Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Trekkies

By Marc Savlov

MAY 24, 1999: 

D: Roger Nygard; with Denise Crosby, LeVar Burton, William Shatner, James Doohan, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Walter Koenig, Kate Mulgrew, Leonard Nimoy. (PG, 86 min.)

So you think the hype surrounding that other sci-fi franchise is all that, huh? Here's a quarter, kid. Go buy a reality gumdrop. This loving, give-'em-enough-rope documentary about the phenomenon of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek explores a fanatical devotion to the show's four television incarnations that makes Lucas' crowd look like pikers. Using Crosby (Tasha Yar) as his "host," Nygard takes his camera to various Trek conventions and manages to interview just about all the main characters (Patrick Stewart is notably absent), a plethora of the fans themselves, and a whole lotta Klingons. Trekkies is a hilarious work, mining the psychology of the average and not-so-average Trek fan, and coming up with the answers to all your burning questions about the show and its devoted following. Here's a dentist who's redone his entire office in an out-of-control Trek motif (and here's the receptionist griping about having to wear "this silly costume"), here's a professor of linguistics who's taken the trouble to not only learn the Klingon language, but also teaches a course so that others can study it, and here's a Whitewater jury member who attended each and every day of her civic duty in her Star Trek: The Next Generation commander's uniform. The list goes on, and despite the fact that so many of these fans are desperately in need of a life, Nygard doesn't push them too far. They're at times silly, confused, or confusing, but, above all, the Trekkies are following some high intellectual ideals put forth by Star Trek creator Roddenberry. How else to explain the countless hours of community service each "outpost" (or regional fan club) performs with disabled kids and the elderly or the charitable donations made in the program's name? Nygard and Crosby also take a plunge into pathos with James "Scotty" Doohan's weeper of an anecdote recalling his struggle to save the life of a suicidal fan. The film then about-faces into surrealist comedy with DeForest "Bones" Kelley's recounting of the horny fangirl who sent him a cannabis ciggie through the mail with the comment that "you've turned me on so many times in the past that I feel I should turn you on at least once." Medical marijuana indeed. Debuting in 1966, Star Trek has 11 years on Star Wars and its fans are clearly out there in more ways than one. Recent talk of the Star Wars religion, though, frankly seems better suited to Roddenberry's franchise, although images of James Tiberius Kirk traipsing around a Styrofoam galaxy still stick in the craw. Better that than a bland Yoda, though.
3.5 stars

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