Torie: For the past two years, Eugene and I have written about 50,000 words–each–about Star Trek, not including plot summaries, comment threads, and trivia. All week I’ve wondered, is there anything left to say about the series that hasn’t been said already?
I felt foolish. Of course there is, and there always will be. Star Trek has given us a remarkably rich vein to mine, for decades and decades. There is always more to say because like all great science fiction it left so much open to the imagination. The ideas are big and the problems are never trivial. Thematically, it’s timeless. Loneliness, adventure, yearning for challenge, loyalty to friends, alienation, and trying to find a path in a confusing and difficult universe–who can’t relate? It’s unlike anything that’s been on television since, and I’m confident that nothing like it will ever be made again. It believed passionately that we had such potential within us all to do great things. Week after week, it showed us a future that seemed within reach if only we worked toward it: one of tolerance, the pursuit of truth (both personal and scientific), and camaraderie among a broad swath of very different people and personalities. I wonder if my generation, culturally, even believes in those things anymore.
You all know that I came to the original series from its descendants. Though I would catch the odd episode here or there on syndication it seemed cheesy and didn’t hold my interest. I discovered the movies and adored–well, some of them–but until this re-watch, it never felt like my show. It should be everyone’s show, but it’s my show now. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, Chapel, and even nobodies like Lt. Galloway have become deeply meaningful threads in my personal tapestry. They have earned a place in my heart somewhere between Pride and Prejudice and Tintin, on my mantle. I take such pride in it; I want everyone to have seen it. My life is richer having seen it, and how many shows can I really say that about?
The good and the bad, the ups and downs, the frustratingly middling–even at its worst Star Trek always aimed higher than its reach. That quality above all others is what defines the series for me and explains why, forty-five years later, we still have so much to talk about. It’s a lesson I will take to heart. Thank you, Star Trek, for giving me a thought-provoking series that I continue to mull over and wrestle with; and thank you, readers, for sharing the ride with me.
Eugene: Nope, I don’t have anything to add. I think we’ve pretty much covered everything.
Maybe if I’d done that as a Lolcat, Torie would let me get away with it. As she pointed out, combined we’ve written what amounts to a novel’s worth of text about Star Trek, but we’re only two people in a long line of others who have already written volumes about the series, and we’re certainly not going to have the last word. I mean, how many shows can sustain multiple, simultaneous online re-watches with vastly diverse viewpoints like this has? The wonder of shows like Star Trek (and as Torie said, there aren’t many that can compare) is that it means something different to everyone. It can be a very personal experience, like any form of art, whether it’s inspiring a young viewer to pursue a career in science; encouraging people to be proud of who they are; giving hope for a positive, progressive future for everyone; or cultivating the science fiction writers of tomorrow. Star Trek also may offer something different each time you watch it. I have no doubt that if we decided to re-watch it in forty-five years, around the time we’re wrapping up our Star Trek: Enterprise Re-Watch, we’d discover even more in each episode of the original series and have plenty of new things to say–especially about “The Deadly Years.”
I suppose, if anything, I’m surprised there was so much to discuss that we couldn’t cover it all in these short reviews. (I say they’re short, but you’ll note that as the re-watch continued, our reviews got longer and more involved, because Torie and I were frequently bursting with things to talk about.) It’s amazing that our posts often generated upwards of 70 comments each week, digging ever deeper into the plots and themes and stimulating interesting, fun, and meaningful discussions with all of you. Obviously I love Star Trek, but I’d never really approached it quite so critically. When I first watched the series, it was escapist and thought-provoking entertainment, but many episodes hold up under the sort of analysis normally reserved for “serious cinema.” I am delighted that our experiment worked so well. It’s a testament to the show, not our analytical skills, that we could tease so much out of 51-minute episodes. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to challenge myself to look at it all in a new light, and treat the series with the respect that so often eludes it.
I’ve mentioned before that I also came to the show a bit backwards. When I was a kid, before I knew what Star Trek was, I actively avoided it, as many people do. Despite my early interest in literary science fiction, this old show with its dated effects didn’t appeal to me, even while I was enjoying reruns of Lost in Space and Land of the Giants on my summer breaks. I like to think I just wasn’t ready to appreciate it. I finally came to Star Trek via my seventh grade Latin teacher, a devout Trekkie, who asked me to videotape Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country from HBO for him. Of course I watched it too, with no idea who any of the characters were, and I was immediately and completely hooked.
I caught a 2-hour broadcast of “The Menagerie” shortly afterward, which gave me the advantage of seeing Star Trek at its best right out of the gate. It was a strange time to find the franchise, because I came to it in the middle of TNG’s sixth season, just as DS9 was starting up. I basically watched those three very different shows simultaneously, and through the magic of syndicated reruns and trading VHS tapes with friends, I inhaled all of the original series and TNG in short order, absorbing the trivia through the series companion books, and fully immersing myself in the rich Star Trek universe through the tie-in novels. It all fed the imagination of my 13-year-old self, even if I clearly missed a good portion of what it was all actually about.
The first longform writing I completed and submitted was a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine script, which was soundly rejected seven long months after I typed it (on an actual typewriter) and mailed it to Paramount. I wrote and submitted a Star Trek: Voyager script after that, but by the time that came back and I had finished a second Voyager script, they were no longer accepting unsolicited submissions. That creative process, and the rejections, taught me the importance of discipline, finishing work, sending it out, being patient, and always working on the next thing–setting me up for my later attempts at publishing short stories, and then the whole journey of writing a novel, querying agents, and submitting to publishers. I’m hesitant to reread those old telescripts, let alone share them with anyone, but they certainly contributed to the writer I became.
And though I never managed to sell a Star Trek script, I’m thrilled that I’ve actually been paid to write about a show that I love. I’m amazed that a childhood obsession of mine enabled me to connect with other fans here and in real life, sparked a wonderful collaboration with Torie, and gave me a useful outlet for all that trivia I memorized. On the surface, our attachment to Star Trek might seem childish or too much fuss over nothing, but all of us here know better than that. Star Trek encourages us to keep an open mind, and I hope that anyone who hasn’t given the show a fair shake is willing to keep an open mind and try it out, because it can offer a lot if you give it a chance.
I used to have a poster in my bedroom, which followed me to my college dorm room and my first apartment: “All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek.” That might be hyperbole for most people, but I did learn a lot from the show, and so did hundreds of thousands of other people. Looking beneath the fake ears and homemade costumes, most Star Trek fans question the world as we know it. They aren’t satisfied with the status quo. They don’t watch the show passively, they talk about it. They write about it. They write their own stories or produce their own shows and films. Many of us are inventors, scientists, writers, programmers, lawyers, doctors, filmmakers–or we’re aspiring to be one of those or any number of other options. Star Trek inspires people to create, if not art, then a better world. And a better future.