Judge Sandra Dozier felt transported by this follow-up documentary to the popular Trekkies, hosted by Tasha Yar. Get it? Transported?
How much is too much?
Star Trek fandom is a mystery even to the average viewer of the television series. As a lifelong fan of the show myself, I sometimes gape in astonishment at the "convention set"—the fans who display a heightened level of devotion and love for the show, who go to conventions dressed as Klingons, crew, and aliens of all types, and who go to great lengths to obtain a little bit of the show or get closer to it somehow.
Trekkies 2 attempts to bring that world down closer to earth. It is the sequel to a surprise-hit documentary (Trekkies, released in 1997) by director Roger Nygard and executive producer and host Denise Crosby, who is familiar to fans of Star Trek: Next Generation as security chief Tasha Yar. It shows the lighter side of Trek fandom: the kinder, gentler view of people who who have been called freaks and losers by those who haven't seen it from the inside out.
Facts of the Case
Star Trek, the original series, made its debut on television in the late '60s, promising to be a "Wagon Train to the stars"—this, of course, was just the pitch to get the network on board. What it ended up being wasn't so much a space western as a venue for social and political commentary couched in metaphor, the specialty of science fiction since the genre was born. It was a thinking person's show, under all the primary colors and velour clothing, and fans related to it in a big way.
After its cancellation at the end of the third season, the actors went their separate ways and figured that would be the last they heard of their old characters. A few fans got together and put on the first Star Trek convention not too long after. They optimistically hoped they'd get a few hundred people—what they got was a swarm of over 2,000, and a talking-to about fire codes and the danger of packing too many people into a venue designed for half the number.
That was just the beginning. With the revival of fan interest after the release of spinoff movies and new television series (such as Next Generation), fandom continues to grow. What's more, it's a worldwide phenomenon. As actor Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine) says in an interview, actors are treated like rock stars when they go on stage at a convention—a sea of screaming, cheering fans is there to greet them every time.
The first Trekkies documentary sought to find out just why fans are still so interested after all these years, and the sequel follows up with some of the fans profiled in the first documentary, but (with the backing of Paramount, Trek's parent company) Crosby and Nygard spend most of their time in other countries, talking to fans there. Turns out, rabid fans in Germany, England, or Italy aren't that much different from Trekkers here in the good old U.S. of A. Just ask the guy who redesigned his entire flat as a ship's interior, or Klingolaus (the Klingon Santa), or that German guy who looks just like Mr. Spock and acts in fan films with his friends.
Although separated by eight years, Trekkies 2 and its predecessor should be considered companion documentaries that showcase two varieties of Trek fandom. Whereas #1 mostly presented the darker side of fandom and obsession (irrational behavior, loves lost due to obsessive behavior, and so on), the second documentary focuses on the vast majority of enthusiastic but basically mainstream fans. These are people who have been able to channel their love for all things Trek into careers, fullfilling hobbies, and the like. Any stories of losing wives and jobs to the single-minded pursuit of fan worship are glossed over or left out entirely.
There were many complaints about the first documentary by convention-going and club fans who felt they weren't being fairly portrayed. They didn't feel that an alternate juror for the Whitewater trials serving jury duty in full uniform, replete with side-holstered phaser, was truly representative of the average fan who gets involved in clubs and conventions (and who takes the costume off afterward). A guy who dresses up his cat as Dr. McCoy? Too out-there. Trekkies 2 is the side of fandom that they want to see. It isn't as edgy or daring as #1, but it does do a good job of finding people in all walks of life who make the show a big part of their everyday lives. You can't get more "normal" than two sunbathing babes talking about how much they love the show. They aren't even wearing a uniform, unless a skimpy two-piece counts. However, you will never see a segment featuring a guy wearing a Davy Crocket hat and motoring down the sidewalk in his replica Christopher Pike chair that he made himself. (A fan fitting this description was featured in #1 but not followed up on in #2, tellingly.)
As one interviewee points out, being a Star Trek fan is enough to label you a freak, no matter what level you take it to. Crazy behavior is not required—people consider you suspect if you like to put on a costume and join other people who enjoy the same activity. It doesn't matter that it's peaceful, community-building behavior that doesn't involve anyone who doesn't want to be involved. Soccer hooligans brawling, destroying public or private property, and causing a riot that involves bystanders after a game is considered normal, but going to a convention as a Klingon is somehow seen as deficient. This is part of the point made by both documentaries (although it is much more subtle in #1)—Star Trek fans like to have fun. While the rest of us find it difficult to get a little silly unless we've consumed a lot of alcohol, or are participating in an official "adult-approved" opportunity for merriment, such as a Christmas party or a football game, here are people who practice having fun on a regular basis. The documentary also points out what do-gooders fans are. There's an unusually high number of charitable Trek clubs out there. The "Trek Dinners" that are popular in England are just one example—fans get together, discuss the show, hang out, and have fun, and proceeds go to charity. In addition to making donations, fans also regularly volunteer their time and skills for charitable works.
The "softer side" angle is both the attraction and weak spot of this follow-up. Those who liked the first film may be disappointed by the tamer sequel, and those who didn't like the first film will probably find this one to be a more balanced perspective.
This isn't to say that everything is sweetness and light. There are definitely some of the "I can't believe it" moments that viewers loved (or hated) so much about the first documentary. How about punk and metal bands that sing Star Trek songs? One of them is called "No Kill I" (they must prefer the original series). I was also amazed by the dude in France who had so many pictures, signed photos, and portraits that he had to rotate the display every week. Every week. Can you imagine taking down fifty pictures and putting up a new set of fifty every week? Wow.
Approximately 90 minutes of material made it into the documentary. The rest was edited and included as "deleted scenes." Now, when I think of deleted scenes I think of about a handful of random scenes that comprise maybe ten minutes total viewing time. The "deleted scenes" for Trekkies 2 are practically another documentary—there was over an hour of material here, arranged in segments of at least 10-20 minutes each. Good stuff, too—new segments and new material, no alternate shots or longer takes.
There's also a scene-specific commentary that is very good, providing a lot of background information and fill-in-the-gaps trivia that the filmmakers didn't have time to cover in the documentary. The video and audio quality is pretty good, considering the source material. Most of the images are bright and clear, and sound is robust, but it doesn't particularly take advantage of the 5.1 surround channeling. Obviously, when filming a documentary, you can't do much about poor acoustics or flat sound outdoors or in large areas, but the inserted interview segments are always well lit and have great sound. The transfer is also spotless, so the viewing experience is about as good as it gets.
Also included are two fan films:
•"Really Bad Star Trek" by Gabriel Koerner.
•"Final Frontier Revisited" by Brian Dellis.
So, what is it: Trekkies, or Trekkers? If I'm up on the lingo, "Trekkies" refers to casual fans who appreciate, but don't closely follow, the show, and "Trekkers" is a term for hard-core fans. Trekkies 2 neither confirms nor denies this, but it does provide some solid entertainment and a broad perspective on the fandom of Star Trek. Watch it with a Trekkie you love.
Trekkies 2 is a documentary, not a judge and jury! Still, we're confident that everyone involved is free to go.
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Scales of Justice
• Scene-Specific Commentary with Director Roger Nygard, Host Denise Crosby, Composer J.J. Holiday, and Producer Mike Leahy
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