Marc Alan Fishman, Star Trek Virgin
So, a few weeks ago, I decided to give myself the night off. And in doing so, I granted myself the ability to indulge in a previously DVR’ed movie stolen during a free weekend some time ago. That movie was The Green Hornet by way of Seth Rogan. It was, to date, the worst adaptation I’d personally seen of a comic book(esque) character in a movie. The flick was so god awful, I spent the following evening searching for something to wash my mind out. And there, stuck in a marathon of its brethren, a movie I knew was a sure-thing.
The Wrath of Khan was to my knowledge a near-universally beloved film of nerdtopia. Furthermore, I’d never seen it. (Gasp). Surely this shining beacon of Trekkie culture would cure my explosion-riddled mind from the misadventures of Kato and Bro-Hornet. My fellow ComicMixers… set your phasers to stunned. I loved it.
I loved every minute of it. And truly, that is saying something. I am by all accounts not a Trekkie. That being said, I’m not completely ignorant of the brand either. In my short time on this blue ball, I’ve watched dozens of episodes of Next Generation, a handful of Voyagers, a pair of Deep Space Nines (and, heck, I actually saw the one with the Borgs), and the 2009 Abrams’ flick in theater. But the original crew? My only exposure prior to Wrath was an old X-Men/Star Trek crossover comic book from 1996, purchased mainly as a joke. I tried, once, to watch the original series on TV. I was aghast at the production values (forgive me, I was but a child of 24 or 25 at the time). So, to go into this movie as cold as a Bantha on Hoth (I bet that’s pissin’ a few of you off…), I had expected to hate the movie.
Yet something clicked. Immediately after absorbing the film, I went to YouTube to digest the original appearance of Khan in the episode Space Seed. I also set my DVR to record the once-a-week rerun of the retro-upgraded Original Series on cable. Subsequent discussion with actual Trekkies gave me insight as to why I’d suddenly become enthralled in the series. I discovered that one of the motifs of the show was the war of morals versus logic. Bones vs. Spock, with Captain Kirk in the middle. It’s a great concept, one that gave me perspective to enjoy what I previously thought was banal. Where I believe much of The Next Generation is rooted in the expanded (and better looking) aliens and psuedo-science driven plots (and again, I could be wrong, but this is based on the episodes I’ve seen…) the Original Series is more focused on the characters themselves. To be fair, each concept has merit, but it’s taken me until now to find the hook necessary to really sink my teeth into TOS.
And what of James T. Kirk? Removed from the stereotypes I was used to seeing in countless spoofs and parodies stood a Captain who was very much the product of a pulpier age. He fights. He makes love, apparently a lot. He battles his giant space ship with equal amounts of abandon and cool calculation. And in Wrath, it was a treat to see nearly all of these things happen. Suffice to say, without the prejudice of “He’s no Piccard,” I’m finding just why so many people are smitten by Shatner.
For what it’s worth? My money (and new found respect) is on Bones. Prior to my Trek-Immersion therapy, all I knew of the man was “Damnit Jim, I’m not a (insert something), I’m a doctor!” In a single scene during Space Seed, I found a character so compelling, I’m kvelling a little. In Seed, Khan awakes, steals a scalpel, and bates Bones to his bedside. He grasps his neck (with a strength supposedly five times a normal man) and puts the knife to it. Bones, without a flustered yelp to his name, suggests to Khan he should either choke him or just slit his throat, making sure to point out he should tighten his gasp a bit or slit right behind the ear to make it quick. Bones has balls. Amazing.
But let’s all be real; Wrath of Khan is all about Khan. The character himself is a brilliant trope – he’s a conqueror out of time. Following his first appearance via Space Seed, Wrath plays brilliantly. The fantastic turn that Kirk has in allowing Khan a planet to rule, was fascinating. And to use that as the catapult for the movie – where the best intentions are ruined by careless happenstance, and terrible luck – breeds a villain that we can almost sympathize. Even in Seed, we get that air of mystery to the man. He’s a product of another age, superior physically and mentally… but he’s still fallible against a man three centuries ahead of him. And while Wrath of Khan did not allow for the titular terror to match his still-amazing pecs to Kirk’s greying temples, we’re still treated to what makes the Star Trek universe so appealing to me now: Stories are built around savory plots and moral ambiguity, not action sequences and special effects.
So, I am on the verge of a new thing. A respect, and genuine interest in something I truly was never before intrigued by. Something that allows me access to a new sub-culture to both explore and debate with. Something that might just make me boldly go where so many others have gone before. But what could be next? Doctor Who?
Not likely. But that my friends… is a topic for another week.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander