I’m neither Trekkie nor Trekker. The fact that I don’t fully understand the difference lends a little credence to my denial, but only a little; it appears that debate rages across the alpha quadrant concerning the precise definition of each term. However, never having donned a pair of pointy ears, fashioned a com badge from tin foil, attempted to learn Klingon or imagined occupying Bajor must bolster my claim.
I do admit to the odd Vulcan salute, uttering “Beam me up, Scotty” a few times, occasionally calling someone a petaQ and using Gul Ducat’s image as my internet avatar. Oh, and watching every episode, of every Star Trek, ad infinitum.
Mind you, I was a slow starter. Having been a fan of the original series in the 70’s, I was pretty dismissive of The Next Generation without ever watching it. I saw it as a cynical attempt to cash in on a classic and was having no truck with it, despite the fact that it was getting a universal thumbs-up. I’d dug my heels in and that was that. What I hadn’t taken into account was my 5 year old son. Callum got hooked on TNG when it was repeated in the mid 90’s and, when I say hooked, I include line and sinker. Inevitably the merchandise was high up on the birthday/Christmas present list, the most notable acquisitions being a model of NCC-1701-D and the Star Trek fact file - the latter being thicker than a real starship manual. You may not know that the Enterprise is as long as Victoria Road, where grandma lives, but Callum and I do.
Having been a fan of the original series in the 70’s, I was pretty dismissive of The Next Generation without ever watching it. I saw it as a cynical attempt to cash in on a classic and was having no truck with it, despite the fact that it was getting a universal thumbs-up.
Time for me to put my prejudices behind me and pick up the pace, albeit at the equivalent of only having thrusters. My impulse engine was off-line and warp speed was a few years away. By now the boy was watching Deep Space Nine and Voyager and I had some serious catching up to do. This was, for me, pre-Sky and I was rationed to weekly episodes on the BBC, work permitting. I wasn’t an avid enough fan to tape programmes that I’d miss but fortunately Callum was on hand to fill me in on who was who and why, for example, Picard suddenly shows up at DS9.
Over the next ten years I continued to watch whatever terrestrial channel offerings were available, discovering unseen episodes and still consulting Callum on the finer points. Sadly his interest had waned somewhat but he was kind enough to humour me.
Then, after years of resisting the lure of Rupert Murdoch, we went digital. Although we didn’t get Sky+ in order that I could watch, for the first time, TNG, DS9 and Voyager from beginning to end it is true to say that anyone studying the evidence would believe that that was, in fact, why we did. All of a sudden there was at least one, and often two, Star Treks every day and when a series finished they started it all over again. Forget your conventional warp drive, I’d gone coaxial. At a conservative estimate I reckon that over the last seven years I’ve spent over 2,000 hours in outer space. That may sound like a lot but it averages out to watching each episode, including the much maligned Enterprise series, only three times. I may have to revise that estimate upwards.
“Buy the box sets,” I hear you shout. Doesn’t work for me. The fact that I’ve got all of David Attenborough’s documentaries on DVD doesn’t mean I watch them. They stay happily encased in cellophane whilst I’m content to leave it to the Eden Channel schedulers to decide which of his gems I should watch for the nth time. Furthermore, I would be able to get through the whole of Voyager in 35 days rather than the 35 weeks it currently takes me. That would be crazy in comparison to the 6 years it took me in the 90’s. I’d somehow feel that I was violating the temporal prime directive.
So, what is it about Star Trek that captivates me? No doubt much of it is due to the writing, the production values and the fact that it’s set in space – I’ve been a sci-fi fan since I was a lad. My overriding fascination though is with the characters and the sheer life affirming decency and humanity of The Federation. As for the former, I have my favourites. Spock was the first to engage me. He comes across as a doting uncle left in charge of a bunch of over excited nephews and nieces, letting them get up to high jinx in the swimming pool while making sure they don’t get out of their depth. I admire Picard for his stoic representation of the trials of command, a decent man who sacrifices a personal life and maintains a necessary distance between himself and his crew. I’m very fond of Data and felt extraordinarily happy for him when he demonstrated his physiological accuracy by getting his leg over.
I’ve been a sci-fi fan since I was a lad. My overriding fascination though is with the characters and the sheer life affirming decency and humanity of The Federation. As for the former, I have my favourites. Spock was the first to engage me...
In DS9 I have a soft spot for the Ferengi siblings, Quark and Rom. Quark may be as scornful of his brother’s un-Ferengi like attitude towards the acquisition of wealth as Rom is of Quark’s abundance of greed but there is a genuine, if somewhat begrudging, love between the two. It goes without saying that Gul Ducat is the bad-ass of bad-asses.
I can’t for the life of me decide upon my favourite Voyager characters. I love them all. This isn’t a cop out, simply a statement of fact. Very few TV programmes or films bring a tear to my eye but hardly an episode of Voyager doesn’t. Tom and B’Elanna declaring their love for each other when seconds from certain death, Tuvok’s minimalist soft shoe shuffle when Neelix leaves the ship, The Doctor’s distress when his holodeck family scenario turns sour and any demonstration of Seven’s emerging humanity gets me going.
Unfortunately, Enterprise never got me involved to the extent that the other incarnations have. T’Pol springs to mind only because I’ve often wondered who I would rather follow along a Jeffries tube – her, Troi, Kira Nerys or Seven of Nine. Seven wins every time.
My admiration for The Federation may well just be a reflection of my own socialist utopian leanings. However, its lack of materialism and prejudice, plus the sanctity of the prime directive, fly in the face of current American values and I applaud Gene Roddenberry and his successors for maintaining their stance as I’m sure they’ve upset a few Neo-Cons on the way. They also gave racists a jolt when Kirk kissed Uhura.
Maybe Kirk was a bit gung-ho in the genre’s first outing, a little too eager with his fists and phaser at times (and inter-species relationships,) but over the next 100 years starship captains moved on. Witness Janeway when a couple of plague-ridden Videans stole Neelix’s lungs. She gave them a severe ticking off, let them keep the disputed organs and authorised the donation of one of Kes’s lungs to the stricken Talaxian. What’s more, poor Harry Kim is under strict orders to gain her permission, and that of the Doctor’s, before engaging in any alien hanky-panky.
I could go on but “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy” is calling me and I’ve not seen that episode for 35 weeks.
Live long and prosper.
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