Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 5: Oh, and I'm also a Trekkie

Yesterday I told you about my love for the British TV show Doctor Who. Today I'd like to tell you about another favorite show of mine, called "Star Trek". 

Everyone knows the history. It started almost 50 years ago, back in 1966. Every episode began with the words "Space: the final frontier....these are the voyages of the starship...Enterprise....", and thousands of people, millions perhaps, have been fans ever since. I was not lucky enough to have been born when it was new and first broadcast on television, but as I grew up, Captain Kirk, Spock, Scotty, Uhura, Checkov, Sulu, and the rest of the cast became a part of my life as I watched the reruns. They made several movies, starting with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"; I mean, that goes to show you how big Star Trek was, even back then, as they were able to get away with using that  as a title. No fluff, no attention grabbing drama, no "we're going to encounter a big huge alien object that eats everything in its path", nothing, just, "The Motion Picture". Pretty amazing, if I say so myself.  But I digress. Every one of the movies lived up to the show's penchant for drama, amazing aliens, cliffhangers, comedy, I mean this "sci-fi" label just doesn't cover what this franchise is all about. 

There have been 5 spinoffs of the original show since it ended in 1969, and with the exception of the animated series, I have seen just about every episode of every one of them. Well, ok, not "Enterprise", that one went off the deep end after the first season or two, and I lost interest. It was supposed to be a prequel, telling the story of the captain of the very first Enterprise starship to leave earth orbit and start exploring the cosmos, but it fell flat on a lot of key "Star Trek" ideas that people had become accustomed to, and in my opinion, was a lot of times pretty boring to watch. If I had to pick a favorite of the spinoffs, I'd have to say it was Next Generation. I really liked the character "Data", who was an android who aspired to be human. Like Spock, in the original series, who was a Vulcan and therefore was not supposed to have  emotions (which of course he did, and showed it more often than the human characters at times), Data, being a machine, did not have emotions, but in his exploration of them, and in his observations and subsequent attempts at mimicking the humans, he really showed how emotional and "human" he really was. 

Actually, you know what? I can say there are aspects of just about every single (main) character on every single Star Trek series that I found appealing. For example, Worf, the poster child of what it is to be a Klingon, honor, duty, and above all, the consummate warrior, with his proclamation of "perhaps today IS a good day to die!", and Geordi, with his "VISOR", he could see things in a way no human could, but would have rather given anything to have normal eyes. Deanna Troi, half Betazed, who could sense emotions in others, but was oftentimes overwhelmed by her own. Captain Picard, the ever stalwart leader, diplomat, and warrior in his own right, who, in his own mind, was just as unsure and in need of others to help him as the rest of the crew. Riker, second in command, but always "Number one" to Captain Picard, always wanted to sit in the "big chair", but never could find it in himself to leave the Enterprise and those he cared about, because what he really wanted was to wait until it was his turn to command the Enterprise, because he understood how special that ship and crew really were. Or how about Quark, of Deep Space Nine, the Ferengi who was by nature always driven to make a profit, but who often knew when duty and friendship were more important. Or Captain Sisko, at first reluctant to take command of the station orbiting such a remote and war torn planet, who ended up instead becoming that planet's fiercest advocate, and indeed fought for Bajor as if it was his own home. Or how about Flox, from "Enterprise", arguably the most intelligent and learned man on board, who diligently went about his duties, never looking down on anyone for their mistakes, never giving away the spoilers, but allowing his crew mates to have the experiences he knew would enrich their lives. From "Voyager", Harry Kim, an ensign on his first assignment, suddenly finding himself 70,000 light years from home, we get to see what true homesickness is all about. Or the Talaxian "Neelix", a refugee taken in by the crew, trying to find a way to fit in. 

And don't forget about the villians. The Cardassians, the Borg, the Romulans, Species 8472, the Klingons (enemies in the first series, fragile friends in all the others), each and every one of them showed us what the darker side of our own humanity could be like if taken to extremes. One of my favorite villians is the Borg Queen, who shows us that there is a certain logic to a "collective consciousness" form of existence. But, we also see that using that collective consciousness to feed the lust for more technology and power as a singular goal is shortsighted at best, disastrous at worst. Taking away the individuality of the members of that collective is, more often than not, much to the detriment of the collective as a whole. 

So many characters, so many stories, they were all so wonderfully written, and the amazing performances by the actors who played them really brought them to life.

If I had to pick just one favorite, the one character that is head and shoulders above the rest in my own personal opinion, then without a doubt it would have to be "Q". Here's a being who can literally do anything he wishes, he has power over space, matter, and time, and uses that power quite often for his own amusement, toying with any and all beings he sees as lower than himself, which is pretty much all of them. However, many times, he appeared when he felt there was a lesson to be learned, a warning to be given, and while the humans saw him as a force to be very cautious of, and most often, one who was untrustworthy, I never really saw him as a "villian". To me, he represents what we ourselves may one day become, although, hopefully, without such a penchant for amusing ourselves at the expense of those less "evolved" than us. In another way I think, yes, he is meant to portray what we might consider to be a "god", but yet, even he is really nothing more than another entity who inhabits this vast universe, more powerful than any others, granted, but still, not exactly  a "god". Perhaps his character was meant as a stab at organized religion? Interesting thought, don't you think? What if our "gods" are indeed just like this "Q"? Not "gods" at all, but merely another type of lifeform, beings that just so happen to be higher on the "evolutionary scale" than we are.........

THAT is the magic of Star Trek, each episode, each character, each story, they make us pause for a second, they make us think, they make us consider the possibilities; they show us all the different aspects of our own personalities, all the while entertaining us with amazing special effects, laughter, suspense, and oh so many emotions.

A few years ago, the series was yet again "relaunched" with the making of the movie aptly named "Star Trek". It was the story of how Captain Kirk and the rest of his companions first became the crew of the Enterprise, but it was set in a completely different timeline from what the original series had portrayed. It had all the very familiar aspects of the original Star Trek series, and the catchphrases and nuances of the original series' characters, but it was a completely different story than anything we had ever seen before. And it was wonderful. I have watched that movie 6 or 7 times this year alone, it's that good. The new actors reprising some very iconic roles had HUGE shoes to fill, and they all did it, incredibly well. You don't have to have even heard  of the original series, or know anything at all about Star Trek to love that movie. J.J Abrams is the man. One of the best directors, ever. And now I find out that they are in the process of making another  movie, called "Star Trek: Into Darkness", I can't wait to see what he brings us next!

They just keep going, those voyages of the Enterprise, into our possible future, because that's what it was, in the beginning, a voyage into our imaginations, of what MIGHT be, what COULD be, and above all, it let us explore what it is that we hope that we WILL be someday.......not just in how far we go, or what species we meet, but in how we can grow and learn to become more than what we are, or, as Captain Picard put it, "material gain is no longer the driving force in our lives........we strive to better ourselves, and all of humanity".

Yes, I'm definitely a fan of Star Trek, it's great entertainment, of course, but there's another reason. Because I believe that if we can imagine a better world, we will inevitably create it. The more Star Trek we make, the more we imagine how our future could be, the more we will make it happen. Remember the "communicators" from the original series? You know, that thing Kirk always talked into when he wanted Scotty to "beam" him up? Yeah, that. 

The cell phone you hold in your hand today, and could not live without, was inspired by that fictional "communicator" device.

I'd like to leave you with some of the final words of Captain Kirk as captain of the Enterprise...........

" them, and our posterity, will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun...boldly going where no man, where no ONE, has gone before....."

1 comment:

  1. >>Yes, I'm definitely a fan of Star Trek, it's great entertainment, of course, but there's another reason. Because I believe that if we can imagine a better world, we will inevitably create it.<< For me personally, you've definitely summed up the Star Trek multiverse in this statement; it's all about creating a better world unfolding from the depths of cosmic imagination and wonder.