Thursday, 11 June 2015

Star Trek - The Next Generation

Words written c28500
Stories completed 2
Rejections 54
Acceptances 1

I have to come to terms with the fact that the bairns don't like the original Star Trek.  In fact, scrub that: they hate it.

They find all the standing around talking boring.  They find the lack of shoot-first-ask-questions-later alien encounters boring.  They find the lack of whizzy CGI boring.  And when the obligatory science officer or ensign with a waist smaller than her hat size but a centre of gravity just below her neck appears, they practically hide behind the cushions in the expectation of Captain Kirk's impending sexual harassment.

I try to tell them that Star Trek is pure science-fiction: the fiction of ideas.  Each episode is like a science experiment, where you change one variable and see what effect that has on the world.  Except the variable isn’t pressure or temperature: it’s being able to implant ideas with a machine or what if the Athenian Gods were real.

I try to tell them that Star Trek has been the inspiration for more of the current generation of scientists than anything else (I may have embroidered a throwaway piece of anecdotal evidence I picked up somewhere).

But they just find it boring.

I find this odd.  Yes, it’s a bit static and talky and much more 1960s than twenty-third (or whatever) century.  But, they're nine and eleven, and bright, the sort of combination that should be intrigued by the ideas - and the best sci-fi is always about ideas, not robots hitting each other.

Thinking about this has led me to ponder two trends, but I’m struggling to decide whether they contradict or complement.

The first, let me illustrate by way of anecdote.  The Film Program on BBC Radio 4 recently ran a series of reminiscences over first film memories.  One man fell in love with cinema in 1950 at the age of nine by being taken to see The Third Man.  Chris Nolan watched 2001, mesmerized, at a similar age.

My point is this.  Fifty, sixty – even twenty - years ago there was a limited diet of what a young mind could be presented with.  Whatever Walt and Looney Tunes could provide was quickly consumed.  Get past a few cowboy B-movies, that week’s Children’s Film Foundation output, and very quickly kids were left with ‘adult’ movies (by which I mean The Third Man, I mean, not Shaving Ryan’s Privates).  Kids got to glimpse a more adult world, and in so doing had to get used to thinking.

Nowadays a child need not have their minds stretched unless they want to.  I’d like to show the kids The Third Man (we tried 2001, with disastrous consequences).  Instead, recent cinema trips have been for Big Hero 6, Paddington, Shaun the Sheep.  And when it’s not the cinema, there are DVDs, 24-hour kids’ TV, Minecraft, Fifa15.  There’s been an infantilisation of, not just cinema, but popular culture.

But, at the same time, we’ve got bloody good at it.  Compare those three movies I mentioned - Big Hero 6, Paddington, Shaun the Sheep – to, say, Doctor Doolittle, Mary Poppins, and Swiss Family Robinson – and I know which I’d prefer.  I even have a soft spot for Frozen, that cinematic equivalent to Slush Puppy.

Even so, it’s like we’ve taken baby food to a new level.  It’s haute cuisine baby food, two Michelin star baby food.  But it’s still baby food.  You have your teeth: use them.

And that, I think, is why Star Trek falls on deaf (non-pointy) ears.  Yes, its static and talky and badly acted and full of sexual harassment of the most jaw-dropping sort.  But its also full of ideas, challenging, stretching ideas.  But we don’t do ideas much any more when there’s so much plain vanilla available letting us get away with being superbly entertained whilst being barely challenged.

Bread and circuses and robots hitting each other.  Progress of a sort, I suppose.

No comments:

Post a Comment