Thursday, October 11, 2012

Will the real ship captain please stand up

OK, my nerd street-cred (or rather library cred) will never rise above 'dabbler' rank until i take a hardline stance on this gravest of issues.

Picard is better than Kirk.
I'm sorry, but despite the classic appeal of having a dashing man's man as the captain of an exploration vessel, Picard was always the more sympathetic and believable character. Better written, better acted, better hair even. Kirk's entire personality was just everyone's drunken college room-mate who ends up pissing in the wastepaper basket one night and brags about it for years afterwards. Yeah he gets the girls but that's more of a negative comment on the female taste in mates than a point in his favor.

The original series was pretty damn bad, even for television. It had to be, if it was going to make a name for itself. Science fiction was classified, a priori, as not-literature (as it still largely is, unfortunately.) It could not have been taken seriously. Farce and prurient appeal were taken as its only selling points, hence green slave girls, terrestrial aliens with quaint accents and slapstick humor. However, given the lowest-common-denominator demands placed upon it, the show did a great deal to promote scifi themes to the public.
This does not mean, however, that TNG wasn't a leap upwards in almost every sense. Thanks (i hate to admit it) to feminist pressure, the show's miniskirt-wearing minor characterettes were reduced to the ever-squeezable counselor Troi. Data is a poor replacement for Spock as a basic concept, but he still had a great number of memorable scenes. Swapping the second in command and captain's roles as playboy and serious military man was a hell of a lot more believable than Spock taking orders from Kirk.
Even overall, the show just offered a much greater variety of storylines as opposed to the original series' cookie-cutter routine
- they get a weird signal (Uhura and Sulu's scene)
-something threatens the ship (Scotty's scene)
-they beam down to the planet (Spock and McCoy wave some tricorders around the dead body of a redshirt ensign)
-Kirk saves the day after seducing some random leggy 'alien' gal with colorful skin features

For the most part, i stopped watching after TNG. I have seen a few episodes of Deep Space Nine and i agree with the standard complaint: if they ain't trekkin' it ain't Star Trek. It admittedly seems to have been the best written of all the series and i do intend to see it all at some point but losing the main gimmick of the shows means it no longer qualifies for comparison.

As for everything else that came afterwards, puh-leeze. Voyager and Enterprise were just horribly written, as if a twelve-year-old were taking every routine on TVTropes and expecting us to nail it to the refrigerator as primo-quality work. They even lacked the amusing single-minded gimmickry of the original series as post-ironically 'bad' appeal.

Now as for what truly prompted this post. I made the mistake of watching a bit of the remake. The less said about it the better. There are few things in the history of bad art that could make Shatner's hammy narcissism in the old series look good by comparison.

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