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50TH ANNIVERSARY OF STAR TREK

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Nine things you never knew about Star Trek in Germany

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, The Local looks at some surprising things about trekkie culture and its influence in Deutschland.

Nine things you never knew about Star Trek in Germany
Photo: DPA.

The first series of Star Trek aired in the United States 50 years ago, on September 8th 1966.

The show has become an international hit, even in Germany, so here's a look at the impact it's made here in the Bundesrepublik.

1. Most trekkies in Germany live in the north and east

German Star Trek fans. Photo: DPA.

According to a study by sci-fi network Syfy, most German trekkies live in Bremen, Berlin and Brandenburg. Bremen’s locals were 55 percent more interested in the series than the German average, while Berliners were 44 percent more interested.

2. Most Germans prefer Captain Kirk

Photo: DPA.

The same Syfy study also found that Germans have a fondness for the original captain of the Starship Enterprise, James T. Kirk (played by William Shatner), over Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard. Some 54 percent of respondents said Kirk was their dream captain, while 31 percent were on team Picard.

Poor Vice Admiral Kathryn Janeway of the Voyager got just 8 percent of the vote.

3. The Klingons were partially inspired by the Nazis

The brutal, martial law society of the Klingons has often been compared to Nazi Germany, with their insignia of red and black also reminiscent of the Nazis’ swastika.

The show’s creators have also said that part of the inspiration for the warrior species were the Nazis.

4. There was a Nazi-themed Star Trek episode

The 1968 episode “Patterns of Force” has Captain Kirk and Spock dress up as Nazis to infiltrate a right-wing extremist alien regime that had adopted the ways of the Nazis.

The episode therefore did not air in Germany on public television until more than 40 years later in 2011, because of the Nazi subject matter, and at one point in the episode Adolf Hitler’s regime was called “the most efficient society” ever.

5. Cologne’s Volkshochschule taught Star Trek cuisine

Cologne's Volkshochschule (VHS) aimed at adult education, years ago decided to start giving courses on something both practical and out of this world: Star Trek cooking classes.

The community college teacher, Helga Schmidt was a big trekkie and decided to figure out how to cook up meals prepared on the show, according to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.

Unfortunately, after a quick search of the VHS website, it doesn't seem that Schmidt is still offering such culinary counselling anymore – at least not at the moment.

6. Germans are building a Star Trek roller coaster

Movie Park in Bottrop, North Rhine-Westphalia, is currently constructing a huge Star Trek-themed roller coaster, due to be opened next year, according to TrekNews.net

It’s supposed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Movie Park next year, so what better way to do that than the trekkie way?

7. Star Trek reflects German philosophical ideas

One of the most beloved aspects of Star Trek is how it probes not only science fictional ideas, but also quite philosophical and moral ones. So naturally one can easily see German philosophical thought reflected in the series.

As Professor Klaus Vieweg from the Jena Friedrich-Schiller University told DPA news agency this week, the ideas in Star Trek of universalism can be traced to Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

“Spock is for me the undisputed philosophical leader of Star Trek. He is a logical and rational thinker,” explained Vieweg. “His saying that ‘logic is the beginning of wisdom’ is a statement that philosopher Hegel could also fully get behind.

“Hegel’s philosophy is central to the series. His masterpiece in Jena The Phenomenology of Mind is itself a voyage of discovery through knowledge. The mission of the Enterprise crew is also a voyage of discovery and knowledge: it seeks to gather knowledge about other worlds and cultures.”

The way the show tackles questions of freedom and free will, equality and ethical issues is also reminiscent of Kant, explained the philosophy professor, who has taught a seminar on the philosophy of Star Trek.

8. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle had a Klingon website

Broadcaster Deutsche Welle is available in 30 different languages and aims to inform the world about German news.

So perhaps it makes sense that they’d also want to appeal to those a bit more other-worldly as well. In 2004, to celebrate being online for ten years, Deutsche Welle launched a website in the language of Klingon. Alas, it’s no longer available. Not yap wa' Hol.

9. German trekkies are giddy to celebrate the 50th anniversary

Air Berlin decided to get in on the fun of commemorating the big anniversary by setting up a special flight to mimic Star Trek at the end of last month. Cabin crew members exchanged their typical uniforms for character costumes, and the outside of the plane was painted with the Vulcan hand gesture for “live long and prosper” next to the Star Trek logo.

Throughout September, the specially decorated plane will be flying around with special Star Trek headrests, playing episodes from the series and they will also be giving their weak-stomached passengers “Spocktüten” – a play on the German word for sick bags, Spucktüten.

In addition, broadcaster Syfy will be presenting a mega-marathon of Star Trek with all episodes, starting on Thursday evening.

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TV

Five of the best German historical dramas to binge watch right now 

What do you do when you're trying to immerse yourself in German history, but public life is shut down due to Covid-19? Find some binge-worthy historical dramas, writes Charlotte Hall.

Five of the best German historical dramas to binge watch right now 
A scene from the Barbarians. Photo: picture alliance/DPA/Netflix/Katalin Vermes

When I moved to Berlin for my year abroad, I was meant to immerse myself in the language, the culture, the history. I was ready to soak up that German influence like a sponge, and take it home with me to England to wring out during my final year of uni. All good, in theory. In practice: well, there was this little thing called Covid-19 that kind of got in the way a bit. 

Since almost everything was shut when I arrived in the German capital at the end of August last year, I needed to get my culture-fix elsewhere. Like many, during this pandemic, I turned to streaming sites. And for reasons I can’t quite explain myself, I found myself drawn to the plethora of historical dramas that German Netflix offers. 

READ ALSO: Ten top films and TV shows to discover Germany from your couch

Historical dramas are often denigrated and belittled. They are a notorious “trash” genre and while “historical” is in the name, “accuracy” is usually not the game.

However, in recent years, the rise of series like Chernobyl – and even Bridgerton – have proven the range and variety that can be found in this genre. Rather than the factual history, history dramas offer a distanced perspective of the anxieties and preoccupations of the present, as well as a tell-all insight into the cultural psyche of a country’s perception of its past.

This, at least, is how I rationalise my “Watch it again” list.

On that note, here are the five most bingeable and/or thought-provoking historical dramas in German right now: 

Die Barbaren (2020) 

In November, the first series of Die Barbaren was so successful that Netflix immediately announced that they are working on a second one. It’s easy to see why: the series’ aesthetics are very seductive, morphing modern beard-grooming with a rough-and-ready, fur-clad fantasy of the Germanic tribes. 

The plot is based (loosely) on the story of the battle of the Teutoburg Forest, when a group of Germanic tribes resisted annexation by the Roman Empire. It’s embellished with a neat check-list of Netflix must-haves: a dynamic love triangle, an outspoken female heroine, and plenty of Game of Thrones-style gratuitous violence and sex scenes. While this might not be what the critics would call “original”, it does make the series very bingeable. 

The story of the Teutoburg Forest is a surprisingly contentious topic in Germany. For a long time, the narrative had been co-opted by nationalists and far-right. Nolting, one of the writers of the series, said he intended to reclaim the narrative from “those forces we detest”.

In a sense, the aim of Die Barbaren is to spark a reconsideration of this part of history, instead of leaving it to stagnate in the realm of alt-right propaganda. 

Das Schweigende Klassenzimmer (2018) 

This recent addition to the Netflix inventory won the 2018 peace prize of German film, Die Brücke – and for good reason. Set in the DDR during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, it’s based on a true story and a book of the same title by Dietrich Garstka. 

READ ALSO: Why it’s time to binge Netflix’s successful German TV series

A group of students in the DDR illegally listen to West-Radio after catching wind of the Hungarian uprising. They hear of the many deaths that happened during the demonstration, including, so the report goes, the famous footballer Ferenc Puskàs – crucially, this later turns out to be untrue. Moved, the classmates decide to hold a moment of silence during class, an idea set in motion by the main character Kurt Wächter (Tom Gramenz). 

At school, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, the naive group find themselves under investigation by the Stasi. Pressured by all the adults surrounding them, they are given a choice: scapegoat Kurt Wächter as the ring-leader, or have their life-prospects ruined by being banned from taking their Abitur (A-levels/final exams). 

The film is a tense but heartening ode to the coming-of-age genre, and a beautifully shot piece to boot.  

Nirgendwo in Afrika (2001) 

Nirgendwo in Afrika approaches themes of culture-shock, colonial trauma and exile in a delicate and refreshingly nuanced way – especially for a film made two decades ago.

It’s 1933: we follow the Jewish family Redlich as they flee Nazi-Germany to settle on a farm in Kenya. While their little daughter Regina acclimatizes quickly to the pace of life in the Kenyan countryside, her parents must learn to let go of the German life, friends and identities they left behind them. Providing a unique perspective on the Jewish experience of the Nazi regime, this film is a fascinating and at times heart-breaking cultural panorama.  

The film also touches upon the parallels and differences between the loss of land and status experienced by native Kenyan tribes under British colonial rule and that of Jewish people under the Nazis. The comparison is implicit – and makes a very interesting historical angle. 

Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (2013)

 

Charlotte, Wilhelm, Greta, Viktor, Friedhelm: five friends, but with five very different experiences. It is Berlin in 1941: they gather, dance, drink and say goodbye. Brothers Wilhelm and Friedhelm are being sent to the Eastern Front. But not to worry, the war will soon be over, and they’ll all see each other again at Christmas…

While the two brothers are quickly embroiled in the brutal and pointless war in Russia, Charlotte, a nurse, is following close behind and witnessing the horrors of the casualties at the mobile military hospital. Viktor, a Jewish tailor, tries to flee the country last-minute, and Greta, his lover, is soon tangled in a dangerous web with a married Nazi officer. Christmas in Berlin is looking increasingly unlikely. 

While it’s more revised history than history revision (critics have pointed out chronological inconsistencies), the series has some very powerful moments. It has been praised for its depictions of the bitter war on the Eastern Front. 

Charité (2017-2019) 

In the perfect union of medical and historical drama, this series explores the personal and political conflicts surrounding the Charité Teaching Hospital of Berlin. 

The first season brings together notable historical figures such as Rudolph Virchow, the father of pathology, Paul Ehrlich and Robert Koch, as well as the scientific whirlwinds they created in the 19th century. The second season shifts into the last year of the second-world war, dealing with the traumatised soldiers returning from the front, and the horrific treatment of children with disabilities under the Nazi regime. 

What should be a relatively dry, pseudo-medical period drama has been spun into an exhilarating, and at times thought-provoking, binge-worthy series.

This article was updated on March 15th.

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