The only galaxy I’ve ever known was one that existed a long time ago, far far away.
As a child, I was a Star Wars devotee. I owned hundreds of action figures, scores of Micromachine replicas, and VHS tapes of the original series. I was a fan unlike few I knew at the time.
Of course, I have met others who surpassed me, writing fan fiction and attending conventions and talking to me about other sci-fi.
Namely, “Star Trek.”
I don’t know how I’ve ignored “Star Trek” for 20 years of my life. “The Next Generation” was on when I was growing up, and the original series was still on in syndication. I certainly had an interest in science fiction and television of the past. I had the time to watch it when I wasn’t thinking about boobs and robots punching each other. Even as I got older, I had an affinity for long running dramas and sci-fi. I watch a lot of television, and it’s not like I didn’t occasionally come across reruns of the original series or the multitude of spin-offs.
And it wasn’t like I wasn’t doing other cultish-nerdy things. My all time favorite show is the admittedly, overly complex, rarely cohesive and maddeningly frustrating “The X-Files.” I played tore through fantasy novels and sci-fi novels before graduating to cult reading like Burroughs and Thompson. I read H.P. Lovecraft religiously. I devoted about a year of my junior high life to playing “Starcraft” against Koreans and losing. I dip in and out of Batman comics and have maintained a passive interest in debating the validity of the works of Alan Moore (he’s an overrated lout).
Somehow, “Star Trek” just slipped through the cracks.
And then a funny thing happened. “Star Trek” became culturally relevant again.
A lot of this is because of J.J. Abrams, and not only in the most obvious of ways. The success of serialized TV that attracted a cult audience wasn’t his invention, but it harked back to the Trekkie ideal. So when he rebooted the franchise for a blockbuster film, it seemed only natural that not only would long time fans see the film, but anyone turned on by the new era of television would be interested in what was marketed as a fun, action packed, safely geeky movie.
And of course, I didn’t see it.
Like I said, if anything, my pop culture consuming past is one that is focused on completion. If I was going to see “Star Trek” I was going to have to revisit “Star Trek,” the mother and see how it all started. And frankly, I wasn’t that interested in going back to the source. I was a fan of the new age of science fiction, one that had keenly combined the ideas of social commentary, violence and technology in a digestible way that not only was entertaining, but was designed to hook audiences and continue to bring them back to a show week after week. I didn’t know if I was going to find that in a show that was nearly 45 years old.
But for no reason, all that has seemed to change.
I have suddenly developed more than just a passing interest in a show I have never watched. I want to watch it. I want to look at a show that inspired a cult that is still going strong. I want to see what made William Shatner a star. I want to see why Leonard Nimoy can just kind of show up on “Fringe.” I want to know who the fuck Sulu is.
So that’s where this comes along. I plan on writing about every episode of the first season of the original series, with continuing to the other seasons if it proves interesting. I’m walking into the series blind. However, this is a series that has sunk into the world of pop culture better than most series can ever hope to, and certain assumptions need to be made now about what I know walking in.
1. I have never watched an episode of “Star Trek,” watched an episode of any of the spin-offs of the series, or seen any of the movies, so most trivial details are totally unknown. I may have seen about 10 minutes of “Nemesis” once, but it could have been something else. I don’t know the ranks of any of the characters beyond Kirk, nor do I have any knowledge on how the ships or teleporters or any manor of other technology works.
2. I have only a basic understanding of the characters. I know that the ship is called the Enterprise and that Kirk is played by Shatner and is the captain. I know that Spock is a half (?) alien and is second and command and that he dies in “Wrath of Khan.” I’m pretty sure someone on board drinks regularly and that there is a robot named Data, but that might be a different series. Pretty much, I know what has seeped into the general pop-culture consciousness.
3. I know that there is a governing body that rules the galaxy or maybe just the humans. Phasers are used as weapons.
4. Someone once explained the Primary Directive to me and acted like this might make me interested in the show. I think the basics are that ships can’t influence developing civilizations and that humanity’s role is mainly as an observer.
5. There are shitloads of hammy Shakespeare references in most of the movies.
6. There are several species of aliens that are featured in the series but all I know of are the Vulcans and the Klingons. I know there is Borg, but I think that they don’t make an appearance until “The Next Generation.”
7. There are creatures known as Tribbles and they can be troublesome.
8. “The Big Bang Theory” has given me a working knowledge of Spock’s cool-headed rationalism, and I can only assume that he is used as a counter to brash action on the part of other characters.
9. I think the show follows a sort of “Twilight Zone”-everybody-learns-a-semi-topical-lesson logic, but that might be totally off base. I thought there were lessons learned, but I’m pretty sure there are still episodes solely focused on blowing shit up.
So what is this going to be? I’m not sure yet. I’ve become a big fan of serialized television of all kinds, so I can’t help but think that all of the posts are going to be me analyzing story and character development, but I don’t know if that’s quite fair to the series. I plan on looking at “Star Trek” critically, but knowing that it is a product of another time. Also, I really want to look at the series and try to find what drove people crazy for it. What is it about “Star Trek” that created culture’s most devoted and abiding fan base?
In the coming days, I will buy the box set. I will watch an episode. And this will all begin. I’m sure there is a quote I could use about courageously moving into unexplored territory that has never been analyzed by another person, but I am unable to think of what it might be.