Somewhere around 4 years ago, when I realized that my work days would be filled with television watching as I work on mindless tasks, I made the decision to up the ante on my own nerd knowledge and finally watch every single episode of Star Trek ever shown on television. The Original Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and yes, even The Animated Series.
Yesterday, I completed this task.
The decision was an odd one, to be sure. I was familiar with most versions of the show, having caught them on television from time to time during the course of their runs. In fact, the only ones I really didn’t know at all were the originals (animated and live action) and Enterprise (the newest). I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on what the show was all about and never really got too incredibly involved in it. The self-appointed task, then, was merely because I felt that it was my duty as a science fiction nerd to be aware of the wealth of content available…and I had the time. Of course, if I had realized it would take me 4 years to complete the task, I would have been much less likely to take it on.
In fact, I did actually do the math at one point early on in my watching of the original series. I had become somewhat bored with it and figured I should determine exactly how long it would take me to watch them all if I went through and watched them back to back. 3.5 weeks….or 25 days…that’s what it would have taken if I had strapped myself to a chair, loaded up with stimulants, and continued on my path through Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer without pause.
I actually quit. At the time I was having to get the DVDs shipped to me through Netflix and I realized this would just be an insurmountable task.
Then, of course, they all became available on instant watch…and I realized it must be some sort of sign.
But here’s the thing. After I restarted the show, I found myself really getting into it. The original series cast really sold the whole franchise to me, once I gave them a second chance. Something about the dynamic between Kirk, Spock, and Bones really helped me see the franchise as an adventure show, instead of the rather legalistic navy in the cosmos show that Next Generation tended to feel like.
But even more than that…I subtly became aware of what the show was truly about…it was about a positive dream of what the future could be like. Sure, there were monsters and terrible troubles, and whatever else, but the entirety of the show really looked at what humanity could truly be. It might not seem quite as crazy today, but they had a black woman on the bridge of Kirk’s Enterprise! And a gay Asian. And a Canadian captain!!! Who would have guessed that?
Over the years, we were introduced to a female and a black captain as well. The show made focus, time and again, on how once our world became bigger, we’d realize that humanity had fewer differences that separate us than we initially thought.
But even more than that, the show introduced themes and explored concepts that even today are difficult to do, considering the state of the world. Inter-species relationships were shown on screen during a time where the world still had trouble understanding how people with different skin color could be in the same bed. The entire concept of God was reviewed time and again as these intrepid crews came across beings with such power that nothing was impossible for them.
But in the end, the real focus, time and again, was that of humanity…that humanity could withstand anything. That learning the truths about the universe wouldn’t cause us to break down into sniveling idiots, but that it would cause us to thirst even further to know about this world that we live in. And that when facing insurmountable odds, we would always use our principles and talents to win the day.
I’m still not entirely a Star Trek geek. I’d pick Star Wars in a viewing decision any day of the week (as long as we’re talking original trilogy…). But with that being said, I can’t help but realize the effect the Star Trek franchise really has had on not only the way we view science fiction, but also how we view ourselves. This is a show that could have a man fighting another man wearing an ugly rubber lizard head one week, and the next dealing with the political diplomacy. It seriously ran the gamut of storytelling possibilities. And this tradition continued as the franchise continued.
Although I may not be a Trekkie (or Trekker, if you don’t listen to Roddenberry), I feel as though these last four years have taught me a lot about what science fiction really entails… Well, good science fiction anyways…it’s showing how humanity is constant, how humanity will constantly come out ahead. How humanity is, in the end, awesome.
Have fun out there!