DeFlip Side #174: To Boldly Let Go

DeFlip Side #174: To Boldly Let Go.mp3

Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

I’m a little late to the party here, but as a life-long Star Trek fan, there’s just no way I could let the 50th anniversary of the franchise pass without comment. It is — in large part — what got me into Science Fiction.

But as I began to marshal my thoughts about this milestone for my beloved franchise, I was unable to muster much more than… *shrug.* So Star Trek has hit 50. What do I have to say about it? Nothing was coming to mind.

Which was odd, because I’ve had a ton of transformative moments thanks to Trek — intellectual, emotional and physical. My first stab at writing fiction was writing Star Trek stories. I’d still love to get a book published in the novel program. Whenever I’m in a quandary, I often ask myself — quite seriously — how would Kirk handle this? I got the motivation to begin exercising when I saw Sisko beating the crap out of the heavy bag on the DS9 episode “For the Uniform.” I figured if that guy could run a freaking space station and still make time to stay in shape, then what was my excuse? And I’ve exercised faithfully ever since.

Trek has truly inspired me to “boldly go” in so many ways.

So why, when setting out to talk about the state of the franchise, was I coming up dry? And that’s when it hit me: I honestly don’t give crap about the current state of Star Trek. When I think about where the franchise is, and where it may be headed, I find I have more interesting things to think about.

Turns out that the most transformative thing Trek has done for me lately is allow me to boldly LET go — of overly-obsessive fandom, and the often ridiculous grievances and obsessions that go along with it.

Setting Trek aside for the moment, many factors in the broader fan community have conspired to change my attitude. I talked about them in my recent segment “No Lives Matter” — mainly the vocal subset of overly-obsessed and rabidly self-entitled fans who spew hate at anyone or anything that doesn’t conform to their phobic, straight-jacketed interpretation of what Science Fiction should be.

What started as a joke on South Park in the wake of Indy 4 and the Star Wars Special Editions — the proclamation “you’re raping my childhood!” — has become a rallying cry for fans who wallow so deeply in their favorite films and shows that they take it as a personal affront if anyone dares to have a different interpretation. Even if it’s the creators themselves.

Look, if your adult identity is so defined by the movies and cartoons you watched growing up, then you really have much bigger problems then whether or not Han shot first or if an all-female team of Ghostbusters is slugging it out on the big screen.

Getting back to Trek, I’ve often worn the mantle of outraged fan. I’ve been a vocal opponent of Voyager — and to a smaller extent Enterprise — for their cavalier dismissal of broader Trek continuity. But until recently, I’ve never stopped to ask myself — why did this make me so mad? Honestly, why do I care?

And I think I’ve figured it out.

My Trek fandom may have began with the Original Series TV show, but it was really augmented and defined by the Star Trek novel series. This was in the ’80s, before Next Gen, when there were only the original 79 episodes and an occasional movie. There was a time when Star Trek novels were the only books I was reading. My favorite authors where Diane Duane and Diane Carey, for fellow novel fans out there. And it was their vision, and the collective vision of dozens of other writers, that got me so personally invested in the Original Series characters and timeline.

And my absolute favorite thing was to go back along that timeline and figure out how everything fit together. Some of my most joyous moments were spent digging out my copy of Bjo Trimble’s Star Trek Concordance, cross-referencing it with Michael Okuda’s original Star Trek Chronology, and finding glitches in the timeline. And most of my initial Star Trek fiction was inspired by trying to creatively explain some of the contradictions.

Turns out, I’m a retconner to my core. And once I figured that out about myself, I understood why I took it so personally when others ignored continuity. But that’s my obsession. And not one by which others should have to define their fandom. And as soon as I realized that, a lot of the lingering grudges I had against the Bermans and the Bragas of the world just kind of evaporated.

But what really brought it home was the J.J. Abrams Trek reboot. I know, different universe, different timeline. Yadda yadda yadda. My real beef with the new movies has been their utter failure to capture the essences of Kirk and Spock. Pine’s Kirk is just too clueless. And Quinto’s Spock is like some weird, irritated automaton.

But then Star Trek Beyond came out, and something happened. Something wonderful.

Kirk beats an entire alien death armada, with the awesome power of a proto-hip-hop band. And it, was, glorious!

In the theater, in that moment, I realized that I had a choice.

I could sit there and get bent out of shape that there’s almost no chance that the Beastie Boys would have existed in Trek continuity — even in the Kelvin timeline — since Sabotage came out in 1994, and the Eugenics Wars were in full swing by then, with the planet being ravaged by genetically-enhanced supermen like Khan Noonian Singh.

Or, I could just revel in one of the few truly awesome moments in the rebooted Trek universe.

So I chose to boldly let go. To stop holding not just other fans — but the franchise itself accountable to my interpretation of it. It doesn’t owe me a thing.

Are there some interpretations that I enjoy more than others? Certainly. I’m far more excited at the prospect of a new episode of Star Trek Continues than I am about the next big screen Kelvin-timeline adventure. I look forward to seeing how Star Trek: Discovery reinterprets the decade leading up to the Original Series adventures. Will we get a glimpse of Spock on Pike’s Enterprise? Will we cross paths with the Farragut and a certain young lieutenant named Kirk? I hope so, but my enjoyment of the show won’t hinge on that kind of stuff.

The greatest thing about all these interpretations is that they give me a choice. I could watch a fan film, read a DS9 book, or embrace or reject Discovery — the possibilities are endless.

As for the rest of the stuff that maybe doesn’t jive with my tastes, as I said earlier… *shrug.* Trek will likely go on for another 50 years, my self-righteous indignation notwithstanding. So I’m boldly letting it go — so I can keep boldly going for as long as there’s a Trek.