I’m a Star Trek fan. Kind of a big one.
So, there it is. Booyah!
That just may be the sound of my being hit by the door on the way out and back over the velvet roped boundary of coolness. Ah, well. I think it’s important to be truthful here – and the truth of the matter is there’s a tribble perched on the shelf in my livingroom.
Plus, I at least need to be honest with myself. I mean, I could imagine that even after an entire childhood of watching the original series, it’s not like it still affects what I do or who I am, right?
But it’s also true that I’ve tried to use “gorn” as a potential play in Words with Friends…
Yup – Trek is a part of me. And now that Star Trek Into Darkness has arrived in theatres, I can’t help reminiscing about my long and happy relationship with the show that started the franchise. From what I remember, though, that relationship was a bit rocky at first:
Back when I was four years old, my family traveled to Australia to live for nine months – and I suddenly found my little self on a windy, moonlit night, having been transported to a different continent, living in an unfamiliar house and having to try to go to sleep in a foreign bed. Although covered from neck to toe with blankets, I was still chilled by the sight outside my window of great, bare tree branches raking at the glass and looking to me just like Apollo’s fingers as they once gripped the Enterprise in space and wouldn’t let it go. Scary, scary…
But I survived that harrowing night and came to have much fonder, even comforting, feelings for Star Trek (and for my Aussie adventure) as my youthful years went on. In preparation for a week at Girl Scout camp, I packed a sleeping bag, toothbrush and other essentials – including the tribble my big brother Rich bought for me at the opening of a Federation Trading Post in Berkeley, California (where I also got to meet Scotty, himself!). I tied a bow on my tribble to distinguish it from the other ones at camp – but that turned out not to be a problem.
As with growing up in general, being a Star Trek fan as a little kid was a constant learning process. For one thing, it wasn’t until I got the hang of reading that I realized the show wasn’t actually called Star Track. (This breakthrough came along with others the youth of my generation experienced – like that Speed Racer’s car wasn’t the powerful Mark Five, and the Partridges weren’t really a family.)
Then there were the slightly more impactful lessons (although, man – the Partridge Family thing was harsh…). I remember not understanding why once, when Captain Kirk was about to join everyone else on a planet where the plants made everybody really happy, he got all mad looking at an award he’d pulled out of his cabin safe. Why, I wondered, would seeing some medal break the spell, cause Kirk to call galactic “shenanigans” and end up saving the day? My other big brother Jack explained that the medal was a symbol of something he’d accomplished, and it made Kirk angry that he was about to walk away from the chance to accomplish more. Huh. I hadn’t thought of anything like that before – but I started looking for symbolism in the show and elsewhere from then on.
Star Trek even helped me see the world more clearly in a literal sense. During the series opening theme, my brothers and I used to call it the moment we saw the Enterprise emerge from that field of stars and streak across the screen. In fifth grade, when I started consistently coming in third in this contest, it turns out the boys weren’t cheating – I needed glasses (to complete the look I already had going with the braces…).
And sometimes Star Trek helped me see a different side of people. One of big brother Rich’s rougher-edged high school friends had promised me a Partridge Family poster. (I’d gotten over their being actors. Although I do still have trust issues. Coincidence? Hm…). After weeks of my excited anticipation, this guy presented me with a blank piece of white construction paper. “It’s the Partridge Family in a snowstorm,” he announced. “Get it?!” He must have overestimated the delight to be had in dashing the hopes of a nine-year-old because, soon after, he bestowed on me his prized collection of books about Star Trek. So he was sort of a kindred spirit after all – who would have thought?
My passion for better understanding Star Trek (fueled by devouring books like those) launched a lifetime of studying stories, characters and choices. Something I love about the sci-fi world is that the consequences of choices can be huge, and I find that so compelling.
I’ve also had a passionate crush on Captain Kirk all of my life. I have to own though that, while I gathered up more and more life lessons as I moved through childhood, some of the amorous Captain’s actions remained difficult for me – even with my new glasses – to quite make out. (Um, pun pretty much intended.) Like what was going on when one second Kirk was smelling the neck of a pretty, alien woman and the next he was sitting on the edge of a bed putting his boots back on? And what was Kirk going to explain to a teenager named Charlie before he seemed to be relieved to be interrupted? Well, life’s sweet mystery of the job requirements of a Captain’s Woman would, at last, be found – but not until much later.
Crushes aside, Star Trek was such an enduring part of my early years because it was an exciting show about the future that, as I was little by little able to grasp, was also commenting on life in my own time. The very best episodes could entertain and amuse as well as get me thinking about qualities and ideals to which a person could aspire: like being loyal; being inclusive; and being brave.
Good lessons, I think, wherever we happen to come by them.
So, yeah, I’ll admit to feeling sentimental – as well as next door to giddy – that my beloved Star Trek characters are back. Because it feels to me like old and very dear friends are coming to town for a visit – and I can hardly wait to catch up!
In the meantime, live long and – well, I expect you know the drill.
(“Amy’s Blog – Supplemental”: I intended to post this the night before the new movie opened, but I’ve instead been trying to cope with the sudden loss of the guy who schooled me about symbolism – and about jigsaw puzzle working, and photography, and boogie boarding and lots of other things that ultimately make me grateful to have known him. My brother Jack and I watched many a Star Trek episode together as kids, and I will look back with such great fondness on those times. As much as the series has been a source for bonding, entertaining and even teaching for me, turns out it also affords a bit of refuge in a time of sorrow. And that’s something I’m grateful for too.)