Monday, May 11, 2009

To Boldly Go Where I've Gone Many Times Before

I'm obviously slipping. I didn't even realize there was a new Star Trek movie coming out until a few weeks ago. Back in the geeky days of my youth, I would have been one of the first to hear of such an earth-shaking development. I would have been planning to go to the premiere with my geeky friends, in t-shirts with clever sayings like, "Reality is just a crutch for people who don't get science fiction."

Even after finding out about this movie, I wasn't excited until sometime last week. Then something changed and I started getting all worked up about it. Maybe it was partly the change in the weather--the first really sticky, summery days we've had. Maybe it was a whiff of honeysuckle, or the end of the spring term at the college where I work. What does any of that have to do with wanting to see Star Trek, you ask?

Suddenly I was young again, with final exams completed and the lazy summer days stretching out before me. Hot afternoons spent in dark, cool movie theaters, transported to galaxies far, far away. Going home and writing letters to my friends (actual letters on paper, using ink pens and stamps and the mailbox. Talk about another world!) speculating on the next chapter in some ongoing space drama or other.

So suddenly, I wanted to be there on opening weekend of the new Star Trek, not just to see the movie, but to drink in the excitement. To be transported back in time. (Which turned out to be a very fitting metaphor, as you'll know if you've seen the movie!)

And isn't that what good books and movies are about? They speak to our lives at a particular time. They bring us into relationships with other fans. They spark our imaginations and take us out of ourselves. And they're bound so inextricably with the "real" parts of our lives that the connection is almost impossible to break. Hence the whiff of honeysuckle, the sticky-hot weather--and the sudden desire for an epic space movie.

And maybe the book or the movie doesn't even have to be particularly good. I thought the new Star Trek was well-written, funny and exciting, fresh and new yet faithful to the old--just extremely well done. But that's not always the most important thing. The familiar characters, the connection to our lives, some silly little thing that resonates with a part of our personality--sometimes that's more important than high artistic accomplishment.

I've had this idea before. (I will admit, for example, that the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have some of the most convoluted and hard-to-follow scripts in the world, but they resonate with me in a way that most better-written movies do not.) Then I heard someone else express the same thought, in a sort of unexpected venue: the Rush Limbaugh show. Last Friday, Rush had a guest host named Mark Davis, who is about my age. (Translation: Baby Boomer.) (Translation of the translation: old.)

Mr. Davis also talked about being excited over the movie, largely out of a sense of nostalgia. He also mentioned his fascination with the "franchise" idea of Star Trek--how many incarnations and series and movies and spinoffs there have been. He admitted that one of the series (The Next Generation, I think) was superior in every technical way to the original. Better writing, better acting, better special effects. And yet, it would always be Captain Kirk and Bones and Spock that held his heart and fired his imagination, because they're eternally connected with his youth, and with the joy of discovery.

I wonder if Mr. Davis has a picture of himself in a Star Trek uniform. I do. Have a picture of myself, I mean--not of Mr. Davis. Should I share it with you? would take a LOT of comments telling me you're dying to see the picture for me to stoop that low. We'll have to see.

What about you out there? Even if you're not science fiction or Star Trek fans, are there books or movies that you realize aren't exactly great literature--and yet they stir something in you that "higher art" never could?


  1. I want to see it, Robin!!! Let's see you in all your Trekkie glory!

    Your question is sparking a memory, but I can't quite remember which book. I have a vague memory of a book that I absolutely loved but always felt that when I recommend it to others, I should explain that I don't really know why I loved it so much. If it comes to me, I'll post it.

  2. Bring out the photo! >:D

    Trixie Belden is a series that makes me smile when I think about it. A few years ago I bought a couple at a garage sale, thinking my daughter would enjoy them someday; but when I started reading them, the language sounded so archaic--I don't know that my daughter would read and enjoy them like I did.

    Same with Nancy Drew--loved reading those, read every one at least one time, but I'm not so sure my kids will get into those.

  3. Great post! What an excellent movie it was!

  4. Okay, stone me if you will, but I have to admit that I am not a trekkie in any sense of the word. (Well, I do like to hike, but that's about as close as I get!) For some reason I've never been the least bit interested in Star Trek or Star Wars. (Though I do like Dancing with the Stars. So it's nothing personal against stars.)

    I guess a movie that I liked but couldn't really explain why was Gone with the Wind. I know Christina and I watched it together when she was a girl, and she enjoyed it, but I don't know if it's something my granddaughter would enjoy. I'll have to give it a try sometime!

    Thanks for your humorous post. It was a great way to start my day!