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For reasons I CAN quantify, Star Trek has meant a lot to me over the course of my life. It has resonated with me, inspired me, challenged me and, of course, entertained me. Today, on the occasion of its 52nd anniversary (The Man Trap, the first episode of Star Trek premiered 52 years ago today), I am share a few thoughts on the what the phenomenon has meant to me during my life.
Why Star Trek?
It’s not that hard for me to remember how I was first exposed to Star Trek. In kindergarten I was on a split schedule and only went to school in the mornings. My next door neighbor was in seventh grade on a split schedule and he only went to school in the mornings. I would often go over to his house at the end of our school days after lunch and we’d watch television. This was the mid-1970s and Star Trek was flourishing in syndication. Denver’s Channel 2 had the show. It aired at 3:00pm and, from the first viewing, I was entranced. I must have been, because I have been taken with (some might say “obsessed with”) Star Trek since those early days, huddled in front of the neighbors’ 20 inch television.
I watched the show consistently through my childhood and adolescence. I was only 9 when my grandmother took me to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture. What a nice grandma. I barely held the fact that she fell asleep during the film against her. This grudge is unseemly now that she has passed away and she knew something I didn’t: that movie is kind of boring! I eagerly awaited each release of a Star Trek film. And I read the books – the Pocket Book series came after the terrific James Blish Log books and the ridiculously cool so-called Foto Novels which featured stills from the original series episodes made into comic book-like stories. When I wasn’t reading or watching Star Trek, I was writing or playing Star Trek.
In high school, I maintained my love of all things Trek. I posed for a senior photo holding a model (a model I had built, mind you!) of the Enterprise. I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation religiously. I took dates to Star Trek movies. I didn’t have that many dates… I extolled the virtues of the show, joined the Official Fan Club and received their slick mini-magazines each month. I even painted what I think was a lovely portrait of DeForest Kelley as Doctor McCoy. More art work lost to time… I attended my first Star Trek Convention when I was a freshman in college. I was terrified. But I kept going back.
As I grew older, I tried to put away childish things. I stopped collecting comic books (for about 2 minutes) and dropped science fiction as an interest. I decided I was a serious person doing serious things. I bought John Irving and Pat Conroy and dedicated my life to a professional pursuit of the study of English and education. I got married. I got a job. I became an adult.
Now a father, a close to middle-aged, man, I still love my Trek. When Star Trek Beyond opened, I dragged the entire family to the marathon showing of the 2009 reboot, Into Darkness and Beyond. “Dragged” is not the right term. Though none of my children nor my wife would call themselves “Trekkers,” they all enjoy the show and the movies. The narrative has power.
When Star Trek Discovery premiered, I signed up for my CBS All Access membership, watched the show with my wife, loved the spirit, the revisioning, the envelope pushing of it and quickly became a fan of this newest incarnation of the Star Trek phenomenon.
And I wait in excitement for the announced (though troubled) Star Trek 4, the rumored Quentin Tarantino Star Trek project and the new Picard television series. I buy the behind-the-scenes books, am about to begin listening to William Shanter’s latest memoir and read trekmovie.com every weekend.
And I live a full, professional and productive life beyond all this as well!
No matter what else I’ve cast aside or lost interest in over the years, I have never let go of Star Trek. I never felt that my love for it was something I had to shed. Looking back on 40 plus years of connection to that world and that phenomenon, I find that, well, fascinating.
As it turned out, for me, resistance to Star Trek really was futile.
Star Wars is bigger and, without it, there would have been no Star Trek: The Motion Picture (of course, without Star Trek, there would have been no Star Wars). I love Star Wars. I did a year long countdown to The Force Awakens. I geared up for and geeked out on The Last Jedi. But I’ve never felt the same way about it as I do about Star Trek.
(And, as I feel about me deep love for DC Comics and my almost as deep love for Marvel Comics, one does not have to choose between Star Trek and Star Wars. Love ’em both, people!)
I love super heroes and comic books. I know the very day I received my first comics ( comics that are framed on the wall in my office). Except for that dubious 2 minutes noted earlier when I tried to quit comics (I just can’t quit them), I have collected them since I was 8. I love the super hero movie genre. Love it. But, if I had to choose whether the next Justice League movie was successful or the next Star Trek movie made big money, I would, hands down and without hesitation, choose the next Trek.
There have been many television shows about which people felt passionately, many pop culture moments people look back at with affinity. Why didn’t Star Trek become The Six Million Dollar Man – something fondly remembered, reboots discussed frequently, but on the fringe of consciousness, brought to life only in nostalgic conversation? Hey, I liked the Six Million Dollar Man.
What gives Star Trek its staying power?
Smarter people than me have tried to figure this out and I don’t think I’ll try for a grand statement here.
I’ll simply conclude with this: Star Trek celebrates life. It celebrates friendship. It celebrates intelligence. It celebrates discovery. It celebrates the future. It celebrates humanity. All that can be right in the world is right in the best Star Trek – the exemplar Star Trek.
All that we want to be as cultures living together in peace is present in Trek. The 23rd century has conquered want and need and racism. It’s rejected violence. It’s embraced diversity. It tells the story of people working hand-in-hand toward a common goal: improvement. Star Trek is predicated on the idea that humanity simply wants to get better.
What a terrific idea.
Why Star Trek? Because Star Trek makes me feel good.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Live long and prosper, Star Trek. Never change.