Sunday, 1 March 2015



He’s Dead, Jim


A man I’ve known since I can’t remember when, Tim, has never seen a Star Wars movie. He’s never squirmed through teddy bears with spears nor pop-eyed Rasta asses. I believe he’s walked out on the evil franchise’s trailers, preferring to power smoke outside under the theatre’s marquee, whatever the weather. We grew up together in an era of hash, Alice Cooper and George Carlin. Our generation was (thankfully) never conscripted to serve our country. Living a life without having seen even a minute of George Lucas’s space opera constitutes a rare and valued badge of honour. But Tim has shelled out cash money to watch the crew of the starship Enterprise in action - provided the original cast was on the bridge.


The derring-do exploits of William Shatner’s Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock initially ended in 1969 when NBC pulled the plug on the original Star Trek television series. But we’re talking science fiction here, so the galactic Odd Couple were reincarnated in syndication and Saturday morning cartoons before boldly going into a series of Paramount films – a few of which were pretty good. The only comparable fictional duo of mismatched, adventuresome best friends and equals is Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the Napoleonic era heroes of Patrick O’Brian’s delightful 20-volume Royal Navy roman fleuve.


A few months ago, Ann and I settled at a table in the Empress Alehouse for a pint. Across the street, and you can see it from the Empress’s window, is a comic book and game store called Warp One. Inside the pub was a guy wearing a t-shirt that read: HAN SHOT FIRST. I recognized the Star Wars font and I laughed. I realized too that Trekkies constitute a marginally slighter sad sack of fandom. While the look of Klingons and Romulins has evolved through various TV series and films, at least Star Trek footage has not been subjected to excessive and obsessive CGI tinkering and revisionism.


Star Trek was always grounded, a little more immediate than a puerile galaxy far, far away. NCC-1701 slipped the surly bonds of Earth in service to a futuristic United Nations. There was a connection to our Milky Way and a connection to us still down here, locked in our time, seated together in the cinemas of our primitive and paranoid culture. The best film of the franchise, not coincidently, was The Voyage Home. Leonard Nimoy wrote the story and directed the movie in which he deadpanned a recently undead Spock as a little soft in the head. This flick had everything: time travel, action, drama, romance, wit, wry social commentary and an environmental message deftly delivered years ahead of our current and continually unfolding crisis.

The two recent and enjoyable theatrical reboots of the first series have explored the genesis of Kirk’s and Spock’s lifelong friendship. Theirs is a tense balance of reason and passion, appetite and restraint; they mesh dynamically as a duo. Unlike Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, neither character can be second banana to the other. I’ve watched the pair in action through some 80 TV episodes and about eight movies. Counting reruns and repeated viewings, I calculate Kirk and Spock have occupied more than 200 hours of my waking life. I’ve enjoyed every minute in their company. I cannot say the same about Luke Skywalker and a green puppet; my friend Tim never wasted his time with them – he’s always been more sensible than me.

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