March 29, 2009

Blogging Star Trek

“Like you’ve never seen or experienced it before”

Is it time for a return to origins? To see perhaps like we’ve never seen before? What could it mean to see like we’ve never seen before? If television taught us to see, can it as well teach us to see like we’ve never seen before?

The next few months brings both the forty year anniversary of Star Trek’s demise (Now denominated “The Original Series.” There are no longer any simple returns. “Star Trek” no longer exists. Now it’s “The Original Series.”) and the re-introduction of Star Trek (J. J. Abrams’ “reboot” of the franchise). Or should we say the re-re-introduction of Star Trek, following the short-lived Enterprise.

Along the way, CBS has released the “re-mastered” series, holding out the promise that we’ll see the series like we’ve never seen it before, at least if you’re lucky enough (or perhaps misfortunate enough) to have invested in a HD DVD player, Toshiba’s now abandoned high definition format. Surely there’s something ironic in the promise of seeing like we’ve never seen before via a technology that no longer exists. The promise remains just a promise.

Events conspire to force a return and rethinking of Star Trek: The Original Series, questioning what it means to see Star Trek, to experience it, as it’s not yet been seen or experienced. In the forty years since it went off the air it begat a cultural phenomenon: multiple series, movies, books, and critical appraisals. The same years saw a blossoming in critical perspectives and theories, from postmodernism to postcolonialism, Foucault to Baudrillard to Zizek,
media studies to science and technology studies. Science fiction itself has undergone its own rethinking over the years, emerging since Star Trek’s original broadcast dates as a more dominant cultural force in the popular media and a more respectable, maybe even serious, genre in academia. Witness both the popular and critical success enjoyed by Ronald Moore’s reimagining of Battlestar Gallactica, which only goes to show that even the lamest sci-fi TV show can be re-thought. And of course, there’s more than one way to return to and re-think or re-imagine a TV show, and not all of them involve special effects budgets and a network, even a second-rate cable network.

Returning then to the original series, how do we see and experience it beneath these multiple layers of cultural sedimentation? Does the originary text become something new forty years out? Is it time to rethink Star Trek, to exercise a return to origins? Blogging Star Trek seeks to pose these questions through enacting a return to the original series, watching all 79 episodes in order of their original broadcast date, and trying perhaps to see them like they’ve never been seen before.

We’re fans but not simply fans. Too much written about Star Trek is written from the fan’s perspective. And too often Star Trek is treated simply as entertainment, grist for a hyper media-dominated society obsessed with celebrity, opening box offices, and market share. When Star Trek is approached critically, this or that acclaimed episode or this or that egregious case of ___ (here you can name if not flog your dead horse: sexism, liberal humanism, colonialism, racism, technophilia-ism) is selected and the rest of the series is relegated to the dustbins of some fan-boy’s basement archive. Or an episode is cited to illustrate some philosophical notion or other. Seldom is the effort made to come to grips with the full run of the series.

So we propose a return to the original, a return to Star Trek, blogging our way through Star Trek by subjecting ourselves to each of its 79 episodes, taking the full measure of the series, and inquiring about the meaning of Star Trek today. Whether you're new to Star Trek or a long time fan, we hope you will find these posts illuminating and stimulating and that they will perhaps provoke your own efforts at seeing Star Trek like it's never been seen before, perhaps going where no one (let's be gender neutral) has gone before. We invite you to share with us your critical perspectives as we blog our way through Star Trek.

Coming Next: "The Man Trap"

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