Becoming a Trekkie
Though I grew up watching and enjoying Star Trek in reruns, I did not become an obsessive fan until I was 11-years-old. Until that point, my loyalties rested primarily with Star Wars.
By 1986, however, the Star Wars film franchise had already started a self-induced coma from which it would not emerge for over a decade. In December of that year, my brother took me to Ridge Cinema to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – or “the one with the whales” as it has come to be called by the general public.
My first exposure in a theater to Star Trek had been Star Trek III: The Search For Spock in June 1984. While I liked The Search For Spock and spent the rest of the summer doodling pictures of the refit version of the USS Enterprise, The Voyage Home took things to an entire other level for me.
Leonard Nimoy (Spock) helmed both The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, but I consider The Voyage Home and 1987’s non-Trek Three Men and a Baby to be his directorial masterpieces. It turned out that the man best known for playing a stoic Vulcan had a flair for directing comedy.
By the end of The Voyage Home, I was hooked and wanted to know everything I could about Star Trek. I checked out all kinds of books from the library, such as The Making of Star Trek by Stephen E. Whitfield and The World of Star Trek by David Gerrold. The first gave a behind-the-scenes look at the first two seasons of the TV series, while the second examined the TV series and the first three movies.
I also began a Star Trek library of my own, initially consisting of various paperback entries from the Pocket Books novel series. One of the earliest I read was Dreadnought! by Diane Carey. Carey went on to write one of my all-time favorite Star Trek novels, Best Destiny.
While Star Wars provided a fantastic universe that I enjoyed exploring via action figures (“Star Wars men” back then), the universe of Star Trek seemed like it could be real – given enough time and effort.
I was growing up, and with Star Wars starting to fade into the background, Star Trek seemed like the next logical step for me – pardon the pun. While there is sometimes a rivalry among these two franchises, I love them both.
I hopped aboard Star Trek as an ardent fan right before everything changed. To this point, Star Trek consisted of the 79 episodes of the 1966-1969 TV series, 22 episodes of a 1973-1974 animated series, and 4 1979-1986 movies. All of these essentially focused on the same central characters and cast.
In the fall of 1987, a new television series hit the syndicated airwaves, Star Trek: The Next Generation, featuring a new crew aboard a new Enterprise approximately 80 years after Captain James T. Kirk’s adventures. I initially hated the new show, but that is a story for another day.
Including The Next Generation, an eventual 4 spinoff series of new captains and crews meant that “Star Trek” in some form aired new installments on TV continuously between 1987 and 2005 – adding an astounding 622 more episodes. Meanwhile, the original cast concluded its run with films in 1989 and 1991, and The Next Generation cast added four more movies between 1994 and 2002.
I go down this convoluted path only to point out that I came at the very end of the generation that knew Star Trek in simpler times, when it was only the adventures of Kirk, Spock, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and others aboard the USS Enterprise.
For me, Star Trek was always about that basic premise, and the various spinoffs, though sometimes interesting, distracted from what should have remained the focus.
In recent years, Star Trek finally regained its focal point by returning to the original characters through an “alternate universe” presented in Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), movies that reinvigorated the weary franchise.
In retrospect, it only makes sense. Who else could save Star Trek but Kirk, Spock, and the gang? Next year, which marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of the original TV series, they return again in Star Trek Beyond, currently scheduled to hit theaters on July 8.
All of these years later, no matter if enjoying the “prime” or the alternate universes, why do I still love Star Trek?
When Star Trek is at its most inspiring and entertaining, the characters are the foundation. The dramatic triangle of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy gives Star Trek its spirit. Kirk, the decision-maker, seeks counsel from Spock, representing reason, and McCoy, representing passion. In a sense, his two closest friends symbolize Kirk’s own dual nature – indeed, the same dual nature that battles within all of us.
As captain, Kirk is the core of Star Trek, and his “risk is our business” philosophy underscores the entire series. So often he demonstrates the loneliness of command, yet never allows it to consume him.
When the Enterprise is forced into battle, his tactical combat strategies are thrilling. After outmaneuvering an enemy, however, he shows compassion and attempts to refuse the final kill. After besting him in a hand-to-hand fight, for instance, he even tries to save the Klingon who ordered the murder of his son.
Almost a character herself, the Enterprise provides verisimilitude to Star Trek. The exterior and interior designs of the starship all seem quite plausible, given the right levels of technology. She is Kirk’s one true love.
If space embodies our dreams, then the Enterprise represents our ingenuities necessary for accomplishing those dreams.
The orchestral music of Star Trek serves as the perfect companion when exploring the universe and the human condition. The scores of Alexander Courage, Fred Steiner, and Gerald Fried on the TV series are unparalleled, while James Horner’s soundtracks for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock remain the pinnacle of Star Trek’s film music.
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“It was fun,” was how Kirk ultimately summed up his life, and that simple statement sums up Star Trek for me as well as any other.
2015 has unfortunately marked the loss of many contributors to the Star Trek legacy, and I would be remiss to complete this post without mentioning some of them here. My condolences to their family and friends. Their art endures.
- Harve Bennett (August 17, 1930—February 25, 2015) Producer & Writer—Star Trek II, III, IV, & V
- Leonard Nimoy (March 26, 1931—February 27, 2015) “Spock” | Director—Star Trek III & IV | Writer—Star Trek IV & VI | Producer, Star Trek VI
- Grace Lee Whitney (April 1, 1930—May 1, 2015) “Janice Rand”
- James Horner (August 14, 1953—June 22, 2015) Composer—Star Trek II & III