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Why Star Trek Matters — At Least To Me

A small boy discovered better days were ahead

While I’m just old enough to have seen “Star Trek” when it first aired on NBC, it was in syndication that I first learned to love the crew of the Enterprise.

Lucky, I lived in the Detroit area, which as it happened was one of the first cities to re-air the show in syndication. It aired endlessly for years when I was in grade school (as I suppose it’s done ever since).

At the time, I was a smart, sickly kid with sheet-white hair and a dad who was a cop (like Gene Roddenberry himself). None of those things endeared me to my classmates, and I was often bullied. While eventually I’d grow into quite a stout man, at the time I took several beatings. “Star Trek,” with it’s dual heroes Kirk and Spock, and optimistic view of the future, gave me a way of coping.

In Kirk I had as a role model a man of action, popular and powerful, but not one to abuse that power. In Spock I could see another outcast, one that used the (then) novel idea of logic as means of personal philosophy. Their friendship showed me that those two wildly different arch-types could not only work together, they could be best of friends.

Essentially, the two of them amounted to the ancient Greek ideal of “strong mind, strong body,” a notion that a person could (should) be both strong and smart. Friendship, strength, smarts and of course that amazing vision of the future, all let a small boy understand that better days were ahead — which of course they were.

As an adult, those lessons “Star Trek” provided are now not needed — after all, I am in some ways the product of them. Like the thousands of kids who would one day become doctors, scientists, engineers, “Star Trek” shaped not only my personal mores, but my future professional life.

But, unlike the scientists and the like, I didn’t try to emulate the actual characters’ jobs, but rather tried to figure out exactly how the writers, producers and directors made such a powerful show in what was in retrospect a tiny, old studio space owned by Lucille Ball. I didn’t care about inventing a phaser or tricorder, but rather wanted to know who made them for the show — what were they made of? Who made all those ships? How did they come up with the stories?

So fast forward 30 some odd years later and I’m still watching “‘Stagecoach’ to the stars,” and all of the various spinoffs, both because they provide great stories and because the link to the past — both mine and the society of geekdom “Star Trek” helped spawn (of which I am a proud member).

It’s in that loving spirit that I hope to write upcoming articles about the many facets of Star Trek. From the very real world impact it’s had, to the simple joy of chomping on popcorn while watching a space battle, Star Trek has a nearly endless appeal. At least it still does for me.

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