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10 Real-Life Values Mined From Star Trek

John Kirk joins 1701News and examines the merits of fandom

Trek fans often get beaten with the short end of the warp coil when it comes to justifying their love of Star Trek. However, what non-Trek fans don’t get is the real-life values that are transferred with an appreciation of this universe created by Gene Roddenberry. Okay, maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but there is a definite underlying pseudo-philosophy that one can ascertain, and here are a few examples that illustrate why being a Star Trek fan can actually be good for you.

No. 10: You will never be at a loss for a Halloween costume

When you consider the diverse amount of lifeforms, occupations and other characters that make up the population of the Star Trek universe, there is a tremendous amount of material to inspire your choice of trick-or-treating outfits. Imagine arriving at someone’s doorstep, pillowcase in hand, dressed as a member of the Gorn Confederacy. Instead of chocolates, you might wind up with a sampling from your neighbor’s barbecue. Hey, stranger things have happened.

Of course, dressed as a Klingon warrior, complete with bat’leth, disruptor and full combat armor could be a little disconcerting. Spraying spittle and phlegm might also be a tad offensive as you demand treats from the Halloween participants on your street. Uttering death threats and claiming that “today IS a good day to die” could also get in the way of enjoying the season, but at least you will never be caught without something imaginative to wear for the holiday!

No. 9: Seeking out new meals and new civilizations …

One of the great values of Star Trek is the spirit of exploration. Walking down a new street or discovering a shortcut to a destination is a simple joy in life that often gets overlooked because of the need for expediency or a lack of time. In Star Trek, the crew of the Enterprise has nothing else to do with its time BUT walk a new path and discover strange new things in our galaxy.

Look at the USS Voyager -- lost on the other side of the galaxy, they have an entire department devoted to finding a new path that will eventually take them home, even if that means flying through Borg-infested space. To the crew of the NX-01, every course plotted was one out of endeavor and … Enterprise.

It’s not like every trip has to begin with the words: “Captain’s log …," but there is a real joy in discovering a new pizza joint or a new shortcut. Yeah, yeah -- you haven’t discovered an abandoned Cardassian starbase or initiated extensive Starfleet protocol procedures like scanning for life-forms with your cellphone or slowing your SUV to sublight, but it still allows you to experience -- and appreciate -- that same spirit of discovery that’s in every iteration of Star Trek. That affords Star Trek fans with a slightly smug sense of satisfaction.

No. 8: Charm and Poise 101 … or 1701

Cocktails with conquering tyrants, welcoming diplomatic attachés to a secret interstellar meeting point or even wooing Christian visionaries who would affect the course of time -- if there was a social situation that required a delicate Starfleet touch, Capt. James T. Kirk, as well as other Starfleet officers, were up for the job. Insecure fans watched Kirk talk to women with confidence; aspiring fans watched Picard’s panache with first encounters; and reckless ones observed Sisko’s cool approach to deadly, tactical scenarios. What’s more, millions of Star Trek fans watched ... and learned.

Here’s one: Have you ever experienced that awkward meeting at the office social with someone who you have to work with but both know you don’t like each other? How do you share a forced drink with someone like this? If you were Kirk, you begin by allowing the other person to begin the conversation. You would wait, a slow, lazy smile would slowly creep across your face and you would allow the other person to talk and give himself away. Remember Khan? It worked with him. Kirk’s calm demeanor totally unnerved Khan and completely gave himself -- and his plans --away. Imagine if you could get someone to completely unload their ideas for the Gottlieb account? The next day, you totally ace the account and your rival is now wondering why your game just got upgraded.

Sisko did the same thing. He left his priceless antique collectible baseball in his office when Gul Dukat occupied DS9. Why? Because he wanted to send a message: He’ll be back. Cool, collected and methodical: THAT’S the way you tell your opponent that he may have the upper hand now, but the game’s not over.

Speaking to that person you find attractive is obviously a little awkward. You need an opening line, like, “Have you ever looked up at the stars?” How about agreeing with her perspective on the eventual outcome of the future of mankind? There are a number of ways to start a conversation and Kirk showed us how to do it.

Picard even figured out how to talk to someone in metaphor. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to engage in a first meeting with some people in a literal sense, but Picard was able to look beyond the difficulty in communication and figure out how to talk to that person. Moreover, he was able to do it with poetic style and heroic posture: probably all that grand, Shakespearean tradition, but damn it, what a role model and what a lesson.

No. 7: Kirk-Fu … lessons in self-defense

You ever tried the double-fisted back chop? Or what about the drop-kick? Come on, didn’t you ever feel empowered because you knew that the best defense was a good offense? All of the captains knew this. In fact, if you looked at Picard’s younger life, this was a guy who knew that you don’t back down -- even from a pack of drunk and ready-to-fight Naausicans. Of course, it got him a dagger in the heart, but the point is, you take the fight to the foe, however you can.

Kirk never let the size of his opponent ever get in the way of putting up a good fight. The Gorn was a savage, over-sized carnivorous lizard that not only out-muscled him but also out-toothed him. Let’s face it -- the Metrons were fully expecting Kirk to fail, destroy both starships and teach inferior species a lesson about senseless violence. It wasn’t until Kirk took the fight to the “superior” species and then decided to be merciful that the Metrons learned an essential lesson about the resilience of the human species. If an advanced species like the Metron can learn something new about the value of old-fashioned personal combat, then shouldn’t you?

Yeah, we’re an advanced type of person in the 21st century, but even Kirk and the Metrons can teach us the value of never backing down from a fight, IF the cause is just. Can we do any less than follow their examples?

Even if you can’t launch yourself into a flying dropkick, just launch yourself into the fight.

No. 6: Shakespeare for all centuries …

Remember “The Conscience of the King”? The first indication of the relationship between Star Trek and classical theater introduced millions of TV viewers to Shakespearean drama. Of course, William Shatner had a classical theater background with his stint at the Stratford Theatre in Stratford, Ontario. But we can also see echoes of it show up in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" when a Klingon -- played by Christopher Plummer, another Stratford Theatre alumnus -- informed us that Shakespeare was best portrayed in original Klingon.

High theater is an essential part of Star Trek. Most of the actors who have played the most memorable roles hail from a classical theater background. In fact, Patrick Stewart claimed that the experience he got working with 400-year-old text allowed him to develop the credibility to make science-fiction and fantasy believable. In return, that access to high talent allows Star Trek fans to properly interpret quality theatrical performances and refines their tastes and perceptions.

Star Trek fans become cultured. Neat, huh?

No. 5: 'The Ultimate Computer' … well, yours isn’t

Star Trek fans never fear technology. There is a ready willingness to embrace the newest and most-updated version of, well, whatever is popular and current. Being exposed to advanced technology that transferred itself from the realm of science fiction to the real world gave Star Trek fans a sense of comfort and familiarity with things like cellphones, tablets, robots, advanced networked computers, role-playing game simulations and hybrid fueled vehicles.

That’s right -- while the rest of the world is complaining about backward operating systems, hacked customer records or re-called automobiles, Star Trek fans are nestled comfortably in a warm blanket of smug security about their instantaneous ability to switch passwords with ease (how many of you use the USS Reliant’s prefix code as a PIN? Hmm?) or navigate the customer service system of your cellphone provider to update to the newest smartphone with complete confidence.

If anything, Star Trek has taught its loyal followers that technology may not be perfect … now, but it will eventually get to the point where it will become flawless. The trick is to approach it with a spirit of optimism and complete confidence. Technology is to be mastered … not bitched about.

No. 4: Emotion affects efficiency

Okay … the obvious aside, even the most woefully Trek-ignorant know about Vulcans eschewing emotion in favor of their pursuit of logic. This is the secret to their race’s advancement and what sets Mr. Spock apart from the rest of the crew on Star Trek.

However, what fans know is that Vulcans aren’t emotionless; they just use various disciplines to suppress their emotionality in order to achieve maximum efficiency, intellect and awareness. In fact, if there was a human trait they could be rightly accused of, it would be blatant curiosity, even in the face of obvious danger.

Vulcans understand that making decisions based on emotional reasoning leads to mistakes, can cause misunderstandings and gets in the way of sensible, sound choices of action. Look at Spock’s willingness to sacrifice himself for the crew of the Enterprise in "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan." The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, right?

Star Trek fans are able to make good decisions -- or should be able to -- or at least have been exposed to the ability to make those types of decisions. However, they are also aware that emotions have their place. While not to say that Star Trek fans transform (whoops -- wrong milieu) themselves into soulless automatons, they know that in times of need, it's faster to weigh the pros and cons of a given situation and make a decision that would benefit the most or provide the greater advantage to all concerned at the right moment.

So the next time you’re faced with the prospect of running that yellow light to make it through the intersection, consider the following:

--Anyone else going for the light?

--Any cops around?

--Check for pedestrians.

--Gun it.

It’s a Star Trek thing.

No. 3: Resistance is not futile

Oh, the Borg. The Borg are the ultimate representation of the overwhelming force all of us have to face in some sort of shape. They are virtually unbeatable, are adaptable to anything Starfleet throws at them and for some reason, they want to assimilate humanity and all of its alien allies. Creepy to be assaulted by a guy dressed in PVC tubing and rubber, isn’t it?

Still, the resistance the Federation mounts against this overwhelming threat is a great story, but the underlying message is that if you can’t beat them the obvious ways, then be creative in your problem solving. Phasers won’t work, so plant a subconscious program into their collective programming routine and send them to sleep. Classic Trek attitude.

So think about that bully down the street. If he’s facing a young Star Trek fan (who failed with the dropkick) then he’d better worry about the fact that while he was chasing his prey down the street, did he stop to see what house the kid had lured him in front of? Yep, that’s right: the old guy who hates noisy kids and is willing to tear that bully a new one.

That’s a really gross example. But the point is, Star Trek fans think creatively when it comes to overcoming odds. They like the challenge. Sure, it’s stressful, but there’s a part of them that welcomes the conflict and they literally shake in anticipation at the thought of matching their wits with their opponent. Star Trek breeds winners.

No. 2: Believe in miracle workers

Scotty always manages to repair the engines somehow. Chief O’Brien has some sort of technical solution at hand, and damn it Jim, he’s a doctor, not a deus ex machina.

While it may seem like relying upon others for your own success, a good leader knows when to rely upon the people in his life. It enriches relationships by giving that person a chance to shine. Remember: It can’t all be about you, right? Sometimes the crew has to take the spotlight over the captain. Sure this may be a bit of a pointed issue with some crews; the overall lesson from this should be to illustrate the necessity of allowing that to happen.

When the crew members of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" get together, everyone gets a fair shot at the mike. Heck, does anybody even know what happened to Scott Bakula? It just seems like he wanted to step out of the spotlight as soon as possible, allowing people like Trip to wind up on other sci-fi television shows. The modesty is overwhelming.

No. 1: Acceptance is based on diversity … or why green people are hot

Star Trek taught us that we are all different colors and that the important word in that phrase is “we.” The first interracial kiss was on Star Trek, species intermarried and bred on this show and most importantly, humanity is presented as a united whole that shares a combined purpose and definitive identity.

Sure, Orion dancing women are the fantasy vision of many a slavering Trek boy. Vulcan intellect certainly attracts its share of respectful women who wish they were the logical choice of some science officer mating options. Though the objects of our affections are certainly different by human standards, it’s their differences that are exotic and attractive. Star Trek allows its fans to appreciate differences for their beauty … and their beauty is the difference.

But the fact that people in the future regard a diversity of differences as something to be welcomed and included as something that will make them better … well, that’s just a great thing that can’t be ignored.

Star Trek gives fans a sense of hope. We know that things won’t happen automatically and sure, maybe there won’t be a United Federation of Planets, but with work, with a sense of purpose, maybe we can get past our differences and learn to work together. That has to be the best and healthiest reason why it’s good to be a Star Trek fan. Star Trek fans can easily imagine a good future for humanity because Gene Roddenberry’s idealized imaginative production showed us a way how it could be so.

Maybe this sounds like exaggeration, but most Star Trek fans understand that this is only science fiction -- it’s a fantasy show. But it’s also, like all science fiction, a possibility. Knowing there is a possibility that something like this could happen in the future makes the future not so much of a scary thing but more of a thing to look forward to. That has to be the healthiest and best reason why being a Star Trek fan is actually good for you … and those people who don’t watch Star Trek.

Spread the word.

Editor's note: John Kirk would have been named James T. Kirk had it not been for a mistake. Kirk is a teacher-librarian and currently a history/English teacher with the Toronto District School Board in Toronto, Ontario. He teaches literature and Canadian history, but mostly he teaches Geek. When Kirk isn’t in the classroom, he can be found in his basement writing “School of Geek”-type articles and comic reviews for popmythology.com and contributing features to whatculture.com and examiner.com. Explore the vast reaches of Star Trek in TV, film, fandom and more with him every month at 1701News!

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