To celebrate the boy’s 14th birthday we took him to see the latest Star Trek film.
I can remember vividly the very first time I heard the phrase “Star Trek”. In fact it was the first time the entire nation had heard it. It was spoken by a man called Robert Robinson, one of those unbearably smug Home Counties people the BBC had in limitless supply like a sort of broadcasting terra cotta army.
Doctor Who had been removed from the schedule, or as Mr Robinson preferred to describe it, the timetable. The fans were outraged and both of them had written into a programme called Points of View, where the BBC attempted to deal with the complaints raised by the people who watched their programmes and paid their bills by having their letters read out by posh actors and then having Mr Robinson patronise them half to death.
Mr Robinson assured the fans that the good Doctor would be returning – and didn’t he ever – but in the meantime the BBC had acquired an American programme. He pronounced it in an unforgettable BBC manner, with an emphasis on the first word, like a deranged country house duchess.
Then they showed us a bit of it. James Kirk was up a cliff with his shirt off, which we soon found out was de rigueur for Star Fleet captains. He was trying to drop a huge rock on a giant scary lizard.
We were impressed. You have to remember, children, Doctor Who was unmitigated rubbish. Yes, there, I’ve said it. Heaven only knows, threats to my life and limb will be winging in all over the social media for making a statement that bold. But hold, you outraged Doctor Who fans! You were not there of a Saturday night on the sofa eating egg and chips – considered a delicacy back then – when the budget for the mighty Doctor had fallen to £14 6s 4d and a book of Green Shield Stamps (under 40? Google it).
The monsters were not only rubbish, they were made of rubbish or even more likely, were not even seen, just described by RADA trained actors with impeccable vowels who screamed like girlies who had spotted a mouse in a barn.
Suddenly here was a spaceship with warp drive, transporter beams and a Scottish accent in the engine room! This was as it should be.
My father near exploded with pride.
Dad pulled wool over my eyes
Mind you, even though the bad guys in Star Trek were all lovingly made up – or in the case of the bad girls, lovingly under dressed – they never produced a monster that made you hide behind the sofa.
Daleks and Cybermen walked through landscapes we could recognise. As a child you just knew that you could, feasibly, creep downstairs in your jammies to get that glass of water to find a Dalek in your living room.
Which was fine, of course, just make sure you get out of the way sharpish and get back upstairs. Daleks were wuzzies went it came to stairs.
Now, Cybermen, that was a different issue. Stairs were no bother to a Cyberman. They could get into your bedroom. The only way to escape a Cyberman is to pull the blankets (note: not duvets) over your head. Cybermen can’t see through wool.
I pass that wisdom on from my father, who told me that one night when I was scared, but now that I look back, I think he may have made it up.
Time Enterprise went in for MOT
Star Trek was bung fu’ of hokum, dodgy accents, downright weird acting – looking at you, Shatner – and bizarre plot turns, such as why did they not just carry extra dilithium crystals?
Indeed, why had they apparently commissioned this state-of-the-art starship from British Leyland? It couldn’t get out of second gear without crunching the gears like a clapped out Austin Maxi.
Why were all the lines to Star Fleet constantly engaged? Couldn’t they just have outsourced non-emergencies to a call centre on Mercury?
Why didn’t Unison move to stop its members putting on red jumpers which meant that they were automatically going to have their benefits, shift allowance and breathing abilities cut off?
But at least it was a world where cultures, races and accents of varying degrees of accuracy worked and lived together. As long as the Americans were in charge.
Barry Norman’s got nowt on me
Oh, for those of a Trekkie inclination I can report that there are many, many explosions, the baddie is very, very bad but with a hint of righteousness. Phasers are set to stun and Scottie’s accent is set to west of Scotland with a hint of East Kilbride.
For those of us who are non-Trekkie I can report that at least it batters along at a reasonable rate and is very, very loud.
And this lot won’t let me review films for them. Pfft!