I have so very few fond memories of my mother, and by that I mean, we all have so few moments with our loved ones, especially ones who have already passed on and can never create new memories with. There are certain things that hold a lot of weight with me and I knowingly and proudly wear the rose colored nostalgia glasses with because of that.
Star Trek The Next Generation is a show that will always have a certain endearing quality to me for that reason. My mother was a fan of the original series (I admit my own exposure of the original has been limited to the movies and maybe a handful of episodes), and I remember she was quite excited about the new series, way back in 1987. (It is sort of crazy to consider that more time exists between present day and the beginning of that show than there was between the original series and ST:TNG.) I was 8 when the show first aired, and I remember watching at least 90% of those episodes with my mother all the way through the series finale in season 7 as a 15 year old, which is a significant chunk of the cognizant portion of my youth. The journey into the final frontier was made more palpable having made it with her, and though I had no concept of the word “geek” at the time as I do now, I can say with certainty that series influenced my love of imaginative fiction of the great unknown. (I actually wasn’t a fan of Star Wars until my later teens when I understood better that it was much more than laser swords and spaceships.)
I can still remember her Captain Picard impression or her attempts to replicate Data’s awkward laughter (pre-emotion chip days, of course), in an effort to amuse a young buy who was probably one of the toughest critics ever. It hits a senstive spot in me to discuss, moreso than I would’ve expected, actually. I did go on to watch Deep Space 9 on my own, which I loved, but only made it halfway through Voyager before losing interest in the franchise. I don’t believe I ever watched the final TNG movie Nemesis, and I never watched Enterprise. (I did, however, love the newest movie and hope they can maintain the momentum with the next installment.)
I say all that to give some perspective to my experience with Star Trek as a franchise. I wouldn’t classify myself as a Trekkie / Trekker, but there is some familiarity and endearment there. I was flipping through the available options on Netflix and I noticed that there was a documentary named “The Captains“, hosted by William Shatner, and I decided to give it a roll. I really expected it to be a Star Trek circle jerk with the 6 captains (William Shatner, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula and Chris Pine), where they sat around, talked about how great the experience was and gave some contrived and shallow insights into the franchise, but hey… I needed something to watch while I ate my breakfast this morning.
I have to say I was exceedingly surprised at how frank the discussions were. The editing was done incredibly well, with pieces of Shatner’s interviews with each of the other captains arranged more by topic and flavor rather than doing a static interview followed by interview. The topics ranged from the background of each captain, how the demands of the show affected their family life and even views on the afterlife.
It is worth mentioning that I find I had to give Avery Brooks quite a bit of … leeway? Grace? I am not sure what to call it, but to someone more critical, he seemed almost like a crazy person. It was disheartening to hear that he had not done much since Star Trek Deep Space 9 and seemed to feel he couldn’t stray far from his home. Most of his interview was done at a piano with a few awkward singing sessions between himself and Shatner, where he dodged a lot of questions by playing something and singing something completely nonsensical. Shatner actually scored some points for playing along and giving the man some dignity. That said, I believe some allowances have to be made for the more eccentric side of creativity; sometimes in allowing oneself to be another and to think outside of the box, you push the edges of what is conventionally considered “sane”. Sisko, the captain, will remain a very close 2nd favorite Starfleet Captain; Avery Brooks, the man, will be remembered, to me, for bringing a lot of integrity and passion to a beloved role and being a demonstratively creative and academic man, if perhaps somewhat eccentric.
The rest of the discussion was mostly interesting; Shatner understands how to be an entertainer and kept the energy of the conversations up. There is also a very vulnerable moment towards the end where both he and Patrick Stewart discuss their careers in perspective of older men looking back on their lives and acknowledging just how, despite their greater body of work, they are and will always be remembered mostly as Starfleet captains. It was actually nice to see that Shatner has made peace with just how attached he has become with his iconic role as the first Captain. (This was not always the case, and he briefly discusses some of that discomfort.)
There are some really nice moments with the fans (Shatner photobombs a few – hilarious) interspersed throughout the documentary to break it up a bit, and, honestly, I had a stronger emotional reaction to that than I thought I would. It reminded me why I love to write: to resonate with people. A friend, Amalia, recently reminded me (somewhat indirectly but she deserves a mention nonetheless, if for no other reason than she has been one of my most faithful readers thus far) that it isn’t the tightness of the prose that impacts people; it is the honesty and sincerity of the work that strikes a chord with the reader.
I want to create things that boys, grown up into men, can look back on and remember with fondness sharing with a parent. Or write words of courage and hope to inspire someone who just feels broken and defeated to pick their lives back up and step into the breach one more time. In all likelihood, history will never remember my work and I’ll probably never reach people on the same scale that Star Trek has; I am under no illusions of grandeur. My Path lately has been becoming clearer to me, even if understanding the timing of everything eludes me; I have a stronger idea of what I really want and what I would feel infinitely proud of being associated with as I look back on my life from the “winter season”.
This documentary resonated with me on that level. I recommend watching, even if you have only a cursory interest in the franchise; it is really more about people, and in my opinion, that is always the recipie for success. Be sure to leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.
Also, sound off: who is your favorite captain?