Set phasers on “geek,” as the History Channel uses the flimsy excuse of “Star Trek’s” 40th anniversary to produce what amounts to an electronic-press kit for the franchise that tediously goes where almost everyone has gone before. Using a high-stakes Christies auction of “Trek” memorabilia as its dotted through-line as well as the entire last half-hour, this project does little more than interview cast members and a few of the writer-producers about how they loved their colleagues and the franchise’s impressive longevity. All told, it invites the question: In space, can anyone hear you yawn?
Beyond the fact that all the actors (conspicuously minus William Shatner, whom a network spokesman said was unavailable when taping occurred) are so pleased and proud to be part of “Trek” lore, this documentary is notably deficient in terms of a clear focus, wider perspective or even juicy anecdotes. About all viewers get out of it is that the original “Trek” crew wasn’t thrilled when “The Next Generation” premiered in syndication and that the costumes in the first movie were extremely uncomfortable.
Given the ample attention devoted to prepping and staging the auction, the producers could have devoted more time to exploring the thorniest and most fascinating quadrant of the “Star Trek” universe — namely, the avid, bordering-on-psychotic loyalty of its diehard fans, who propel the price of obscure auction items into the stratosphere. Yet talk of conventions, dressing up and avidly bidding for Capt. Picard’s flute is addressed without even the faintest hint of skepticism, as Nichelle Nichols (a.k.a. Lt. Uhura) generously refers to the fan base as “human beings of great quality.”
Shatner, of course, famously lampooned the convention circuit in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch when he chided attendees to “get a life” — an unspoken phrase that still echoes throughout this two hours. Nor does the praise showered on creator Gene Roddenberry — in some instances by actors from later series who didn’t work with him — contribute much to “Star Trek” lore, other than reminding us it was ultimately the fans who reenergized a canceled series and made possible its revival and spinoffs.
Let’s allow for the fact that even the History Channel has to pay the bills, and not every documentary has to be about the D-Day landing. Still, constructing two hours around a “Trek” auction is about as flimsy as pop-culture indulgence comes — enough to make anybody except the most-ardent Trekkers want to breach the space-time continuum and reclaim those precious minutes.