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You're The Voice

I have this theory.

A few months ago, I was reading an article by Steve Darlington on Has Been, an album of spoken word performed by William Shatner. Yes, that William Shatner. In the article, Darlington writes: "The reason every comedian thinks he can imitate Captain Kirk... is because that voice is so iconic and so compelling. When Kirk talks, people listen."

Which got me to thinking - the same can be said of Star Trek: The Next Generation's Patrick Stewart. The man's classic theatrical training can't help but come through in that show, especially whever he gets his dander up - "Your honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life - well there it sits!" Enough comedians have tried to imitate Captain Picard - not as many as Kirk, of course, but Picard's only been floating around the public consciousness for just under twenty years, not the forty that Kirk has.

And then I started thinking about Avery Brooks. Now, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was very divisive amongst Star Trek fans, enough to question its popularity, but it managed to equal The Next Generation's record of seven seasons, and it wasn't subject to the all-round savaging that Voyager received (even though that show also completed seven seasons itself). And I can't help but wonder how much that was due to Commander (then Captain) Sisko's unique voice, deep and definitely commanding.

As for the other two Trek shows produced so far, Voyager and Enterprise - well, while Kate Mulgrew and Scott Bakula both are definitley good actors with strong voices, they just don't quite come up to that same standard. And I can't help but wonder whether that has anything to do with the lack of popularity of those two shows as compared with the first three. On a military show (or even pseudo-military, as Star Trek's Starfleet was often portrayed as) the ranking character is usually the linchpin of the whole ensemble, and my theory is that the voice of the actor playing that character plays a whole heap into whether the audience buys into the strength of that character. It's also my theory that - after three consecutive captains with such powerful voices setting the bar for Star Trek commanders - audiences just couldn't quite buy into Janeway and Archer in the volumes that bought into Kirk, Picard and Sisko.

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I think there's a lot to be said for this. After all, Roddenberry concieved Kirk as a very Horatio-Hornblower-esque character, and the British navy is famous for their shouting captains.

What's sad is I think Mulgrew tried her damnedest to be Kirk, snapping and shouting and standing with her legs six miles apart and her nipples into next week, but it never quite worked. Seven of Nine helped though, as it let them do Kirk and Spock redux.

I think there are other reasons, however. In general, Star Trek suffered from a strong drift in concept. I hate to sound like an insane geek but post Roddenberry's death, Trek got a lot more morally grey. DS9 had Sisko assassinating a foreign power, then Janeway made a deal with the Borg and by the time we got to Archer he was bending over backwards to accomodate the painfully obvious terrorist analogues. Of coure, Picard wasn't Kirk either (and boy did a lot of Next Gen suck) but both TOS and TNG had a running theme that despite (and because of) the Prime Directive, we were Better Than Them. Which s the same theme of most comics, and there's nothing wrong with it.

Sometimes we're too keen in this day and age to throw off the white man's burden. We threw the burden out with the white man. :)