John Ege

The Future was Once a Utopia

Blog Post created by John Ege Employee on Aug 19, 2016
Alright, this is not intended to be a rant, and I am writing it on the fly, and suspect I will be editing after the fact. I'm wanting this to be an exploration of nuance. We all live in our own worlds and we frequently misunderstand each other in subtle ways, and don't even realize it. I believe the term, at least when applied to couples, is called 'bypassing.' In my case, as exampled in my own relationship, I am aware that this is happening more often than not, and still end up failing to communicate. My wife is Thai, and her language is and probably will always be predominantly Thai, and she learned to speak English by watching "Friends." (My name is not Joey!) One of the difficulties I have encountered is that, in many ways, the Thai language is fairly simple. For example, they might have one word for 'rat' that encompasses a wide variety of rodents, and so they, or at least my wife, doesn't make a distinction between Squirrel, hamster, beaver, guineas pig, etc. One of the other challenges is, at least for my poor American ear, is that it is a tonal language, and so one word, like "Ma" might mean mother, or dog, or horse, or two other things I am presently forgetting, and context is insufficient to tease out meaning. "I like dogs" could easily be misspoken to mean: "I eat horse-sh*t" and you get all kinds of stares before they realize, 'oh, you're an idiot,' (or an American) and then they affectionately laugh at you.
So, while in New York, my wife met up with a mutual friend, who was her friend first, but we like each other because of a mutual passion, science fiction. (I remained in Texas with our toddler. So, not fair, but that is a rant and goes somewhere else.) He asked her my thoughts on the new Star Trek movie. She informed him that I hated it, and proceeded to say, "He hates all movies." Apparently, he loved the movie and was sad to hear of my disappointment. That is the conversation as she reported it to me, which adds another layer of opportunity for misunderstanding, as she was no doubt summarizing what was probably a pleasant outing in down town New York eating 'rat' on a stick from a street vendor, while I am no longer listening as I am too busy pondering how she got 'I hate all movies.'
If I aim for precision, I can admit to not being the biggest Star Trek fan in the universe, but I am somewhere up there in the fanatical range of the continuum, from total apathy to Shatner level histrionics. After seeing the latest movie, (yes, I got a two and half hour break from being a parent and working, and she got a four day trip to New York, oh, sorry, that's the other rant;) she asked if I had enjoyed my time. My response was academically critical of the film, but her perception of my report was, "he hates it. Oh, that's just John. He hates everything."
I do not hate everything. Critical is not judgmental. That doesn't mean that I am not frequently perturbed by the choices Hollywood makes. If we assume, for a moment, that the average science fiction fan knows a modicum of science, or a few choice big words, then Hollywood should realize "we" (Star Trek fans, Star Wars fans, what have you) are not idiots! We want something sophisticated. We want good dialogue, not just robots fighting! (Unless it's transformer, than we expect some fighting robotos, but at least put some effort into the choreographing, and don't just speed up the film and blur out the action to trick us into thinking something happened! And make it sensible! If the lead female walks in on her boyfriend being kissed by a motorcycle camouflaged as a human, which never happen in the cartoon, (there were no holographich morphing transformers,) have her fight for her boyfriend as opposed to walking out before discovering if he was the aggressor or motorcycle, because walking out was uncharacteristic of her, kissing another was not characteristic of him, and that was not their style of conflict resolution, and so the whole mini-drama of that scene was artificial drama not necessary to drive the plot, which was completely lacking in substance to begin with, or they wouldn't have had to result to that fluff to add tension! (Oh, but that, too, is definitely a rant.)) We 'sci fi,' and dare I say true 'movie fans' in general, want meaning and purpose and continuity. Don't just blow planets up, or blow people up, or blow the Starship Enterprise up in a meaningless gesture. When Kirk, under Roddenberry's direction, blew up the Enterprise in Star Trek 3 the Search for Spock, it was intentional not happenstance; it was deliberate like putting down "Old Yeller" kind of deliberate.
Spoiler alert. Don't read further if you intend to see this and haven't. The reboot of Star Trek is introducing aliens that even Picard has never met. That doesn't make sense, if you assume Picard missions expanded on Kirk's five year missions, which he hasn't even started and may not even start because we were too busy blowing up, technically imploding, sucking up, Vulcan! And what the heck is that creature working with Scotty?! Did it go to the Academy? Does Scotty get have his own personal apprentice outside of Fleet protocols? Is it a pet? Scotty was enough comic relief on the original show, he doesn't need a sidekick. Back to the movie: Scotty finds a girl who brings him to a crashed, older Star Fleet vessel, which she has hidden behinda holographic cloak so it looks like there is only mountain, no ship. Hello?! Based just on TV episodes, they didn't have holographic emitters till Picard's time, but even if you add in the Star Trek Cartoon series as explanation, because they did have a 'holodeck' style environmental simulation room on the cartoon series, it doesn't explain what happens next. The captain that crashed that ship there turns out to be the lead antagonist. Do you suppose he forgot he crashed his ship on that mountain top?! (The fact that it's half buried and still flies is in itself a major issue, but I might over look it, except for a film artifact that follows shortly.) Do you suppose, in his forty something years on that planet that the antagonist didn't go for a walk and think, "Umm, I remember leaving my spaceship there..." and go investigate? They knew this female character escaped their mining prison and were looking for her, but did they consider checking out the ship ruins, where even they didn’t find her, they would have seen ongoing repairs? And is Hollywood really expecting me to believe that this child, this one, alien girl, the offspring of the crashed crew, over the course of her life without any training manages to repair this broken ship, a feat that the Captain and his surviving crew couldn't accomplish? And then Scotty just comes in and fine tunes this "child's" work? Oh my God, Jim, you could drive a truck trough these plot holes!
Now, perhaps you hear anger, but really I am having a fun discussion about Star Trek. Anger, on the other hand, comes from the fact that we have reboot opportunities being squandered here. There are at least five core episodes of the original Star trek that would make perfect movies. For example, the Doomsday Machine is absolutely core Star Trek and that machine is still out there eating it's way towards the Federation, because that part of the time line wasn't affected by the Romulan killing Kirk's father or blowing up (sucking up) Vulcan.
But I think the thing that perturbs me the most, and which likely started with Rick Berman blowing up the Enterprise D a dozen times over in ST:TNG is this hell bent trajectory to take Star Trek to some place dark! If you understand nothing else from my diatribe, get this: Roddenberry was very clear in his message; humanity will grow up, and three hundred years from now, we, the human race, will have put aside religious, sexist, nationalistic, rasicst, and any other social ideology that divides us. We will create a peaceful society in which, at least on Earth, there is no hunger and all our needs are met. That doesn't mean there isn't challenges or hardships, because we are human, and we tend to create drama in our lives, but it does mean we have a choice here in the present: we can aim for a Star Trek future, a very optimistic future, or we can go the way of Mad Max, which is a dead end game. You just don't recover from an extinction level event. All of us tend to look back and say, things were much simpler in the past, or things were better in the past. I don't know about you, but my past was crap, and the only way I would revisit that is with a time machine so I could re-write it. Star Trek was the only positive message available in my youth and it was my rock. Star Trek had the first black, female officer on prime time television! We were Americans and Russians in Space together, not Americans versus Russians! Where has that vision gone?!
My present is pretty good, even without a Universal Translator, but even with factoring in aging, and my eventual death, I am hopeful and excited about future possibilities. I want to be around when we put the first human on Mars. I want to see a cure for cancer. I want to see an end to war. Yeah, things might get worse before it gets better. There is a reason for the term 'rock bottom' which we all encounter somewhere in our lives, and some people's 'rock bottom' is lower than others, but for humanity, the collective rock bottom is a place where we will have to decide, once and for all, and collectively, whether we are going to continue as a species. We can aspire to the stars, or leave them for what evolves after us. Just ask the dinosaurs. We are not special. We can be replaced.