Friday, May 21, 1999

Convention-al wisdom

Movie: Trekkies

Posted on Fri, May 21, 1999 at 4:00 AM

***
Trekkies
Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Studio: Paramount Classics
Website: http://www.startrek.com/trekkies
Release Date: 1999-05-21
Cast: Denise Crosby, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Levar Burton, Jonathan Frakes
Director: Roger Nygard
Music Score: Walter Werzowa
WorkNameSort: Trekkies
Our Rating: 3.00

If you believe humorist Dave Barry's averrance that "There is a fine line between an obsession and a hobby," then you'll get a kick out of "Trekkies." Documentarist Roger Nygard has uncovered and recorded the antics of dozens of those people nicknamed for their loyal following of the TV series "Star Trek," and the attendant philosophies they have inherited from the program's creator, the late Gene Roddenberry.

Locating these folks turns out to be simple. As one interviewee points out, there's a well-advertised convention of Trekkies taking place somewhere on the globe every weekend of the year. There, they gather to buy, sell and trade memorabilia, dress up in costumes from various episodes and generally discuss the impact "Star Trek" has had on their lives.

One man has changed his name to James Kirk, to match the captain played by William Shatner in the original series. An Orlando dentist and his staff are seen donning homemade Federation-wear; as the good doctor's enthusiastically Trekked-out wife assists in the makeover, the camera catches glimpses of the similarly alien office decor around them.

One man pledges he would surgically alter his ears in emulation of Leonard Nimoy's Vulcan style, "if I could afford it."

Another man runs a school where enthusiasts can learn the Vulcan and Klingon languages. We follow a teen-aged boy who has written a movie script employing the "Trek" characters. A juror in one of the Whitewater trials confounds observers by insisting on wearing a starship costume and being called "Commander." There's even a Trekkie Elvis imitator -- the ultimate conferrance of American respect.

Nygard holds his camera with an unsteady hand, and he edits as if he were trying to out-jiggle the makers of those jumpy, dialogue-deprived commercials that are so much in vogue as of late. But whatever his technical limitations, he does display a good eye and ear for the lunatic fringe.

That fringe is home territory for many of the ultra-devoted fans of the series, who seem to draw illogical but attractive conclusions about the show's pull if an episode happens to be playing when anything significant happens to them in their own lives.

As interviews with nearly all the major cast members (many conducted by Denise Crosby of "Star Trek: The Next Generation") attest, the phenomenon has certainly sustained the careers of TV actors who might not ordinarily expect to enjoy such longevity.

The phrase "get a life" comes up often, but it quickly becomes clear that the show's fans DO have lives; it's just that they're existences based on someone else's. Originality isn't the strong suit here.

Their belief that "Star Trek" promotes understanding and good will through boldness and bravery comes off as corny (and even nutty, when it's the impetus for their fashion choices), but it's a preoccupation that's certainly not evil, nor even anti-social.

Just as long as somewhere, someone occasionally remembers where to find the OFF button.

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