I thought it would be appropriate to launch my first blog entry with a topic about my first fan interest: Star Trek. That’s right. I’m a Trekkie. (Yeah, well, since you’re obviously a regular visitor to this site, you read comic books and quote Star Wars, so wipe that condescending smirk off your face, geek.)
I fondly recall being eight years old and seeing the “salt vampire” for the first time after turning on the television to watch the premiere episode, “Man Trap”, in 1966. From that moment, I was hooked on the adventures of Captain Kirk and his crew. I even drew a helm control panel and taped it onto a TV tray so that I could pretend I was piloting the U.S.S. Enterprise as I watched each episode during the original series’ first run on NBC, and then again and again when the show entered syndication.
I remember convincing my mom to drive our family from
When I was eighteen, I drew a series of cartoons for the Star Trektennial Newsletter, published by Gene Roddenberry’s assistant, Susan Sackett, and became the fanzine’s official cartoonist. A year or two later, as I was waiting for a printer in my college’s computer lab, I started programming a Star Trek game had an epiphany about creating interactive worlds based upon my favorite imaginative works. I so enjoyed the creative experience that, after having wrestled for a year with the dilemma of whether to major in Art, English, or Radio/Television/Film, I decided to major to Computer Science.
A computer drawing of the starship Enterprise that I had created for a class project inspired one of COBOL professor to hire me to work in a computer store he owned. Working there I met some of the first computer game publishers, one of whom hired me as a game designer and programmer. I quickly made a name for myself by creating a game based upon another of my favorite television series, The Prisoner.
About fifteen years later, when I was on the Paramount lot interviewing for a job in their consumer products division, I was able to drop in on Susan Sackett in the Star Trek: The Next Generation production offices to finally meet her in person. Since she had written a book about how Star Trek had influenced fan’s lives, I quickly told her my own story of how the show had impacted my own career. As I was leaving, I was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse through an open doorway of the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry, working in his office.
A few years ago, I was hired by Activision to finally produce an official Star Trek game, but as luck would have it, Activision ended its contract with Paramount before I could complete my project, due to the cancellation of Enterprise (the only Star Trek series I was never enthusiastic about watching) and the poor box office performance of Star Trek: Nemesis (which I actually liked better than most other fans).
So, naturally, I’ve been following the development of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek film with great interest, as well as all the interviews that William Shatner has been giving while promoting his book, Up Till Now. Now that I’ve established my Trek creds, I finally come to the subject of this first blog entry – Mr. Shatner’s disappointment over not appearing in the new film.
It’s something that Shatner addresses in every interview he’s given over the past six months. That’s not his fault – he’s just responding to a question that just about every interviewer asks. Nor do I blame him for feeling disappointed about not being in the film. Every fan who has posted on a Star Trek bulletin board has expressed his disappointment that the Shat is not in the film. I’m disappointed he’s not in the film myslf. More specifically, I’m disappointed that Captain Kirk died in Star Trek: Generations, and that he was killed off in such an uninvolving way during an uninvolving conflict in an uninvolving movie. Captain Kirk — and we Star Trek fans — deserved better for the final voyage with the original Enterprise crew.
So, why can’t his character be brought back to life, many fans ask. After all, Spock was resurrected in The Search for Spock. Well, it took an entire movie to bring Spock back to life and the story that the filmmakers want to tell is about how the original crew met. One of the film’s screenwriters, Roberto Orci, has said that they did try to think of ways to have William Shatner appear in the film (along side Leonard Nimoy, who will appear as Spock in scenes involving the older version of the character), but they couldn’t come up with any ideas that wouldn’t just come across to the audience as a cheap gimmick to appease Star Trek fans. They couldn’t ignore Kirk’s death in the previous film, and they couldn’t resurrect a major character like Kirk without that storyline taking over the movie.
Mr. Shatner appears to accept the story problems with bringing his character back, and as I wrote above, I’m fine with him expressing his disappointment that he’s not in the film. However, I have issues his criticism that not including Captain Kirk in the film is a bad business decision.
First, he isn’t the right person to be making this assessment, as it comes across as caring more about business decisions than creative decisions. Now, I can accept this coming from a film producer (after all, I’m a money-grubbng producer myself), but not from an actor. I respect Leonard Nimoy for choosing not to appear in Star Trek: Generations because there was really nothing him to do other than to watch Kirk being blown into outer space. I trust that Mr. Shatner would likewise turn down a cameo that what not worthy of his character.
Second, I disagree with the assessment itself, since it overstates his character’s importance to this particular film given the current situation. One of the reasons why J. J. Abrams chose to produce and direct a new film in a franchise that just about everyone else (including many Star Trek fans) thought whose time was over, with the goal of reintroducing Star Trek to a new audience – an audience too young to remember Captain Kirk. The average thirteen to twenty-five year-old movie-goer probably doesn’t even know who William Shatner is, except possibly perhaps as Denny Crane or that guy in the Priceline commercials.
And as far as us original Star Trek fans go – I can’t imagine any of us not wanting to see J. J. Abrams re-imagining of the Enterprise crew, or not accepting the presence of Leonard Nimoy alone as a sufficient stamp of legitimacy for the project.
As great as Mr. Shatner was at portraying the iconic character of Captain Kirk, the sad fact is that, at least as far as this particular project is concerned, an elder Kirk’s appearance in Abram’s film about the youthful Enterprise crew would be what Starfleet cadets refer to as a “dunsel” – a part which serves no useful purpose.
However, he does have an important role he can play in this producton – to remind us about how great Star Trek once was and might be again.