Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!

Happy 50th Birthday Star Trek!

Anyone who has read my blog (or knows me) knows about my unabashed love for all things Star Trek. If you followed our adventures cross country, you know that even though it was about looking at schools for my son, I somehow turned it into a trip all about Star Trek.

Star Trek and I are only a month and a half apart in age, so obviously, I never saw the first run episodes. I did, however, see them in syndication when I was very young. I seem to remember that they were always on late Sunday afternoon and I watched them with my dad who also liked science fiction. And I was hooked. For Christmas and birthdays, I received a phaser that was really an overgrown flashlight that projected various ships from covers that you put on the end and a set of Star Trek communicators (i.e., walkie talkies).  I remember going with my dad to see Star Trek The Motion Picture and watching the rollout and flight (on the back of an airplane) of the Space Shuttle Enterprise.

Alas, Star Trek faded from my TV watching in my youth, although through high school, I did see the subsequent movies. In college, I renewed my love of Star Trek when I would join my roommates to watch it on WPIX at 11:30 (after The Honeymooners) and we would try to name the episode during the first scene before the credits. Since then, I’ve seen all of the movies and all of Star Trek in it’s various incarnations. In fact, Star Trek helped me come up with the idea for my novel The Reluctant Captain.

But why do I love Star Trek so much?

The answer to that question has changed throughout my life. I think when I was young, it was the idea of going to outer space. The Apollo missions were still going and I remember watching some of the coverage. The thought of a future where we were roaming the stars inspired me to want to be an astronaut – until I realized that my eyesight would never let me be a pilot (at the time, a necessary stepping stone to becoming an astronaut).

Later in my life, my love of Star Trek became more about how engineers and knowledge of technology were valued. In high school, I received a ton of crap for being a “brain”. I often felt that because I was smart that I was inherently socially unacceptable. In Star Trek, people who were well versed in science and engineering were actually heroes. They were valued members of the crew and friends.  Scotty became my role model because of his Scottish heritage (my maternal grandmother was a Robertson), his approach to almost never giving up on a problem, and his jovial nature. I have tried to model my professional life as a computer engineer on his work ethic. Channeling my inner Scotty has held me in good stead in my work as I try to solve problems; something that I will say, I’m pretty good at doing.

The themes of Star Trek have always resonated with me. Star Trek has always examined the human condition; showing the best of humanity in its heroes and worst of humanity in its villains. Its vision that we as a planet would move past our national differences to all work for the betterment of mankind while maintaining ones cultural identity is a vision I wish was true. At its best, Star Trek explores both the outer reaches of outer space and the inner space of the mind and what it means to be human.

Despite the overacting, the styrofoam boulders and other cheap scenery, here’s to Star Trek. May its vision of the future of mankind come true!

Live long and prosper,

Mike

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2 Comments

  1. Pete DiMarco
    Sep 10, 2016

    OK, Mike. Here’s the heretical question: Is Star Trek still relevant? More and more it looks like like the future belongs to transhumans/posthumans/superintelligent AGI. By the 23rd century, free-range, all-natural humans like us will probably be in zoos or wildlife preserves.

    Is it possible to have a positive, progressive fictional universe with human characters that is also post-Singularity?

    • Mike
      Sep 11, 2016

      Pete – Good question! I’m going to say yes and no. As a means to reflect on current social issues and give us today a vision for a better future, I would say yes. I’m sadly afraid that you may be correct that there won’t be all-natural humans by the 23rd century. It would largely depend on how society views first cyborgs. I read a YA book called Cinder (a sci-fi like retelling of Cinderella). In that book, cyborgs (who often got cybertronic limbs as a result of injuries) are decidedly second class citizens because they are NOT all human; instead of the extensions making them more, society sees it as making them less. Given our current intellectual climate in this country where we still are arguing evolution version creationism, who knows what will happen when the Singularity occurs?

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