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  Trekkies Beam Me Up, Scotty
Year: 1997
Director: Roger Nygard
Stars: Denise Crosby, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Kate Mulgrew, Brent Spiner, Majel Barret, John de Lancie, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Wil Wheaton, William Shatner, Brannon Braga
Genre: Documentary, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: "Trekkies", that is, followers of the film and television series Star Trek, are the only fans who have a definition in the Oxford English Dictionary. There are conventions held every weekend all over the world where these fans can get together and talk about their passion, meet the stars of the show, and buy merchandise. This documentary, hosted by Star Trek actress Denise Crosby, is a tribute to those people, and shows how a simple television series can turn into a way of life for many of them.

Remember that Saturday Night Live sketch with William Shatner attending a Star Trek convention, only to lose his temper with the fans and tell them to "get a life"? Well, the people featured in Trekkies could very well be the type of afficionado Shatner was addressing, except, of course, they have obtained a life, and their life is Star Trek. Mixing plentiful footage from conventions, director Roger Nygard interviews some of the more hardcore fans, including a fourteen year old who not only has his own Trek uniform, but is creating his own Trek film on his home computer, and a couple who dress up as characters - and dress their pet dog in Starfleet uniform as well.

The main audience for this will probably not be the point and laugh brigade, although there is a strong element of humour, or those who are indifferent to the phenomenon, but the fans themselves. Therefore, this film is what could best be termed an "affectionate" look, where the enthusiasm of the subjects is the overriding tone, and a more, dare I say, logical appraisal is not forthcoming. Various stars of the show appear to tell their war stories, with a mixture of bemusement and gratitude for the way they've gone down in pop culture history - and perhaps a little frustration as well - nobody, for example, would buy an album by a Star Trek cast member without knowing what the performer was best known for beforehand.

This can be a good thing, as the beneficial aspects of the fame are discussed. "Scotty" - James Doohan - tells of how he mananged to persuade one fan not to commit suicide, and many cast members have visited the bedsides of terminally ill fans. The show's message of racial equality has inspired many (never mind that many episodes involve some kind of interspecies conflict), and it has persuaded many viewers to take an interest in science from a young age. The moral aspect is seen as positive, even if it could easily be seen as holier than thou, self-satisfied and patronising to those not as enamoured with the programme as those featured here.

It can't be denied there's a freak show aspect to Trekkies as well. We see a family who dress in Starfleet uniforms, and the father's dental practice is bedecked with Star Trek merchandise. A fan of Brent Spiner, who plays the android Data, terms herself a "Spinerfem" and cheerfully obsesses over him, showing off a photo album of hundreds of pictures of the actor in slightly different poses taken at conventions. The funniest is the technical wizard who is building the hardware from the show, and has created his own Captain Pike wheelchair which we see him driving along the street. The most notorious is the juror at the Whitewater trial who attended dressed in her uniform.

Despite the gently mocking approach, there's a definite aspect of these fans going too far, whether Nygard admits it or not. The amount of money spent on their obsession is astronomical, as we see tons of merchandise that must be making a fortune for some lucky executives, which comes with its own "collectable" quality to bump up the prices. The fans provide home made merchandise (how they love to draw) which frequently gets sent to the stars - Crosby displays her presents for the camera, which have been dumped, sorry, stored in her garage.

Some fans create their own slash fiction, basically Trek porn, some learn to speak Klingon, and others have plastic surgery on their ears to make them look more Vulcan. And then there are Trek parades in small towns across North America. Trekkies documents all of this, but you wish for a more analytical approach at times - it resembles a ninety minute "And finally" segment on the evening news, and the notion that lives may be in the process of being wasted on a mediocre TV show never crosses anyone's mind. Whatever you may think of these fanatics, and this documentary gives you plenty of opportunities to look down on them and their blankly uncritical devotion (no "worst episode ever" guys here), it's a fairly harmless preoccupation. You never hear of Star Trek riots, anyway, and at least they're enjoying themselves. Music by Walter Werzowa.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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