I can’t let Star Trek’s 50th anniversary pass without saying *something*!
I’ve been a Trekker all my life, and Roddenberry’s vision of a cooperative, socialistic, and extant future has always been a major source of inspiration in my life. In junior high, during my hopeless geeky and unpopular period, I identified as a “Party Vulcan.” I’ve seen every series at least three times, frequently watching an entire one in less than a month. Although I’ve seen many people critique, say, Next Generation for not aging well, I consistently find that the universal human themes explored in the show have something new to say to me as I re-watch at a later point in my life. The effects might seem dated, but the story never gets stale. Things that I understood intellectually when I was younger are now more visceral. And in our current world where the cooperative, non Capitalistic future in Trek seems to hopelessly naive, we need that vision more than ever.
Except for the original series, every new show takes a few seasons to hit its stride before becoming truly exceptional. Actors find their characters and chemistry, there’s enough backstory for longer plot arcs, characters we’ve become attached to die heroically, get re-assigned, or eaten by alien blobs, and we find ourselves comfortable but intrigued by a new home somewhere in deep space.
Like most fans, I’ve had to endure an initial period of total disgust with a new series before warming to it. I stopped watching both Voyager and Enterprise after a few episodes, which was exceptionally painful after having waited so long for new dose of my eloquent sci fi drug. However, once I went back and watched again, especially when I could freebase episodes to the tune of many per day, I ended up enjoying them just about as much as the others. During one period in my life of darkness and freedom I watched all of Voyager in about three weeks, watching 5-7 episodes per day. The large screen television screen truly felt like a window into Voyager, and my life was sufficiently nocturnal and surreal that what was happening on the other side of that window felt just as real as the rest of my life. It was actually one of my most psychedelic experiences, despite my total chemical sobriety. This is another example of the series’ re-watchability standing the test of time. Binge watching wasn’t an option when most of these first came out, and they were released with the plan of at least a week between episodes, and yet the change that occurs when watched close together somehow seems planned. I found that Voyager in particular benefited from all-at-once viewing, but suffered the most from being separated over time.
Like many sci-fi fans of my generation I’ve also been creaming all over myself that the new Star Wars additions seem finally to have restored that tradition to somewhere close to its original glory, with more greatness to come. Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw at the tender age of 5, and boy did it make an impression! Like many fans I feel a more visceral spiritual connection to Wars despite the fact that Trek seems like a more thoughtful, worthy holder of that torch. I think this dichotomy mirrors a larger truth, that frequently the things that are actually more important aren’t the thing we wished they were. But while I’ll never love Trek as much as Star Wars, we need Trek more in this day and age, and I’m very excited we’re finally getting another series. As much as I’d like to be a Jedi, that oversimplified path to the human race only leads back to barbarism and decay. Our nation and our world need Star Trek to keep a vision of a future worth creating for ourselves and our posterity in our minds and our hearts.