"Ultimately, Earthlings is a light documentary about a group of people who share a hobby."

Earthlings is a documentary charting those people who speak Klingon. These include Michael Dorn who plays Worf in Star Trek, Mark Okrand who constructed and develops the language, and Dr d'Armond Speers who only spoke to his son in Klingon for the first few years of his life. The remaining interviewees are the usual collection of Star Trek fans, some of whom also happen to be linguists.

A documentary about Star Trek fans seems fairly predictable, but by focusing on the language, Earthlings steps beyond that. The sections explaining how Marc Okrand has constructed some of the words particularly appealed. That the Klingon word for spoon is itself a Spoonerism tickled me. (I realise I'll never have sex again having admitted that I laughed at a Klingon joke).

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The documentary is sympathetic to every one of its subjects. Whilst it didn't need to be a vicious muck-raking exercise, it would have been nice for a few more tough questions to have been asked. The interviews with Dr. d'Armond Speers and his son Alec merely explain that everything has worked out fine for Alec, without even questioning whether experimenting with a child in this way could have turned out much worse.

It also fails to place Klingon in a context alongside other constructed languages, such as Esperanto. Earthlings doesn't ask why Star Trek has this level of devotion and obsession, whereas the equally popular Star Wars or Doctor Who haven't been taken quite so far amongst their fans. To fully investigate either would have changed the intention of the documentary, but an element of context was lacking from Earthlings.

The biggest failing of the film is its look. I wondered whether Alexandre O Philippe had a lamp fetish before I twigged that they were supposed to be flying saucers. The interviews have been made to look like 1950s B-movies, which isn't really the Star Trek look at all. The interview where all you see is a person's reflection in a television screen is just flat out childish. Whilst it is a nice touch to attempt to spice up the look of simple interviews, it becomes too distracting, and should have been toned right down.

Ultimately, Earthlings is a light documentary about a group of people who share a hobby. They are all nice enough people, who tend towards being deeply involved, rather than unhealthily obsessed. It misses a number of opportunities, but it is a pleasant documentary which will appeal to Star Trek fans and non-fans alike.

Reviewed on: 19 Oct 2006
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Earthlings packshot
A documentary about Klingon speakers.
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Director: Alexandre O Philippe

Writer: n/a

Starring: Michael Dorn, Marc Okrand, Dr. d'Armond Speers, Alec Speers.

Year: 2005

Runtime: 69 minutes

Country: US


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