Friday, May 7, 2010

DVD Review : Trekkies

1 disc, MSRP $6,98

Date of Release : December 1st, 1999

Gene Roddenberry, AKA The Great Bird of the Galaxy (Star Trek's creator), could never have imagined the gigantic, worldwide reach of Star Trek. It is over thirty years since the original short-lived TV series, since succeeded by three further TV shows, an animated series, a long string of movies, a continual parade of conventions, and millions upon millions of die-hard fans as well as further millions and millions of far more casual fans. Trekkies does double duty, as it takes a look both at the reasons behind Star Trek's status as a cultural phenomenon as well as how the passion of the fans is manifested in their lives.

Hosted by Denise Crosby ("Tasha Yar" on Star Trek: The Next Generation), Trekkies takes us into the ordinary lives of a wide range of Star Trek fans. First up is Gabriel Köerner, an arrogant young man who knows the stylistic details of Star Trek uniforms in intimate detail and has used his skill in computer animation to begin work on a Star Trek-related film project for his local club. A second famous, perhaps infamous, fan is Barbara Adams, best known to the world as the Whitewater alternate juror who showed up at the courthouse in Arkansas every day in her Star Trek uniform, phaser, and communicator.

Others include a dentist who turned his practice into Star Trek Dental, where the workers all wear Star Trek uniforms and the office is just crammed to the gills with pictures, toys, and all kinds of memorabilia, a self-proclaimed "Spiner Femme" who is mildly obsessed with all matters relating to actor Brent Spiner (who was Lt. Commander Data in the Star Trek: The Next Generation), two women who host a "Talk Trek" radio talk show, a Star Trek cat, and more.

In addition to the people, you are shown what goes on at the average Star Trek convention, where the fans gather to reinforce their fandom, meet actors and others associated with the various incarnations of Star Trek, and much cash is spent on a breathtaking array of merchandise. As I learned from the bonus material on the James Bond special edition discs, there is no end to the variety of toys, books, clothing, models, dishware, and what-not that a savvy marketer can get a fan to buy, and Star Trek is simply the latest example of that truth.

Interspersed with the glimpses of fans and fandom are the musings and anecdotes from an array of actors and crew who have been associated with Star Trek over the years, such as Leonard Nimoy, Jimmy Doohan, DeForest Kelley (God rest his soul!), Brannon Braga, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, Kate Mulgrew, John DeLancie (my favorite), and others. Their stories range from the bizarre (a fan who wanted a blood sample from Jimmy Doohan), to the humorous (a devoted female fan who mailed a marijuana cigarette to DeForest Kelley), to the supremely touching (how Jimmy Doohan reached out to save a woman from suicide).

A primary virtue of Trekkies is that it allows the fans to speak for themselves, for good or for ill. Their beliefs and views are simply presented, leaving it up to the viewer to judge whether their devotion is touching, amusing, or deeply weird. Denise Crosby has a sensitive touch as the narrator/guide, treating even the most whacked-out fan with gentleness and respect for the depth and sincerity of their thoughts and beliefs. Perhaps Denise Crosby, as many of us might as well, thinks that it is simply amazing that a short-lived science fiction show in the late 1960s has spawned such a gigantic (pardon the pun) enterprise. Some of the reasons are mentioned in the film, such as the public's hunger for inspirational, positive stories of a future where poverty and prejudice are mere memories, or increased interest in space exploration and the potential of technology.

In the final analysis, Trekkies has something to say to all of us, whether we are fans of Star Trek or not. There is someone in your life who is as fanatic about their own hobby as are these Star Trek fans, and perhaps Trekkies will help to put their (or your) interest in perspective.

Don't expect reference-quality video, as Trekkies was filmed in 16mm and blown-up to 35mm for its theatrical presentation. Film grain is prevalent throughout the movie, as well as video noise and apparent compression artifacts.

Sharpness is nothing to write home about, but colors are reasonably saturated and flesh tones are acceptable. On the up side, it appears to be a clean and well-preserved print.

The audio is going to give your center channel a lot to do, but not much for the rest of your speaker set-up. This is, after all, a documentary, so there is lots of talk and very little else (though the funky music in the opening is cool). The wealth of dialogue is clear and distinct, so we can't expect much more.

While I would normally level severe criticism for a disc that sports static menus and a mere trailer (though packaged in the preferred Amaray keep case) as the only extras, that would seem to be unfair in this case. This is a low-budget independent documentary to begin with, and in a sense this whole movie feels like it could be an extra for another Star Trek disc. Still, it would have been nice to get some production notes on the movie itself, or some more material to help the uninitiated viewer grasp the size and scope of the Star Trek phenomena that has given rise to the fandom.

A DVD sequel, Trekkies 2, also produced by Crosby, followed in 2004.


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