Now Playing at Reason.tv: From Capt. Kirk to Brother Jed—director Roger Nygard on Trekkies and The Nature of Existence

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reason.tv's Ted Balaker chats with director Roger Nygard about filmmaking, fan culture, religion, and why people get so angry when their beliefs get challenged.

Nygard has directed episodes of TV shows such as The Office and The Bernie Mack Show. He also helmed the celebrated documentary Trekkies and has just finished some serious globetrotting in which he posed existential questions—why are we here? is there an afterlife? shat is the soul?—to Christians, Jews, atheists, Muslims, druids, Baba lovers, Hindu gurus, Confucianists, Taoists, Native Americans, and satanists.

Their answers will be included in his new documentary, The Nature of Existence, which promises to explain all the mysteries of the universe in 90 minutes.

Hear Nygard explain why Star Trek is still such a major cultural phenomenon, why you shouldn't shoo a snake off your roof, and what it's like to go on a road trip with a confrontational evangelist.

Click on the image below to watch the approximately seven-minute interview. And go to reason.tv for related stories and information on how to embed this video at your website.

Click here to download as an MP3 audio file.

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  1. Way to break the front page. Close tag! Close tag!

  2. Thank God that tag was closed.

  3. shat is the soul?

    The answer to the question of life, the universe, and everything is Shatner?

  4. Damn, I missed it…

  5. KAHN!!!!!!!!!

  6. Someone had to do it.

  7. From the First Church of Shatnerology’s list of why Kirk is better than Picard:

    #39. Kirk once made a cannon out of bamboo, sulfur, potassium nitrate and charcoal, and fired diamonds into the heart of his enemies. (Need we say more?)

    #35. Kirk once fought a Greek god. And won.

  8. He’s like McGuyver AND Hercules. All rolled into one.

  9. Kirk is basically Batman without the moodiness wearing a Starfleet uniform.

  10. Episiarch,

    ROFL!!! I was almost convulsing I was laughing so hard! The best one? “If it doesn’t speak English, it’s toast!”.

  11. Yeah, that list is great. Check out the whole site, there’s a lot of funny stuff. Some of the poetry is utterly insane.

    #109. The only time Kirk put his phaser on stun was when he was looking for sex.

  12. Mad Magazine suggested that Kirk’s phaser had a caress setting.

  13. #22: The Klingons didn’t have a word for surrender — until they met Kirk

  14. Here’s some of the poetry submitted regarding Shatner:

    Strudel Nebula

    Toaster Tuesdays bring sunshine
    to my Rogaine? colored stapler.
    How can I approach the wonder
    of the Being known as Shatner?
    Kiss the girl gently so that her
    mother lets me take her to the movies.
    Kirk has more for me to learn.

    Hamper for my clothes that desire
    to be mellow gold like Captain’s.
    Pointy emblem on my nipple
    Star fleet blouse that makes my ripples
    Show for girls who like the display.
    Now all I need is a toupee.
    911, I want a carburetor.

    Locklear in my elevator. Is it rising?
    Making it rise straight to the top.
    If only like the Shatner fellow.
    To be a father figure for this lady,
    I’d have a chance for playing, maybe.
    If only I had a toupee, see.
    Panhandle Cocktail.

  15. sadly, only a cached version is available, but you should take the Should I Stalk William Shatner? quiz

  16. The soul is shat?

    Maybe if you’re Joe.

  17. Kirk never once said: “Abandon ship! All hands abandon ship!”

    OK, I take issue with this one. Neither did Picard, except for in alternate time lines that didn’t actually happen in our universe.

    Blaming Picard for alternate-timeline Picard is like blaming Kirk for the pussy Kirk that the transporter made that time it divided him into two.

  18. OK, I take issue with this one. Neither did Picard, except for in alternate time lines that didn’t actually happen in our universe.

    Regardless, a Picard did in fact say those words, so it makes that technically correct. Which is the best kind of correct.

    is like blaming Kirk for the pussy Kirk that the transporter made that time it divided him into two

    “I’m Captain Kirk!!!” makes up for the pussy side.

  19. Pussy Kirk was Picard. And I say that as someone who likes Picard and his English-accented Frenchness.

  20. The William Shatner autobiography “Up Till Now” was one of the funniest books I’ve read this year.

  21. Actually, ProL, that works into the theory I created when TNG first started. They couldn’t have Kirk again, and any superman captain would just be Kirk. So they split him in two. Picard got the tactics, class, and leadership qualities, and Ryker got the youth, womanizing, ambition, and a trombone(WTF?).

    This, however, was a foolish thing to do as you ended up having to give many of Picard’s qualities to Ryker or else he’s a total douche, and you end up with Picard and Kirk Lite (with 50% less toupee).

    They did manage to maintain Picard as his own character, but that was almost by making him the anti-Kirk. Personally, my favorite character was Lore. He needed his own show.

  22. Star Trek Captains in order of coolness

    1. Sisko
    2. Picard
    3. Pike
    4. Kirk
    5. Janeway
    6. all the rest
    7. Adama
    8. Archer

  23. What’s wrong with Archer? I would put him as WAY more cool that the politically correct piece of shit Janeway. I do agree Sisco is often way too underrated.

  24. Reason.tv rocks!

  25. Amendum: I liked he in the pilot movie where she chose to blow up the device that could have sent her ship back in order to free a planet. But in the series itself she was WAY too PC.

  26. What’s wrong with Archer?

    He whines too much.

    And is played by an uncharismatic, incredibly stiff actor, imho.

    The series improved over time and in the end is probably better than Voyager, but Archer is the character that keeps me from watching it.

  27. From the First Church of Shatnerology’s list of why Kirk is better than Picard:

    Thanks for the link. Good stuff if you’re a geek like me.

  28. What’s wrong with Archer? I would put him as WAY more cool that the politically correct piece of shit Janeway.

    Maybe the fact that he was a politically correct pussy? Archer blows.

    Pike was pretty cool, though. Like a more intense Kirk.

  29. Kirk is number one; Sisco number two. Number four–what the hell is wrong with you?

  30. The next Star Trek series should be Pike’s adventures.

  31. ProL, it’s Neu Mejican. That’s what’s wrong with him.

    But at least he didn’t put Picard at #1.

  32. I think that just makes him seem more human. Certainly he is very different from the other Star Trek captains but the series was INTENDED to be very different from the other series. It is the only series that was, in fact, a prequal to the classic series. To set the tone they chose a theme that actually had lyrics. He is perhaps the least military-like captain in the entire Star-Terek universe but his mission was not intended to be a military one. This was very new to the human race.

  33. Regarding Voyager ,

    I did like the time-travel war episode(s) that seems to have inspired much of the Enterprise story line.

    The idea of the ship disconnected from time collecting the artifacts of the cultures it has snuffed out of existence was well played, and the alternate time-line was long-enough and brutal enough to make the pay off better.

  34. “Maybe the fact that he was a politically correct pussy? Archer blows.”

    How the hell was he politically correct? Did you effing see the episode where he punched a Vulcan monk?

  35. I could only handle the first season. He was a mewling candy-ass who prevaricated constantly. I have been made aware that they ramped him up a bit after everyone hated him, but that was it for me.

    Besides, punching a Vulcan monk is a pussy move. They’d never punch you back. It’s like punching an Amish guy.

  36. Yeah, but Sisko had an unnatural advantage:

    The series he was in was better-written.

  37. Besides, punching a Vulcan monk is a pussy move. They’d never punch you back. It’s like punching an Amish guy.

    And by Vulcan monk you meant to say Vulcan espionage officer in a monk uniform, right?

  38. The idea of the ship disconnected from time collecting the artifacts of the cultures it has snuffed out of existence was well played

    That actually is pretty much the only Voyager episode that I like [or maybe it should be “those” and “are” and “episodes”], because I like the resolution. It amused me that they’ve been questing for years on what part of the timeline to change to get their planet back, and it never occurred to the guy that what he had to do was eliminate his own ship.

    Although I must say that it would have been even better if at some point in the two-parter the captain of the time ship had walked into a room and said, simply, “Bitches leave.”*

    *this is a test.

  39. “Besides, punching a Vulcan monk is a pussy move. They’d never punch you back. It’s like punching an Amish guy.”

    Umm, in this case you are wrong. This was a “monastary” that was also a military instalation. Besides these monks are not pacifists in the way that Amish people are. These monks are more like Cane from Kung Fu than the Dali Lama.

  40. “And by Vulcan monk you meant to say Vulcan espionage officer in a monk uniform, right?”

    THat’s the right eipisode. He was an espionage officer. It was kind of unclear – he may have actually been a monk as well – I think that as ambiguous. But he was an espionage officer.

  41. I have no idea, I didn’t see the episode. We’re getting caught up in details. Archer sucked because (and Neu Mejican was right about some of this):

    1. Scott Bakula is good at jumping into the bodies of people and acting goofy and fixing their lives. He is not good at being a starship captain.

    2. Archer, the character, was initially far too wussy, and making it better later only helps so much.

    3. He had a pet beagle. The writers should have been summarily executed for that bit of cutesiness.

  42. ProL, it’s Neu Mejican.

    And therefore I have a more sophisticated view of the series and its place in the larger science fiction genre?

    And therefore I have more training in literary criticism and have a more honed sense of artistic quality?

    ;^)

    The question is:
    How close is the correlation between Kirk fans and Elvis fans?

  43. 1. Scott Bakula is good at jumping into the bodies of people and acting goofy and fixing their lives. He is not good at being a starship captain.

    Clearly untrue.
    Scott Bakula is not good at anything that involves “acting.”

    Goofy or not.

  44. So Episiarch,

    Did you enjoy Wild Zero?

  45. Clearly untrue.
    Scott Bakula is not good at anything that involves “acting.”

    Your “I lived in the ’80s and clearly know what I’m talking about” card was just revoked, with prejudice.

    For your next trick, are you going to make fun of MacGyver’s power mullet? Go ahead, make a crack about Richard Dean Anderson; his *hair* could kick your ass.

  46. I think some people didn’t like Enterprise because it was so different from any other Star Trek series. Some people didn’t like DS9 for the same reason (I also loved DS9). This was the main complaint about Ang Lee’s version of Hulk as well. It was different from most people’s conception of the series. I happen to like it when a concept is mixed up a bit. Archer isn’t Kirk – he isn’t supposed to be. Archer isn’t PIcard – he isn’t supposed to be. Archer isn’t Sisko – he isn’t supposed to be. Archer is Archer. And as a character he is well written. As a series it was brilliant.

    “3. He had a pet beagle. The writers should have been summarily executed for that bit of cutesiness.”

    What’s wrong with a beagle? One of the best episodes focussed on his beagle.

  47. He was OK in Lord of Illusions. I myself am not a Quantum Leap fan, but it was popular.

    Wild Zero was pretty fucking insane. But I expected that. For some reason it made me want to watch Ichi the Killer again.

  48. hey why is the reason tv guy’s audio so muffled in the video clip?

  49. Your “I lived in the ’80s and clearly know what I’m talking about” card was just revoked, with prejudice.

    Disliking The A-Team would cause Satan to rise out of Hell and kick your ass.

  50. I love it when a plan comes together.

  51. Lame TV shows.

    A-Team
    Quantum Leap
    Dukes of Hazard
    Farscape
    Dr. Who (any version…ANY VERSION)

    Good TV show (that you didn’t see or have forgotten)

    Quark

  52. What’s wrong with a beagle? One of the best episodes focussed on his beagle.

    Pets are cheap plot distractions that allow the writer to show a character’s tenderness or softer side without having to write something where the character does that with another human.

  53. make a crack about Richard Dean Anderson

    You mean the love child of Yanni and John Tesh?

    He started out in General Hospital and then started doing shitty shows.

    I forgot to add the Stargate shows to the list of lame TV.

  54. “Dr. Who (any version…ANY VERSION)”

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you have been in a coma for the past 4 years and are unaware the show has come back and that the new series is far better written than anything else on tellevision today – in fact I would say it is the best written show since the last episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine aired.

  55. Anyone who disliked The Dukes of Hazard as a kid has testicles so shriveled they resemble dried peas.

  56. RE: Dr. Who

    that the new series is far better written than anything else on tellevision today

    Two words:

    Battlestar Galactica

  57. “Pets are cheap plot distractions that allow the writer to show a character’s tenderness or softer side without having to write something where the character does that with another human.”

    In the hands of a POOR WRITER they can be plot distractions. But in the case of this beagle, his relationship with Archer helped to define his personality.

  58. I don’t care much for Elvis ?

    One thing about Kirk, too, was that he was a supergenius. He solved several dilemmas that stumped Spock.

    Someone above mentioned the time-war crap. I hated that, and I think that it fatally wounded Enterprise. Which, incidentally, might’ve been okay if it had started with its fourth season and went on from there. Frankly, as flawed as that series was, I thought it was better than Voyager. TOS-TNG/DS9-Ent.-Voy.

    Episiarch,

    At least there wasn’t a stupid kid on the show. The greatest thing BSG did was purge Boxey. Buh-bye.

  59. So Epi,

    Who’d you have a crush on?
    Bo or Luke?

  60. Disliking The A-Team would cause Satan to rise out of Hell and kick your ass.

    The problem with the A team is that it wasn’t quite bad enough to qualify as good camp. It was just bad enough to qualify as really fucking stupid.

    When libertarians finally gain power in this country, “The A-Team” and “Walker, Texas Ranger” will be the only entertainment banned. The Facts of Life will even be spared, but there is a limit to what “speech” can be tolerated.

    🙂

  61. I was pre-pubescent when that show started. My crush was on the car.

  62. I knew JsubD had taste.

    But you forgot TJ-Hooker.

  63. I was pre-pubescent when that show started. My crush was on the car.

    Of course you were…of course.

    You just liked how they handled its stick.

    You probably liked Night Rider too.

  64. Were you the most joyless child ever, or are you merely a eunuch?

  65. I must admit I havn’t seen Battlestar Galactica – so I can’t comment one way or the other on that but the New Series of Dr. Who is brilliant – but if your only experience with Dr. Who was either Sylvester McCoy or the utterly pathetic Paul McGann I can understand why you would have reservations. Trust me, this is FAR different from the last, dying years, of the original series. It is sad about Sylvester McCoy actually – the character itself was well written it was just that the plots were poorly written – except maybe for one or two episodes.

  66. Frankly, as flawed as that series was, I thought it was better than Voyager. TOS-TNG/DS9-Ent.-Voy.

    I concur. And it actually became *good* in the last season when they tossed all that time war crap. Archer actually had a very good “get the fuck off my ship and I never want to see you ever again or I will kill you” moment at the conclusion of that story arc.

    What I found interesting was TOS was superior in seasons 1 & 2, while 3 placed it in ‘voyager bad’ territory. TNG and DS9 had the exact opposite pattern, which Ent was starting to follow when it got unceremoniously canceled.

  67. But you forgot TJ-Hooker.

    No I didn’t. T.J. hooker gets a pass due to the presence of the undeniably ultra-hot Heather Locklear.

  68. LMNOP, it’s rare for shows to start out good and then deteriorate; usually it takes the writers time to develop the characters and where they want to go with them.

    TOS was unique in that Roddenberry was able to get and appreciate seriously talented sci-fi writers like Ellison, Matheson, and others. These guys writing distinct episodes with no overall story arc made for some killer TV.

  69. but if your only experience with Dr. Who was

    I try not to put forth opinions about things I have not seen.

    When I said ANY VERSION that was based on having seen some of each version…I gave the new Dr. Who a chance since they did such a nice job with the BSG update.

    The new Dr. Who, imho, is worse than the old versions of Dr. Who, which I always found disappointing.

    Were you the most joyless child ever, or are you merely a eunuch?

    I thought you were prepubescent during Dukes of Hazard, why does the balls thing keep coming into your recollection of the show? I think you must have wished that Daisy would lend her shorts to Bo.

    The show was lame…lame…lame.
    You report that you enjoy both The Dukes of Hazard and Takashi Miike.

    Do you discriminate at all?

  70. And therefore I have a more sophisticated view of the series and its place in the larger science fiction genre?

    And therefore, given the posting that launched this thread, you really ought to be talking up Six Days in Roswell instead of getting sucked off into this Trekkies-inspired tangent.

    6DiR is a f’ing masterpiece.

  71. Speaking of story arcs, I think they can be overdone, even with decent arcs. One thing I liked about TOS was that each episode was a whole. A bunch of little morality plays.

  72. “since they did such a nice job with the BSG update.”

    I didn’t realize that BBC Whales had anything to do with that.

    “The new Dr. Who, imho, is worse than the old versions of Dr. Who, which I always found disappointing.”

    We will have to agree to disagree on that. I happen to like tightly written characters and well thought out plots and story arcs.

  73. A bunch of little morality plays.

    And an occasional comedy episode.

  74. You report that you enjoy both The Dukes of Hazard and Takashi Miike.

    Do you discriminate at all?

    The Dukes of Hazard is unwatchable to me today but was the greatest thing since Christmas when I was a kid. If you can’t understand that then you must truly have been the most joyless kid ever.

  75. The Dukes of Hazard is unwatchable to me today but was the greatest thing since Christmas when I was a kid. If you can’t understand that then you must truly have been the most joyless kid ever.

    I know where you’re coming from. I thought Gilligan’s Island was funny when it aired, proving that much TV is aimed at 10 year olds.

  76. I’m just glad you started asking the questions out loud instead of presenting them as captions on the screen that prevent us multitaskers from looking away.

  77. You know, Gilligan’s Island wasn’t all bad. Remember Hamlet: The Musical?

  78. I liked Planet of the Apes the Musical

  79. LMNOP, it’s rare for shows to start out good and then deteriorate; usually it takes the writers time to develop the characters and where they want to go with them.

    Respectfully disagree; I think it happens about as often as the other way. There’s even a term for it, after all: “Jumping the shark”. For example, TOS’s 3rd season, but also Babylon 5’s lamentable 5th season. (And that’s a show that did *both*: started weak, ended weak, but shined in the middle).

    I agree that it rarely happens without a reason; either the writing or directing staff changes caliber or funding goes up or down, or so forth.

  80. since they did such a nice job with the BSG update.”

    I didn’t realize that BBC Whales had anything to do with that.

    That “they” was referring to the general group of creative types that are making TV shows. There is no overlap in the production teams AFAIK.

    The Dukes of Hazard is unwatchable to me today but was the greatest thing since Christmas when I was a kid. If you can’t understand that then you must truly have been the most joyless kid ever.

    I am sure that my childhood was as filled with joy as yours. I just got my joy from better TV shows than you, it seems.

    My level of joy would have been severely degraded for each hour spent bored & watching DOH…whether or not the same activity increased your joy.

    If you can’t understand that, you are not a real libertarian

    [goes off to drink…or do the rules forbid the one making the comment from drinking…I forget, best drink until told otherwise]

  81. I forget, best drink until told otherwise.

    An unvarnished truth. First for today!

  82. J sub D,

    I don’t usually comment this late but I must intervene. For your own good, don’t even THINK about banning “Walker: Texas Ranger”. Oh and beware his beard, they say he is so tough the only thing behind his beard is another fist.

  83. Three defenses of The A-Team: The intro is classic and Mr. T* and “Howling Mad” Murdoch are fucking awesome.

    *Yes, I know Mr. T’s character was B.A. Baraccus or something, but he’s still Mr. T much in the same way Hulk Hogan’s always Hulk Hogan.

  84. I don’t usually comment this late but I must intervene. For your own good, don’t even THINK about banning “Walker: Texas Ranger”. Oh and beware his beard, they say he is so tough the only thing behind his beard is another fist.

    Chuck Norris endorsed that ignorant hillbilly whack-job preacher for president. Said preacher FAILED in his quest for the nomination or even minimal respect from the crowd that made thru high school.

    OTOH, a real badass, tough as nails celebrity endorsed Barack Obama.

    Oprah takes the belt with a knockout.*

    *You may want to google “Oprah vs Chuck Norris”. Here is one of the options presented.

  85. I know where you’re coming from. I thought Gilligan’s Island was funny when it aired, proving that much TV is aimed at 10 year olds.

    Or the stoned.

    Teletubbies was very popular with the heroin chic in the 90’s.

    Gillagan was popular with the Thai Stick crowd in the 80’s.

  86. And therefore, given the posting that launched this thread, you really ought to be talking up Six Days in Roswell instead of getting sucked off into this Trekkies-inspired tangent.

    6DiR is a f’ing masterpiece.

    You need to find a copy of High Strange New Mexico

    http://www.high-strange-nm.com/

  87. Kirk never once said: “Abandon ship! All hands abandon ship!”

    OK, I take issue with this one. Neither did Picard, except for in alternate time lines that didn’t actually happen in our universe.

    Actually, the USS Stargazer was destroyed under Picard’s command; that’s how Wesley Crusher’s father died.

    I hate myself for knowing this.

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