My Favourite Film of 1902.



Film There is a home video in existence, recorded during my A-Levels, about a quarter of a century ago, in which I’m shown, because it happened, reading the description of how various chunks of technology on the Starship Enterprise D work from a copy of the official Technical Manual to some school friends who’re doing their best to ignore me. I was about sixteen years old and I think it’s probably my nerdiest moment which is quite something considered everything which has been published on this blog and elsewhere for the past fifteen odd years. Later in this filmed conversation, I turn to describing the Vulcan concept of the IDIC before someone throws an empty water bottle at someone else’s head. I don’t think it was mine. It’s quite a while since I’ve been able to watch it.

Not long afterwards, I declared this to be a different person, that I’d completely changed and I was more interested in other things, had some kind of “awakening”. But I was fooling myself. I’m still that person, I just multiplied my number of interests and learned when to shut up about it within disinterested company. I’m in the process of watching all of Star Trek in hard chronological order for goodness sake. I watched the first twenty minutes of Star Trek Generations before Encounter at Farpoint and returned to the rest of it between the Deep Space Nine episode Distant Voices and Voyager’s State of Flux. I was nervously holding my finger next to the pause button during TNG’s The Pegasus, guessing the exact moment to insert Enterprise’s These Are The Voyages before realising that they run in parallel so need to be watched concurrently.

Why do some people gravitate towards science fiction more than others? Escapism certainly, but all kinds of page and screen fiction offers that release. It’s what it’s designed for. How I became enraptured was probably through habit. As a child, I’d be slotted in front of Saturday morning cartoons and Star Trek, Doctor Who and Buck Rogers, Street Hawk and Airwolf and at a certain point it just becomes the thing I most looked forward to. Plus although I know they’re not mutually exclusive, an especially disastrous afternoon watching Everton lose to Manchester United in a cup final turned me away from football forever. My finely tuned trauma reaction led me quickly to decide that anything which made me cry that much wasn’t a good thing.

I also have a collector’s mind and most science fiction is designed to take advantage of my kind of personality. From a perspective of pure commerce, the franchises are designed to churn out more story, more product leading completest to want it all and now. But that’s because we want to know the whole story. Once a world has been established, we’re desperate to know all of the details, watch the narrative cartographers, both solo and within a writing staff of a television show explain how their world fits together. That’s how they survive in numerous formats. We’re desperate to see what’s next and how it fits with what’s gone before, ready and eager to point out when it doesn’t much and perhaps publish a corrective.

But single stories still have great power. In Melies’s A Trip To The Moon, we know little to nothing about the society which inspires the mission, the film is closer to fantasy than scientific fact, obviously. But its impossible to watch with just a surface interpretation of events. We’ll wonder about the kind of propulsion the space ship has, why they’re breathing on the moon and why the celestial body has a face. We’re equally delighted and perplexed, our imaginations filled with notions of what the rest of the society might be like even though we know it’s futile and silly. Same with Blade Runner. Same with Gravity. Same with Inception. Tiny details here and there engaging with our detective skills. Often films which explain too much are crushing bores.

But other than the intellectual exercise, when even with the most generic quest storyline there’ll be something engaging about the world even if the film itself doesn’t disappointingly take advantage of it, there’s the sense of being shown something new, outside of our reality. During the meet and greet for my MA Film Studies course, when we were introducing ourselves and the kinds of films we like, I said that I’m often impressed by films which are critically derided if they’re visually interesting. That’s still true. I love the Resident Evil film franchise whose newest instalment received a one-star review in Empire. Every film is visually stunning even if the stories have become repetitive. I can’t wait to see it.

In other words, I completely understand what enthralled that younger version of me even if I’m thoroughly embarrassed by his approach. You are what you are and I’m pleased that I embraced that if only because the person I was in my early twenties who sold off his original Doctor Who collection at a flea market for buttons in heavy denial probably wasn’t a happy young adult. Of course it helps that the social stigma has somewhat dissipated but I like to think I would have ended up here either way. When you reach a point when you can ask a box the size of a hockey puck to play almost any music you’d like, what the weather is and to tell you a joke, in other words you’re living in the future, it helps if you’ve already considered the possibilities.

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