Sci-fi Corner ♯1- Star Trek: The Mainstream Cult

To kick off this new monthly topic (as part of the new Monday rotor), I thought we’d have a look at the king of sci-fi shows.

Inspired by such varied sources as ‘Wagon Train’ (late 50’s tv western series), Napoleonic wars navy based book/ tv/ radio/ film series ‘Horatio Hornblower’ and ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, the original series only lasted three series and three years, but since it’s first showing in 1966, Star Trek has become a cultural phenomenon, the most widely recognised sci-fi series  in history (sorry Star Wars fans). It spawned 12 movies, 5 spin off series (animated, next gen, deep space nine, voyager and enterprise), games, toys, novels and comics. There are two prop exhibits that travel the world as museum attractions and for 10 years between 1998 and 2008 there was a Trek themed attraction at the Las vegas Hilton- Star Trek- The Experience. You can’t go to a comic convention without bumping into at least a million federation officers, a Vulcan or five and an army of Klingons. My computer didn’t even ask to spell check those two, yet it does if I do Dalek or Mon Calimari or Sith. But yet, Star Trek is still considered a cult show, and that is something that has always confused me.

When you think of a cult, you think of small pseudo-religions or mid-70’s micro budget comedies, something with a small audience. Star Trek is way beyond that, so why is it still considered a cult.

Maybe it is the geeky image that still clings to Trekkies. Having a Klingon dictionary probably doesn’t help. When someone says Trekkie you usually think geek unfortunately. I personally would put this down to dedication to the show, the other criteria as to how a cult is judged. Really, no other show has such dedicated fans. With all the collectables available for Star Trek, you can see how such dedication can be ensured. And people, especially TV executives, realised this very quickly. Which neatly brings me onto the next reason for Star Treks geek cult image. As sickening as it may be, most people now-a-days get their perception of the world from TV, and TV is a caricature of a stereotype from a group of TV executives perception of real life. It’s not going to be hugely accurate. Which is why on every TV show there is a super nerd who loves comics and collects Star Trek memorabilia and has the posters of the enterprise on his wall (and it is always HIS, female Trekkies seem to be a very rare breed in TV land, almost deserving of going on the endangered species list). So is bred the image of a socially inept, spotty teen who goes to comics conventions and does the Spock hand V, and people believe it. Therefore they don’t really want to associate with that sort of image, so they either steer clear of Star Trek or hide the fact that they like it in fear of being ridiculed. And lo, cult status is lumped on the most successful sic-fi franchise of all time.

When we next come back around to this topic, I’ll be looking further at Sci-fi fandom, but in a more broad spectrum that focuses on Conventions and Collections. If you have any ideas for me on that topic or for future subjects for any of the new topics (What Were They Thinking, Sci-Fi Corner, Under-Rated Characters, Screen Spotlight) either PM me on the forums or reply here.

Live long and prosper.

6 Responses to Sci-fi Corner ♯1- Star Trek: The Mainstream Cult

  1. Good analysis.

    Here, everyone knows Star Wars, has seen it, and no one is afraid to claim that he loves it.

    But Star Trek? It’s just seen through a series of cliche, and as something only nerds are attracted to.

    So, I’m a nerd, I guess :D

  2. Since I’m at work and doubtfully sober soon after… I’ll try to be brief. Calling Star Trek a cult is almost a badge of honor to many fans that I know. It shows a sign of dedication while still being off-beat. Star Trek: TNG might as well have been titled Star Trek: The Second Coming or Star Trek: The Resurrection.

    Star Trek crosses generations. It’s an on-going part of TV, movie, and even cultural history. Also, one of the earliest examples of hard-core fans reviving a TV show. There’s your cult. Really, no different than say the “there’s always next year” Chicago Cubs fan or people who still hold up The Beatles as the best band ever when you have some 60 years of rock-and-roll music.

    Not going to get the complete rant. The Klingon “language,” Bing Translator even offers it in Kronos! Really?!? I am a huge fan of language, linguistics, and etymology. I grew up speaking German until I went to Kindergarten. I studied Japanese in high school. I was a French major in college.

    I taught myself enough Polish to understand the lyrics of Edyta Gorniak’s Dotyk. I’ve picked up some Italian, Russian, and Spanish along the way. I am teaching myself Hungarian so I can finish writing my own science-fiction saga!

    I really like when science fiction and fantasy movies make up a language for the different cultures and races. It adds to the richness. But leave it on the screen, people! Learn an actual living breathing language! You might even get a pay raise for being truly bilingual.

    If there ever comes a day that I have to press “vagh” for “Klingon,” I swear… photon torpedoes are going to fly!

    P.S. HeroMachine has a resident female Trekkie. ;)

  3. Unfortunately, ridicule never goes out of style. It seems to me that the more pointless or hurtful the ridicule, the better it catches on and sticks around.
    Frankly, sixty years is more than enough time for Shatner’s approach to acting and results to be lauded for incorrect reasons. Sixty years is long enough for a group of celebs to get together and give a tearful speech about how we should be ashamed we’re not more like the non-villain humans of the Star Trek books. And, yes, sixty years is enough time for Star Trek to be recognized as mainstream literature. (How many people in the free world have never heard of it, have never heard references to it, can claim no one around them has been influenced by it in some way?) If anything, I’m more disappointed that we aren’t as unified than that we don’t have their tech. My THREE-year-old said today that “everybotty have to be nice to each udder,” and it’s a shame that we all still fail at that. Species evolve–why NOT human nature? And why so slow? Perhaps I’m impatient.

  4. Herr DSpecies evolve–why NOT human nature? And why so slow? Perhaps I’m impatient.

    I think there is progress.
    But as you notice, it’s slow. And easily subject to fallbacks.

    Thing is, it’s “stored” in the culture, so it’s not granted. I like to thing that, on some points, I’m a better human being that I was, say, 15 years ago. But I’m an island, and any progress I will have done will disappear upon my death.

    So we do what Star Trek taught us. We reach to other people, discuss with them, try to have them understand each other and be more tolerant, just as we ourselves try to do that, every day. We try to promote peace and understanding, and we teach that same values to our children. And we don’t take anything for granted, cause it’s not. NOt around us, not in us.

  5. Well… All I’ll say is: Look at my online (and offline) “persona” ;)

    Ridicule all you want, Trek RULES!

  6. There’s only ONE thing that distinguished Star Trek from EVERY other SF show before and most of them since: they purposely sought out and hired actual SCIENCE FICTION writers to do their scripts. Not all of them, but 4 out of 5 of any “best episode” lists will have been written by people who published SF books. “City on the Edge of Forever,” “Amok Time” and “Trouble with Tribbles” are on everybody’s list of favorites, and all were written by SF writers who also happened to be screenwriters. It was for Television what “2001: A Space Odyssey” was for film: the first time SF writers were TAKEN SERIOUSLY outside of their chosen medium.