Thursday, November 15, 2007

Locate The Mystic

It's been a while since I last viewed End Of The Century: The Story Of The Ramones, but it really stuck to the ribs. This morning I find myself thinking of some of the extra footage included in the menu, including interview out-takes with Joe Strummer. In one of these moments, he's asked some question about what The Ramones meant to him, and his eyes take on a distant look and he reminisces in a hushed voice. He says something like, "The uniform, those black leather jackets and the jeans ... at some point Johnny must have sat the rest of 'em down and said, 'This is how we're going to be.'"

I was struck by the romance that seemed to pick up Strummer and carry him away. Similarly some of the musings that Bob Geldof has in New York Doll. Geldof typically comes off as one of those surly Irish personalities with no room for sentiment, but wow, does he wax sentimental when it comes to the Dolls. And he is genuinely pleased to see these three surviving geezers gather on stage and sing the songs of their younger selves.

So here we have Strummer and Geldof, two artists who know how quickly the bloom comes off the rose of being a rock & roll star. One could argue that in both cases these guys witnessed their bands overtake their heroes. And yet, in their imagination, there is an inner sanctum where these rock personalities met, and from the cauldron of their shared imagination came this dramatic "WOW" that seemed like something larger and ineffable that Strummer and Geldof still yearn for. This, from guys who know it's all nuts-and-bolts, and who's gonna drive the van tonight?

Bear with me, but these thoughts occur to me after reading Yahmdallah's take on the final televised Star Trek episode, belonging to the shoddily-conceived and ill-fated Enterprise. Rick Berman and Brennan Braga, the two Roddenberry heirs who cooked up Enterprise, ostensibly referred to the final episode as their "valentine" to the fans. I have no doubt they used "valentine" in the ironic sense. As in, "The divorce papers finally came through -- Happy Valentine's Day, bitch!"

I haven't seen the episode in question, but Yahmdallah's appraisal is entirely persuasive. Judging from what cast members and fans have said in response, it sounds like B&B deliberately created a vehicle for their scorn. They rang the doorbell, and watched from a discrete distance as Trekkies opened up to discover a burning paper sack on their television porch.

Now contrast B&B's snarky, "It's a valentine!" to third wheel Manny Coto, who called the final episode, "Not so much a finale as a coda." It sounds to me as if Coto, who had nothing to do with the finale, was exerting what little damage control he could on behalf of a now widely-loathed franchise. That's the job he was hired to do as a writer, and most of the fans I've talked to say he really rolled up his sleeves and did good work.

If Coto was in any way involved with the latest movie production, I'd give it a chance. I watched one Coto-written Enterprise episode, and thought the concept and execution were surprisingly fresh. More than that, it looked as if the actors were finally having fun. Coto brought in a perspective that was fixed on the Star Trek universe, as opposed to the Star Trek franchise.

Anyhow, I don't want to get too laudacious when it comes to Coto's abilities. No-one will ever thank him for The 1/2 Hour News Hour, and I still maintain that 24 is a moral cancer eating at the soul of America. But when it came to Star Trek, I think he slipped into the mystic, pretty much the way Geldof and Strummer did when they thought of their heroes.

That sort of thing is good -- good for rock & roll, good for Star Trek, and good for the rest of us.

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