Treknobabble #46: A World Without Christmas

Treknobabble is a continuing series of columns written by uber-Trekkie Reed Farrington in anticipation of the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.

As far as Star Trek is concerned, Christmas doesn’t seem to be celebrated. Years ago, there was an official book called, “Star Trek Celebrations.” It described all the human and alien ceremonies, rituals, and holidays that were depicted in the episodes of the various series. Birthdays were celebrated such as when Spock gave Kirk a book in the second movie, but the birth of Christ was not mentioned. In deference to all the religions on Earth, Star Trek was politically correct before the term came into common usage. Assuming that Sean will post this on Christmas Eve so that all you Film Junkies will have something to read while waiting for Santa, I thought that I should write a Christmas-themed Treknobabble anyway.

I did a search on the Internet for inspiration, but all I came across were pages with various Star Trek Christmas parodies, the Hallmark Star Trek Christmas ornaments, and the Kirk and Spock nutcrackers. I know that it’s too late to suggest gift ideas for the Trekkies in your life. Not that there’s anything of particular interest you could pick up. Oh, I suppose the Star Trek Pez collection would make a neat gift, but your Trekkie loved one probably already picked it up. My relatives and friends have learned not to buy anything Star Trek related for me. For a while, they were getting me doubles of stuff that I already had. For last year’s Secret Santa where I work, I received a Dr. Crusher action figure that I already had. Nice try, Secret Santa.

My guess is that Trekkies worldwide are wishing that J.J. Abrams could have given us a Star Trek movie for Christmas. But the greedy Scrooge-like executives had to intervene by moving the release date in order to maximize profit with a summer blockbuster. I suppose that this move could backfire and we could have a repeat of Star Trek V when the releases of Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Ghostbusters II were blamed for its poor showing after a promising opening weekend. Even though Star Trek V was generally panned, you have to admit that the franchises I mentioned have more general appeal than Star Trek. (Star Trek V sits at 4.9/10.0 on the IMDb rating meter, but the week-by-week scale shows a 5% improvement! Someday this movie will be appreciated for its sublime treatment of the meaning of life. With Kirk’s life threatened by a supposed God, it is Kirk’s friend, Spock, who is his savior.)

J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek will need to possibly contend with Wolverine, Hannah Montana, Nia Vardalos, and Terminator. (I say “possibly” because we all know that release dates tend to be shuffled.) I would think that the total number of Trekkies would increase with each passing year with the number of new fans being greater than the number of Trekkies who die off. Maybe in 20 years, this trend will reverse depending on the success of any new Star Trek within the coming years. For the true Trekkies, the counter-programming of a movie from the My Big Fat Greek Wedding star on the same release day shouldn’t make a difference. The fans of the previous week’s release of Hannah Montana would not go see a Star Trek movie anyway. Anyone who really wanted to see Wolverine would catch it during its first week of release before the Star Trek film opens. So I would think J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek should have a big opening weekend.

The first Star Trek movie released in 1979 was a success even though it had an enormous budget of between $35-46 million for the time compared with the $11 million spent on Star Wars: A New Hope. It should be noted that $15 million or so of that $35-46 million had been spent on relaunching Star Trek as another television series or possibly a series of television movies. Note that the first Star Trek movie was released a couple of weeks before Christmas (on the unfortunate day, but not the same year, that Pearl Harbor got bombed). Some people attribute the success of the first Star Trek movie to repeated viewings by Trekkies who had been starved of any new live-action Star Trek for a decade. The first Star Trek movie wasn’t even really that good, at least on an action level. But VCRs hadn’t become ubiquitous, yet, so people didn’t have the option of waiting to see the movie in their own homes. And no repeated viewings in their own homes either.

I suppose Star Trek may appeal to a wider audience, but I doubt it. I’m guessing the person who signed off on the budget for the new Star Trek movie disagrees with me, and is gambling on the wider appeal. My older brother who is a lapsed Trekkie doesn’t have any interest in the new movie. And my sister-in-law who had avid Next Generation followers in her family didn’t even know that a new movie was coming out! And this was after the recent trailer had been released. My nephew is into Star Wars and my nieces couldn’t care less about Star Trek. Apparently, there is no Star Trek gene (except for Roddenberry and Coon, of course). I know this is an isolated, small sampling, and I don’t socialize much, but in my opinion, this world doesn’t need Star Trek as much as Star Trek doesn’t need Christmas.

The only franchises I can think of at the time of the first Star Trek movie are James Bond and Walt Disney. I was curious, so I looked up the first Star Trek movie’s competition. (My memory isn’t that good.) There were no science fiction blockbusters that year to compete with. Alien had been released in the summer, but its following had yet to grow. In the month of December, Star Trek’s stiffest competition were Steven Spielberg’s 1941, Kramer vs. Kramer, Steve Martin’s The Jerk, and All That Jazz. Kramer vs. Kramer won the Oscar for Best Picture. And the movie with the highest domestic gross for 1979 turned out to be Kramer vs. Kramer followed by Star Trek. I don’t associate the Best Picture of the year with being a top money-maker, but I guess there are other examples like Titanic. Star Trek managed to hold its own against the most popular film of the year. There was an Italian made outer space B-movie cheapie, Starcrash, released earlier in the year, but it didn’t do well. So maybe people went to see Star Trek because there were no other space operas to go see.

Someday, I’d love to see a Star Trek movie released on the same day as a Star Wars movie so that we could truly get an answer to the Star Trek vs. Star Wars question. But we would also have to wait for the counter-programming trend to subside.

I got side-tracked there. Let’s get back to Christmas or the lack thereof. There always seem to be some people who complain about the appearance of Christmas decorations, the familiar Christmas Carols (or what I refer to as the Bethlehem Top-40), and the commercialism. These people would love the future shown in Star Trek. No Christmas tree decorating. No hanging of Christmas lights. I hear there’s a prediction of a mistletoe shortage in the coming years. I wonder if this is the first sign to precipitate the end of Christmas.

In a future like Star Trek depicts where you can have anything, maybe we won’t need to give gifts to each other. I suppose it would be nice to not have to feel obligated to buy gifts for everyone. Men are stereotyped as being the last-minute shoppers who can do all their shopping at one store in less than a day. In my case, I agonize over what gifts to give. Fortunately, I don’t need to worry about giving a gift to someone who has everything. Rather I have the problem of giving gifts to people who live an ascetic existence. Imagine Vulcan children celebrating Christmas and opening presents. No shaking with excitement or cries of surprise.

Growing up as a Chinese person in a Canadian culture, I don’t remember my parents making me believe in Santa Claus. Maybe they did and I’ve completely blocked the trauma of finding out that there is no Santa Claus. Santa being depicted as a Caucasian never bothered me. I suppose aliens living in Canada might adopt our customs and have no problem with Christmas if it did manage to survive into the 23rd century. If I was a Vulcan parent, though, I think I would have a problem trying to explain to my logical child how a bunch of reindeer could pull a sleigh through the air.

Would I give up a Star Trek future in order to have Christmas? I miss Christmas already.

  • I think even if you could have anything you want, people would still give gifts as a symbolic gesture. Hell, wasn’t Picard given archaeological related things… and didn’t Kirk get a book? Rich people get gifts right? I don’t know, I’m not rich, but I think they do…

    Anyway, even if people stopped being religious I could see Christmas surviving. You can celebrate the holiday without any religious over tones. There’s enough secular stuff in there that separates it from every other holiday that started as a religious thing.

  • Guess what?!?! By some weird coincidence, my brother ended up getting me Star Trek Pez for Christmas. I had managed to pick it up earlier at a store near where I work, but I had not seen it anywhere else in Canada. He got it for me from California on a business trip. And I hadn’t mentioned Star Trek Pez to my brother at all.

    (Thx for your comment, Paul. A comment is the greatest gift of all. :-) )