Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Why you should watch Star Trek: a letter to my Wife.

Although I am a second generation Star Trek fan (i.e. I grew up watching Star Trek: TNG), I enjoyed the original Star Trek and even most of the later spinoffs. I am also an avid movie fan, and as such could talk for hours about the different themes presented in the many Star Trek movies, both original and TNG.

But the creation of the new Star Trek universe by J.J. Abrams presents a problem for me. Is it a gateway by which new fans will be introduced to the Star Trek I love or is it just an action movie to be enjoyed and forgotten? It is both a celebration of the old and a creation of something new to enjoy and a well balanced combination. But part of me fears that the enjoyment of the new characters and CGI action will distract some from realizing why the old Star Trek is worth celebrating.

After seeing the new Star Trek with my friends I was disturbed to discover they had not seen The Wrath of Kahn. How could you understand the Kobyashi Maru, or the welling of tears you should feel upon hearing the line "You are and always shall be my friend."? How could you really know how well Chris pine grew into the character by the end of the movie if you don't truly know the real James Tiberius Kirk?
How can you truly understand the difference in theory between Kirk's and Spock's solutions to the unwinnable scenario if you hadn't seen Kahn?

I might sound like just another geek to you or the type of person who thinks you have to overanalyze something to enjoy it. But if that's the case then you probably don't understand why Star Trek is so important. Let's see if I can explain:

Great storytelling is measured by personal realization, by what you learn about yourself when watching, reading or hearing the story (not by what you learn about the characters or the storyteller). The stories that describe the dark side of humanity (Heart of Darkness, Lord of the Flies) make us contemplate our own primal urges. The stories that describe the great things we can accomplish even in the face of great obstacles (The Lord of the Rings, The Stand) make us aspire to be better.

Star Trek does both. It envisions a world where we've advanced well beyond war and famine on our home planet, to the point where we can concentrate great effort on exploring the unknown instead of fighting amongst ouselves. At the same time it describes the stories of individuals who face their own obstacles and in the best episodes face their own demons.

Star Trek is hope for a greater tomorrow and recognition that life will always be a personal battle between good and evil. It embraces the amazing potential for discovery of the natural world, the scientific world, and ourselves.

And great storytelling is universal. Even if you don't dream of exploring the stars, you can appreciate the exploration of what it means to be human embodied in the struggles of Data, or the dangers of how much technology should be integrated into our lives as embodied by the fight against the Borg. Of course these are regurgitations of the themes in the stories of Pinocchio and Brave New World. But show me where on TV today you can find these themes explored in the same depth and by actors half as good as Patrick Stewart.

That is why I love Star Trek. It appeals to the philosopher and the scientist. It challenges me to be a better person and to think better of the people around me. Best of all, it reminds me of being a child, and a time when I tried harder to set goals as high as the stars. Those are the types of feelings and dreams that are meant to be shared with your loved ones and that is why you should watch Star Trek with me.

No comments:

Post a Comment