Friday, May 24, 2013

Confessions Of A Star Trek Admirer

            Data is probably the character in all of Star Trek that is the most identifiable to me. That's part of the magic of science fiction: how the life of a given character can metaphorically tell the story of a person they find hard to tell. Data was the one successful android with a  positronic brain-capable of interacting with anyone with the abilities and efficiency of a high powered computer. But he was a mechanical Pinocchio-desiring to have the emotions and relationships of a human. His is a character much imitated later in the world of science fiction but, in my own opinion never half as well. As much as it pains me,I was always bought up with the idea that humility outweighed confidence.That was my personal struggle. If one is such a person who feels the words "I,me and mine" are not to be used too often in a sentence,this is likely not the blog post for you. But its a story many others with the time and tolerance might find solace of their own in.

                   This is a little story about my life. As with many young children growing up, I was on the receiving end of a massive barrage of bullying. I would go to the principles office and tell them. Basically I was told that these bullies would never respect a "tattler". That I would have to deal with them on their own terms-face to face. Toughen up was what I was told. Not to be vulnerable. At home I was taught the lessons of "the peaceful warrior" by my family. My response to these contradictory responses was essentially to stay overwhelmed. I would make a run and try to ram myself into walls. Not to get attention but just to know I had the power somewhere to escape dangers. I would act like a foolish clown-make eccentric jokes and try to be the class oddball. Inwardly I detested the cliques,the lack of support. But every Sunday night at 7PM I could turn on this android who sometimes said the wrong thing,not understanding emotions. He would learn something. And his crew mates were his friends. And accepted him for who he was. They cared about each other. And helped others to care too. And that was very comforting.
                    During this time I knew a couple people interested in Star Trek. But I started to learn that "Trekkies" as Star Trek admirers were called at the time were not socially acceptable in a lot of circles. Suddenly that became an object of bullying for me-verbal bullying. That I could not take at all. True I detested what football and pro wrestling represented as being the primary interests of other children. On Star Trek,characters regretted when violence was used. They didn't advocate it as real life,present day violence of that time seemed to. In 1994 Star Trek The Next Generation went off the air. There was a series called Deep Space Nine on the air. But it was looking to imitate the air of the 1990's. While it was brilliant in many ways,it simply didn't provide the same therapeutic atmospherics in my own life as its predecessor had. Of course Star Trek was not made for me. Aside from my interests in photography, most of the others interests I had during that time found me bumbling rather pathetically through them. I kept thinking of the Star Trek universe-full of many different people. Amazing star ships. No worries about money or materialism. Then my mother made a friend for me. It made a huge difference.

                Out of respect I'll refer to him only as "my friend". He was unlike any friend I had before. He was a decade older than I. His love of Star Trek was even broader than my own. In getting to know this new friend, I began becoming very confessional to him. He knew the important place Star Trek held in my heart,mind and soul. He even advised me on a Star Trek series I was writing. It was not fan fiction. It was intended as a genuine television series in the spirit of the by then deceased Gene Roddenberry. It was to be an enormous movement. No commercials,an open detain for fighting and killing. And of course Star Trek's futurist mentality. Eventually reality intruded of course. In terms of the series I was writing,controversy erupted when those who saw it objected to the doctor in the story being a lesbian. That felt like another crushing defeat.  During this time even Star Trek itself began to seriously let me down. The movies they were making such as First Contact and the series Deep Space Nine seemed to emphasize the glamorization and gratuitous use of violence that Star Trek had once railed against. In society the economy was balanced,there were no wars but so many people desired to be unhappy. 

            From that point on? Star Trek gradually had a slow death in my life in terms of a socially and morally guiding force in my life. 9/11 happened. Unhappiness among people went to outright paranoia. Suddenly the economy was not so good. There was a war and millions on both sides died in horrible ways. Some of them people I knew.
The dream was over. Society had fully and suddenly embraced the philosophy of total war. In 2002,the character of Data was killed off in the motion picture Nemesis. In 2005 the last televised Star Trek series made by Paramount called Enterprise left the airwaves after apparently miserable ratings. In 2009 director J.J. Abrams returned Star Trek to the silver screen with a new motion picture. However,while casting talented actors such as Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto he created his movie completely outside the spectrum of Gene Roddenberry's vision and even cannon. A lot of it had to do with commercial product placement and fast past action violence. While a well done film for what it was,it seemed the slogan had reversed: Star Trek no longer lived. It had died. In the film the planet Vulcan was destroyed. Romulus was destroyed and the timeline was wrecked to bits. Star Trek had at last died.

               So what happened to me after the official demise of the Star Trek universe? Is it only a brand name for nostalgia? Both written and filmed fan fiction? Its very much a homeless phenomenon now. Another comparable science fiction show,one that I never paid much credence to in the past had a massively successful revival after Star Trek's last day. That was Doctor Who,on the BBC. Today Doctor Who thrives,in its own context carrying on the torch of thoughtful science fiction onward. While I've come to love this show,I miss Star Trek deeply. I have the old shows on DVD of course. But new shows are no longer on the television. And it was a slow death-starting really around the time I first lost touch with my friend. Now it's all about awkward hope. My friend and I have since reconnected. And in our minds,the dream of Star Trek seems to be there. The embers of Gene Roddenberry's vision still burns somewhere within us. I have been extremely neglectful in the last two months of this blog-for reasons which you the readers of this posting now know quite well. The embers may burn, but the interest doesn't seem to be there.  Do I want to try to keep my New Star Trek Manifesto going? I don't know now. But where there are embers,there's always the possibility of an eternal flame.