“You know that Star Trek is just make believe”, my wifey told me, probably half joking, whilst I was taking a stroll down the memory lane watching all Star Trek TV show openings from YouTube. That comment was sacrilegious in itself, but as I love my wifey very much, I swallowed the snappy retort I was ready to make and let this slide like water off the duck’s back.
Ever since I was a wee boy doing my homework on my grandparents’ living room floor whilst waiting for my Thursday afternoon fix of Star Trek the Original Series, I have been a Trekkie. Even though I would consider myself to be more of a fantasy geek, I have always made an exception with Star Trek. For me, there has always been something meaningful with the message of a brighter future that the series portrays.
But little did I know, even though I thought myself to be quite knowledgeable about the Trek universe. I only last year learned that it wasn’t just Mr. Gene Roddenberry’s idea that was important for the show – he insisted on keeping Lt. Uhura on the bridge, but without Ms. Lucille Ball, the whole show would never have been made in the first place!
She and her production company, Desilu Productions, funded the first pilot (“the Cage”), and after it flopped, they funded the second pilot (“Where No Man Has Gone Before”) – and the rest is history.
If Lucille Ball was the mother of the show, Gene Roddenberry was definitely the father. It was, and still is, his vision that steered the Original Series, and he also steered the Next Generation until his untimely death. But his vision continued, and because of that, the message of hope still is there.
And because he kept his idea clear and kept Lt. Uhura as a main cast member, he paved way to black rights and equality so much so that Ms. Nichelle Nichols did good advertising for NASA during the 1970s, inspiring such people as Dr. Sally Ride (first female astronaut) and USAF Colonel Guion Bluford (first black female astronaut).
Back in the very early 1990s, when there really wasn’t much of an Internet in every home, there suddenly was a unverified rumour that Mr. William Shatner had died. So my classmate, who became a physics teacher because of his fascination with Star Trek, worked small miracles and got a landline number for Mr. Shatner’s secretary in Hollywood and made a call asking if these horrendous rumours were true. And we stood there, barely breathing, as our high school teachers were kind enough to allow this call to be made from the teachers’ lounge “as an English project.”
Obviously, as we all know, the rumours were not true, and we could continue breathing normally.
But what made the idea of Star Trek so appealing? Was it the macho attitude of Jim Kirk? Was it the adventures in exotic planets? Was it the futuristic technology – like the medical triage instruments that actually were Swedish modern salt and pepper cruets? Or was it the idea behind the whole show that carries on even today – together, we are stronger and should stand united.
Back in the 80s and 90s, it was an era of massive changes as the Iron Curtain fell, Berlin wall was broken, and then the Soviet Union became history. And now, several decades later, we are again facing adversity as there are wars and devastating natural phenomena. Back then, there was separation, and now Star Trek’s message of unity should be used to remind us to unite so that we can save our planet and be great on a planetary level.
Star Trek, for me, has always been about inclusion. Different people, different races, all living under one roof. Yet, growing up as a gay teenager, I felt like something was missing. There was no portrayal of LGBT people on any of the Star Trek shows – until Star Trek Discovery brought in Lt. Stamets and Dr. Culber, a gay couple! And the scared, lonely gay teenager inside me was overjoyed! Finally, the future world I had been hoping for was truly here.
And not just that, Discovery has been groundbreaking by introducing a non-binary character, played by a brilliant non-binary actor Blu del Barrio, and also a trangender character, played by a transgender actor, Ian Alexander, who also is the first out transgender Asian-American actor on TV!
Even though I am personally very, very happy to see the inclusiveness taken to a whole new level by this, what matters to me more is that their plot lines are not as supporting cast members. Each character is a main cast character, and this, for me, portrays the future as more hopeful than anything I have seen in ages.
Back in the 1990s, I used to record every Star Trek the Next Generation episode on VHS. It was a weekly chore I did gladly, and I would even try to arrange all my music classes so I wouldn’t miss an episode. And then I would watch and rewatch the episodes alone or with my friends – and that would be almost the only time ever that I would dissect the episodes we had just watched, and be overly technical about the stuff. So, really, really, geek.
And now, roughly 30 years later, the Star Trek: Picard brings closure to one part of my Star Trek history. It makes me feel nostalgic as I grew up with these characters, and now knowing that they are going to be there for the final time, it feels like reading the final chapter of a really good book. The ending of the Lord of the Rings comes to mind.
But is this the end? Definitely not! There is plenty more to explore and to draw optimism from.
Maybe one day I will be the first president of the United Earth, who knows. But one thing I know for sure is that there is always a need for those who go there to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.
In the current, turbulent times of the 2020s, we definitely need those people whose vision brings us all a better future. Those who will not give in at the face of adversity but to fight for the brighter tomorrow.
In the words of a legendary Vulcan: “Live Long And Prosper.” 🖖🏼
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