This week’s Revival House is going to be a little different; in the TV world it would be called a “very special episode.” I was thinking how funny it is that the experience of enjoying a movie can be influenced by the circumstances of the screening — most importantly, who we see the movie with.
Like my friend Zant, who made my experience of seeing WarGames very memorable by screaming “This is the ultimate movie!!!!” during the final sequence. Or when I saw Alien (1979) at the Solano Drive-In with my friend Eric and his mom. At some point late in the film, when things were getting fairly intense on-screen, a conversation took place between them that went something like this:
Eric’s mom: What’s she doing?
Eric: Going after the cat.
Eric’s mom: FUCK THE CAT!!
And then there’s my friend Alex Baker, who always made seeing a new Star Trek movie very special for me. Although we didn’t see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) together when it came out, we’ve watched it together and discussed it many times since then; it was always our favorite. We very much enjoyed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) but felt that it was good Trek, not great Trek. We missed seeing Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) together because Alex was in the Air Force at the time, stationed in England.
Which brings me to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), which Alex and I saw on opening day at the Regency I in San Francisco. Here’s the curious thing — we both left the theater that day absolutely loving the film. Of course, having watched it a few more times since then, I now know that Star Trek V is a godawful train wreck of a movie. The shots of Kirk climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan became particularly amusing to me over the years, especially how William Shatner’s potbelly in the closer shots of Kirk doesn’t seem to match the slim shape of his stuntman in the longer shots.
But somehow, back in 1989, Alex and I didn’t notice any of that. We were two friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while, experiencing a brand-new Star Trek movie, and that’s all that mattered. We couldn’t stop talking about how great it was. I remember admiring the Steadicam shots in some of the action sequences, and at one point, referring to the fact that Star Trek V was Shatner’s directorial debut, I exclaimed, “He directed the hell out of that movie!” My friend Alex agreed.
I was reflecting upon this lately while thinking about Alex, who passed away in December at the age of 43 after a long fight with cancer. He faced his disease with dignity and humor; at my wedding in 2007 he informed me, “I’ll be dancing on all of your graves, you fuckers!”
My final Star Trek movie memory with Alex was at WonderCon in February of last year, when a brand-new trailer for J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot was premiered.
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The main auditorium was very crowded — we couldn’t find two seats together. Alex was sitting two rows behind me, and I kept looking back to gauge his reaction. Because as exciting as it was to see that trailer for the first time (and let’s be honest, it’s a truly kick-ass trailer), it was more important to me that I was seeing it with Alex. Well, almost seeing it with Alex.
Farewell, good friend. I will miss you at WonderCon this year and at all future Ren Faires. I’ll miss my old D&D buddy, my old theater pal. I have been and always shall be your friend.