I think we're long past the point where we need to hide being a Star Trek fan. “Trekkie” isn't a dirty word anymore, so much so that you rarely hear the allegedly more mature-sounding “Trekker” among uptight fans. Nerd culture is mainstream and the 2009 reboot did monster business. Yes, friends, we won.
Still… there are moments in our beloved franchise where a less-forgiving person may raise and an eyebrow and think “really?” We know what they are. And yet we remain fans – in fact, the ability to fully embrace these moments might be what makes us true fans.
So let's be honest with ourselves… what are the annoying things about Star Trek that only a true fan could love?
Yeah, let's just dive right in, shall we?
Now, there is, of course, a reason why this infamous moment happens. Parmen the Platonian has gone mad from disease and maintains order through fear and humiliation. He wants Kirk to leave McCoy behind and, oh. . .who am I kidding? There's a dwarf riding Captain Kirk as he neighs!
This is a favorite clip for YouTube remixers and has a nice following under the heading of WTF.
Trek fans can hold their heads high, though. If it weren't for the mind control tricks in “Plato's Stepchildren” we'd never be able to boast about the first televised interracial kiss.
Jean-Luc Picard is about the Frenchest name in the Alpha Quadrant. He is, indeed, from France. The Chateau Picard vineyard is nestled in the quiet village of La Barre. And yet... he speaks with an ENGLISH ACCENT.
Why? It just doesn't make sense!
What's even more annoying is that in “Where No One Has Gone Before,” he sees his mother and calls her “Maman” and kinda-has a French accent – the only time in the whole series.
Not that we're complaining. Patrick Stewart's sharp, British pronunciation is one of the most awesome things ever to appear regularly on television. Engage!
So much of what made Star Trek different is that it shrugged the B-movie “saucer men” tone that had existed in so much science fiction beforehand. From the deep back stories of the alien races to the well-developed technology, even Trek's harshest critics couldn't dismiss it as pulp.
Then we saw the Andorians.
Don't get me wrong, I love Andorians, but I have to admit that their antennae are a little absurd-looking. By the time Star Trek: Enterprise and Shran came around they made 'em look a little more organic (and included some self-referential jokes) but “Journey to Babel's” discovery of a radio receiver in a fake Andorian's antenna?!?! That's the WORST place to try and hide one of those!
I could have said Data's Sherlock Holmes adventures, Picard's time as Dixon Hill, Janewayhanging out with Leonardo Da Vinci or Deep Space Nine's Vic Fontaine. But if you are going to rage against Holodeck stories, rage against Captan Proton.
The complaint is always the same: either the events inside the Holodeck “don't matter,” or it is always the same problem – someone is trapped and the dangers are “real.” It's tough to counter that argument, especially if Geordi La Forge is wearing a ridiculous hat.
However, a true Trek fan loves the characters, and takes great delight in seeing the side of them that inspires them? Tom Paris digs cheesy Sci-Fi? Well, whaddya know. . . so do we.
Haters will tell you that whenever our intrepid galactic explorers get in a real mess, somebody mumbles something about tachyon particles, the matter-antimatter intermix chamber, anomalies in the time-space continuum, energy masses in the warp bubble or subroutines in a positronic matrix and – blammo! - everyone is safe til next week.
To which I say: all of those things are awesome! And, if you watch enough of the show, they are surprisingly consistent in their usage. From Heisenberg Compensators to power re-routed to the deflector dish, it may sound like “insert save the day here” at first, but in time you start to get the hang of it.
Oh, I'm gonna catch such hell for this.
Listen, I know that Reg Barclay eventually grew to become an important member of Starfleet. Heck, he was key in saving Voyager. But if the Enterprise is meant to be the best of the best for the super-elite, how in the world did this (oh, please forgive me) bumbling oaf wind up there?
Remember, there is a big barrier of entry to get this far in Starfleet. Remember how much trouble Wesley had just getting into the Academy? And that kid was a genius, plus he had Captain Picard's recommendation. What did Barclay have, other than a fear of transporters and an unhealthy addiction to porn – er, excuse me, the Holodeck?
Of course, we fans know what purpose he served. Let's face it – he was us.
Ugh. How many of your non-Trekkie friends have bugged you with this question? I probably get hit with this more than anything else, other than people asking me if I hate Star Wars. (The answer is, of course I don't - but Star Wars is just a fun handful of movies, Star Trek is a way of life.)
Today we know the full explanation of the Klingon Augment Virus from Enterprise's “Affliction.” (And you can go deeper with the “Klingons: Blood Will Tell” comics, some of the best Trek comics ever written.) But in the years prior to Enterprise the only acknowledgement to the smooth head/ridged head issue was Worf's comment in DS9's “Trials and Tribble-ations.” When asked, Worf batted the question away stating “we don't discuss it with outsiders.”
Of course, those of us that had been fans for a while were suffering years of pestering questions, ever since the ridged Klingons appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It really seemed to be a point of pride for people who wanted to find fault in Star Trek.
Deep down we fans always knew the real answer, but kept it to ourselves: they didn't have that kind of makeup back in the 1960s and the ridges look cool, you dope! Quit complaining!
Here's one I didn't realize annoyed people until I was watching Trek with a friend. Apparently, some people get all bent out of shape when a character starts listing things from history, then whips out some “future speak.”
The formula goes one real person or event, followed by two that haven't happened yet. Example, from TOS' “The Ultimate Computer”:
“Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis. Did Einstein, Kazanga, or Sitar of Vulcan produce new and revolutionary theories on a regular schedule?”
Or on TNG's “The High Ground”:
“Yet there are numerous examples where it was successful. The independence of the Mexican State from Spain, the Irish Unification of 2024, and the Kensey Rebellion.”
There is a variant when giving four examples – two real, two fake. From TNG's “The Defector”:
“Freeze program. Thank you, sir. I plan to study the performances of Olivier, Branagh, Shapiro, Kullnark.”
Non-fans lose their mind at this, and I guess I now recognize it as a little silly (even though I do think it is a bit of a hoot.)
I'm sure I am missing a few, and I would love to see them in the comments below.
They DON'T all speak English, of course, and the next time someone says they do hit 'em with a loud “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra,” okay?
However, there is one thing I don't understand about the Universal Translator. Follow me on this one, because it has been bugging me for years.
By the time of TNG, the Universal Translator fits right into a combadge. So if you come up to me and start speaking Tellarite, the combadge is going to take that audio, process it and repeat it back to me as English. But how come we don't also hear the other language exiting the alien mouth? And why do their lips move in English?
In the DS9 episode “Little Green Men” we see that Ferengi actually have their Universal Translators implanted in their heads. (Man, they just love sticking things in and out of their ears.) But this still doesn't explain why “we, the audience,” don't also hear the native tongue being spoken underneath.
Quick! Someone remind me that I must calm down, it is just a TV show, and I should just dig the fact that Star Trek presented a concept as cool as a Universal Translator to begin with.
Let's wrap this up with the most hated garment in the galaxy.
I'll defend Wesley Crusher til my face is as blue as a Bolian's, but when it comes to his outfits, well, he's on his own. And he wore this damn sweater ALL THE TIME!
The best, of course, is in the episode “Hide and Q.” Even all grown up (and with the powers of a God?) he still dresses in that horrible rainbow sweater. And I'll love him for it until the day I die.
So now I've confessed. These are the things that kinda-sorta drive me up the wall about my beloved franchise. Surely you must have yours.
Jordan Hoffman is a freelance writer, critic and independent film producer living in New York City. He fell in love with Star Trek through TOS reruns just as TNG was getting ready to launch. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels. He has a funny story about the one time he met Leonard Nimoy. Click HERE to follow him on Twitter.