I love Star Trek so much. I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without writing about Star Trek already. I’ve written about comics, multiple times. I’ve written about time travel and parallel universes. You might think that that’s it, that that’s all I’ve got going on inside. But that’s not it. I’ve got Star Trek. I love Star Trek to an extent where, if I ever really feel like I’ve exhausted everything that I have to say, I’m just going to turn this blog into a Star Trek blog and I’ll be able to write something about Star Trek every day for the rest of my life.
The Next Generation, or simply TNG to those in the know, aired when I was a little kid, like three or four years old. And I know this sounds like total bullshit, but I actually have a memory, a really vivid memory, of being three years old and watching a certain episode as it broadcasted on TV for the first time. The episode is called “Conspiracy” and it’s all about a race of alien insects that burrow into the back of people’s necks and hijack their bodies.
The episode culminates with Captain Picard and Commander Riker firing on the leader of the alien conspiracy, in the process blowing up his head to reveal a giant parasite that’s taken over his whole body. I remember my mom or somebody in the room flinching, because it was all a little graphic, even for an adult, definitely way too much for a three year old, but that scene was at the very final minutes of the episode, and so the damage was already done. And from that moment on, I was a committed Trekkie, for life.
Star Trek was great because it was a show that didn’t depend on a viewer committing to watching every single episode. I think that TV as a medium, before DVRs, before the Internet, its existence hinged on the fact that episodes were going to only air only once, at a very certain time during the week, and if you missed it, well, then hopefully you’d see it when they played reruns during the offseason, but if not, then that was it, that episode was lost. Sure, a continuous Star Trek show based on today’s serialized episode-to-episode TV standards would probably be something cool. But it wouldn’t be TNG.
Star Trek taught me everything about being the person that I am today. It provided me with my current worldview, spoke to me in a way that nothing else ever matched. Religion, school, education, my background in any of these subjects only serve to help me understand on a deeper level what’s really going on in Star Trek, what it’s trying to tell me, and what I can take away and apply to my life and the real world.
I’m not alone in this. I’ve been in various high school and college classes, usually science or philosophy, where, to illustrate a point, the professor would say something like, “You know, like in that episode of Star Trek, the one where …” and everybody would pretend to look all confused, like Star Trek isn’t cool. I had one professor that cut right to the chase and said, “All right, I know nobody’s going to admit it, but everybody knows what I’m talking about with this Star Trek reference.” And it’s true. Star Trek is universal.
I’m not exaggerating. Take any problem or real life conflict going on right now or at any point in human history and I can name an episode of Star Trek that not only addresses the issue, but comes up with the most practical way of imagining a solution. There are episodes that deal with politics, with religion, with society, with technology, all in a way that breaks everything down to its basic human experience.
I watched TNG as it aired, I watched reruns again in syndication while I was in high school. As a senior in college, my roommates and I would spend hours each day watching the SciFi network, because that’s all it really does is rerun Star Trek episodes. And finally, I brought the entire series down to Ecuador with me while my wife and I served in the Peace Corps. We watched every episode from start to finish.
I hate to think that TNG is getting dated, as the real world advances at a clip that’s already starting to make the technological wonders of the 24th century seem a little dated. It’s one of the reasons why I could never take Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) as seriously as I did TNG. And I hate to think that someday the real next generation might not be able to connect as I did with Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D. Still, the lessons and the stories, I think, I hope, they’re timeless. It’s like Shakespeare, but in space, and in the future, and made for broadcast television during the late 1980s – 1990s.
Random story: My wife loves Star Trek too, even though it’s just because by living with me she’s been absorbed into the Star Trek universe by osmosis. She started watching it, begrudgingly, and then she got into it. She’ll never admit that to anybody, ever. But one time at her old job as at this law firm, she was taking a call from some client in Germany named Mr. Borg. She put down the phone and giggled to one of the lawyers, “Haha, Borg.” The lawyer said, “What? What’s so funny?” My wife said, “You know, Borg? Like the Borg from Star Trek?” And the lawyer responded back, dead serious, “No. You watch Star Trek?” My wife was humiliated, caught in a random Star Trek reference that her boss would not reciprocate. And I’m calling bullshit on her boss. That guy must have been lying through his teeth. Everybody knows about the Borg. “Resistance is futile,” “Best of Both Worlds” Parts I and II. Come on. That’s just classic TV.