Home > Reviews, Star Trek > Thoughts on CSI: “A Space Oddity”

Thoughts on CSI: “A Space Oddity”

I just caught a rerun of CSI‘s delightful Star Trek homage episode “A Space Oddity,” and I wanted to comment about an aspect of it that I think some people misunderstand.  I’ve seen comments complaining that the episode is just another case of SF fans being stereotyped as dysfunctional geeks and fanatics.  And I don’t think that’s fair at all.

First of all, the story was written by CSI‘s current showrunner Naren Shankar, who was previously a producer on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the teleplay was by David Weddle & Bradley Thompson, who were staff writers on the last two seasons of ST: Deep Space Nine.  Clearly the people who created the episode understand SFTV and its fandom.

Second, while it’s true that the episode portrays a few fans as fanatical losers detached from reality, it makes it clear that they’re just one part of the spectrum of fandom.   The various characters relate to the ST counterpart Astro Quest in various ways.  Hodges and Wendy are both devoted fans, but while Hodges is close to the dysfunctional nerd stereotype himself, Wendy is a much more “normal” person.  Then we have Laurence Fishburne’s character Ray, who represents the kind of fan who doesn’t dress up and go to conventions but just plain knows and likes the show.  My favorite is the convention bartender who reveals he’s a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan.  He’s a fan of the show and chooses to dress up as one of its aliens because he admires its vision of a future where humanity has learned to live together.  Overall, Astro Quest fandom is portrayed as a valid and valuable thing.  The few mom’s-basement fanatics are the minority.  The producer who rejects the value of the original show’s optimism in favor of a dark, Galactica-style reboot is a smarmy womanizer and plagiarist.   And the character who says that the fans treat the show as a religion is a pretentious media scholar whose opinions are highly suspect.  It’s not a cult, it’s just an eclectic selection of people who enjoy or love the show for their own reasons.  And they end up convincing others of the value of their fandom.  At the end of the episode, two of the characters who were initially outside the fandom have been won over, going off with Ray to an Astro Quest viewing party.  And ultimately it’s Hodges’ intimate knowledge of the show that provides the crucial clue to solving the mystery.

Plus, of course, the episode is so loving in its own Trek fandom that it amazes me that anyone could interpret it as hostile to fandom.  Hodges’ fantasy sequences are marvelous, faithful homages to scenes from “The Gamesters of Triskelion,”  “The Cage,” and “The Naked Time” (Kirk’s “a beach to walk on” speech).  And the end of the teaser is hilarious, with Hodges opening his cell phone like a communicator, calling Detective Brass, and saying “He’s dead, Jim!”  Both times I’ve seen that, it’s broken me up for a good minute.

There’s also the neat metatextual joke that both the biggest fans among the CSI crew, Hodges and Wendy, are played by actors who’ve been in Star Trek.  Wallace Langham was Flotter in Voyager‘s “Once Upon a Time” and Liz Vassey was crewwoman Kristin in TNG’s “Conundrum.”  (Ohh, Liz Vassey.  I love watching her.  She miraculously manages to be both Amazonian and cute at the same time.  And ohh, those eyes…)

Of course there are some nice Galactica Easter eggs too, with Kate Vernon playing the media critic, Rekha Sharma and Grace Park appearing as fans in the convention audience, and Ron Moore himself rising into frame to tell the character (loosely) based on himself, “You suck!”  But ultimately, it’s all about Star Trek.  And it’s about fandom in all its forms.  And it’s a loving tribute to both.

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Categories: Reviews, Star Trek Tags: , ,
  1. Nick Cook
    January 28, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Spot on review. I enjoyed it very much when I saw it.

  2. Craig Knapp
    June 19, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    19JUN2015

    I am a huge CSI fan, but today, I caught this episode for the first time, I checked the original air date and I was in Iraq at the time.

    At 53, I grew up watching Star Trek as re-runs in the 1970’s after school. I suspect I saw them when they first aired, starting at age six, but I have little recollection, however, I do remember seeing the first moon landing live.

    No I do not have a ST uniform, nor have I been to a convention…but I did make it to the Las Vegas Star Trek Experience at the Hilton…glad I did.

    This was a great episode and I did not sense that the fans were being disparaged, never crossed my mind. I did like the way the episode paid proper homage to the Star Trek Universe…very detailed, true to form, and funny as well. Hodges was the perfect “nerd” and Liz in the mono-kini…WOW! I had no idea how hot she was because she generally dresses conservatively on the show…I looked up some information on her, 5 ft. 9 in.!

    I joined The Army at 27 and just retired after 26 years of service. During the ST TNG years, I learned to appreciate the lessons of ST with respect to leadership, loyalty to co-workers, sense of duty and respect for the Chain of Command, very military like, but with a human touch. There were situations with my young Soldiers where I was careful about what I said because ST showed me that words have lasting impact on lives, I found it interesting that the show displayed people thinking about what they said to one another to make a positive impact.

    I had a Soldier in Iraq who made a huge error in accountability of Sensitive Items. He was an smart kid (my Soldiers were Electronic Maintenance Technicians, thermo-electro-optical systems mostly), kind of quiet and usually a top performer. I wanted to chew him out so bad, but I did not want to crush his spirit, so I hesitated, thought about what to say and said “I expected better of you” as I looked him in the eye. He almost cried, he had let me down, he knew I held him in high regard. About an hour later, after tearing the place apart, he found the “missing” piece of equipment and the error in the paperwork which led to it being mis-placed. To this day, some 12 years later, we are still in contact.

    Another lesson was that a competent leader knew the rules and regulations, and would break them infrequently, understanding the ramifications thereof, but that’s is what leaders do, accomplish the mission and take care of their people. People who break the rules frequently, with no concept of right and wrong, usually end up getting what they deserve.

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