words, “So I will learn to live with it…Because I can live with it…I can live with it.”

STC: Lolani

Star Trek Continues really feels like a 4th season of the Original Series, and it continues Star Trek’s rich history of dealing with complicated ethical questions and current cultural issues. In this episode (click to watch), the Enterprise rescues a frightened Orion slave girl from a damaged ship. Having been taken from her family and enslaved, Lolani’s situation is very much akin to trafficked victims here on earth. You might think freeing her is the obvious, moral thing to do, but Star Trek is never simple. The episode wrestles with other issues as well, such as whether or not Lolani’s victimization can excuse her crimes and to what extent Kirk and his people can legally help her.

Since the Orion system isn’t part of the Federation and their law demands any slaves found revert to Orion control, the Federation insists Kirk return Lolani rather than risk an international incident. Kirk initially complies, then chooses to rescue her in violation of Starfleet orders. Before he can, Lolani kills herself and her master by destroying the ship. It’s too late for his change of heart to help; for his moral core to over-ride his nation’s law. That saves the Federation from war with the Orions, but what does it do to Kirk’s soul?

I’m hoping Star Trek: Beyond and the new series coming next year continue Trek’s history of tackling complex ideas, pushing us outside our cultural comfort zones, and looking at issues and ideas from multiple angles. I want more stories that make us think while they’re entertaining us.

Dark Side or Light?

The dark side is quick, easy and powerful. The light side requires commitment, bravery and peace. They are always at odds, always battling in the galaxy as a whole, between groups of people, and even within individual hearts and minds.

Star Wars has always been about the classic battle between good and evil. This same battle rages in our world as well, which is one of the reasons this franchise is so popular. We can all relate to the humanity and struggles of the people in this “galaxy far, far away.” It’s a sort of myth or fairy tale for the modern age. And, like many iconic stories, it can prompt discussions about a variety of topics important today, including faith and religion.

Do you walk on the dark side or the light? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

In Star Wars, the Dark Side is the “quick and easy” path, just as in the Bible the path toward destruction is wide and easy to find. Darkness has a strong, seductive pull which actually mirrors an analogy in Proverbs where evil is compared to a crafty harlot while wisdom is a gentle, godly woman.  But Star Wars teaches the Dark Side isn’t better – the good characters resist it and win, the bad characters find that it ruins their lives and the lives of those around them. Continue reading

Star Wars MBTI Chart

My Star Wars obsession has lain dormant for 10 years, buried under delta shields, gate addresses, consulting detectives, and madmen in blue boxes. As The Force Awakens, so has the part of me that used to spend hours on Star Wars message boards debating casting news and plot points for the prequels trilogy. I’ve seen it twice now — once opening night and then again yesterday.

I know the fact that most of the EU is no longer cannon has irritated/incensed some people, but at least it’s easier to catch-up on what’s in-cannon now. I’ve been watching Clone Wars (which I thoroughly enjoy) and reading some of the novels, so those will figure into this typing chart.

Readers have been so happy with my Disney princesses chart trying to sort characters by their actual type rather than shoe-horn one into each category that I decided to do something similar for Star Wars. Share it with your friends, spread it around Pinterest, comment with what you like and dislike. For interested parties, I’ve added some of my reasons for typing each character this way below the chart. Enjoy 🙂

Update January 2017: I’ve updated  the chart with characters from Star Wars Rebels. Click here to visit the post analyzing their personality types.click to read article, "Personality Types in Star Wars Rebels" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Continue reading

Thoughts On The New Doctor

I started watching Doctor Who a few years after “new Who” started, begining with Eccleston and continuing on in order. I liked Nine, but fell in love with Ten. Even though I was still catching up at that point, knew it was coming, and had Matt Smith episodes that I could watch, I went into mourning for a month after he regenerated and refused to watch any of Eleven’s episodes. But I finally did, and I liked him almost instantly.

And then just a few years later he left. By that time I’d caught up with all the episodes, so there wasn’t the assurance of knowing who’d replace him. It was, in many ways, more traumatic than David Tennant leaving because on top of losing a Doctor I loved, I didn’t know who might replace him. It could have been anyone — a woman, an American (the Horror!), a non-Whovian …

… and then it was Peter Capaldi, and I stopped freaking out. That’s when some of my friends started freaking out, though — he’s too old and too grumpy and shouldn’t be trusted with our favorite character. But I had a good feeling about him for some reason.

SPOILER WARNING

I think I was right. It takes a while the first episode after the Doctor regenerates for him to settle into a personality, and he flitted through a few of the old ones before we got a good sense of who he’ll be now (including asking for a very long scarf and screaming “Geronimo”). Still, I think I’m going to like the Doctor this way. And I have very, very high hopes for the upcoming “Robot of Sherwood” episode (I’m a bit obsessed with Robin Hood legends. Actually Medieval things in general).

There’s plenty of in-depth reviews already, so I’ll just touch on a couple things I though were of note …

Steampunk title sequence! Last time they changed the title and music I was upset, but this time I liked it. I suppose the gears are actually supposed to make me think of time and watches rather than steampunk, but who cares — it was cool. Like bow ties.

The cameo appearance of Matt Smith might not have been surprising for some people, but it was for me. And it was splendid. Clara needed it, and I think some of Matt’s fans probably did, too. *cue sobbing*

“Girl In The Fireplace” is my favorite episode, so I loved the parallels here. Well, “loved” in the sense that I liked how it reminded me of this episode even though robots harvesting human beings for spare parts is bloody creepy.

Clara was splendid. There have been rumors floating around that Jenna Coleman will be leaving in the Christmas episode, and I really hope that’s not true. I’ve liked her as a companion, and I like her even more after seeing her stand up to Madam Vastra and try to convince The Doctor that she’s not an egomaniac by shouting “Nothing is more important than my egomania!”

One of my favorite scenes is where the Doctor is talking with a homeless man (didn’t catch his name, but planetclaire.org says it’s Barney) about his new face.

The Doctor: Why this one? Why did I choose this face? It’s like I’m trying to tell myself something. Like I’m trying to make a point. But what is so important that I can’t just tell myself what I’m thinking? I’m not just being rhetorical here. You can join in.
Barney: I don’t like it.
The Doctor: What?
Barney: Your face.
The Doctor: Well I don’t like it either. I mean it’s alright up to the eyebrows. Then it just goes haywire. Look at the eyebrows! These are attack eyebrows. You could take bottle caps off with these.
Barney: They are mighty eyebrows indeed sir.
The Doctor: They’re cross. They’re crosser than the rest of my face. They’re independently cross! They probably want to cede from the rest of my face and set up their own independent state of eyebrows. That’s Scot, I am Scottish and I’ve gone Scottish.
Barney: Yes you are. You are definitely Scot sir. I hear it in your voice.

Love the bit of Scottish attitude that’s showing up along with his new accent, and I particularly like the more reflective side we’re glimpsing in this Doctor as he puzzles over why he chose this face — what message his past selves are trying to send him. On the same subject, there’s a particularly heart-tugging line of dialogue at the end where he tells Clara, “You can’t see me, can you? You look at me and you can’t see. Do you have any idea what that’s like? I’m not on the phone, I’m right here. Standing in front of you. Please just… just see me.”

We see you, Mr. Capaldi. And you look like The Doctor. Not my Doctor perhaps, but certainly a Doctor we can learn to love.

12th Doctor Sale going on at my Etsy store until the end of August

 

Why The Next Doctor Should Be a Man

If you’re a Whovian, you already know what I’m talking about from my title. If you’re not a Whovian, you are probably going to stop reading right about here, but I’ll explain anyway. Doctor Who is a British sci-fi series celebrating it’s 50th Anniversary this year. The main character is an alien and he can “regenerate” instead of dying, hence taking care of the problem of recasting an actor. The 11th Doctor, Matt Smith, will be leaving in the Christmas special this year.

Okay, with that out of the way we can get to the core issue. The past 11 Doctors have been men. Some people want a female 12th Doctor. This is the first regeneration I’ve been through as a Whovian (I started watching with the 9th Doctor, but Matt Smith was the current Doctor at the time), so I didn’t know until now that this has been a debate for years. I honestly don’t think they’ll cast a female Doctor, but I’ve gotten tired of reading the arguments without adding my “two cents worth.”

Bad Arguments

First off, I’ve seen some terrible arguments in favor of the Doctor remaining male. And they’re giving the rest of us a bad name.

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Oh and by the way. No.

(This is an exact quote. I didn’t add a single “no” myself.) This just makes it sound like you don’t have a rational argument. Probably because you don’t.

It’s “Doctor Who” not “Nurse Who”

Haven’t seen this one myself, but I heard someone griping about it on a podcast. How can you expect to be taken seriously when you’re only argument is a grossly outdated “men are doctors, women are nurses” idea?

It’s like casting a female James Bond

Actually, I like this argument, but I admit it has flaws. For one thing,  you can argue against it pretty easily by saying Bond isn’t an alien. Although some people think he’s a Time Lord, the roles really are different enough to make this one of the weaker arguments.

Good Arguments

Okay, on to the “serious” arguments against turning The Doctor from a Time Lord into a Time Lady.

Time Lord vs Time Lady

I’ve only watched new Who (since 2005, as opposed to classic Who from 1963-1989), but I’ve read enough to say the following with almost 100% certainty: there are Time Lords, and there are Time Ladies. They are as different as male and female humans. As far as I know, the only time we know of a Time Lord regenerating as a female is The Corsair, as mentioned in “The Doctor’s Wife.” Yes, it can happen according to cannon. No, it’s not normal or likely. Gender isn’t nearly as fluid as some people like to think. And all indications are that The Doctor sees himself as a man (1:36-1:40 in this video he is seriously freaked-out that he might have regenerated as a girl), which would make a gender change as problematic for him as it is for the audience.

Bad For Business

Doctor Who is an established show with an established character. The Doctor changes personality a little when he changes faces, but some things remain consistent, including the fact that he is a madman in a blue box who travels with a female companion. Shaking that up too much risks estranging the fan base and sending Doctor Who on another 16 year (or, horror of horrors, a permanent) hiatus. While I don’t trust Steven Moffat not to cast a female Doctor so he can go down in Who history, I don’t think the BBC will let him do that.

“I don’t think I could kiss her”

This is my personal favorite. When asked about the possibility of casting a woman as The Doctor, this is what Alex Kingston said (she plays River, who’s married to the Doctor). I think there are plenty of fan-girls who would agree.

Who Should Be The Next Doctor?

To be honest, I don’t really care who they cast as the next Doctor as long as it’s truly in keeping with the character. And that means it has to be a man. Ethnicity and age don’t even matter, so long as he’s talented enough to develop his own take on the classic character. I don’t have a specific actor in mind, mostly because the actors I’m familiar enough with to know they’d be a good Doctor probably wouldn’t commit to the 9 months of filming required by Doctor Who. It doesn’t have to be someone we recognize — Matt Smith was relatively unknown when he was cast, and turned out to be a great Doctor. I’d prefer if the new actor was British, but I suppose even that’s negotiable.