Vulcan, Alberta, Canada. Population: 1,917, as per the latest Canadian census (2016). Home to the Tourism and Trek Station and the annual “Vul-Con” Convention.

No, the town was not named after Spock’s home planet, but Vulcan is a pretty clear indicator of Canada’s Trek obsession. The debate may rage elsewhere, but in Canada there is a definite consensus (as there is with so many things): Trek leaves Wars in the space dust.

In terms of actors, Trek has… (deep breath) William Shatner, Christopher Plummer, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan (and his son Chris), Bruce Greenwood (Captain Christopher Pike in the J.J. Abrams reboots), Barbara March and Gwynyth Walsh (Lursa and B’Etor, members of the infamous House of Duras), Nicole De Boer (Ezri Dax), Genevieve Bujold (the original Captain Janeway), Rekha Sharma (Captain Landry), Klingon Commanding Office Kol (Kenneth Mitchell)… just to name a few…

By contrast, Star Wars has, um, Hayden Christensen.

*shudder* On behalf of all Canadians, I am truly sorry for that one. To make up for it, here’s former Federal Opposition Leader Jack Layton out-Rikering Riker at a convention in 1991.

Now, I was going to point out how Canadians gravitate to Trek over Wars because Trek is the daffy utopian paradise while Wars is the gritty capitalist space western/samurai/war film/crime drama universe. You go to Trek for space transhumanism and dorky copslay adventures on the holodeck, while you go to Wars for a game of sabacc or to groove to space funk.

But then we got the trailer for Episode IX. And then we got the backlash to the trailer to Episode IX. And in the midst of that backlash I understood something that I, as a Canadian, have been struggling to grasp ever since I got started here at Liberty Island – the concept of “story”.

I quote from science fiction writer John C. Wright’s takedown of Episode VIII:

First, it must tell a story. Stories boasting a plot have the purposes of characters clash, leading to conflict. Some dramatic matter must hang in the balance.

Second, characters are pretend people. For the pretense to seem real, the characters are supposed to act like people with recognizable personalities motivated by recognizable human emotions doing some sort of recognizable human action (preferably, a dramatic action) to reach some sort of recognizable human goal (preferably, a dramatic goal, where something is at stake).

The characters in a sci-fi yarn need not be human. They can be robots or aliens or whatever. But their personalities, emotions, actions, and goals must be something to which a human audience can relate.

Star Wars – the original Star Wars – is, along with Lord of The Rings, held up as an exemplar of “story.” Luke Skywalker is the relatable hero. Darth Vader is the villain who is redeemed. C-3PO and R2D2 are comic relief. Light Side of the Force vs. Dark Side of the Force. And the prequels/sequels are perversions of this ideal of “story”. That’s why people hate them.

Star Trek….well….how many really great enduring STORIES have come out of Trek? There was the original Wrath of Khan, and…..and….um….

Ah, jeez. Another Canadian, behaving exactly unlike a relatable character. But then again, when’s the last time any Trek character behaved like a relatable human?

Now, if I can get back to being serious for a moment: Throughout this series, I have presented some of the major works of the Canadian canon and some of my country’s most accomplished artists. (Go back and click on some of the links at the bottom.) None of the authors, actors, or directors I’ve profiled have really grasped the archetypal concept of “story.” Weird music that’s too cerebral. Actors that are aloof or far too vulnerable. Writers who try to convey deep truths but ultimately can’t quite get there. Directors who succeed at capturing the strange and the comedic for fleeting moments.

Look at Hayden Christensen trying to be all conflicted and angry. He can’t do it. He’s trying, and part of it is George Lucas’s uninspired directing and the awful lines he’s given to read. But…

It would seem, then, that what I’ve presented throughout my “Deconstructing Canadian Culture” series are the strange voyages of a people cut off from their ability to tell stories. And so, they seek out new life and new civilizations. But perhaps what they seek was left behind a long long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…


See the previous installments in the series:

Part 1 on Heroes: ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs The World’ Vs Terrance Denby and ‘Sidequest’

Part 2 on “Humour”: The Libertarian Fantasy of ‘Letterkenny’

Part 3 on Graphic Novel Nihilism: The Harsh Truths of ‘Essex County’

Part 4 on Spawn and Wolverine: Banished From The Promised Land: A Tale of Two Canadian Anti-Heroes

Part 5 on Science Fiction Dystopias: Inside Quebec’s – and Canada’s – Replicant Culture

Part 6 on Animation: The Garrison Mentality: More Than Meets The Eye

Part 7 on Pop Music: How To Build A Successful Canadian Musical Act

Part 8 on Anne of Green Gables and The Traumatized Artist: Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Treacherous Alpine Path

Part 9 on Avoiding the Serious: Mordecai Richler, Montreal, And Gritty Realism

Part 10 on Southern Ontario Gothic: The Marriage of the Mundane and the Fantastic

Part 11 on Margaret Atwood’s Reign of Terror: Literary Tyranny and The Handmaid’s Tale

Part 12 on the First Nations Fraud: Whitewashing Genocide: Truth, Lies, and Joseph Boyden

Part 13 on the inventive Esi Edugyan: A Novel I Cannot Recommend Enough

Part 14 on Generation X Origins: Douglas Coupland And The Hopeful (?) Future Of Canadian (?) Culture

Part 15 on Jordan Peterson Rising: Canadian Culture Creators And The Intellectual Dark Web

Part 16 on The Awkward Quiet: David Cronenberg’s Silent Hell

Part 17 on The Saddest Music In The WorldGuy Maddin’s Surrealist Madness

Part 18 on Ararat: Atom Egoyan’s Stammering Grief

Part 19 on Paul Haggis’ Superficial Gloss: Promising More Than He Delivers

Part 20 on the Reitman Family’s Blissful Ignorance: Space to Laugh an Easy Laugh

Part 21 on Mary Pickford: The Archetypal (Canadian) Actress

Part 22 on the Modern Prospero Christopher Plummer: As Blue-Blooded and Upper Canadian as They Come

Part 23 on Donald Sutherland: Grit Personified

Part 24 on Leslie Nielsen: The Funniest Thing in a Movie Where Jokes are Delivered Almost Every Minute

Part 25 on William Shatner: Faking It Until He Made It


Photo by JD Hancock

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