Hey, it’s Sept. 8!
The Official Big 5-0 is here, at last.
Everyone and their alien dog is doing the Star Trek thing: mainstream news, bloggers, entire nations of state-owned media.
So, just as I promised when I started this blog, I’ll take the personal route on this landmark day.
And say, after a year of joining fans worldwide to celebrate and reflect on Gene Roddenberry’s gift to us all, that I’ve got to come clean and admit it:
I take Star Trek for granted. And always have.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: I likely would not have wound up with a lot of my life choices—from a wife, to the expression of career training in numerous fields—had it not been for the little space saga that could.
By that I mean the original series, of course—no bloody A, B, C, D, V, E, J, or new D—and the by fact that I was but a kid when I got trekkified: one hour at a time, one day at a time, every day after school. Just like so, so many others.
I fell for those characters, I fell for that universe. I fell for the fact it was our universe—as both a history buff and a NASA kid, it made complete sense.
Because here’s a second admission: I can be deadly with the practical and the pragmatic. I had a “Well, yeah” put-down comeback that was years ahead of the “Well, duh” fad…and I used it full force, on wide-beam setting on Star Trek.
Of course our technology would progress from the wheel to the horsepower to the airplane to the starship… from fire to oil to antimatter. And for a species that grew from the level of caves to city-states to nations to United Nations, well of course we’d eventually become a union of intelligently populated planets—once we found them. And once they found us—because they, like us, had to figure out the self-survival recipe or they’d never have made it to the stars in the first place. (Well, most of them, anyway. Cue the grumpy Vulcans.)
I read the early books like Star Trek Lives!, grappling with why Trek was so mold-breakingly popular. I saw the interviews… I read the fan letters, the magazine essays. Optimistic future, humanity survives, we don’t kill each other or the planet or the new kids we find out there to play with …yadda yadda yadda… yeah, yeah yeah.
It was a concept that got so many young people excited and engaged…and still does.
Me, not so much. Remember, I was “well, yeah” when “well, yeah” wasn’t cool. I mean, I knew how to gush—I just didn’t see the need. Duh.
But the years since this teenager fell for that vision of future history have hardly been rosy. World progress has not been inevitable; tolerance and diversity and justice have not arisen automatically, along an ever-rising path to global peace and prosperity.
The go-go ‘70s grew into the cushy ‘80s and the dot-com ‘90s…and then, just about the timeStar Trek‘s optimism seemed old hat in many ways… along came a global melt-down, a rebound of intolerance and pushback, and a generation that never saw a hot world war — but was sure plenty scared of a hot world.
And then Leonard died.
As I said at the time, his passing hit me not just hard, but unexpectedly: with guilt. Guilt that, while favoring McCoy and Scotty, and mourning De and Jimmy, I had taken Leonard and Spock far, far too much for granted.
And as the Five-O party started, and all the old truisms and quotes were trotted out again to explain Trek’s appeal and Trek’s longevity… I realized I was guilty once again. Of taking the core of the whole damn franchise for granted.
Even more than in 1966 or even 1986, Star Trek is an incredible gift of inspiration and hope, an ageless lesson in diversity and respect, a needed lesson in rationality and curiosity…and a damn flexible storytelling vehicle with great characters, cast, commentary and yes, canon—which you might say the biggest sign of respect of all: from creator to audience.
Yes, the years go by, world progress is not on autopilot, and it’s actually gotten easier to gush about Star Trek. I bet we’ll be saying the same thing after the next 50.
Have a great #happy50th day today!
Remember to share your pics of your party or meetup tonight at Larry Nemecek’s Facebookor on Twitter with the hastag #mytrek50 ….
And if in L.A. (or on Facebook Live) drop by our “we are all fans” Trek50 meetup tonight at Lucy’s in Hollywood anytime from 6-10 p.m., co-hosted by Roddenberry‘s Mission Log podcast, for a toast on Star Trek’s debut half-past hours across the US time zones, shared on Facebook Live.