Friday, 19 December 2014

Post#205 Some thoughts on Star Trek.

I often peruse science fiction topics on the Web and I find the old Star Trek series to be a constant source of new memorabilia. As the years have passed from its creation in the mid-1960s an ever-more detailed history of the making of the programme has been woven out of participant's memoirs and the extraordinarily tenacious efforts of fans to dig out concealed truths. I don't care so much about the actual particulars of a lot of these things. What interests me is what it reveals about the business of making a television show; its complexity and endless demands for attention to detail. Anyone can see the flaws in the sets, costumes and scripts when they're viewing the finished product. When the full scope of the task is revealed, including the personalities and their interactions, it becomes a matter of wonder that anything was cobbled together at all.

One of the things I've come to see over the years is that Gene Roddenberry wasn't really a very nice guy. Little things add up; a social evening at a colleague's house where he insists on playing poker for cash stakes, then turns nasty when he loses, obliging the host to drop the boom and oblige everyone to take their money back and call it quits; accepting free gifts of labour and props from associates and then secretly billing the studio. And a few dozen more like that. It puts William Shatner's coolness towards him in a different light.

And what about Shatner? I recently read his autobiography, 'Up Till Now'. I've heard all the stuff about the Doohan/Takei feud with Shatner and I think the two aggrieved ones made more of it than it's worth. So the guy has an ego and hogs the camera. That's a novelty in the business.

In the book he tells a few things about himself unwittingly. He keeps using the phrase "leading man" to describe his roles and his insistence on pre-eminence. He also shows what is a commonplace concern in his profession; a desperate fear of never working again. No amount of employment ever seems to cure actors of this. A phrase he repeats quite casually is, "of course I had no friends". He also apparently didn't notice that one of the few he might justifiably call a friend, Leonard Nimoy, was an alcoholic. He married a woman who he failed to notice was an alcoholic. That's the one he couldn't trust to take to family gatherings and who drowned drunk in their swimming pool while he was away at such a gathering.

I started to see signs of Asperger's Syndrome in this pattern of behaviour and I don't think that's a far-fetched call. It would explain a lot of the sparks he's struck off some people.

On the subject of the drowned wife, I thought, "He can't catch a break." A day or two after the dismal event, he left his home when a media pack was present. As he approached them he picked up a newspaper from the lawn outside his house and carried it with him. This simple, reflexive act brought criticism. Picking up the paper showed casual indifference to the deceased. Of course, what incited the media was the casual indifference to them. If he had come outside to speak with them and picked the paper up as an afterthought on the way back, no harm done. Apparently coming out for the purpose of collecting the paper and then speaking to the media in passing was unforgivable. Anyway, proper mourning requires that newspapers accumulate and mail isn't collected for at least a month. And sackcloth and ashes and cutting yourself with sharp stones and keening, etc. In truth, none of this is indicative of the suffering felt by the truly bereft. If you want a real example of callousness, see if you can find a video of Michael Jackson's father (at the funeral) telling the camera relentlessly about the 'record company' he was setting up.

The recent 'reboot' of Star Trek doesn't interest me at all. I suppose I would endure it if I was in a waiting room situation with it showing on a television, but that's the limit. I know enough from reading about it that it's made with the same disregard for continuity as the last incarnation of the show on television. Time travel is the great poison of continuity and once it enters the scenario, disaster is close. It should be used sparingly and with the same care given to nitroglycerine. Using a time travel gimmick to create a completely inconsistent past is folly. One look at the sets is enough. A real brewery was used as the set for the Enterprise engineering division. (You can believe it easily from the images on the Web.) Khan has become a person of European appearance. Because they don't want to disparage a person from Asia in the current climate of international tension. Much better to just make up their own completely original, 21st Century drivel and refrain from abusing something a lot of people remember with fondness.