Saturday, June 16, 2012

Morn is Star Trek

In the world of hypotheticals, all the time people come and ask me: Captain Peabody, why are you a Star Trek fan?

This is an important question, and I always take it with the utmost seriousness.  Whenever I am asked this question, I immediately turn around slowly, stroke my hypothetical mustache, raise my hypothetical glass high, remove my hat from my head with my hypothetical third arm and place it over my heart, and give the solemn answer: Because Morn is Star Trek.

"But wait!  But wait!" The hypothetical reader* cries out.  "What IS Morn?!  And why is he Star Trek?"

To this, I always reply by saying this picture: 
As you can see, the first and most important reason why Morn is Star Trek is because Morn is by far the handsomest and best-looking character to ever grace the Star Trek universe, period.  On Star Trek, Morn was always depicted as quite the ladies' man, and it's not hard to see why.  That nose!  Those whispy hairs!  Kirk?  Riker?  Step aside, gentlemen!

The second reason Morn is Star Trek is because of his second stomach.  Morn has a second stomach, and using Origen's principles of Biblical interpretation, we can say that this is obviously an allegory for the dual nature of Star Trek as both television and film, and also for the dual existence of Star Trek in both the minds and experiences of those who create it, and also in the hearts of the fans: it is this latter stomach, of course, that contains a massive supply of latinum currency, thus signifying the fact that it is the fans who provide the funds necessary to keep Star Trek alive, and also that feature films tend to be more profitable than television shows.  Likewise, the fact that this latinum has caused his hair to fall out signifies the way in which the influence of money and success has caused Star Trek as a whole to lose its original virility and freshness.  Morn's relationship with his hyper-capitalist bartender Quark, of course, and his consequent drinking habit, signify Star Trek's constant need for affirmation and (more importantly) material support from the studios, and Quark and Morn's generally-positive relationship signifies the studio's general esteem for the Star Trek long as Morn pays his bar tab on time.  Morn's many squabbling siblings, of course, signify the many other sci-fi franchises and TV shows that have been inspired by Star Trek, and his difficult mother signifies the demanding sci-fi fanbase, for whose affection Morn and his siblings are forced to compete.  Like Morn, Star Trek is frequently said to be saying an awful lot of meaningful things, and yet somehow never actually manages to say much of anything onscreen.  In addition, Morn's quarters, which contain nothing but a mud-bath and a black velvet painting of a Matador, of course signify the two things that single-handedly keep the franchise going: the murky depths of popular culture, and William Shatner's toupee.

I could go on, but I think I've proved my point.  No other character in Star Trek other than Morn so completely encompasses Star Trek as a franchise.  The great thing, too, for all you English majors out there, is that there are multiple possible readings of Morn as an allegory!  There's the out-of-universe one that I've given, but also an in-universe reading, a cosmological reading (where Morn's appearance, properly interpreted, gives a rough map of the Star Trek universe), a mystical reading, a socio-political reading, an anarcho-feminist reading, a fascist-Rastifarian reading, and of course the ever-popular Swedenborgian Reading of Morn, best exemplified by Professor Bosh's magnum opus The Illusiveness of Eschatology in Lurian Psycho-Physical Sociology: The Swedenborgian Reading of Morn.

Alright, I think that is enough foolery for the moment. The real reason that Morn is Star Trek is far more mundane, and far more interesting.  See, the thing is, Morn was not supposed to be a Star Trek character.  He started his existence, in fact, as one of dozens of masks created by the makeup crew to serve as background extras for the very first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Morn was never supposed to be a character at all; he was just one mask among many, designed to be shoved onto an extra and shoved into the far background of one shot, and then at some later point, probably half a season later, be again shoved onto a completely different extra and shoved into the back of another shot.  Instead, of course, Morn ultimately became the stud of a character you see today.  What happened?

In short, Star Trek happened.  First, enter Mark Allen Shepherd, an actor happening to attend a massive casting call, and then happening, by chance and head size, to be picked to inhabit the then-nameless suit and appliance.  Then, by an even greater coincidence, Shepherd ended up accidentally getting left off the call sheet, and, by an even more astronomical and uncanny chance, decided to wander onto the set to see what was going on at the exact day and time when Morn was supposed to appear.  Then, when the shot was ready, by another coincidence, he got picked out of the crowd of hundreds of extras by the director and put in the foreground of an establishing shot.  Then, Shepherd successfully performed in the suit in such a way that the executive producers noticed him among all the other extras, and hired him for other episodes.  Then, as the series continued, Shepherd was hired again and again, appearing at Quark's bar practically every single time the set was used, and becoming a constant presence on the show.  Then, the unknown alien began to be mentioned in dialogue and in scripts, had main characters talk about him, interact with him, and even give him a name and a species.  Thus, in practically the blink of an eye, that random mask and suit became Morn, a full-fledged character and a living, breathing part of Deep Space Nine and Star Trek.  Over the course of the full seven years of Deep Space Nine (the kind of series run that only very successful shows and Star Trek series get), Morn was talked about, developed, and ended up becoming, in places, a key part of the plot of episodes and the show as a whole, even getting an entire episode about him...all without uttering a single word onscreen.  We learn about Morn's demanding mother, his squabbling siblings, his second stomach, his lost hair, his criminal past, his shipping business, his weekly sparring matches with Worf in the holodeck, his popularity with the ladies, and a hundred, thousand other things.

Through all of this, Morn is, in reality, nothing more than a few pounds of latex and rubber on an actor, sitting silently at the bar, listening to Quark talk, or walking around the station...essentially, doing pretty much nothing...and yet, in the world of the show and in the minds of its viewers, he is a living, breathing, talkative, charming, amusing person, with friends, family, and a life of his own...who also happens to be a hideous alien with two stomachs.

This is, frankly, the kind of thing that could only happen on a television show, on that week-in, week-out grind of episodes, year after year, where characters can be built up out of nothing, elaborated on, talked about, and developed in a way that is simply impossible to do in feature films...and it is also, frankly, the kind of thing that could only happen on Star Trek, in that strange world where the hideous aliens that populate the background of shots not only aren't just vicious cannon fodder to be gunned down by the hundreds, but are expected as a matter of course to be thinking, vital people with lives and problems of their own, where (to quote Nick Meyer) even the aliens are human, where the audience is invited to buy into a setting and suspend their disbelief to an extent undreamed of in most fiction, where characters and situations can be taken to absurd and whimsical lengths that would never, in a thousand years, fly in any Earth-bound show, where writers and producers have (or at least had) the opportunity to have fun and let their imaginations run wild without constantly worrying about being cancelled or not appealing to the right demographics, and where (in short) the background of the world has the potential to be as rich and varied as the foreground.  There are many other characters and situations that exemplify these things as well, but for me at least, none of them do so in so obvious and so handsome a fashion as Morn.

 Morn, with his trademark onscreen silence and off-screen talkativeness, is certainly a comic character, with a number of running jokes associated with him; but, as I've shown, in the world of the show and in the mind of its viewers he is ultimately much, much more: a living, breathing character exemplifying all that Star Trek can be.

Having said all that, I will now invite you to watch Morn in action, in a scene that he doesn't even appear in no less!

And that, my dear hypothetical, is why I am a Star Trek fan.

No comments:

Post a Comment