Saturday, September 17, 2005

Live Long and Prosper

For my birthday this year, The Viscountess bought me the entire Star Trek original series on DVD. We have been watching the episodes in their original broadcast order, averaging about 2 or 3 per week. There are 70-some-odd episodes, and we want the experience to last. It has been perhaps 10 years since the program was available to me through syndication, so the show is like the return of a long-lost friend.

When I was in my thirties, the question was posed to me, “Whom do you admire most?” An obvious question. It struck me that I immediately thought of John Lennon, and Mr. Spock. Spock? He wasn’t even a real person! Yet, there it was. I had to admit that a major influence on my life was a television character from a science fiction series.

When Star Trek made its debut in September of 1966, I was 9 years old. I was a fan of “
Lost In Space” and was actually afraid to watch Star Trek. It was a “real” science fiction show, and that meant it might be scary. At some point, in 1967, I remember being at my friend’s house, and talking about “Lost In Space” and his mother piped up, “That show is for kids. We watch ‘Star Trek.’ ”

“That show is for kids!” Indeed! I damn well wasn’t going to take that sort of insult lying down. I wasn’t ready to give up on “Lost In Space,” but I decided in that moment that if he could watch “Star Trek,” then so could I.

I remember the first episode I saw was “
The Devil In the Dark,” and it was a revelation. These people were serious. Who was that guy with pointed ears? That would be the science officer, Mr. Spock. He was a Vulcan. He was an alien. An alien that was a good guy?

From that moment on, I was an addict.

After watching a few more episodes, I wanted to be Mr. Spock. The concept of basing decisions on logic over emotions was an absolute revelation to me. I’m sure most boys wanted to be
Captain Kirk. He was tough, but fair. He was loyal. And he got the girls. Gorgeous girls. I admit that part was intriguing. Still, Spock did have his share of female admirers, and they were not only cute, they were also smart!

As a child, I was hyper-emotional, and it got me into lots of trouble. I had a keen sense of introspection at a young age. I was extremely analytical. I pondered my predicament of being small for my age, of being mediocre at sports, and of being “the baby” of the family. If I had to pick one word to describe my life as a child, it would be frustration. Boys fought, and I hated fighting. I had older brothers that teased me constantly. When teams were chosen up for sports, I was usually one of the last kids picked. The idea that a hero could be a hero because of his intellect alone never occurred to me. Here was a way out.

The secret of the Mr. Spock character was that he was half-human. He had emotions, but he fought to triumph over them, and it did not come easy. His god was truth, and his religion was logic. Spock was proud, but not arrogant. He was willing to die for his principles, and he put the well being of the crew ahead of his own. As he said at the end of the movie, “
Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan,” sacrificing his life to save the ship and her crew, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

Mr. Spock taught me that the way to salvation was through the pursuit of the truth. The pursuit of truth was not only a means to an end; it was an acceptable end unto itself. I didn't know it at the time, but Mr. Spock was responsible for one of the governing principles of my life: Truth transcends agenda.

I've wanted to write this post ever since I read Lance Mannion's excellent post about Scotty.


Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Oh boy. Star Trek. Where I grew up in the barren wildnerness we could only get one TV channel, but luckily that channel carried 'Star Trek'.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

Personal comments: I remember seeing "Miri" as a child and it scared the hell out of me. One of the better episodes, later veiwings confirmed.

And I, too, much admire Lance's post.

Additional comments: I think Next Generation is the superior series overall, but the triumvirate of Kirk, Spock and McCoy is a stroke of genius and the reason to see the original.

1:17 PM  

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