Saturday, September 10, 2016

253: To Boldly Go

img_20160909_230422.jpgWith all the hustle and bustle of work and family life, I had almost missed on the fact that this week marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. Star Trek the TV series first aired in September 8, 1966 over NBC. Creator Gene Rodenberry conceived it as 'wagon train to the stars' and 'Horatio Hornblower in space.' The stories were episodic, in the vein of television at that time, with a setup, conflict, and resolution taking place in the course of an hour, commercials included. The series itself ran for three seasons but it left a lasting legacy among fans and spin-offs to new television series, movies, novels, comics, video games, dissertations, invented languages, fan films, and, of course, cosplay and fan fiction.

I too am steeped in the lore of Star Trek and I still know most of it long after I stopped following its recent iterations. I first caught what is now known as The Original Series on syndicated reruns on local television way back in the 70s. As a child I don't think I fully understood what was going on, but because I am genetically geek, I had to watch it. Spaceships! Ray guns! Aliens!

Star Trek spawned for me many long-lasting friendships. I first met my college gang in my second year at the University of San Carlos. As a transplant to Cebu I didn't know too many people and all I really had till then were just passing acquaintances. Then one time after a disaster involving test tubes in chemistry lab, some guys were having a laugh at my expense. Of such would fights be started, but I was too engrossed doodling in my notebook. "Is that the Starship Enterprise?" one of them asked. Inexplicably I found myself drawing into their group.

Star Trek was also my introduction to literature. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk flips through a book that Spock has given him. "'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'," he read. I don't know why but those lines stuck with me. Without the benefit of the Internet, it took me a long time to find the source of the quote. When I finally discovered it came from A Tale of Two Cities, I simply had to read it. That was my gateway to other classics: because of Star Trek, I slogged through Moby Dick (also featured in Wrath of Khan) and read several Shakespearean plays (being a favorite source for both The Original Series and The Next Generation.)

But is Star Trek really just about spaceships, ray guns, aliens, bold captains, and scantily-clad vixens? With the general acceptance of science fiction today, those are really now just tropes and it would be easy for Star Trek to get lost in the milieu. The appeal of Star Trek, though, especially for fogeys like me, was what it represented: an optimistic future where we could transcend our differences and reach for the stars, one where we weren't destroyed by war or put down by insane leaders or their cultish followers, instead undertaking voyages of exploration and discovery. In other words:

To boldly go....