Star Trek Gets Dueling Docs at Comic-Con

This iconic image from Star Trek's “Amok Time” (Season 2, Episode 1) represents a moment of great internal conflict. When two of our heroes are battling to the death, for whom do we cheer? Luckily, in this case, Bones was on hand with a neuroparalyzer, allowing Kirk to feign death until the mind-altering effect of pon farr drained away from Spock, thus ending the koon-ut-kal-if-fee ritual. But who will be on hand with the hydrospray this week in San Diego? Whoooooo? The 2012 edition of nerd prom brings not one but two feature length documentaries that ought to be of interest to convention-going, costume-wearin', social anxiety-havin' fans – specifically, two documentaries about Star Trek enthusiasts.

From Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry's son, Rod Roddenberry, comes the long-in-development Trek Nation. The film is a mixture of talking head interviews from Trek notables (and others like George Lucas), behind-the-scenes footage and gawking at fans who create their own Andorian antennae. Its hook is the “son in search of his father” schtick, making it something of an interplanetary My Architect.

Trek Nation will have a fan screening Thursday night, and “Roddenberry Presents” has a panel on Saturday. There is also an official Roddenberry booth on the showroom floor.

Trek Nation trailer:

In the other corner is Captain Kirk himself. William Shatner, whose directorial skill is very much of a piece with his Elton John covers, is presenting his latest work, Get A Life. Whereas poor Rod Roddenberry has been schlepping bits of footage of Trek Nation to Cons for years, Shatner's first person film about “encountering the fans” is another of his dashed-off productions made with the EPIX cable network. (Note: EPIX isn't really a network, it's more like Hulu except you watch it on your TV and not your laptop. I don't really know how to describe EPIX and it isn't available in New York, which is why no one I know watches EPIX.)

Get a Life trailer:

Last year Shatner delivered an EPIX production called The Captains. While ostensibly a string of interviews with all who sat in Star Trek's center seat, it ended up being a remarkable piece of outsider art. The sequence of Shatner and Avery Brooks scat-singing about death and “listening to the Universe” just a few months before the Deep Space Nine star got hit with a DUI is like something from Cassavetes' Love Streams. But, you know, awful.

Avery Brooks/William Shatner mash-up:

Get A Life will show footage at a panel on Saturday. Mr. Shatner will share the stage with Roger Corman and Kevin Smith.

Of the two films, I'm sure Trek Nation is the more polished and the more positive. Get A Life (whose title is a riff of Shatner's old Saturday Night Live sketch admonishing obsessed fans) is no doubt the more entertaining.

The joke is, of course, that both of these films are far too late. Obsessed fandom is hardly news anymore. (I mean, there was a documentary ABOUT Comic-Con that came out this year.) While one could argue that Star Trek fans dwarf all other fans, we shouldn't forget that there was a theatrically released film in 1997 called Trekkies. It was successful enough that in 2003 there was a Trekkies 2.

What this means, of course, is that it is only a matter of time until a documentary is made about people obsessed with Star Trek documentaries. I'll be furiously refreshing Kickstarter and will inform you as soon as I hear anything.

Saturday Night Live “Get a Life” sketch: