Star Trek is a franchise that spans multiple of generations and has fans from all sorts of backgrounds. It is truly something that unites many people across the world. Whether or not you’d consider yourself a Trekkie, Roddenberry’s vision was arguably unique and ushered in an era of modern science fiction. You certainly do not have to look hard for examples of laughable science fiction the predates Star Trek. If you forget how far we’ve come, check out Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) or Forbidden Planet (1956). Cinephiles know exactly what I’m talking about.
Few are far more passionate than our guest, Darrell Skeels when it comes to Star Trek. He’s the level headed and always jovial host of This Week in Trek and is also known for his appearances on the mega-hit podcast, The Morning Stream. Darrell has an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Star Trek and is somewhat of a renaissance man. We hope you enjoy our interview.
NJB: I first discovered you, The Trek Nerd during your segments on The Morning Stream Podcast (TMS). You are very knowledgeable on all things Star Trek. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Skeels: I grew up at the perfect time to become an all-knowledgeable Trek fan. I first saw Trek on NBC in 1969. And that was that. Trek gained popularity in the 70s, and I was right there with it. As with many people, it influenced my life greatly. I nearly went into tv production behind the scenes, but 2 weeks at NBC was enough to convince me otherwise. So I went to work in the aerospace industry instead.
NJB: What are some of your favorite Trek episodes of all time? Series? Movies? Why?
Skeels: Gotta love TOS and TNG because they encapsulate Gene Roddenberry’s vision best, and I’m very much a Roddenberryist. The easy answer for best episode is City on the Edge of Forever. Its story and emotions were at a level that Trek rarely got to. TOS’s first and second seasons were great. TNG season 4 and most of 5 were amazing. Hard to pick a favorite. The Inner Light for TNG because it was at that same emotional level as City. I never really got into the movies. I’ve watched them but they’re always about saving the galaxy or something big and not just stories about regular people. I think Trek could make a Best Picture movie. They just have to accept that any story can be done with Trek if done right. It doesn’t always have to be saving the galaxy from a villain. That’s not what Trek is about.
NJB: What other Star Trek related hobbies are you into?
Skeels: When I was 12, I made a very awful phaser prop. That was the start of the period when I started making 8-mm film movies for fun, and later video. I never realized it until recently, but I had made all the props for those movies too. They were all sci-fi (or sci-fi comedy since nobody could take them seriously). Then in the late 80s my car was broken into and my video camera stolen so I was done… but I kept making props and still am. I’ve sold TOS phasers, and am now doing the same with DSC phasers. Very soon I’ll have hollow kits available that people can put their own lights and sound in. Oh and I’ve made some Klingon heads and a borg costume. Not a big cosplayer, but I may do it again.
NJB: Which Star Trek Captain is your favorite of all time?
Skeels: Picard I guess. Kirk was too much a womanizer for me, though I did like how he’d ignore regulations when it made sense. None of the other captains were written quite as well as those two.
NJB: We are obviously a sports and video game focused blog here for the most part. If you could become a professional athlete from any period, who would you choose to be in the Holodeck and why? Clearly the Holodeck is the coolest gaming platform of all time.
Skeels: Hmmm… a sport in the Holodeck. Any period. This will show how utterly geezerly I am, but I played basketball in school, and the Seattle Supersonics coach of the 1979 championship team was Lenny Wilkens who was a player/coach and player before that. I always thought it would be great to get pointers from him. I think he ran a basketball camp when I was the right age for it, but I never went.
NJB: Which Star Trek captain would win in a triathlon?
Skeels: Mirror Captain Lorca (Discovery)! Because he would cheat like hell and never get caught. If that doesn’t count, maybe Picard? He’s in great shape. Sisko seems like he’d do well too.
NJB: What are your thoughts on Star Trek Discovery? Do you like where it seems to be headed going into season 2?
Skeels: I’ve always been cautiously optimistic about Discovery because it’s set between
two known time periods and has to connect to the end of one and the beginning of the next – so we know where they came from and where Starfleet is headed. They can’t just do anything they want because of canon. I wish they had set things after TNG’s time so they could be open-ended with their stories and creativity. Create new canon! New technology! Go nuts! But they can’t. That said, I’m hopeful. I don’t like fan service or pandering, so I’d be happy to never see another Tribble, or the Enterprise. I hope they prove me wrong. I want nothing more than to be wrong. I want to love where it’s going. Season one was fine. It wasn’t how I or GR would have done it. It was great entertainment. It was great television. But was it great Star Trek? There are signs and hints, but I need convincing. We’ll see what happens in S2. I don’t think we’ve seen enough to know yet. S1 was spent getting their footing, finding their way, and recovering from producer changes.
NJB: The animated series; 1973-74 was obviously laughable at best; certainly cringe-worthy. Do you think we could ever see a modern take on Star Trek in an animated series done well?
Skeels: We’re going to. One is in the works now called Star Trek: Lower Decks. It will be an animated comedy series by Rick & Morty writer Mike McMahan. It will likely have the flavor of @TNG_S8 (same writer) AND the Short Treks short, The Escape Artist (same writer) is our preview (Jan 3, 2019).
NJB: Have you played any Star Trek video games? What are some of your favorite?
Skeels: I don’t have a lot of time to. I’d really like to play Star Trek: Bridge Crew (Ubisoft). It’s like they got into my brain and made what I wanted!
NJB: Tell us more about your weekly podcast, This Week in Trek, co-hosted with Michael Gaines.
Skeels: Each week we bring listeners the latest news about what’s going on behind the scenes with the production of the franchise, answer listener questions, read emails, look at how Star Trek has soaked into pop culture, review an episode from any of the series, take a close up look at one character, and have tons of goofballish fun along the way.
NJB: Where can people follow you and keep up with your work?
Skeels: I can be found @thetreknerd onTwitter.
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