Boldly Geeking

I wanted to highlight a few nice geek-posts I’ve seen the last week:

:: First, Jason takes note of some possible reason for optimism regarding the Star Trek relaunch by JJ Abrams:

So, here we’ve got a good look at the unfortunate vessel that’s only glimpsed in fast cuts and in between explosions during The Trailer. It’s instantly recognizable as a Federation starship with its saucer-shaped primary hull and the blue-glowing deflector dish. But wait, you might be saying if you’re familiar with the usual Star Trek vehicle architecture, there’s something screwy here: the secondary hull (that’s the bit that sports the deflector dish and the shuttlecraft hanger in the back) is on top of the ship, not below as on pretty much every other Starfleet vessel ever seen in a Star Trek TV series or movie. And there’s only one engine nacelle? Has J.J. Abrams gone insane? Is this the sign we’ve all been looking for, the proof that he’s abandoned all the established Trek lore and is waving his private parts at the existing fanbase? (Can you tell I’ve been hanging out on the fanboy message boards again?)

Well, no… in fact, I take the Kelvin‘s layout as a very positive sign of exactly the opposite. But you’ve probably got to be a real old-timer like me to recognize the clues. You see, the Kelvin is highly reminiscent of the very earliest design sketches for the good old Enterprise herself, which were upside-down relative to the way we’re familiar with her looking. You can see one of these sketches on this page (scroll down to the section labeled “Artwork”), and several more in the old book The Making of Star Trek, if you can track down a copy of that. I think they were reprinted in the excellent book Inside Star Trek, as well (for my money, that one is the best volume ever written on the history of the original series).

As for the single-engine controversy, it’s more-or-less understood nowadays that in the Trek ‘verse, you need to have two nacelles, but that wasn’t always the case. Way back in the ’70s, even before Star Trek: The Motion Picture — the Golden Age of original series fandom, in my opinion — one of the primary sources for young nerds was a book called The Star Fleet Technical Manual by Franz Joseph. This volume was considered official “canon” for years until Gene Roddenberry decided it wasn’t, and as I recall, it contained several one-nacelle ship designs.

Ah, the Star Fleet Technical Manual…I really should track down a copy of that book one of these years. It was a lot of fun to dig through, back when I was a kid. I never owned it, but one of the libraries we used to frequent had a copy in its collection. I remember looking at the lists of all the ships in Starfleet, and also noting the interesting designs of the ships as well. Sometimes the warp nacelles were on top of the ship, sometimes underneath; some ships had only one nacelle with no secondary hull, and so on. The USS Reliant from The Wrath of Khan was a nice throwback to these other formulations of Starfleet ships, and Jason’s right to note that at least in this aspect of his visual design, Abrams is taking his cues from established Trek history.

Of course, this was never in much doubt. Abrams has always been good at injecting his projects with lots of small details for the segments of fandom that live for the small stuff. Witness all the people who devote time to digging through the inner details of LOST, and similar factors were at play in Alias. I’m not worried about that aspect of this project; I remain worried that Abrams is going to screw up the character dynamic of Trek.

Second, SamuraiFrog decides that he’s a Star Wars fan after all:

Recently, Becca and I sat in front of our new, big widescreen TV and watched, in a single day, all six Star Wars films, from The Phantom Menace to Return of the Jedi. And it turns out I’m still a Star Wars fan. It was hard to be one for the last decade plus of humorless Star Wars fandom whining its overly entitled little head off about the thing it professes to love but openly hates (and, like an abused housewife, keeps returning to because no one understands it in that special way that they do). But I still dig it, and watching all six parts at once makes for a more unified experience than I thought it would. It all makes sense, and it all holds together. And it’s surprisingly easy to get emotionally involved.

I still haven’t watched the complete Star Wars saga in one go, although a few times in college we watched all three of the Original Trilogy at once. My constant hope that the backlash against Star Wars eventually fades continues to hold sway in my mind.

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2 Responses to Boldly Geeking

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m with you. It’s the character dynamic that will make or break the film for me. I’m not overly concerned about technical details. Should they have a primitive-looking bridge with big, nickel-sized flashing red lights everywhere because that was state of art in the 60’s and for continuity everything must be kept the same?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Just for the record, Lynn, I’m also skeptical of Abrams-Trek, and for exactly the same reasons. All I was saying in the entry that Jaquandor quotes is that I see a few reasons to be optimistic that Abrams has paid some attention to the original material. Whether that attention focused merely on surface/technical details or extends to the underlying meaning, atmosphere, and character work of the original series remains to be seen, of course.

    Meanwhile, Jaquandor, you mention your “constant hope that the backlash against Star Wars eventually fades…” I have a gut feeling that it already is, although I can’t provide any anecdotal support for that. It just seems like the passions are cooling as we get farther away from the hype surrounding the release of Episode III. Sadly, I think the last few years have left a lot of people with the impression that the series is unsophisticated kid stuff, which never used to be the case.

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