Anyone who knows me for more than five minutes will confirm just how much of a nerd I really am. Part of that full-frontal nerdity is a life-long love for anything related to Star Trek. Truth be told, I’m partial to anything with the word “star” in it, but that’s another story.
Almost three years ago, Star Trek celebrated fifty years of its first air date — way back on September 8, 1966. I wouldn’t take my first breath of air until almost five years later. As such, my first exposure to the Original Series was on syndicated reruns.
It was a fun way to pass the time, watching “Star Track” as we called it as kids. Hey, we were kids. Proper pronunciation wasn’t nearly as important as pestering our siblings back then.
I really didn’t “get into” Trek until the VHS revolution, when I was able to watch and rewatch Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It was everything a good movie should be, and provided great space battles and creepy crawlers to boot. To the tween version of myself, it was a kind of escapism that I could only hope to dream about.
Sure, it was Star Wars that captured my imagination years before, but Trek is what captured my mind and my heart. By the time Star Trek IV had been released, I had committed nearly every Trek film to memory, and I anxiously awaited the premiere of a new TV series that would air a few months later.
It was with The Next Generation that I would really dive into the ideals of Trek: Hope, equality, justice, and the folly of senseless wars. Different races could all get along, even the mysterious Klingons.
In a great many ways, Trek helped to shape my views on life and politics. Once I got past William Shatner’s penchant for overacting, I began to understand the morality plays for what they were. War is ugly. Race is irrelevant to character. Women are on the bridge.
The Next Generation went even further — go even more out of the way to prevent fighting. Look for diplomacy in all things. Even the captain needs advice. Maybe even a ship’s counselor.
Every part of my being wanted to be on the Enterprise. Truth be told, I still want to be there. I want to explore new worlds and seek out new life. I want to boldly go where no one has gone before.
No matter how many variations of Star Trek are created, the heart of the original always revolved around the triumvirate of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. For Kirk, the ultimate man-decider type, he never went far without inquiring of Spock’s logic or McCoy’s passion and humanity.
Today’s political climate could use a little more dose of humanity and logic — and maybe we need to be willing to throw a few double fists and phaser blasts, but only as a last resort. We won’t always make the best choices, and no matter how much we rely on logic, there’s always something more to the conversation that we need. Now more than ever.
Kirk knew that. Roddenberry knew that. Even Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura knew that. She has often been quoted as saying to Gene Roddenberry, “You’re creating little morality plays, aren’t you?” Roddenberry’s response was a wink and a smile, along with a cheeky instruction: “don’t tell anyone.”
It’s been 50 years since Star Trek first aired. Its impact on pop culture and modern technology can’t be understated. CBS recently announced the launch of a new Star Trek series in January, so I find myself looking forward to entering the positive future that it created.
Maybe it’s just the beginning of what really will be the final frontier. Time will tell.
This article appeared in a slightly different form in The Leaf-Chronicle on September 8, 2016.