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Weekend Movie Review: Trekkies go forth to a different drummer in documentary

Friday, May 21, 1999

In the "Get a Life" department, "Star Wars" fans still have a lot to learn. Sure, some of them sat in line for a month awaiting the premiere of "Episode I -- The Phantom Menace." Many sported Darth Maul masks, and a few insisted on reading every spoiler on the Internet before seeing the movie.

    Movie Review


Rating: PG for mild sexual and drug references.

Narrator: Denise Crosby.

Director: Roger Nygard.

Critic's call: 2 1/2 stars


Pshaw! Amateurs! To experience true geek greatness, to achieve the pantheon of pathetic, forget the followers of George Lucas and get thee hence to a "Star Trek" convention -- or try the next best thing, Roger Nygard's documentary film "Trekkies."

Talk about going where no one has gone before. Remember Barbara Adams, the Whitewater juror who was dismissed because she wore a "Star Trek" uniform into the courtroom? She also wears it -- complete with badge, phaser and tricorder -- every day to her job at a print shop where co-workers good-naturedly call her "commander."

But we've only scratched the surface. Not only do David Greenstein and his wife, Laurel, wear the Starfleet colors, so does their dog, Tammi. David proclaims that if he could afford it, he'd hire a plastic surgeon to give him pointed Vulcan ears. Laurel, bless her, is aghast.

My favorite obsessive of the bunch, though, is Denis Bourguignon, whose entire family sports "Trek" apparel. So do the employees of his dental practice, which is decorated with memorabilia and life-size cardboard cutouts of the characters. Would you let this man work on your teeth?

Oh, and wait until you get a load of the Klingons in full makeup and battle armor ordering a meal at a fast-food restaurant.

You'll laugh for sure. Sometimes, you'll gag. Still, "Trekkies" comes not merely to bury these overzealous fans but also, in a way, to praise them. Paramount, the studio distributing the documentary, also produces "Star Trek." It has not done so in order to bite the hands that feed it.

So we get testimonials of how "Star Trek" inspired people to become astronauts, how black girls took heart from watching Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) in an era when both men and women of color were nearly invisible on TV, how James Doohan (engineer Scotty on the original series) turned around the life of a suicidal fan.

Cast members from the various "Star Trek" shows tell us of their encounters with fans, and Denise Crosby (Lt. Yar on "Star Trek: The Next Generation") acts as our guide to the denizens of this strange universe.

I'm the first to admit that I'd rather eat gagh -- the Klingon "delicacy" that looks like a densely packed bowl of fishing bait and, according to gourmets, is best consumed live -- than hang out with some of these people.

On the other hand, I couldn't help thinking in this post-Littleton era about the consequences of ridiculing people who march to a different drummer. Some Trekkies take their fantasies too far, but they're not really hurting anyone except, perhaps, themselves. In theory, we prize eccentricity and individuality. In truth, we usually feel threatened by it.

You can make the case that these people don't exactly fulfill "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry's dictum of infinite diversity in infinite combinations. That would require some of them to not be obsessed with "Star Trek." But if we can tolerate Jerry Springer, Kathy Lee Gifford and Dan Quayle, surely we can allow Trekkies to live long and prosper.

I don't know that "Trekkies" will inspire us to do that, judging from the number of walkouts during the preview screening (then again, they didn't pay to get in). It's a short film but I began squirming a little before it was over, and not just because of the people on screen.

Still, while I wouldn't get my ears Vulcanized or change my legal name to James T. Kirk, I suppose that if more of us devoted ourselves to the things we truly believe in, fewer of us would succumb to the hype that insists we all go out and buy "Star Wars" toys, "Star Wars" bedspreads, "Star Wars" potato chips.

Then again, a guy in "Trekkies" buys an 8-inch square rubber Klingon headpiece for $1,400. Remember when it was enough just to see the movie?

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