Like any good student of synchromysticism, I’m well aware of the importance of dates, in particular anniversaries. Especially when they’re mine.
It was, in a sense, inevitable that I would one day have to do a lengthy project about Star Trek. No large-scale media franchise, or indeed possibly no work of fiction, has consistently meant as much to me or been as much of a source of inspiration (and frustration) over the course of my life as Star Trek. I would have had to address my personal history and issues with Star Trek in some fashion at some point, and that was before my Internet writer colleagues pushed me to work them out through a large-scale serialized blog project.
So, first and foremost, Vaka Rangi has always been more about me than it has been about Star Trek. You may have noticed. Sorry about that. But, as someone trained to notice, analyse and compare positionalities, and also simply knowing it would be pointless to do *yet another* “Let’s watch every episode of Star Trek in order and write about it” thing, I also figured my perspective might allow me to say some things that might not get said in mainline cult sci-fi discourse. But this also means this is a particularly personal project for me, as it’s my reaction to Star Trek that informs not just the kind of critical perspective I offer, but that kind of person I am. I never wanted this to be a straightforward critical history, even a subversive one, and the project was never going to let me make it into one.
Growing up cut off from the kind of pop culture discourse that seems to have morphed into Nerd Culture, I guess I assumed the things I saw in Star Trek were what everyone liked about Star Trek, but it very quickly became evident that I was wrong, and any evidence I found to the contrary seems to have been deliberate misrepresentations in marketing buzzspeak. As a result, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to structure this project to get this across, and I eventually settled on the idea of comparing Star Trek’s idealism (at least the way I saw it) to the philosophy of the ancient Polynesian navigators for various reasons. Obviously, as a cultural anthropologist I’ve read about and studied them a lot, as Polynesia is one of anthropology’s favourite classic case studies and Hawai’i in particular has a very deep and spiritual connection to the night sky. But it’s also a region I feel connected to myself in a very deep and personal way I can’t exactly articulate (there are a few places around the world that are like this for me, but Polynesia was the first one I consciously noticed my connection to). More specifically, I genuinely do see and try to find a kinship in the way the navigators conceived of growing, learning, travelling and the concept of a global community and what I think Star Trek really ought to stand for. This project is for them as much as it is for me and you, if not actually more so.
The result is a reading, and really, a comprehensive reconceptualization, of Star Trek very much informed by the invisible, heretical, voiceless side of fandom, indigenous spirituality and comparative mythology, philosophies that are in many ways mine as well. This also means people like Gene Roddenberry and Nicholas Meyer are a constant analytical headache for me and I worry every single day about making a mistake and lapsing into cultural appropriation.
2013 seemed like the year that, if I was ever going to do something like this, would be the year to finally do it, with mainstream interest in Star Trek looming for the first time in years with the release of Star Trek Into Darkness. Not being entirely blinkered, I recognised an opportunity when I saw it and timed the launch of Vaka Rangi to coincide with the film’s release. Of course the movie itself wound up bombing (or bombing as much as any hyper-blockbuster of that stature is allowed to these days), but this blog is still around a year later and still apparently manages to draw an audience, which I guess is a good thing. I remember being overwhelmed at the start of this project thinking “Oh My God: If I actually *am* still around a year from now, how far will I actually have managed to get?”. As it turns out, as I wrap up the final essay for Volume 2 as I write this, I’m about as far as I thought I was going to be, if not a little farther.
So, exactly one year after I set off on this journey, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what this project is and what it means to me and to thank everyone who decided to join me along the way. I’m especially grateful to the people who have gone out of their way to tell me how important this project has been to them: I never stop being moved to hear something I’ve written has resonated with somebody else, especially when I’m writing something as overtly personal and reflexive as Vaka Rangi has turned out to be.
You might also be interested in hearing a bit about where this project goes next. It’s no secret that we’re on the cusp of beginning the Star Trek: The Next Generation era and, all I can say to that is if you’ve been upset by how personal I’ve gotten so far…It’s about to get a lot more personal, so, be forewarned. While I don’t actively dislike the Original Series (except the parts that are misogynistic and reactionary, natch), it’s not a show or a set of characters I have any particular affinity for, which I know is yet another thing that makes me a bit of an oddball in Trekker circles and why parts of the past year have felt more clinical than introspective. This next period, however, is something I actively and unapologetically love, or rather, I love the setting, characters, ideas and the memories and images it’s left me with, and I’m really hoping to be able to convey this in the posts going forward. This also means that while I’m not going to stop being critical, I am going to loosely shift from the perspective of the offense to that of the defense, at least for a while. I mean yes, “Code of Honor” is every bit as bad as you think it is.
Aside from seeing a *lot* more of me cropping up in the blog, I’m also going to be changing the structure around a bit. Flatly, we’re entering a period of Star Trek history that’s incredibly long and incredibly monolithic: With three series of seven, 30-episode seasons *each*, plus one with four, there’s an incredible glut of material to get through the likes of which I’ve never had to deal with before, and it also happens to coincide, at least partially, with an era of Star Trek history I know almost instinctively. This means there will be several occasions where, instead of doing one post per episode, I’ll take three or four stories centred around what I find to be a unifying theme and look at them all together. I won’t do this all the time, but I think it will help clarify the points I’m trying to make and further emphasize my positionality, the way I was exposed to these works and how I read them. And also, you know, believe it or not, I don’t actually want to be doing this for the rest of my life.
Also, since I mentioned volumes earlier, I thought it might be fun to actually post a (highly truncated) version of my outline here. It’s sort of an open secret that the ultimate goal for this project is a multivolume book set, and I’ve been planning and structuring this project with that in mind from the beginning. I’m not going to tell you *everything* I’m going to cover, of course, that would spoil the surprise, and I’ve got a *lot* of surprises planned. But, this should help anyone who might be trying to mentally work out the different categories and divisions I split Star Trek into and the different underlining themes and motifs I see in each era (and indeed, what the eras I see actually *are*):
Volume 1: Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series and Raumpatrouille Orion (contains the posts from Foundation to “The Counter-Clock Incident”, plus bonus exclusive coverage of the entirety of Raumpatrouille Orion, among others).
Volume 2: Star Trek Phase II, The Lost Years and Star Trek in Pictures (contains the posts from Star Trek: Year Four, Issue Number 1 to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, plus bonus exclusive coverage of Star Trek Continues, among others). Also includes the movies Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Volume 3: To Be Announced, To Be Announced and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Seasons 1-3. Also includes the movies Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Covers the period roughly from Spring 1980 to Summer 1990.
Volume 4: To Be Announced, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Seasons 4-7 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Seasons 1 and 2). Also includes the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Covers the period roughly from Summer 1990 to Summer 1994.
Volume 5: Star Trek Voyager and the Dominion War (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Seasons 3-7). Also includes the movies Star Trek Generations, Star Trek First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection. Covers the period roughly from Winter 1994 to Summer 2001.
Volume 6: Enterprise and other material to be determined, though likely including the movies Star Trek Nemesis, Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness.