Star Trekking: Galactic Musings from a Starship Newbie: Episode 1

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I’ve been in a relationship with a Trekkie for three nerdy years and seven geeky months, and until last night, I’d never seen a full episode of Star Trek—at least not one I’d intentionally paid attention to. I remember the show being on when I was growing up. In particular, I remember seeing Patrick Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg onscreen. But space was never really my thing. I was into very serious literature during my formative years. I craved stories of tortured love and metaphorically invisible men, not space exploration.

However, with age comes a more open mind and varied tastes. Recently, I decided I was ready to begin my formal education of red shirts and tribbles and “Beam me up, Scotty.” (Hopefully these are correct pop culture references for what I’ll be watching? I’m such a virgin here, guys.)

I’m committed to working my way through all of the seasons of Star Trek and its various iterations (even the ones my boyfriend has admitted weren’t the best). I also decided this would be fun to document here on the blog. I won’t recap every single episode, because holy Data, that would be a lot of entries, but I will post the funniest, most philosophical, most interesting musings as I work my way through the galaxy.

I asked my boyfriend where to begin. He was ready.

Armed with calzones, salad, and beer, we boarded the starship Enterprise last night and watched Episode 1 of Season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint: Parts 1 and 2.

And here’s what I thought…

The theme song is truly catchy. I miss orchestrated, grandiose theme songs that were an integral part of a show. It seems we speed through introductions and credits these days.

That opening shot of Patrick Stewart. So dramatic! So well lit! So 80s! Also, he doesn’t age.

I know the special effects of this time might make modern audiences cringe (I mean, we have come a long way), but seriously, how cool would it have been to work on this show or even just watch the show when new visual techniques were being introduced? For 1987, pretty cutting edge.

This exchange:

Lt. Commander Data: Inquiry: the word…’snoop’?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Data, how can you be programmed as a virtual encyclopedia of human information without knowing a simple work like ‘snoop’?

Lt. Commander Data: Possibility: a king of human behavior I was not designed to emulate.

That force field is rather hypnotic.

Q’s first appearance is very cheesy. Speaking in Olde English? I couldn’t really take him seriously until he started changing into other figures and representations. Then, he was pretty damn creepy.

“Knowing humans as thou dost, Captain, wouldst thou be captured helpless by them?” An interesting question to be posed in 1987—and I think it’s still applicable today. I can’t say that I blame Q for being pessimistic. I wonder, if we were able to take space exploration to this level, would our first instinct be to protect ourselves and fear the unknown, or would we truly be able to be investigatory first and reactionary second?

The Q courtroom is terrifying…but I kind of want that judge chair to float around in…

Wil Wheaton was a freaking adorable kid!

When Picard said, “I don’t feel comfortable with children,” I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Oh my God, it’s you.”

“You treat her like a lady, and she’ll always bring you home.” Love that line. Wise advice.

Counselor Deanna Troi is fierce.

After the newly reunited alien beings held hands at the end of the episode, I predicted they found some privacy and made sweet, sweet alien love.

And you know what, I’m excited for the next few episodes!

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What I Learned About Storytelling From the Less-Than-Awesome Dexter Series Finale

Art/photo by Flickr user "Por LB-MaN."

Art/photo by Flickr user “Por LB-MaN.”

I knew before I started watching the TV series Dexter that I would hate the ending. Flocks of others had watched the show before me and all came to the same conclusion—the series ended on a sour note; some even argued it ruined the entire show for them.

Though I was armed with this information, I set out to watch Dexter a few months ago. I mean, a serial killer who only targets bad guys, the classic anti-hero that we want to root for even though it’s completely twisted? Secret identities and double lives? An exploration of what it means to be human? I’m in!

Well, I finished all eight seasons of Dexter a few days ago and I now understand the incendiary response to the series finale. It’s simple really. Intellectually, the conclusion makes sense (sort of, I guess). Emotionally, it misses the mark—big time—because the storytellers chose ambiguity over finality. And it was a little too dark, even for a series with a serial killer as the protagonist.

The series finale in a nutshell:

Miami Metro blood spatter analyst and secret serial killer Dexter Morgan is about to achieve his happily-ever-after in Argentina with his son, Harrison, and his girlfriend, Hannah McKay, a serial killer in her own right. Before Dexter can leave, he gets word that his adoptive sister, Deb, has been shot. Dexter’s love for Deb wins over his desire to flee and he stays in Miami to make sure she’s okay. Of course, she isn’t okay. Post-surgical complications leave Deb intubated and with minimal brain function. As a hurricane approaches the coast, Dexter has his come-to-Jesus moment and realizes that in a way, he killed Deb, the first person he ever truly loved. He disconnects her air supply, carries her lifeless form out to his boat, and then sails to the exact spot where he ritually dumps his bodies to release Deb into the sea, adding her to his pile of victims. Then, reasoning that he’s a danger to anyone he loves, he sails full speed into the storm and we’re made to believe he committed suicide by doing so.

If the writers had left it at that, I don’t think we’d have a problem. Yes, by the end of eight seasons of watching Dexter grow increasingly “human” and want more normalcy in his life, we want him to have the happy ending. We want to see Dexter and Hannah strolling the streets of Argentina with drinks with umbrellas in hand while Harrison chases birds ahead of them.

However, if Dexter can’t have his happy ending, give him death, a poetic one where he flings himself into the sea alongside his sister. Very Shakespearian.

But they couldn’t leave well enough alone. Right when you think Dexter’s dead, he shows up in some logger community with a plaid shirt and an emo beard. He sits down at a wooden table, stares directly into the camera, and looks like he’s about to break. And then the fucking credits roll. And that’s it. That quiet, ambiguous, gut-wrenching ending.

The only way that ending would have felt even somewhat satisfactory would be if Dexter had unrolled knives on that wooden table and given us that signature serial killer stare instead of that broken look. We’d all cheer! He may have lost his family, but he’s still good old Dexter! (I’m not saying this is the right ending—Deb’s death may have affected him so greatly he no longer has the desire to kill. That’s possible, I guess.)

But no. For all his efforts, for all his self-discovery, for all his attempts to be “human,” Dexter can never fulfill that space. He must always be condemned as a monster, sentenced to a life of solitude and silence so that he never hurts anyone ever again.

Intellectually, it makes sense. Dexter was finally “caught,” finally had to face the music, and that music was his own self-imposed prison of isolation and depression (probably not that different than a life in a real prison behind bars).

But emotionally, we never wanted that as consumers of this story. We wanted Dexter to find release, either release from his “dark passenger”—starting fresh in Argentina—or release from the life that has deeply troubled him—death off the Miami coastline. Purgatory seems cruel, even for Dexter.

To play devil’s advocate, perhaps that’s the point. Perhaps the writers wanted to come up with the least predictable ending. Happily-ever-after was too contrived and death seemed too easy. As a storyteller, I understand that mentality. Predictable can be bad.

But, for me, predictable also beats throwing a remote and swearing at the TV.

So, I’d say I learned a little about storytelling from watching Dexter’s less-than-awesome series finale. And that lesson is this: emotionally alienating your viewers (for me, readers) isn’t worth being able to say you had one up on ‘em. Sometimes it’s better to wind up at the bottom of the ocean.

 

Art/photo licensing – Dexter’s Blood on the Street – Por LB-MaN – on Deviant Art