Yeah. I’m getting lazier and lazier with my blog.
I guess I’m not really the type of guy who makes a good “professional” blogger. I’m not that guy.
Today I’d like to refer you to yesterday’s entry about Star Trek: Voyager. I pointed out that I don’t like the “lost in space” plot but I got so enthusiastic about ‘splaining how I don’t like it, and spraying bits of food and laughing too much, that I forgot to ‘splain what the real difference is between Voyager as it was and Voyager as it could have been. Because, I guess, I thought it was obvious.
So I’m a jerk.
Here’s the difference. Voyager Lost in Space is a story about a foul-up. It’s a bad situation caused by something that may-or-may-not have been preventable but looks like it should have been preventable. It’s a disaster. It’s a loss of crew and supplies and equipment. It’s bad. It means the crew is out in space by accident, trying to “repair” a crummy situation.
On the other hand, Voyager Five Year Mission is a story about a brave and deliberate effort to explore. Even if the writers had made Voyager go off into far-off space for a long, long time, it would have been a different show if the premise had been a positive one and not a negative one. A premise that says “we fouled up, we blew it, maybe we can fix it before Mom comes home” is a very different premise than “to boldly go where none have gone before.” That last premise kicks ass. The first one is lame-o.
I explained yesterday that I think they did this to dumb it down, but I also believe (after seeing Chaos on the Bridge) that the blame can be placed on Gene Roddenberry. The creator of Star Trek actually started to believe his own hype (he was “The Great Bird of the Galaxy” no I’m not making that up) and The Next Generation was a big snore for the first few years due to Gene’s insistence that it was a show about a version of heaven. No conflict. Everything nice.
No drama either. One gets the impression from Chaos on the Bridge that Roddenberry was forced to make the original Star Trek into a “five year mission” show because NBC insisted on “Wagon Train in space.” Otherwise, it would have been a snooze-fest with every body just LOVING everybody all the time.
But the “universe is already explored, so go away” vibe from TNG came from Roddenberry’s vision of a nice, cushy future, not from some kind of weird back-story where the galaxy has been turned into condominiums. Voyager was an attempt to “break out” of that, but they, somehow, missed the obvious. It wasn’t lack of danger that made TNG dull, it was lack of glory.
There ya’ go. Chew on that. The original Star Trek was all about GLORY. To explore is to revel in being alive. It’s a fun concept. It’s called “glory.” Voyager misses it by just this much.
I don’t really know why they felt that making Voyager into a show about a SNAFU would make it more interesting (instead of making it about, well, glorious exploration) but they did. Maybe, even then, the “rot” was setting in and people had already forgotten that there ever was a thing called a human being, who boldly went where no man had gone before. By the time Voyager rolled out of the hangar, it was all about the attitude that Michael Church describes here. Maybe some pre-millennial millennials were already thinking that Mom and Dad blew it and it’s just too painful to think about what might have been, if our miserable parents hadn’t been smoking dope when they should have been building starships.
Well wah wah. We still have the ability to boldly go, but somebody has to stop the whining first.
Oh, and dismantle the military/industrial complex too, while you’re at it and vacuum up those cigarette butts…
My solution to this problem, by the way, as I watch Voyager on Netflix is to just throw out the whole “SNAFU” backstory as much as I can and imagine that the show is about a long-range exploration mission–not a “lost in space” mission at all. Voyager actually supports this way of watching the show, since so many episodes just don’t make sense any other way, but it’s a little uncomfortable, and some episodes are just not going to work for me at all because of the faulty “lost in space” premise. But, in general, as long as a deliberately forget the “backstory”–it works. Sort of.
Well, I can dream, can’t I?