This week we are breaking the broad shotgun approach I’ve been taking in this series and concentrating on one subject. This week we are going to talk about my enduring love of Star Trek. Yes I know I’ve touched on Star Trek in the past but if you know me even a little bit you are aware of the penetration Star Trek has in my life. So without wasting any more time let’s dive into the world of Star Trek!
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
I’ve told you before that my initial exposure to Star Trek came from my father. From late nights o the couch watching it in syndication on a Metro Detroit UHF station (I’m unsure if it was channel 50 or 20). Those are some of the earliest memories of my father I have and they are my favorite.
Alright have your laugh, I love my Daddy.
Good, now go fuck yourself.
Star Trek was a thing I watched whenever I ran across it. This was in the days before the DVR, before cable was available in my area, and before anyone of my family’s income could afford a VCR. In those days I had no idea the phenomenon Star Trek was I only knew that even though the show was nearing 20 years old there was nothing else like it on TV in my mind. I didn’t know about the novel, I didn’t know about the comic books, and I didn’t know about the movies.
I’m going to present each branch of the Star Trek tree in the order I was exposed to them, except the movies which I will save for last. Each will get a small run down and then I will tell you how they influenced the creator I have become. I will also mention some of the stuff I didn’t like. Believe it or not there are some things.
Here we go…
Star Trek the Original Series (TOS)
This was the one that started it all and it’s arguably the granddaddy of all small screen science fiction. Yes I know there were other shows before it but this was the game changer. Of course I wasn’t around for the first broadcasts of TOS, I’m old kids but I’m not that old. I watched in syndication which meant it wasn’t until roughly 1989 that I saw uncut versions (I’ll talk about that later).
I am going to tell you something I’ve never admitted in pubic before… the original Star Trek theme music scared the piss out of my as a child. Still to this day the music of TOS can make a shiver run up and down my spine.
There were a lot of episodes of TOS which inspired me but I can nail it down to two which still have their hooks in most of what I write. One of them will be obvious and the other may surprise you. Or it might not how the fuck do I know.
Episode #114 – “Balance of Terror”
This episode is the first appearance of the Romulans in the Star Trek universe. The awesome thing about this episode is that it’s not a science fiction space story. This is a Cold War Submarine duel told in the Star Trek setting. It’s the way this episode ratchets up the tension that struck me even at an early age. It is a trick I’ve worked my ass off in an attempt to master for my own craft. At the end of the episode Kirk, having won the duel, and the Romulan Commander face one another on the view screen, they’ve developed deep respect for one another. The Romulan laments they could have been friends under different circumstances before destroying his ship.
The Romulan have always been my favorite Star Trek Antagonists.
An interesting side note to this. The first time I saw the movie The Hunt for Red October, this was in 1990 think, the first thing I thought of was the Star Trek Episode Balance of Terror. It was the dueling between the two Captains I loved most about that movie and when the two of them finally met, stoic Sean Connery and rawboned Scott Glenn. I was like “Yeah mother fuckers either hug or wrestle for my respect!”
Yeah Balance of Terror rocked my storytelling socks off!
Episode #204 – “Mirror Mirror”
This is the one I’m pretty sure you could have guessed. I’ve always loved seeing the things which are familiar turned on their heads and made strange and dark. While it is one of the episodes even non Trekkies…
I REFUSE TO SAY TREKKER IT’S TREKKIE DAMNIT ALL YOU OTHER TREKKIES NEED TO OWN THE FUCKING WORD AND TAKE IT BACK FROM THE OTHER GEEKS!!!
… know about. This is most likely because of the whole “Bearded Spock” thing. Although Uhura in that outfit gave me major wood and it still does.
In this episode a transporter accident sends some of our heroes into an alternate universe where all of the good guys are bad guys. Eventually with the help of still logical Bearded Spock they get home and can laugh it off. Starting with Deep Space Nine we would return to the Mirror Universe several times for some truly awesome episodes.
But this episode also traumatized me.
It was Chekov you see. In the “real” Star Trek Universe Ensign Pavel Chekov was one of my favorite characters, Sulu was my number one favorite. In the Mirror Universe Sulu was evil but still cool, maybe cooler, but Chekov… Chekov was a rapist. He didn’t rape anyone and it was Sulu who tried in his own way to seduce Uhura but Chekov looked like he wanted to fuck you and he didn’t care if you were a boy or a girl Rapist Chekov was going to corn hole you because that was how he rolled.
Still “Mirror Mirror” was an awesome episode of an awesome show.
Star Trek the Next Generation (TNG)
When it was decided that Star Trek would be revived on the small screen, there’d been four movies at this point, I was a full blown Trekkie (Not Trekker!!!). I was excited and as the pilot episode was burned into my brain I knew the way I imagined would be changed forever. TNG informed everything that came in the Trek Universe until the JJ Abrams reboot. I’m not going to speak too much about my love of this show either, I’ve rambled on about it in earlier essays. But in keeping with the format I will give you two episodes I still look to for inspiration in my writing.
Episode #326/401 – “Best of Both Worlds Parts 1 & 2”
These two episodes really could have been a movie. I’m not sure there is anything I can say about these episodes that hasn’t already been said a hundred times. The Borg, an enemy set up earlier in the series, invades the Federation. In a lightning quick maneuver they kidnap Captain Picard from the Enterprise and assimilate him into the Borg Collective. The Enterprise seeks a way to stop them and save Picard while the bulk of Starfleet engages the Borg Cube at Wolf 359. The fleet is decimated and the Borg ship continues towards earth. Eventually Picard is rescued and the cube is destroyed in orbit high above Earth.
I watched these episodes less than a week ago and they still hold up. Holy shit when Riker orders Wesley to prepare to ram the Borg Cube… I mean shit I pray I will be able to write scenes like that one of these days.
Episode #620 – “The Chase”
This episode has stuck with me for 20 years. I have probably rewatched this episode more than any other. Point of order, it’s actually playing on my Netflix as I write this.
In this one Picard’s for History/ Archaeology professor offers to take him as a partner to unravel an ancient mystery. Picard declines and then when his mentor is killed he takes up the mission. It turns out that there is a digital code embedded in much of the organic life in the galaxy and that several samples are needed to decode it.
After dealing with Cardassians, Kilingons, and my beloved Romulans it’s revealed that it’s a message from the first sentient species in the Galaxy. They were alone and seeded life amongst the stars, making all intelligent races related. The episode ends with the Romulan Commander telling Picard that perhaps they have more in common than they realized.
Yeah, it’s one of my all time favorite hours of television.
Star Trek the Animated Series (TAS)
When TNG premiered in 1987 all things Star Trek became popular once more and two very important things happened. The first was that my local FOX affiliate began airing all of the TOS episodes uncut. They also showed them all back to back in a weekend long marathon. Damn near killed grandmas ancient VCR that weekend. The second thing was that Nickelodeon started showing Star Trek the Animated series. I’d heard of the show put had never seen an episode. I like the series. It’s not great but I like it. However there was one episode that stuck with me. And by stuck with me I mean I’ve never forgotten it.
Episode #108 – “The Magiks of Megas-Tu”
Instead of giving my rundown allow me to lazily cut and paste in the Wikipedia entry. I realize that’s a copout but you know what? I don’t care.
On stardate 1254.4, while exploring near the center of the galaxy, the Federation starship USS Enterprise is caught inside an energy/matter vortex and all her computer systems fail. A being named Lucien appears on the bridge, repairs the ship's systems and takes the crew to explore his planet, Megas-Tu.
On this planet, magic and witchcraft are quite normal. The Megans are an ageless species that had, at one time, lived on Earth, and were responsible for the legends about witches. Lucien, their guide, is in reality the Lucifer of Earth mythology. During this time, the Enterprise crew begin to experiment with magic: Lt. Sulu conjures up a beautiful woman while Science Officer Spock creates a Vulcan chess game. Lucien then warns the crew that their experiments would draw unwanted attention, but it is too late. The crew are transported into Salem during the middle of a witch trial where Lucien is the creature placed on trial by the Megans.
The Megans are determined to put humanity and the Enterprise crew on trial for what humans did to their people during the Salem witch-trials. Kirk comes out in support of Lucien's life and says that killing him would make the Megans just like humans. Lucien's punishment is to be condemned into limbo for eternity for bringing humans into the Megans' world. While Kirk states that humanity has progressed infinitely since 1691, the Megans ignore his words. At the end of the trial, Kirk offers his life to save Lucien's and the Megans are so impressed by the captain's gesture that they spare Lucien, and tell the Enterprise that they would welcome future human visits to their planet. They also return the Enterprise to its proper universe.
This episode made Satan a good guy. Seriously in this children’s cartoon they flat out tell you that the Devil is actually mankind’s friend and that you can infer god and the angels were the bad guys. To 12 year old Josh this was a mind blowing concept.
Okay boils and ghouls this is where I put a pin in it. Next time we will talk about Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and enterprise. We will also touch on the novels, comic books, and the movies. But no matter what I say or do I hate all of you for making think of Rapist Chekov again.