Feb 272014

While I grew up watching many different sci-fi shows, the one that probably had the biggest impact upon me growing up was Star Trek. I was born in 1970 which meant that I got to see Star Trek in syndication. It was a far different world back then than from today. There were no dvds (or even video tapes!), cable channels catering to sci-fi fans, and quality sci-fi/fantasy/horror movies were hard to come by. We only had three channels that we could watch on our tv and there were incredibly few geek shows available. However, there was Star Trek.

No matter where you lived in the country, you could always find a station that broadcast Star Trek on a regular basis. Sometimes it was only on a Saturday afternoon, but I was lucky to have one that showed it Monday through Friday. One reason that I was so engrossed in Star Trek was due to not only the quality of the writing but also the visuals. I don’t enjoy reading sci-fi as much as fantasy because I’ve always preferred to actually see the alien worlds and spaceships that populate a sci-fi universe. Star Trek gave us an alien we could watch in every episode, Spock, as well as the evil Klingons and many other alien races. My personal favorite was the Romulans, and the two episodes they featured in (Balance of Terror and The Enterprise Incident) are two of the best episodes of the series.

As for spaceships, Star Trek broke the mold. The design of the Enterprise is classic, but the Klingon D-7 cruiser and the Romulan Bird of Prey are simply genius. Even though I knew that the cast would just run from one side of the set to the other while the camera was shaking, I still got excited when they had a starship battle. As a kid (and as an adult), I do like some action stirred in with my sci-fi, and Star Trek did a lot of that. We had space battles, phaser battles, and of course the awesome hand-to-hand combat.

Exploring strange new worlds was exciting to me, wondering how the episode was going to pan out. I enjoyed the fact that Star Trek took itself seriously and considered age-old questions as well as social issues. Most of the time, the show never fell into being overly preachy as both good and bad could be found on either side of the debate. The episode of race, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, where a race was black on one side of the face and white on the other was a perfect example. One side considered themselves superior because they were white on the left side of their face and were oppressing those who were white on the right side of their face. Instead of being simple and showing one side good and one side bad, Star Trek took a more nuanced approach. It showed that the man representing the oppressors was a total bigot, but it also showed that the guy arguing for freedom didn’t care for what happened to his followers. While arguing social issues that a blind man could pick up, the episode didn’t fall into the normal trap of one side totally good and the other side totally evil. The show respected its audience.

I guess the best thing about growing up with Star Trek was that it kept the torch of sci-fi lit for my generation. It wasn’t until Star Wars exploded and then Doctor Who reached our shores did sci-fi become more mainstream. Until then, all you had was Star Trek. If you were traveling and came across someone else wearing a Trek shirt, you knew there was a person you had something in common with. I spent many an hour talking Trek with other kids hanging out by the campground pool while going cross-country on vacation. Star Trek gave us geeks an instant connection with one another, no matter when or where.

Still, it wasn’t all wine and roses. I still shudder in horror remembering when my local station showed Spock’s Brain three times in two weeks! Even I admit that that was a terrible episode, but the women’s outfits sure are racy. That was an aspect of the show that I appreciated when I was a few years older.

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