Here’s the thing: Trekkies (or Trekkers, as some of them likes to be called) freaks me out. I’ve seen every episode of “Star Trek: Voyager”, but I’ve never, ever entertained the thought of wearing Vulcan ears or dressing up as Chakotay (or Captain Janeway for some of you guys out there, ahem). And the reason why I’ve seen every episode of “Voyager”? Not because I thought it was the best “Trek” series, but for the simple reason that it’s the only “Trek” series I saw from the very beginning and not as reruns. And truth be told, as long as it’s at least well done, I’ll watch anything even remotely sci-fi.
“Trekkies” is a documentary about all things Star Trek. The conventions, the people who dresses up in uniforms, and the stars of the various TV incarnations of Trek all show up to talk about the worldwide phenomenon. The shot-on-video documentary is a breezy affair, and director/editor Roger Nygard has fashioned a fascinating introduction to Trekdom for the uninitiated. Even those who thought they knew everything about Trek will be a little shocked by the parade of eccentricities on display. The doc is hosted by Denise Crosby, who played “Tasha Yar” on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” before her character was lamely killed off by, of all things, a man covered in black liquid goo or some such.
The documentary’s best moment comes near the beginning, when actors from the original series talks about the first ever Trek convention, which at that time (in the early ’70s) was nothing more than a group of fans who pooled their money to rent out a hotel lobby to share their mutual interest. The stars were invited, and by the time they arrived, what had begun as an idea to get 300-400 people together ended up being a crowd of thousands. There were so many people, in fact, that not all of them could attend the convention, and had to be let inside in increments to meet safety regulations. And so began what we know today as Star Trek conventions.
You don’t have to be a Trekker to appreciate the moment the original stars went through when they discovered that their cancelled show had grown into something else, something that at once exhilarated and frightened the hell out of them. Of note is Leonard Nimoy’s love-hate affair with the fans. Of all the actors, it’s Nimoy’s take toward the Trek phenomenon that is most interesting; as he confesses, he still hasn’t come to terms with it at the time of filming. Needless to say, the man has issues.
The doc earns high marks for being informative and entertaining, as well as for not shying away from some of the nuttier side of Trek fandom. Take the jurist who refused to take off her Trek uniform even though she’s serving on the Whitewater trial concerning the President of the United States. Listening to this woman talk, you know she’s not just “out there”, but she’s way gone. Or how about the mysterious person who keeps sending packages to the “Star Trek” set every day for 10 years? Even more disturbing is the erotic “fan fiction” involving different show characters. There’s no doubt these people are dedicated, so much so that you have to wonder how some of they managed to keep from going into orgasmic overload even as they were being interviewed by Tasha Yar.
Thankfully, for every male weirdo who dresses up as a minor female character, there is the normal married couple that has turned their dentistry business into a haven for Trek memorabilia. If one guy strikes you as nuts, the documentary wisely follows him up with one who knows it’s just a show, and who indulges in Trekdom for fun the way other people wear football jerseys. Walking the line couldn’t have been easy, and it’s to the doc’s credit that it does so without ever laughing at even the most eccentric of Trek fans. In the end, you feel bad for some of the “goners”, but not so much that you blame the documentary for exploiting them.
For fans of the shows, the candid interviews with the actors are the documentary’s best moments. Of note is James Doohan’s heartbreaking story about how he saved a suicidal woman’s life just by meeting her at a convention. Another interesting factoid is that original series star William Shatner is the only one who didn’t sit down for an interview. For someone who has gleefully made a tidy profit from the various incarnations and merchandising avenues associated with “Trek”, it’s a bit disingenuous of Shatner not to show up for an interview. (Of course I don’t know for a fact that he refused to do an interview; but being that he’s the most well-known actor, it’s probably a given that the filmmakers asked for an interview, and was declined.)
Even if you’re just a cursory viewer of the “Trek” shows, you’ll probably find some entertainment value out of “Trekkies”. Nygard has fashioned the doc to entertain more than anything else, and he succeeds quite fabulously.
Roger Nygard (director)
CAST: Denise Crosby, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei