Some of you might say, “what’s the big deal?”. Yeah I know. Heard it before. Just a show. You’re a dork or whatever the slang term of the day might be. I get it. But I don’t think you do.
Star Trek has a lot of meaning to me beyond the obvious love for fantasy and imaginative story telling. I have always been drawn to the fantastic as entertainment. The notion of different possibilities removed from the reality of my own little world. It isn’t even this global vision of a peaceful world untroubled by money, crime or poverty. I find that notion even harder to believe in than Klingons. What I found in Star Trek as a very young child, was a very real window on the world in which I was living. Before she passed away, my grandmother introduced me to Star Trek at a very young age. She thought the guy with the pointy ears was a cutie. I vividly recall sitting on her living room floor while she rocked peacefully in her Laz-e-boy, smoking her Tarington cigarettes. Every time a different alien would appear on screen I would ask “what is that? Who is that?”. At one point early on in this afternoon ritual, the beautiful Nichelle Nichols made an appearance on screen and at the tender age of 7 I asked “What sort of alien is that?”. I had not had much experience with people of color at that young age. I think it might have been an awkward moment for her, explaining that this wasn’t an alien but a human being like myself. Even at 7 years old, I learned a lot about the world I was living in.
Like those characters on that prematurely cancelled TV show, boldly going across the galaxy exploring strange new worlds, I started at a very young age, boldly going, exploring my own life in much the same way. Think about it, how many first contacts have each of us made, exploring our own little corner of the universe? Those earliest memories of Star Trek spur me forward each day. My devotion to a simple television show truly set me on the path I walk today. Phasers, warp speed, transporters all played a role in my passionate exploration of the creative. While in one important sense, Star Wars trumps Star Trek in my psyche – I find the dirty, “broken” Star Wars universe much easier to accept than the sanitized, hopeful and all inclusive Trek universe, just as the machines realized in the Matrix movies. If it’s too perfect, we won’t accept it. But where Star Trek trumps Star Wars every time, I sum up in a statement writer/director Nicholas Meyer said in an interview. During filming, Meyer was interviewed about the release of The Undiscovered Country, touted to be the last big screen adventure for the original cast. When asked why Star Trek had such enduring appeal, and why it had survived for what was then 25 years (TUC released during the 25th anniversary of Star Trek) Meyer said two things about Star Trek that resonate with me strongly. First, he said “[Star] Trek doesn’t really show us other worlds so well or so effectively as it shows us our own.” But he also commented that it was those people; Those actors bringing life to those characters that resonated so strongly with the fans. They were family. When asked what it was about them that made them so special to people, he replied. “They have one intergalactic quality in abundance: Charm.” That really summed it up for me, what Star Trek meant to me. You might not understand. Let me explain it like this. Growing up, I never wanted to be Captain Kirk or Mr. Spock. I wanted to be with them. One of them. That speaks volumes if you can understand it. Happy Anniversary Star Trek. You really have changed my life. Also, you will always be a year older than me. Just throwing that out there. Oh! One more little ditty. In November of 1991, I went with my good friend Dave to a Star Trek convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a short two hour drive from home. It was a fantastic event with many wonderful guest speakers. Among those guest speakers was the lovely Nichelle Nichols.
One of the events held at this event was a dinner theater style meet and greet and mini-stage ensemble of the guest speakers. There was an extra fee but we paid it and went to meet our heroes. During dinner, the stars came around the room and actually engaged the fans in conversation. Yes, she came to our table. I stood up, shook her hand and spoke with her one on one for several minutes. We talked about Trek and its effect on me and very briefly about other things. She gave me the slightest hug and the warmest smile. Dave took a photo of the two of us together using an old, first gen digital camera I had at the time. That camera and all the photos on it are long gone. I don’t have a copy of the photo of Nichelle and I. That is my biggest Trek disappointment. But it is also one of my very fondest memories.