Science Fiction & Popular Culture
Where No Nerds Have Gone Before
Recently, my pal, Kelly, posted something to Twitter that spurred a little “debate” between us. He was showing his young daughters Star Wars for the first time. Kelly is a diehard Star Trek fan. He expressed a hope that the girls wouldn’t love Star Wars more than Star Trek.
Being more in the Star Wars camp, I thought it appropriate to bait him on the matter. As to which was “better” his opening response was Episode I :The Phantom Menace. Yeah, I got nuthin’. Even as committed as I am to the franchise, Episodes I, II, III really push the boundaries of what I’m willing to do for the cause. In my opinion, they try too hard and teeter on the brink of a vaudevillian subtly and a persistent fourth wall break.
Shortly though, the correct response occurred to me, “Whales” (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home). Thin on premise, but long on distractingly bizarre costume choices. Mr. Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) very nice hotel bathrobe worn backwards with matching headband comes to mind.
Impasse. Moreover, it is the prize fool who would publicly and willfully incite this debate to a broad readership. In short, live long and you do you.
In further consideration of this general topic, I thought about my childhood experiences with both these franchises. Star Wars was limited to three movies that came out separated by years. It’s like being married to a 17th century sea captain. You may love him, but you’ll do much of that from afar. Star Trek on the other hand, provided a much more regular and available dose of their franchise.
In my last essay I talked about some of the shows I watched growing up. While I didn’t mention it, Star Trek was among the most watched. We’re talking about Star Trek (TOS) that ran on NBC from 1966 to 1969. I watched a rerun episode almost every weekday. The show promoted a lot of laudable values: diversity, curiosity, the values of science, the duty to lead and be selfless.
It also promoted a difficult to articulate value known as “The Prime Directive” (General Order One). While never explicitly elaborated on the show, the Prime Directive is an order forbidding a…