Sunday, October 24, 2004
Review by Sombrero Grande
Are you looking for a movie that will make you laugh out loud, at times horrify you, at times astound you, and maybe even put a tear in the corner of your eye? Would you believe me if I told you the movie you may be looking for is Trekkies?
You don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy this charming and thoroughly entertaining documentary. I can’t recall if I’ve ever actually seen even one full Star Trek episode but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of Trekkies one bit. The documentary delves into the infamously obsessive world of the most devoted Star Trek fans, from the stories of the original cast members recalling the first Star Trek convention to a kid meticulously detailing the changes in Data’s costumes over the years via the chronological line-up of Data action figures in his room.
You don’t have to know about Star Trek to enjoy Trekkies because the documentary isn’t ever about the show; it’s about the impact of the show and the lives it touched and continues to touch. It’s about a dentist who redesigned his entire office as “Star Base Dental,” even going so far as to require his hygienists and secretaries to don Federation garb. It’s about a woman so devoted to her position as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Artemis (the Little Rock unit of the Federation Alliance) that she wore her Star Trek Commander’s uniform to jury duty, the same way a military officer might wear his uniform, she says. It’s about a group of Klingons who hold a charity miniature golf tournament and classes where people can learn to properly speak Klingon and even read Klingon language versions of Hamlet and the Bible.
I alternately laughed hysterically and sat in shock with my mouth agape while watching this film. I even got a little misty eyed a few times.
Trekkies begins by throwing viewers headfirst into the world of mind-boggling devotion to what Majel Barrett Roddenberry (Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s wife) describes as, “the 20th century mythology.” We’re shown an auction where a Klingon bidder pays $14,000 for a piece of costume used in an actual episode. Convention Promoter Pat Rimington then recalls a story about “the Q virus.” Actor John de Lancie, who played a character named Q in the Star Trek universe, was extremely ill but still showed up for a convention show. When he left he left behind a half-finished glass of water which Rimington then jokingly decided to auction off a sip from. To his disbelief, someone actually paid upwards of $40 to run up, gulp down the infected remainder of the drink and proudly proclaim, “I’ve got the Q virus!”
Just as the audience begins reeling at what bizarre behavior they’re viewing and wondering how on Earth these human beings could be THAT wrapped up in a TV show, Trekkies makes a brilliant move by dramatically changing the tone. Suddenly the audience is presented with stories of the show’s impact that are truly touching. John de Lancie recalls a visit to a woman in a hospital who was “almost totally paralyzed.” She told him, via an interpreter and using all the strength she could muster up, that, “for the hour you [in Star Trek] are on, I forget the body I am imprisoned in.” James “Scotty” Doohan gets teary-eyed recalling a time when his correspondence saved from suicide a fan who later went on to earn a Masters Degree in Electronic Engineering. Others mention fans of the series who were inspired because of it to pursue careers in acting, science, etc. George Takei shares an anecdote about a time when he went to visit Cape Canaveral to obtain the astronauts’ autographs and found they were just as eager--if not more so--to obtain his.
During the closing credits, a comedian Star Trek fan remarks how odd it was as a kid to get beat up for wearing his Star Trek uniform by other kids wearing sports jerseys. These other kids were dressing in the clothes of the figures they idolized from the entertainment venues that they watched religiously, and yet the violence happened solely because theirs was the more culturally accepted obsession. Trekkies’ affectionate--yet far from wartless--portrayal of Star Trek fans made me seriously question why indeed an obsession with sports is so much more readily acceptable in our culture than an obsession with a science fiction TV show.
Whether you watch it to laugh at or with the titicular tribe of fanatic fans, Trekkies delivers. In essence, it’s a documentary about people having an inordinate amount of fun with a piece of culture they collectively and individually love in a staggering number of divergent and communal ways. I think it’s best summed up by a fan named David Greenstein who, whilst doing some grocery shopping in his Star Trek uniform, asserts, “it doesn’t hurt anybody, makes a lot of people feel good, and I think that’s sort of the point of things.”