A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 333 – Trekkies

Trekkies – January 27th, 2011

As of last night we watched all of our Star Trek feature films. All of them. Every single one. But our two Trek weeks aren’t over, since we’ve also got documentaries! We discovered this when I was in college and I’ve got to say, it struck a chord with me right away. It’s a documentary not just about the fans of the show(s) but also about the whole phenomenon of Trek fandom. It touches on lots of different aspects of fannish activity, from conventions to clubs to cosplay to collecting. It’s a big world out there and this documentary tries to at least give a wide sampling of what the fandom has to offer.

I am of mixed opinion on Denise Crosby, who was one of the producers and who acts as a sort of guide through the movie. I remember loving her character, Tasha Yar, when the Next Generation series started and I was crushed when she left the show. Later on when I learned she’d asked to be written out? I admit, I felt put off by her. And then she got written back in when she approached the producers later on. It just feels like she regrets leaving in the first place because of how big it’s gotten and desperately wants to be a part of it all. Then again, in her place, looking in on something like this? I’d want to make myself a part of it again too. Still, she spends much of the show looking shocked and bemused like she’s not quite sure she really wants to know how far some of this stuff goes.

Through the course of the movie we meet quite a few fans and many of the cast members of the various shows. There are interviews and conversations and the interviewees are often the ones narrating what’s being shown on the screen. There’s Barbara Adams, who’s known as Commander at her workplace in a printing shop and who wore her Starfleet uniform when she had jury duty during the Whitewater trial. There’s a dentist and his family who’ve turned their office into Starbase Dental, full of props and sci-fi decorations. They all wear costumes too, including a full Troi wig for the dentist’s wife and assistant. There’s the kid who dresses his cat up (the cat seemed to be totally cool with this so I’m not criticizing) and enters him in costume contests at cons. There’s the guy who builds Trek-based electronics gizmos. There are a huge variety of cosplayers who do everything from Klingons to Andorians to Orions. There are Borg and Vulcans and Bajorans and a number of Starfleet officers of various positions of canonical basis (or not). And then there is the fan we consider the star of the movie. Gabriel Koerner.

Let’s get this straight: We love Gabriel Koerner. I wasn’t just like him when I was a kid, but I was a fan and I was a socially awkward teen and I had friends like him. In this movie he is a 14 year old Trek fan who is invested and fascinated and thoroughly versed in his hobby of choice and man, I loved him from the moment I saw him. I was also fascinated to realize that in the photos they show of him as a kid, he looks a great deal like the kid they got to play young Spock in Star Trek. But yes, Koerner steals the show. He plays ambassador to the Trek fandom and he does a wonderful job. He’s a nice fan. He’s young and enthusiastic and bright and he seems well aware of what the fandom entails, unlike Crosby, who seems somewhat shocked at a couple of things she hears about.

There are certainly some TMI moments in this documentary. A couple of things people unfamiliar with fandom (any fandom) might be taken aback by. Slash fanfic, for one, though by now folks on the internet should be aware of it, if not familiar with it (at one point a dealer at a convention asks Koerner how he knows so much about the action figures they’re trading and Koerner explains ‘I’m on the internet.’ Bigger deal in 1997 than now). Cosplayers explain how it helps their personal lives, there’s some rather tasteful but certainly sexual fan art shown. To me, having spent a goodly portion of time online following various fandoms, it’s nothing terribly unusual or surprising. But it’s new to everyone at some point and for anyone who hasn’t dabbled in a fandom of some sort, it’s probably somewhat revelatory.

What this documentary does very well is show the fans in it in a very sympathetic and fond light. After all, one of the big themes of the documentary as a whole is how everyone is welcome in a world like the one in Star Trek and how for people who feel marginalised elsewhere, something like the Trek fandom is an enormously welcoming thing. There’s a group of women interviewed at one point who explain how strange it is to come to a convention and feel normal and go home after and realize they have to not act like themselves. The whole thing is saying that this is a safe place for people. A comfort zone, if you will. And I like that. I’m not a big con-goer, but I’ve been to a couple that felt like home. In particular, PLA (the Public Library Association), WorldCon (World Science Fiction Society) and PAX East (Penny Arcade Expo on the East Coast). Walking into those conventions felt like walking into the midst of the best party ever. One where the people all speak my language and get me. I can only imagine that’s what Trek cons are like. I can’t say for myself since I’ve only ever been to one and oh, it was the saddest convention in all the land. One room, with a ring of tables at one end and a tiny stage at the other end. We didn’t stay long but I wish I’d been old enough at the time to stick around, because even though it was tiny and all, I think I still would have enjoyed myself.

I remember quite clearly training my fingers into the Vulcan greeting when I was a kid, but while my parents are fans and called themselves Trekkies, it was always with a bit of a laugh to it. After all, we weren’t like those people who dressed up and went to conventions! But then, what’s the big difference when you know episodes by heart? A friend of mine, who will remain nameless, is a big Star Trek fan. A mutual friend introduced us by telling him “Hey, she’s a Star Trek fan too!” and he all but dove over a table (and if you’re reading this, my friend, don’t deny it). So we showed him this documentary and he protested a bit, claiming he wasn’t a Trekkie and no, no, he wasn’t like “those people” on the screen. And then we reached a bit with a guy who built himself a working version of Christopher Pike’s chair from the original series. And immediately he commented “That light’s in the wrong place!” Not a Trekkie indeed. Who cares, really? Gabriel Koerner says it best when he states that he calls himself a Star Trek fan and leaves the debate about Trekkie and Trekker to others.

Aside from Koerner, I think my favorite parts of the movie are some of the stories told by the cast members. They all seem so awed to be a part of something this big, and thrilled with some of the things that have come of it. James Doohan tells a story about a suicidal fan who came to see him at several conventions after writing him a letter telling him how she was feeling. Coming to see him helped her through a hard time and she eventually went and got an engineering degree. There are stories of fans seeing themselves represented by the diverse cast and being inspired. There are stories of fans seeing the possibilities for the future and doing things to make that future happen. There are so many stories. It’s fantastic. And yes, some of them are funny, like the fan who sent a ridged Klingon condom to the producers. And there are funny moments, like the Klingons going to get some fast food for lunch. But it’s all done with love, because the fans so clearly love the show. How could you really make fun of that? Especially when they state so clearly why it is that they love it. It’s because the show has such wonderful ideals and such a hopeful view of the future. It’s because it’s inspiring and, as Majel Barrett says, Star Trek is a 20th century mythology. That’s certainly worth some respect.

January 27, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments

Trekkies

January 27, 2011

Trekkies

We have watched all of our Star Trek movies now, but we have other Trek related movies to watch. Like this documentary about fans of the various Star Trek franchises. I don’t recall how we discovered this movie – I think we must have had it at TLA Video and Amanda and I rented it and watched it because we liked the idea of a movie all about Trek fanatics. Instantly we fell in love with this movie. It pokes fun at the fans a little bit, but it’s kind-hearted good natured fun. It also has a number of rather touching stories as well, about how fandom actually helps people.

The movie purports to star Denise Crosby, but in fact it is responsible for the rise to fame of a young and enthusiastic fan names Gabriel Koerner. Denise does interview a number of the stars of Trek and some of the more frightening fans (she has a slightly bewildered look on her face a lot of the time,) but Gabriel’s unfettered joy as he shows off his collected toys, introduces us to his fan club, and invites us along to a convention is infectious. He shows off some impressive CGI work that he was putting together for an amateur movie his club is putting together. He takes us to the dealer tables as he trades some figures. He just seems like a fun guy to hang out with, not so different from myself as a youth.

I’m not a habitual con goer myself. Oh, I admit that this year I have planned my spring break around Pax East – the big video-game convention – but aside from Pax last year and one Worldcon sci-fi convention I’ve not been to any other conventions. But I can completely understand the appeal. Everybody wants to meet and talk to people who enjoy the things they enjoy. I really respect all the cosplayersthey interview here – people with some quite elaborate uniforms and costumes and make-up. That looks like a lot of fun.

This is a simple but well put together documentary. It is almost entirely interviews with Star Trek fans of varying degrees of intensity. There are also some anecdotes from cast and crew of the various shows, and some of those are truly moving. But it’s the regular fans I love. The woman who wore her starfleet uniform as a juror. The couple who run a Star Trek themed dentist’s office. The group of Klingons who do community service. And of course Gabe with his uniforms and his father’s shuttlecraft van and his Star Trek fan group. Of course the movie concentrates on the most colorful and blatant of fans that the film-makers could find, but they aren’t held up for ridicule – they’re treated simply as people passionate about something they believe offers a better vision of what life can be. Star Trek is depicted as a source of inspiration more than anything else.

I see this as a fun little film full of people that would be a lot of fun to be with. I may not go to Star Trek conventions myself, but these people are folks I respect. Amanda and I planned to cosplay at the last convention we attended but were never able to fit it into our busy lives. It takes dedication to live your life the way these fans do. It takes money. It takes time. These people are living a dream, and it’s a lot of fun to watch them doing it.

January 27, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment