Friday, July 17, 2009

A Writer on Star Trek

I picked up a May issue of Newsweek at the gym because of the cover - "To Boldly Go ... How 'Star Trek' taught us to dream big" - and found a handful of interesting articles.

(It's fun to read short-cycle media multiple cycles after it's been posted/published - much of what consituted 'news' ends up forgotten. My father used to say that one should always read the back pages first - the short bits on 'obscure' happenings end up being relevent longer than what ever is on the front page.)

I was most enthralled with Leonard Mlodinow's "Vulcans Never, Ever Smile" - a recollection of his time as a scriptwriter for(post-Original Series) Star Trek. A physicist, Mlodinow thought that he was responsible for 'putting science into science fiction.' Instead, Mlodinow relates, he learned:

The fun in Star Trek didn't come from copying science, but from having science copy it. My job wasn't to put real science into Star Trek, but to imagine new ideas that hadn't yet been thought of.

I pretty much agree. A fellow geek friend of mine from university days reminded me that the sliding doors common in hospitals and most public areas (and which show up in sci-fi-ish movies such as Sliding Doors) that respond to approaching masses and not a button were invented because a guy saw them on the original ST and took the concept as a challenge. That, said my friend, was what SFF is about.

(It's arguable that one of the big differences between fangirls and gameboys is this: gameboys want to know about the sliding doors, fangirls want to know about the people who walk through the doors. Generalizing and sterotyping, of course.)

The article has a number of insights, including interactions with Gene Roddenberry and his perspective on the evolution of human nature. (In a sort of point/counter point, another article in that issue of Newsweek discusses altruism and charity, while the concept of the role of science in SF gets a different look in Biology in Science Fiction's recent post Hollywood Science and Unscientific America.)

Something not covered in any recent discussion of ST (that I've seen so far) has been the role of religion in ST, and how, after being dismissed as superior tech in ST:TOS, faith gradually made a comeback in later renditions.


One of the movies I saw on vacation was the new Star Trek, which I greatly enjoyed - more than I expected to, in fact. In fact, I can't remember the last time I had that much fun in front of Star Trek product. (This despite the fact that Eric Bana and Karl Urban were the only actors even remotely in my age demographic.)

I've put off posting about the movie because I wanted to have some deeper thoughts about it...but no such luck. I enjoyed the movie. Thoughts have been entirely shallow, affectionate, but without much passion. (Okay, I have exactly one deep thought, and that relates to the potientally different role of the Vulcans in this (new) ST cosmos - going from, say, representing France to being Israel.)


On a less-happy-about-the-future note - and one which doesn't support Rodenberry's theory of change in human nature - the Newsweek issue also covered an internet privacy/censorship legal case - in which a family was fighting to restrict the spread of photos of their daughter's fatal car accident.

The grisy photos have been passed from person to person - and even have been emailed back to the family. One could ask, what kind of person does that?!?!

One of the answers postulated by the article was 'the kind of person who feels empowered by the anonymity of the internet'. Which I can readily agree with.

If, on the internet, only God knows it was you doing hateful things...


One last thing to close the post on a better note: I could have sworn that John Hannah, who was in the above mentioned 1998 Sliding Doors, played Scotty in the new ST movie. Which would have made a great 'close the loop' for this post. Alas, it was Simon Pegg - of Hot Fuzz - who ALSO did the voice of "Buck" in Ice Age III. So.

You learn something new every day.

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