My first introduction to Star Trek came from Saturday morning cartoons, Mego toys, and Aurora and AMT model kits. This was the mid-70’s. My folks had already introduced me to some SF via The Twilight Zone, Planet of the Apes, and Logan’s Run. But on Saturday mornings we’d watch Star Trek: the Animated Series, (TAS), (as well as the cartoon The Secret Life of Waldo Kitty which had an episode called “Cat Trek” where our eponymous hero fantasized he was Captain Kirk on a cat-shaped Enterprise!) On Christmases and birthdays I’d get Mego action figures and many a model kit, [the exploration set (with phaser, communicator and tricorder), the Enterprise, and the Enterprise bridge; all with those ridiculous wet and apply decals].
I don’t remember the exact date I started watching Star Trek: the Original Series, (TOS), it’s possible I started watching it in syndication after I saw Star Wars in ‘77. What I do know is that I ate it up! The Filmation series was cheesy, with its stilted animation, but TOS seemed deeper, more fantastic, and more real. I wanted to live on the Enterprise, or Space Station K7; fly a Galileo shuttlecraft; beam down to a strange new world...or to school and back. I wanted desperately to own a communicator--and 30+ years later I do, my cell phone, with built in (sorta) tricorder--as well as a Tribble or two, (kept separate, of course, lest their breeding overwhelm my meager bedroom). As much as I could, I turned my room into a starship bridge. I had a large poster of the Enterprise in cutaway view, (from ST: The Motion Picture), I pretended was a view screen; a vinyl chair with arms, that unfortunately didn’t swivel, that I pretended was my Captain’s chair. I drew computer panels and taped them to my desk. From there I would do what the opening narration commanded: explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no man has gone before! In my bedroom and, with my exploration set, in my backyard!
And boldly did I go!  I began my Human Adventure, I cried when Spock died, I rejoiced when he was reborn, I cheered for the whales George and Gracie and marveled at transparent aluminum. Before the movies and in between, I watched and re-watched--through the magic of syndication and VHS--all my favorite episodes, logging my watching by marking up my copy of A Star Trek Catalog. I Read the old adventures with the Bantam novelizations of TOS by James Blish and their fotonovels of favorite episodes; the Ballantine novelizations of TAS by Alan Dean Foster as well as poring over the Ballantine editions of the Starfleet Technical Manual and Medical Reference Manual, (I can never unsee Tellarite anatomy). After the movies, I devoured the Pocket Books original novels and movie novelizations. I was so obsessed with collecting all books Star Trek that when I began high school I offered to buy a ratty paperback copy of the first original Star Trek novel, Spock Must Die also by Blish, from my school’s librarian, (we made a deal instead: I would read the mammoth SF masterpiece Dune (at 412 pgs) and she would give me Spock Must Die when I finished; which I did almost a year later).
Middle and high school years proved to be times of trial for our young starship officer, but by channeling the stoicism of his favorite Vulcan, he made it through. Star Trek, (and SF in general), saved my life during those years because when you’re a shy, awkward, book nerd who’d rather keep his nose in a book than interact with anyone; who’s level of wit is quoting Douglas Adams, (“Listen, you semi-evolved simian, go climb a tree, will you?,” “Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can't like it."), who reacts to most bully’s pranks and humiliations by either raising an eyebrow or muttering “fascinating,” whose picture in his freshman year’s yearbook was himself wearing pointed ears and making a strange sign with his right hand, well, then, you better hope there’s a future, because your present is a level of hell Dante hadn’t even known about.
Star Trek was that future. I like to say that were it not for Adams, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, and Harlan Ellison, (who incidentally wrote one of the best known TOS episodes and one of my all time favorites “The City on the Edge of Forever”), I wouldn’t have made it through high school without becoming a statistic. Truth is, along with those literary figures, I wouldn’t have made it without Star Trek, either. Star Trek was hope. Star Trek told me that the future was bright and that we’d all get along and that space was full of wonder and excitement.
I still consider myself a “Trekkie.” I used to deny that appellation in favor of “Trekker,” (it was once considered derogatory to call trufanstm of Star Trek “Trekkies” back in the 80’s), but found that it seemed needlessly exclusive. And if there’s one thing Star Trek taught me it’s that we need to be more INclusive and less EXclusive. A lesson we still need now in the 21st Century. Happy 50th anniversary, Star Trek! Live Long and Prosper!


Kathy Wasserlein said...

Thank you for unabashedly being you!! Live long and prosper! The spice must flow!

Jim Childs said...

Star Trek's vision of a more open, less self-centered society has always resonated with me as well. "Live long and prosper." It never needed to be explained that it didn't mean material prosperity, nor at the expense of others.