Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It All Began with the Voyages


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   I’m pretty lucky, really.  The basis for my love of television is a pop culture phenomenon.  It’s iconic.  I mean, my earliest memories of TV could have been of Magilla Gorilla or The Addams Family, and that might have made all the difference in the world.  Not that I’ve got anything against either program; I watched them both in my childhood, and a lot of other shows, too.  But none of them hold the place in my heart that Star Trek does.  It was my first “favorite show”, and continues to be a program that always entertains me to this day.

I’m sure part of it has to do with memories of gathering in the living room, watching it with my dad—not a kid’s program he suffered through, and not so grown up that I couldn’t enjoy it, it was something we could share.  So there’s little doubt that my love of the show has some emotional roots beyond it being an interesting way to spend an hour every week.  But if I haven’t said it before, let me say now that I think that’s a big part of why television is my preferred entertainment medium: it’s more personal than the standard alternatives of movies or theatre.

But, even beyond the personal connection, Star Trek is iconic for a reason, and that reason is simply that it was good television.  Sure, it was low budget, and the special effects were cheesy even back in the day.  And, even as a die-hard fan, I can admit that the writing was inconsistent, at best; there are definitely some episodes I don’t ever queue up on Netflix.  And maybe sometimes the acting was, shall we say, overly dramatic.  But every successful series has its low points, even today.

But what outweighs any criticism is the foundational feeling of optimism that pervades the show.  In many, many ways, things are good in the Trek universe, and it feels like a nice place to live.  Men (and women, imagine that!) of conscience travel the stars, hoping to meet new people and learn from them along the way.  People are trying to do the right thing, even when it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what the right thing is.  Friends are true, and are even willing to die for each other if necessary.  Different races, nationalities, and even species live and work together in peace.  What’s not to like about that vision of the future?

But underlying all of that is something more subtle, an almost subliminal message of hope:  We survive.  Hundreds of years in the future, Mankind is no longer bickering among ourselves about money and territory and ideological differences; we are no longer on the brink of destroying ourselves over the most inconsequential of resources.  There is a future, and it’s a good one.  We not only survive; we thrive.  That’s a message I’ll gladly tune in to. 

Also, I find it interesting that of all the programs I’ve enjoyed over the years, only one serves to somehow define my personality to others.  These days, when I tell someone how much I love White Collar, for instance, they don’t get a knowing look in their eyes and nod their head like I’ve just revealed the secrets of the universe.  When I talk about watching Big Bang Theory or Castle, no one transitions the conversation into wondering whether I have a real life interest in theoretical physics or homicide.  But Trek conversations often turn to space exploration, life on other planets, and the future of life as we know it. (Conversations also frequently turn to the inherent coolness of transporter beams and food replicators, but that’s not really the point.)  Most important, though, is that I can’t think of any Star Trek conversation I’ve ever had—not one single time—when someone has said to me, “I hope it doesn’t turn out that way.” 

Not everyone likes Star Trek any more than everyone likes any television program.  And not everyone believes in extra-terrestrial life, or that we’ll ever be able to find out for sure one way or the other.  But no one dismisses the vision of what could be; no one wants to give up that tiny spark of hope.  I think any television program that can create that kind of optimism is destined to make its way into the collective psyche of the world, and I think we’re all the better for it. 

And if that same program also happened to propel me into a life-long love of television in general, well, I don’t think I’m too much worse for the wear.  But it sure is a hard act to follow.

31 Days of TV


  1. Love it! I remember watching Star Trek with my dad growing up. And everytime a new movie came out it was a family trip to the movies. My favorite is the one with the dolphins. Number 4 if my memory is serving me well today!

    1. I liked it when there were movies coming out regularly, even when the films weren't all that great, I still liked being able to see new adventures. And, yep, #4 is the perennial favorite of most folks, though it was whales they were after.

      Thanks for coming by.

  2. I have never been able to get into the Star Trek thing but I have never held that against anyone and I have found it is quite remarkable how this is one show that has die hard fans like no other in the history of TV and as you say we all have different taste in what we watch and any time I say I like a particular show and someone crinkles their nose I just shrug it off to each its own !!! I hold Gilligan Island very close to my heart and would die if someone told me to give up my Gilligan Hat LOL

    1. Oh, I used to want a Gilligan hat! When I was still in grade school I would come home from school and watch a whole lineup of cool reruns--Trek, Batman, Flipper, and Gilligan. ;-)

      Thanks for visiting.