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TREKKIES

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Denise Crosby
Director:  Roger Nygard
Audio:  Dolby Digital Surround
Video:  Standard 1.33:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  Theatrical Trailer
Length:  86 Minutes
Release Date:  November 11, 1999

Film ***

Trekkies are the only fans listed by name in the Oxford English Dictionary.

That interesting factoid opens the documentary called Trekkies, a humorous look at the sometimes rabid fans who have insured that the phenomenon called Star Trek will never fade away.  Funny thing is, I used to consider myself a Trekkie.  I started watching reruns of the original series as a child.  As they ran five times a week, I got to see each episode several times.  I loved the show, and the characters.  What’s more, I, like many fans, recognized very early on that the best of ST was also some of the best and most imaginative science fiction ever offered.  I still consider “City on the Edge of Forever” a masterpiece of storytelling.

I followed the shows into the feature films.  When Next Generation began, I followed it, too.  Now, on DVD, I am collecting the movies all over again.  Like I said, I considered myself a Trekkie.

I think I was wrong.

This film, hosted by Denise Crosby (herself an ST alumnist) goes deep into the world of the die hard fan.  We get to attend the conventions, see the merchandise, and most importantly, meet the people.  Sure, we get to talk to our old favorites along the way, from William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the late DeForest Kelley, to Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton and Jonathan Frakes, to even Kate Mulgrew from Voyager.  But in this film, the real stars are the fans.

Consider Barbara Adams, who made national headlines during the Whitewater trials when she wore her Federation uniform to jury duty, and defied the judge’s order to dress more appropriately.  As a Starfleet officer, she felt it her right and privilege to wear her uniform while performing a public service, as any military officer would be allowed to do. 

Then there are the more creative fans…one who spends his time “inventing” real life items based on ST props, including the robot from The Changeling episode, and a fully functioning model of Captain Pike’s life support chair from The Menagerie.  There is also a bright young man who, along with his club, have actually penned a film script, complete with some preliminary computer animation sequences.  It turns out that Star Trek has an open door script policy, and allows anyone who would care to do so to write and submit a script.  One can only wonder if this group’s time and energy might one day be rewarded.

Then there are the fans that are a little scary.  The ones who have their ears surgically altered to look like Vulcans.  Or even more disturbing, the fan who bid on a water cup used by an extremely sick cast member, just so he could finish the water and catch the same disease.

Still, the overwhelming affection from the fans has been, and continues to be a marvel, even to the cast members.  One particularly touching anecdote comes from James Doohan, a.k.a. Scotty, who learned that his contact with a fan helped turn her from suicide and eventually into earning a masters degree in engineering.

But between the scary moments and the moving ones are the moments that are just plain amusing.  Wait until you see the dental office modeled entirely on the ST motif, or the language camps where people gather to learn Klingon.  Or my favorite fan question to the stars:  “What does it feel like to be beamed?”

But it’s hard not to consider all of this fan excess without thinking of why Star Trek has meant so much to so many.  It was, and continues to be, such an optimistic vision of our future.  It implied that we would manage to survive our current trying times without destroying ourselves, and end up as a force for betterment in the universe.  It showed that Americans and Russians could be allies during a time when we were still fearing the Red Menace.  And it showed that no matter what your race, creed, or background, you really could achieve anything you set your mind to.  Like when Nichelle Nichols recalls a fan letter from a little African American girl, who saw her on the bridge of the Enterprise, and decided then and there that she could grow up to be a star.  That girl was Whoopi Goldberg.

Video ***

This is a fine transfer, given that it was a modestly budgeted documentary made with less than stellar source materials.  It looks fine, but it’s not meant to be the disc you use to demonstrate your home theatre.

Audio **

Likewise with the audio:  this Dolby surround track is mostly forward staged and dialogue oriented.  There is nothing to complain about, but by nature, it's not the kind of soundtrack that will put any real demands on your system.

Features *

Only a trailer.

Summary:

Trekkies have kept the spirit of Star Trek alive, on television, at the movies, but mostly in their hearts for more than thirty years.  And I imagine there’s a lot more where that came from.  As such, Trekkies is a fitting tribute to the most prolific group of fans the world has probably ever seen.  This is a funny, fascinating, but most importantly, entertaining look at their often bizarre and wonderful world.