Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To Boldly Go...

Zefram Cochrane built a Warp Drive Engine in the year 2063 in Bozeman, Montana. This was something that takes place in a movie called Star Trek, First Contact. A lot of other strange things took place in that movie, but this is what happened nonetheless. 

If you're a Star Trek Fan, there's no denying the reality that if you go on the internet, you'll find thousands of arguments, possibly millions of arguments about millions of details that have been presented in various episodes and movies and these crazy arguments come from any number of perspectives. If you're a Star Trek Fan, you already know that there's possibly millions of fans who all want to be the person who points out some error, some detail, some discrepancy, some continuity problem and there's no end to posts about things like this. There's hundreds of episodes to sort through, 5 different series' and all these movies, not even including the new ones. 

You will find uncivilized 'discussions' about Klingon foreheads, where and when the Borg should be appearing, how the bridges of people's noses in different series' look different, and how the 'future history' does not line up with dates given in different series. You will find people measuring different sizes of ships on screen and writing entire essays about how impossible it is for certain scenes to have taken place because the size of the ships changed, or wouldn't allow for certain actions shown on screen. Uniforms are different, aliens look different from time to time, and some line of dialog written in one episode doesn't match up with another episode. As a matter of fact, I speculate, there is more written about Star Trek regarding what could and couldn't have happened, and which details are incorrect and where they do and don't belong it's almost beyond comprehension.

Some call it "nitpicking," and yet this "nitpicking" comprises a bulk of discussion about this particular series. People comb over ever detail of every single thing that happens on screen and it really has become a culture of its own. These are of course, "fans," who actually say they love the series, watch it over and over, and freeze frame and screen-capture and post these little details to engage and try to win arguments across the internet every day. It is most certainly a bizarre thing, but it is sometimes amusing to look at, the amount of information gathered and posted is extraordinary. Every word, every date, every little detail is examined. 

Less is written about the concepts and why they exist for some reason, and it shouldn't be assumed that these kinds of people are gathering and comprehending the themes and concepts and meanings of these episodes that they're dissecting. They might be, but they go over and over these episodes to the point of absurdity. I saw one argument about "canon" regarding whether or not the BORG should pronounce the word "futile" as "few-tull" or "few-tyle."  Simply because two actors pronounced them differently in different episodes, and "shouldn't they have pronounced them exactly as the Borg did in the original episode in which they appeared?" 

So Zefram Cochrane comes from an episode in the 60s, and he lived on some other planet for awhile. What's worse than nitpicking is seeing people get upset when some odd thing appears to be different. Needless to say, Star Trek is full of tiny microscopic little inconsistencies and a few 'continuity' mistakes. However, the bulk of the show, the majority of the series, the whole of the idea and the various themes that come and go are hardly affected, yet it continues.

Zefram Cochrane in 2063 was a drunk, bored survivor of World War III living in Montana, who like some hot-rodder who customizes old junkers in his spare time for fun, builds himself a Warp Drive and decides to set off into space with it. The point of this character, in the larger picture, is that he does something different which changes things. He manages to innovate and step away from the hellish situation which is the middle of the 21st Century to basically inspire a whole new future which leads to what we know of as "Star Trek." Yes, this movie in which he appears involves time-travel, some plot inconsistencies, continuity errors, some ridiculous action scenes, character derivations, and numerous other things, but it is revisited in ENTERPRISE, and pretty much illustrated as the event which started it all. 

J.J. Abrams is far from a Zefram Cochrane doing something different, and the plot issues and continuity problems he has brought into the mess is far more disturbing than anything which took place before him. The real point here is, you can waste your time arguing with other Star Trek fans until you're blue in the face, playing gotcha games about the details of Star Trek, and completely miss out on the reason for many of these things, no matter how poorly they may have been conveyed. Sometimes Star Trek themes are conveyed perfectly without error, other times, little details crop up and if you're not paying attention and getting carried away with trying to make every single detail line up perfectly, you totally lose the meaning of things. (Abrams lost the meaning by not paying attention to anything at all, while many fans lose the meaning by paying attention way too much.)

We're approaching the real 2063, and many of us won't live to see that year, but it is closer to our time than anything Captain Archer, or Captain Kirk will ever do. Our time is more likely to be more like the events referred to in "Encounter at Farpoint" than anything else, and unless you actually think everything in Star Trek is going to happen exactly as they say it will, and will be upset when the Eugenics Wars don't really happen because they did in Star Trek, you're more insane than J.J. Abrams. No, nothing happened in 1996, Khan didn't show up in the real world, the times and dates predicted in Star Trek weren't entirely accurate. World War III could happen tomorrow. The point is that perhaps we need to look beyond a bit, and attempt to imagine a better world, one that doesn't have a World War III in it. Yes, according to the Star Trek Timeline, Zefram Cochrane doesn't build his ship until after World War III starts, but seriously, the point is more important than whether or not it takes place in 1996, 2063, 2079 or 2015, or whether such a war takes place at all. 

People take Star Trek seriously, some say too seriously, but in ways that are not always entirely even reasonable. What people need to take more seriously are the ideas that are being conveyed here, not so much whether Warp 7 is impossible or not, but whether or not the human race makes the right decisions in the real world, comparatively to situations in the fictional world. The fact is that we may never ever build a Warp Drive, nor even explore space in metal ships in our future. However, this doesn't make Star Trek any less relevant.  J.J. Abrams doesn't seem to have much to say to us about anything, and could probably care less what kind of future the human race is heading towards, let alone what kind of future Star Trek will actually have, but stories pre-Abrams did and no matter how shitty their special effects, or even their minor details, the points they are trying to make to us need to be looked at a lot closer, using the very same seriousness that the people who create thousands of pages of meticulous encyclopedia entries about every detail of everything that takes place in Star Trek. 

We're not living in a stable world in case you hadn't noticed. Crazy and crazier shit is happening every day. Star Trek world is getting further and further away, not closer and closer. If we're not careful, the mid-21st Century apocalypse will actually be the world we live in very soon, and it could end up being worse than anything Star Trek told us about. The dream of Star Trek is to "boldly go where no one has gone before." Not just because we can, or because the show makes it seem fun, but because if we don't we might as well nuke ourselves right now, and also, if we don't boldly go, we probably will nuke ourselves.

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