The very first television programme I ever fell in love with was Star Trek: The Next Generation. I'd watched cartoons, of course, and had flipped through the channels enough to have a working knowledge of late-80s early-90s prime time TV, but I never considered myself a fan of anything. When I discovered Star Trek: The Next Generation, however my entire conception of what TV was and what it could do suddenly reoriented. It was the first scripted drama I followed religiously and remains in many ways my standard-bearer for what the genre should be. The image of being adrift in a cosmic dreamscape, gazing at the Milky Way's river of stars, a soaring comet, a shimmering dust cloud and thoroughly alien-looking planets sailing by, and then of the Enterprise slowly materializing out of the void before blasting away back into the blackness of space is firmly burned onto my psyche and has haunted me almost my entire life.
For years I've wanted to write something substantial about Star Trek, but could never figure out how best to go about structuring it. When I began Soda Pop Art last year it was one of the first things I absolutely knew I wanted to cover. I've been working on a draft for a blog post on Star Trek: The Next Generation pretty much constantly in the background since then, but it kept getting bigger and more unwieldy the more I toyed with it. It became clear pretty quickly that there was no way I could condense my thoughts on this show and my history with it to just one entry, especially as my relationship with the show and its parent franchise is long, complicated and at times openly difficult to reconcile with how my personality and ethics developed. Star Trek was my entire life for a good five or six years before I went through a period of trying to distance myself from either all of it or different parts of it. Today I frequently acknowledge my debt to the franchise and remain awed by select parts if it in spite of a recent progressive movement to violently reject it that puts me in a bit of an awkward position.
If there was one group I never expected to turn on Star Trek it was the progressives. Growing up it was Star Trek's supposedly leftist utopianism that was one of the biggest things I loved about the franchise, and hearing it labeled imperialistic, sexist, racist, anti-GLBTQ and heteronormative would have puzzled me. The unfortunate fact is though, a great deal of leftist criticism of Star Trek does fit and is in point of fact solid enough to make it difficult to rebuke. That said, I'm of the belief a lot of Star Trek's staunchest detractors are engaging in patently facile critique, or at least barking up the wrong tree with the things they choose to level at it. So the, ahem, logical response was for me to do one big comprehensive redemptive reading of the whole franchise where I try my absolute damnedest to turn Star Trek into something refreshingly, and uniquely, radical.
The end result of all these factors is this, Soda Pop Art's very own spin-off project, a move that seems as I write this to be delightfully fitting for a franchise like Star Trek. Entitled Vaka Rangi, this is my attempt to do a redemptive reading of Star Trek, and the concept of the voyaging starship show more generally, through the lens of Ancient Polynesian philosophy and spirituality. Yes, you read that right. This blog is my journey through the intersections between my personal history and that of the franchise set against the backdrop of an ocean of sea and sky, and I'll be covering most, though crucially not all, of the works that went out under the Star Trek name on an episode-by-episode basis and with frequent tangents to look at related shows, books and movies. I have a bunch of material to get through, so I made the decision to make Vaka Rangi serialized: I plan to update it every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from here on out until I run out of things to talk about. And, seeing as how the blockbuster film Star Trek Into Darkness comes out Friday as of this writing, this seemed like the perfect time to set sail.
I'd also like to stress the existence of Vaka Rangi does not render this blog obsolete: Like Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Soda Pop Art and Vaka Rangi are going to run concurrently. I'll continue to post my thoughts on things not Star Trek related over here and my thoughts on video games (and Alice) on Forest of Illusions, though the posts probably won't be quite as frequent as I'm not sure I have either the time or stamina to juggle multiple twice- or thrice-weekly blogs. I do have quite a few other big marquee projects I'd like to start over here and that I'd like some input on, so keep an eye out for those and you can hit me up in the comments or elsewhere if you're curious.
But for now, you're welcome to join me over at Vaka Rangi as I revist Star Trek three times a week. We'll be putting our navigation and survival skills to the test and we'll have to contend with nasty tropical storms that threaten to rip our canoe to pieces, but I do think we'll grow spiritually, emotionally and philosophically through our journey.