When I was in junior high school and high school I felt as if I were always on the outside. Growing up I had always been popular, but starting when I was in sixth grade (after we moved to the suburbs of Chicago), I was downright hated.
I wasn’t into sports (I was, and still am terribly clumsy) and I didn’t care one whit about cars (I don’t even know the brand that I drive except it’s called a ninety-eight). And unless you’d grown up with those kids, you had to like at least sports or cars if you wanted people to like you.
And I think they sensed I was gay. I didn’t know it yet, but it was starting to tickle at the corners of my mind. My desire to look at the guys in the locker room for instance…. (and at least one guy noticed my looking)
I was lonely. My one friend was only willing to be my friend as long as I didn’t tell anyone.
I also liked to read. I was reading all the time. That didn’t make me popular either. Readers were geeks (although I don’t think that was a word back then) and that was a death sentence to popularity.
It was around that time I discovered Star Trek. I mean I had heard of it before, but never really watched it before. Believe it or not I liked this girl and she liked it so I was interested. The girl-thing didn’t work out but Star Trek stuck for life.
What I discovered was a show about acceptance.
On the bridge of the starship Enterprise—and we are talking the original Star Trek here—there was as Asian, a Russian, and an African Americans, women (if you count the pilot and woman was second in charge)…and a half alien. A half alien that that felt out of place in the world—who learned he was valued exactly as he was.
Powerful stuff in those days. Not normal. Way ahead of its time.
It was a show that gave messages about racism (Let That Be Your Last Battlefield), sexism (Turnabout Intruder), militarism and peace (Errand of Mercy and Friday’s Child) and more.
Suddenly, even if only in fiction, I was given hope. I could dream of a place and a time where I was accepted just as I was. Exploring space, seeking out new life and new civilazation….
My only sadness was that the show had been cancelled a few years before I found it. There would be no more episodes. Those seventy-nine episodes were it.
And then came Star Trek the Next Generation.
I couldn’t believe it. And it was good!
And the Deep Space Nine.
And again all kinds of issues were spoken about. Language (Darmok), persecution (Duet), what makes us human (The Measure of a Man), episodes that actually explored extremely minor characters (Lower Decks), the Holocaust (Remember), international cooperation to survive (The Enemy), the horrors of torture on prisoners (The Chain of Command), McCarthyism (The Drumhead) and much more.
Amazing stuff for television. The various Star Trek incarnations were often way ahead of their time—although they did chicken out a bit on the subject of homosexuality and skirted the issue with such episodes as The Outcast (a member of a race that is one sexed finds itself identifying with being female, which is a great sin amongst her people) and Rejoined (where Dax meets a former wife—however now she is a woman instead of a man and she kisses said former wife. Since it was the sexless symbiont that had actually married the woman, the kiss didn’t count as a gay kiss.).
But that doesn’t matter.
Star Trek was there for me for many, many years. The characters on the various shows were like family. I cared about them.
They taught me to stand up for myself…and to reach for my dreams.
Star Trek features one of my most favorite memories…when I got on the set of Star Trek the Next Generation.
Yup! I was there the week they were filming the episode Ménage à Troi. I saw aliens. I stood in Ten Forward and leaned against the bar. I met—very briefly—Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett. I stood on the transporter platform. I stood at the bridge. I met—extremely briefly—Data (although I didn’t recognize him at first, he wasn’t wearing his makeup). I saw Marina Sirtis/Deanna Troi (she was gorgeous in her blue dress). I got to briefly talk to Gates McFadden. And I sat around Gene Roddenberry’s office with Susan Sackett and watched the dailies from the day before.
To misquote Kor the Klingon, “It was glorious.”
And all of that?
Why it was “Thoughts Become Things” again! For years I had fantasized about being on the set of Star Trek. Of course it was cancelled and there was no set to walk on. But that changed. And I truly believe I manifested getting on the set of Next Gen.
I am so glad I had Star Trek for most of my life. It taught me a lot. About people and love and writing and more. You can’t get much better than the lessons Star Trek taught.
Star Trek was there for me through thick and thin. I miss it. The JJ Abrams movies are all right, but they don’t have the fire and wonder and love of the television shows.
The fiftieth anniversary is right around the corner.
Keeping my fingers crossed that they will do something truly fabulous to celebrate.
Maybe I need to manifest it?