Thursday, June 15, 2023

Enough With the Canon Fundamentalists

By most people's reckoning, Star Trek will be 57 years old this September. To put things in perspective, Superman hit his 57th anniversary in 1995, by which time he'd already gone through one hard reboot and numerous softer ones. Not even the most ardent fanboy would've expected the character and his world to maintain a single unbroken continuity from 1938 to 1995.

But that's exactly what some Star Trek fans expect. 

Never mind that the world of 1966 is as far in our past as 1909 was to Star Trek's original audience. You could argue that TV has changed as much between 2023 and 1966 as the medium of film had between 1966 and 1909. No, the only thing that matters to these Star Trek Fundamentalists is "canon". These are the kind of people who will make an absolute judgement on the "goodness" or "badness" of a Star Trek production based on the shape of a starship's warp nacelles in a single leaked screencap.

These canon-humpers are always looking around for things to be angry about, and these last six years of streaming Star Trek have given them enough fuel for a near-constant orgy of rage. A recent complaint is that Strange New Worlds shouldn't have Nurse Chapel in it at all, and that she definitely shouldn't be having feelings for Spock because established "canon" tells us that she was involved with a scientist named Roger Korby at this point in the timeline.

Except it doesn't.

The first time we see Christine Chapel is in the fifth regular episode (if we go by production order) "The Naked Time". This episode tells us two things about Christine: she's a nurse and she's in love with Mr. Spock. Obviously the two haven't just met; it's implied in dialogue that she's had these feelings for a while. We next see Nurse Chapel three episodes later in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" where we're told that she joined the Enterprise in hopes of finding her fiancee Dr. Roger Korby (described as "the Pasteur of archaeological medicine) who's been missing for five years.

This is as much as we ever learn about Chapel. Interestingly, her feelings for Spock come up again in future appearances, but Roger Korby is never mentioned. Over the years most fans assumed that Christine was involved with Korby first, and after he disappeared she joined Starfleet, was assigned to the Enterprise, and met Spock. But that's all it was—an assumption. The show said absolutely nothing about her professional or personal history.

In the Season Two premiere of Strange New Worlds Chapel mentions that she's applying for a fellowship in archaeological medicine, the very field that one Dr. Roger Korby is the Pasteur of.

So why couldn't she have fallen for Spock during a tour on Pike's Enterprise, and when it didn't work out she left for an archaeological medicine fellowship where she met Dr. Korby? They entered a relationship, then he disappeared, and she rejoined the Enterprise in hopes of finding him one day, only to realize that she still had feelings for Spock. That works, right? And the only thing it contradicts are the long-held assumptions of unimaginative fans.

A real Star Trek fan would react to that by saying "Wow, what a surprising development that gives the Majel Barrett version of the character more depth than she had before!"A canon-humper would just be mad that a long-held assumption got contradicted.

My problem with the canon fundamentalists is that they don't want anything new. All they want is to see exactly what they expect. Any story set during a particular era of Star Trek "history" must exactly match whatever we've seen from previous installments set during that same era, even if those installments were produced as far in our past as the Titanic disaster was for fans in the '60s.

If your main thing is being performatively Mad on the Internet, I guess canon fundamentalism is a good business to be in. But if you want to be a mentally-healthy human being who watches stuff because you enjoy it, then maybe not.

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