Some time ago, David Gerrold, a premiere science fiction author whose start came during the production of the original 1960’s Star Trek television series, pointed out that this much-loved seminal science fiction paradigm had become the ‘McDonalds of Science Fiction’, and that “even Paramount calls it a ‘franchise’.” Star Trek had, formerly, drawn much attention and fandom from the scientific community, similarly to Larry Niven’s ‘Ringworld’ novel series, because of its courageous tradition of prediction of technology and positive social trends. By the time Gerrold made his much-deserved criticism of today’s Star Trek ‘franchise’, it was no longer an example of ‘hard science fiction’ but rather television fluff in comparison to the vaunted cultural and entertainment pioneering vehicle it had once been.
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What happened? Besides the fact that Gene Roddenberry died and left Rick Berman in charge of it all, which is bad enough, somewhere along the line the balance between practical business sense and the visionary impulse of speculative fiction has been lost. In the words of goth musician ‘Voltaire’, who often attends Star Trek conventions performing a song exactly about this (although affectionately intended), they “just make some shit up” rather than rely on even the most remotely fact-based ‘hard science fiction’ concepts.
This is a bad thing, but typical in today’s rapidly devolving, anti-intellectual television and general media environment. Even Star Trek went to hell, and indeed it’s burning in the form of today’s terrible ‘Enterprise’ prequel series, the idea of which held much potential but has instead churned out some of the most mediocre TV sci-fi this author has ever suffered.
What’s a ‘good thing’ in contrast? Certainly there’s good news.
There indeed is good news. Someone in the Star Trek fan community has finally decided to do something about this terrible problem and is producing their own retro-Star Trek episodes, based on the original paradigm of the ‘classic series’.
What’s more, it’s a wonderful success.
‘Starship Exeter’ is back on its five-year-mission, disinfected and re-staffed after recovery by the USS Enterprise during the ‘Omega Glory’ episode during which the original crew had been decimated by a disease. Old-school fans will remember the mad Captain Ronald Tracey, sole survivor of the Exeter, attempting to dominate Kirk and the Enterprise in his scheme to bring a ‘fountain of youth’ to the human race while mangling the Prime Directive of Noninterference with the local culture of amazingly long-lived humanoids. The fans who are producing this series have gone truly all-out, and out of their own pockets, to produce this amazing series of original adventures based on the new missions of the USS Exeter, complete with an Andorian officer and a new struggle with the Klingon Empire itself.
Where can you find it? Free on the Web. Go to http://www.starshipexeter.com and you will find old-school Trekkie paradise, fellow believers. Make sure you have an up-to-date version of Apple Quicktime on your system before you visit the site.
One episode is available for immediate viewing, and two more are in production at present. The whole operation is non-for-profit and is taking donations from believers via PayPal. For more information, the current (December/January 2004) issue of ‘Star Trek Communicator’ has a complete article about the entire effort, complete with pictures of scenes from the existing episode as well as production photos.
To look at the entire site as well as the excellent ‘ST Communicator’ article (there is yet no mention on the official ‘Star Trek’ website) is to realize that this home-made series is a very intense labor of love by the most hardcore school of old-style Trekkies.
Hopefully this effort will signal to intellectual slackers like Rick Berman that there is a creative force amongst Star Trek fandom that will not tolerate the deliberate deterioration of the mighty Star Trek premise and its wonderful fictional alternate universe as originally created by Gene Roddenberry. No more schlock, these fans are saying. It’s time to get back to brass tacks and return to the era of imagination and quality, and that mysterious element of mystique and passion that drove the original generation of fans to their famous devotion to the greatest of all science fiction cultural paradigms.
Long live Starship Exeter!