Finger Food 12 - When I Found Star Trek

I am a geek.   I’ll admit it now because for some reason it has become fashionable.   But there was a time when that admission would result in being a social pariah. 

And because I was a geek growing up, I discovered Star Trek.   But not in the way that I hear most scientists, astronauts, or physicists say they found it.   Most of them found Star Trek first.   They saw the star ship Enterprise floating in space and the Vulcan logic and Captain Kirk, a Horacio Hornblower impersonator, running and thinking about the greater philosophical standing that humanity had in the universe.  Sometimes solved by phaser fire.  But most times solved through positive discourse.  

I found Star Trek a different way.  I found it through astronomy.  When I was ten years old, I was given a beginners book on astronomy for Christmas form an uncle that is usually not involved in the gift giving process.   I immediately found it fascinating.  I couldn’t keep y nose out of it that entire night.   It started with the sun, then the planets, then the galaxy, and different astronomical phenomena like nebulas, quasars and black holes.  IT ended on the possibility of other earths.   But ones that were twice the density of our or half, and how those life forms would develop.  It showed me how such characteristics would influence all kinds of development.  

And I was hooked.   I was later given a telescope the next year and learned how the constellations were made up, how the Orion Nebula to the naked eye just looked like a smudge rather than the pink glowing cloud I saw in Sky and Telescope Magazine.   How patient you needed to be to watch and be satisfied with a meteor shower.  

After a particularly cloudy week, I was forced inside and came across a specific episode of Star Trek.   It was a Next Generation episode in the third season where Wesley Crusher, just a kid, whom I admired immediately, lost control of a few microscopic robots called nanites and they began to take over the ship.  The issue was that this was going to interfere with an astronomical event where they were observing a star eating the gas from another and causing a massive supernova.   Something that could rarely be predicted and was a huge opportunity.  

I know this wasn’t a situation where people’s lives were in danger.  But the fact that they used a real astronomical event as the cause for concern, I was intrigued.  I had seen Star Trek before and knew it existed, but it was this episode that taught me Star Trek was about science.  IT was about discovery and expanding our own knowledge.   And that was what hooked me.  

I realized that this show could be used to teach you about, not just science but about our very humanity.  

Over the years, I followed Star Trek religiously, pardon the pun.  I couldn’t miss an episode and there were so many things that Captain Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and even Archer taught me about growing and being a leader, not necessarily in a group setting, but in a life setting.   Without Star Trek, I would not be the even headed thinker that I feel I am.  And without Star Trek, I would not feel the need to continually reassess myself, constantly, making sure that I live up to the ideals that I hold dear.  Because if you don’t question yourself, if you don’t question your actions and how they relate to what you live for, what is morally right, then what do you stand for?  What is your purpose?  

I know this may be a stale argument.   But I am not necessarily a fan of the New Star Trek movies.   I enjoyed 09 Trek a lot.  Because it was a new birth and ended with optimism.   But Into Darkness left me angry.   Angry that I wasted time and money on a plot line that had been hashed not once, but TWICE before with Wrath of Kahn and Nemesis.   And I’ll admit, the TNG movies, while they had the best shows, were the worst movies of the bunch.  

I didn’t like being pandered to.   Remember, I didn’t need Star Trek to inspire me into science.  I was already scientifically inclined.   But I did NOT appreciate the idea of Star Trek dumbing down to the point where it was merely a flashy action movie with terrible plot holes and needless sexism.  

I entered a crisis of faith in Star Trek, a crisis in which I still stew.   I didn’t see Star Trek Beyond.   I wanted to but I didn’t have the courage to do so because I didn’t think I could give it a fair chance.   I will eventually rent it.   I heard Simon Peg talk about how Paramount wanted to make the script “less Star Treky”.

And I don’t appreciate an ideal that challenged an audience once upon a time, being watered down for the sake of the stupid masses.  It is insulting to me.  It is insulting to humanity.   What Star Trek always taught us was that we are, as a species, driven to make ourselves better.   Driven to have a conscionable discourse in our problems.   Otherwise, it will result in the last chance phaser fire.   And Star Trek was not about violence.  

Yet I can’t help but look at twitter, and I see countless posts from people trying to say meaningful things.   Their hearts are in the right place.  But when it results in vitriol, and insults, the other side will not listen.  There will be no responsible discourse.   There will only be closed ears.   And closed ears cannot solve problems.   Otherwise the Enterprise would have been lost long ago.  

I still have hope for Star Trek in the future.  I still have hope that humanity will eventually listen…

~PS McKay