How Star Trek Changed My Life

HALLOWEEN 2013: BY CHRISTY McDOUGALL

startrek

I met Spock when I was 14 years old.

It was in a book in my school library: Star Trek Memories by William Shatner. I read how Star Trek was made and fell in love with the characters, particularly Spock.

Until then, my experience with sci-fi was negative. I saw part of the Original Series episode “Day of the Dove” when I was younger and was traumatized when Klingons tortured Chekov. It formed my opinion of sci-fi as unpleasant and frightening, akin to the horror genre.

Then I read how a rather jolly group of people made a TV show about present-day problems set in a futuristic world on a beautiful spaceship against the backdrop of fascinating cultures and thrilling adventures, how friendships formed between three utterly diverse characters, and how an epic battle for survival was fought between the network and the fans.

Somehow, I was hooked on Star Trek after reading a book about it. My family didn’t have a television so instead of watching Star Trek, I read the series of novelizations of the episodes written by James Blish and everything else I could get my hands on about it. My imagination supplied all the visuals I needed in those pre-Internet days, so no 1960s hokiness dampened my fervor.

What was it about Star Trek that changed my perceptions? First it was the characters. Their friendship drew me. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, now a classic combination, were the glue to bind the often ridiculous plotlines together. The two opposites, the cerebral and too-logical Spock and the fiery, too-passionate McCoy, might never have gained respect and liking for each other if not for the man who tempered them both, the strong, intelligent, compassionate leader Kirk. The three never really agreed about anything; their varying viewpoints created something stronger and better than any one of them by himself. They would have died for each other—and did die for each other, with a frequency worthy of Doctor Who. When I think of the greatest friendships in fiction, I think first of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.

Star Trek was a futuristic vehicle for morality tales… following a long line of tradition dating back to ancient Greek plays and probably to the first time someone told a story. A television series in the 1960s couldn’t bring a Black woman or a Russian man into an everyday setting unless it was sci-fi. Star Trek told stories of ethnic diversity, war, scientific responsibility, gender roles, and altruism, cloaked in rollicking, pseudo-science-y, sometimes completely ridiculous and very moving storylines. It was much more than just the monster-of-the-week and an entertaining story. Star Trek meant something.

Even more important, I think, for me at the time was the adventure and the scientific nature of it. The crew went out to explore, meet strange people, learn new things, see utterly new sights. The goal was to learn. The fantastic nature of it drew me, and so did its utterly homey and personal nature. They went out in a space ship, used amazing, futuristic technology like phasers, tricorders, and warp cores, and met aliens, and yet that ship was their home and their fellow crewmembers were their family. It was at once fantastic and familiar, a beautiful combination.

Discovering Star Trek changed my life. I’d always looked to the past for my mental stimulation, to classics and historical novels. Now I looked to the future and my mind expanded with the idea of possibility. My imagination grew, my interest in science, and my interest in what might be and what never can or will be grew. I love sci-fi because it can do anything. You can invent cultures, languages, technologies, ways of being. You can change the past and the future or make up a universe that never was. You can take an old plot that’s been told a thousand times and make it utterly new but with a core of the familiar. Star Trek gave me possibility, and I’ve been writing science fiction ever since. ♥

halloween2013

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One Reply to “How Star Trek Changed My Life”

  1. Great post! Star Trek was at the right place, at the right time, as far as getting on the air. It only lasted three seasons and did not do so well in the ratings. However, fans sparked a renewed interest–and the rest is history!

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