I’ve had Star Trek (TOS) be a part of my life since 1967. I was in elementary school at the time. Though I didn’t quite latch on to the series when it started, by the end of the first season I was hooked. Who knew that 42 years later, I’d still be talking about it?
Though I’d seen the series since it started (this is the ’60s: one TV, three networks — you watched what dad watched), the clearest memory I have was when “Errand of Mercy” aired. I watched it while building phasers and communicators with my Erector set (the old type). Obviously I’d been hooked before then as I’d already been building those props for a while before.
As the series progressed, I changed schools and found a kindred spirit. We’d walk home just about every day and pretend to be the characters. It often took some negotiation, but I got to be Spock more often than not. It was sort of our own little The Big Bang Theory of early fandom. (I should probably mention that my friend was a girl. To me, women have always loomed large in the Trek world. The idea some have that it’s mostly male never made much sense to me.)
Junior High in the early/mid 70s put me in contact with many kindred souls. In 8th grade, we even managed to find a faculty sponsor for what we called the “Phenomena Club”. We’d meet in the library and talk about Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, special effects make-up, props, and other things that are now a little less “weird” than they were back then. Chris* and I painted a mural on the library’s back windows…Star Trek themed, of course.
Somewhere around this time, my mother (the vanquisher of clutter) tossed out my tribbles. I KNOW! I couldn’t believe it, either. She said that they were just lying on the floor. Well…that’s what tribbles do (at least neutered tribbles). Needless to say they were quickly retrieved, consoled, and are still under my protection.
Chris and I even got to attend the first “August Party”, a fan-only convention, at the University of Maryland. Being young and still a Trekkie-level sort of fan, I came adorned with “official” insignia and an IDIC that were gotten via Star Trek Enterprises (a/k/a Lincoln Enterprises). There were things to buy (I got a commemorative coin and some photos), people to talk to, and panels to attend. It’s also here that I was first introduced to stories that fans had written up themselves and then copied, stapled, and had available in the “Huckster Room”. Yup, you want to see where my love of fan fiction (fanfic) comes from, well, it started here.
Years later, when I was a freshman at the University of Maryland, I joined the Maryland Star Trek Association (MSTA, pronounced MISS-ta)…the August Party people. At this point, the leadership had changed, but it was no less enthusiastic. Equivalent numbers of men and women with a common passion—not unlike what I’d known in elementary school. And it’s lots of fun putting on a multi-day convention, too.
When I was with MSTA, one of the most anticipated events was the premiere of Star Trek – The Motion Picture (TMP). Anything new that was Trek had been lobbied for for about as long as I can remember (it was a frequent topic of conversation at the first August Party). Now the day was here and…I was disappointed. The movie was dull, plodding, and the acting from the vets left much to be desired. I felt like such a grinch with the MSTA crowd because I only gave it a 2-out-of-4 star rating. Even so, I think I still have one of the theater’s posters and a swatch of red carpet around here somewhere.
I thought some of the concepts were cool, but the execution was lacking. Too much time was spent showing off the special effects, and too little effort had been devoted to presenting the story. (I thought the novelization was much better.)
I had to admit, at that point I was starting to feel some of the air go out of the Star Trek tires. But, before I could get too down-in-the-mouth about it, along came Star Trek II – The Wrath of Khan (WoK). Wow. This is what we’d been wanting. This is what we’d been asking for. Now it looked like there was some life in the ol’ franchise.
Obviously the series have had their impact on me as well. Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) sort of stumbled out of the blocks that first season, though once we started having Klingon episodes, it picked up. Throwing the Romulans at us at the end of Season 1 (and even hinting at the upcoming Borg) truly made this a series worth watching.
Oddly, it’s not my favorite of the series. Though it had its problems, I think the most satisfying of the series as a whole for me was Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9). It was closer to science fiction than the space opera the other series were. Despite some of the silliness, that’s what made it satisfying. Well, that and Terry Ferrell’s Jadzia Dax.
I wanted to like Star Trek: Voyager (VOY) when it started, but it stumbled badly with the Kazon. Enterprise (ENT)—later Star Trek: Enterprise—likewise got bogged down with their journey into “The Expanse”. And yet, I still watch reruns of these series. Why? Relationships.
The key to Trek has always been about the relationships. The dynamics between different cultures/species/genders has always been the sparkly glue that holds each of the series together.
Obviously with VOY, that glue was the Janeway/Seven dynamic. It was sort of a mother/teen-daughter struggle and bonding that we’d never seen before. With ENT, it was T’Pol’s relationship with both Archer and Trip. In DS9, Dax and anyone, as well as Worf and anyone. In TNG, it was again Worf and anyone as well as Picard and his duty. With TOS…many think it was a triangle of Kirk/Spock/McCoy, but I also think there was another triangle of Kirk/Scotty/Enterprise (my, those two men loved that ship).
So now, a new movie: Star Trek is coming out. The advance reviews have been amazingly glowing. To many reviewers, this is the best thing since live “qagh” (a Klingon delicacy). I’ll confess, the trailer has left me a bit cool, but mostly due to the special effects. Maybe I’m old, maybe I’ve seen too many CGI/FX-laden movies, but I’m minding that the hyper-realism has gotten to be distracting (and too often the physics is subtly off by just enough that I can tell that it’s off). I start focusing on the technique, on the large number of polygons, and all that other techie stuff. It draws me out of the film (or the trailer, in this case).
Still…who knows? It might be the new qagh. Can’t be any worse than the fifth movie.
I think it fair to say that whether the franchise is up or it’s down, I’m a Fan For Life. While I’ve been with various fandoms, Star Trek is my foundation. My good memories of what it’s like to be a fan and joining in on the wild ride that is a fictional universe comes from what being a fan of Star Trek has given me.
And though not specifically Trek, some much-enjoyed memories from The Big Bang Theory: