Star Trek, the Web Generation

by Daniel Radosh

When it comes to all the Star Trek sites on the World Wide Web, it would be easy to indulge in cheap shots. So that's what I'm going to do.

Not that I didn't begin my mission optimistically. For a fleeting moment I even hoped that my first stop, "Rick Seiden's All Time Great Star Trek Lines!", would have something to do with snorting coke in the Jefferies tubes. No such luck. Instead, it is a collection of quotes and sayings whose worthiness, a.k.a. the "like-age" factor, is determined by a weekly popular vote. It's not surprising. Are there really enough juicy lines to add every week anyway? One selection I found the week I looked was the puzzling "My God Man!"

At least Seiden's list makes some attempt at quality control. Brigitte Jellinek's collection of "favorite" quotes, on the other hand, seemingly lacks even the pretense of selectivity. Thus The Next Generation episode, "The Best Of Both Worlds, Part II," rates no fewer than 90 lines or exchanges—virtually the entire script—including such memorable gems as "Transport successful, sir."

In a way, this lack of restraint mirrors the predicament of Trek sites on the Web in general, and perhaps the Web as a whole. If overall quality is poor, it isn't because there's not enough moderately clever stuff, but because there's way too much overwhelmingly dumb stuff.

Case in point: how many web sites do we really need devoted to Klingon, a language only slightly more useful than Esperanto? This embarrassment of riches is especially glaring since a typical one begins, "I'm toDbaj, an off-beat Klingon in Aberdeen." As opposed to an ordinary Klingon in Aberdeen? At least people who speak Esperanto know it's not their native language.

Even potentially interesting obsessions are often sunk by the ineptitude of their obsessors. While there are some reliable sources of gossip about the next "Trek" feature film, there are many more unreliable ones. On one such site, a picture that purports to be the "Borg Queen" turns out to be a fraud: in fact, it's Michael Jackson's Captain Eo ride. And it's not even Jackson himself, which at least would be an understandable mistake.

Then there are those who are fascinated not just by Trek, but by individual Trek characters and actors. From the jokey (and not funny) Church of Shatnerology to the very serious (and really not funny) George Takei page, which urges visitors to "Voice your vote for a Captain Sulu-related project to Paramount." Hey, not till they finish that long-promised Yeoman Rand miniseries.

At the Terry Farrell (a.k.a. Lieutenant Jadzia Dax) page, six volumes of photos prove that the Deep Space Nine star is the blandest model/actress ever to be palmed off as a sex symbol, and no amount of fan testimony can persuade that she is "the greatest actress ever to grace the screen." More confusing is "Dr. Julian Subatoi Bashir, This Is Your Life", a page dedicated to fan fiction about the DS9 character's youth. "Stories are pretty angsty," admits the editor, "filled with visions of a terrible childhood, lost siblings, a cruel or just plain negligent father." I don't even want to know about the story "Jenny," in which "a twelve-year-old Julian has to watch after his little sister." I just hope it's not one of those slash stories you hear so much about

But at least these are major players. What really makes no sense are the sites devoted to minor characters like Ro Laren or really minor characters like General Chang or, let's just say it, nonexistent characters like Joy Mudd. To the extent that she is anything at all, Joy Mudd is an Android inspired, her creator claims, "by the "I Mudd" episode of the original Star Trek Series, Data's emotion chip, Asimov's Laws of Robotics, and Holly Golightly." The earth trembles as Gene Roddenberry, Isaac Asimov, and Audrey Hepburn all roll over in their graves simultaneously.

Looking for the quintessential Trekkie? James Dixon maintains an elaborate "Trek chronology" that could keep a clinical psychologist in grant money well into the 23rd century. Under the headline "Popular Misconceptions," Dixon reports, "I know that many of you, after reading the launch dates of the Enterprise and the other "Constitution"-class heavy cruisers, are shocked by them being some 40 years before "Star Trek's" first year." I suppose it all depends how you define "popular."

Touchingly (or perhaps embarrassingly, depending on your disposition), Dixon's chronology has an Earth-bound postscript: "If there are any "Trekkesses" reading this, I'm 100 percent single and would certainly appreciate meeting a female Trek fan who might be interested in a potential relationship...Female Trek fans are rare in this neck of the woods for some reason, and what's a Trekker in pon farr to do? I can only bond with members of my own species." Infinite Diversity in Infinite Frustration.

If Dixons's site suffers from obscure information overload, the other extreme is Josh Scanlan, who provides the following news about each Trek series:

  • "Now, what do I have to say about TNG? Well, I love it...I don't have much else to say now. Stay tuned, though." You bet we will!
  • "Deep Space Nine is currently my favorite show on television. I love Sisko, mainly because he is the badass. He was cool before, but since the beard and shaven head he has just been the man." Gosh, are you trying to say he's black?
  • "Sometimes, I don't know why I even continue to watch Voyager...I am sure that there are lots of fans out there, so I will qualify my loathing for this show. Here are my reasons..." He then goes on to list reasons along the lines of "The ship not only looks stupid, but has taken such a beating that I don't even think it realistic for it to still be flying," before closing with, "I am sorry if my opinion of Voyager turns you away from my page, but this is my page, and it expresses how I feel, and I really detest 'Voyager.'"
Good for you. Now let me express how I really feel about your page.

I'm not trying to say that Trekkers have no sense of humor. Just look at all the Star Trek joke pages. Actually, don't. You'll regret it. Even if there was an amusing way to do "Top Ten Phrases You Never Heard on the Enterprise", which I doubt, it wouldn't include, "Dang! Nothing worse than a Klingon fart!" What about a Klingon fart from Aberdeen?

Not surprisingly, Trekkers are a lot funnier when they're not trying to be.   </end>

DANIEL RADOSH is a New York-based freelance writer who is a frequent contributor to the New York Press, Details, the New York Times Magazine and The Transom.

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