Skip to main content

My History with and the Future of STAR TREK


I saw the premiere episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation live on a Saturday night in 1991 because I wasn’t invited to a high school party all the cool kids were going to. How much does that make me a cliche? The nerd at home watching Star Trek. Not that this is burned into my mind at all.

Honestly, though, I am what I am. Before that, I was a big Star Wars fan and never that interested in Trek. For some reason, I was more fascinated by the fact a TV show from the 1960s had come back from the dead as a series of movies and now a spin-off series than I was about actually watching that show which had Mr Spock in it.

Also, to be fair, how exactly was I supposed to watch Star Trek in the 1980s? Was it re-run on television? Did fans trade VHS tapes? How was I even supposed to find these fans without the internet?

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek, “The Man Trap”. I didn’t see any of the original series until the mid-90s, though I did catch up on the original cast’s big screen adventures before that.

The Next Generation was my introduction into the franchise and, in some ways, into the genre of science fiction. Star Wars, it turned out, was more space opera or science fantasy. My fear was that Star Trek was going to take the science too seriously. That somehow it would be space without the fun.

But “Encounter at Farpoint”, which I recently re-watched on Netflix, because that is how you can binge-watch every Star Trek series ever now, is quite a bit of fun. It’s got a space jellyfish in it and a barrier at the edge of the universe and a bunch of interesting concepts and characters. I distinctly remember being captivated by the idea of Data being Pinocchio – wanting to be a real boy.

Once I started watching Star Trek, I read Frank Herbert’s Dune and the works of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. Okay, okay, Dune I read because the film was directed by David Lynch and earlier in 1991 my sixteen-year-old mind was blown by Twin Peaks. 1991 was quite a year for me and television redefining itself after years of watching soap operas and sitcoms.

Star Trek was the key to many of the friendships I made after high school. It was what got me into roleplaying. It was what got me into fan clubs and going to conventions. And when I realised I wanted to be a writer, the first spec script I ever wrote was an episode of Deep Space Nine called “Believing”. It centered around Kira and recovering repressed memories from the war with the Cardassians.

(Did you know that Paramount took unsolicited spec scripts for all their 90s Trek series? That is pretty unbelievable to think of now. The possibility of getting sued these days would be astronomical. And the number of scripts they’d get now would be impossibly high.)

Watching the 90s Trek series in Australia was tricky. Channel 9 went from airing it in prime time – 7:30 on a Wednesday – to trapping it at 11pm on a Thursday night. Its greatest indignity was the fact it ran after The Footy Show, which always ran overtime, sometimes ridiculously late. So I’d set a three hour tape to run from 11pm to 2am and that would catch The Next Generation  or Deep Space Nine and as much of The Late Show with David Letterman as possible.

I saw some Trek episodes early, because by the mid-90s, I had friends who had friends who had contacts – and we could enjoy Voyager only weeks after it originally aired. Instead of months or years, if we waited for the local networks to screen it.

I was pretty obsessed and I would buy the official magazine and was a member of the local fan club, AusTrek. I even wrote a story for their newsletter about Captain Picard being feasted upon my an alien slug, before I even knew what fan fiction was. And I wrote a defense of Deep Space Nine, which was controversial among some Trekkies because it was set on a space station and didn’t “trek” anywhere. Boy, nerds got upset about the weirdest things back then.

Deep Space Nine became my favourite of the series because it did what I wanted television to do – tell continuing stories, rather than press the reset button every week. Before that, television was comfort food. I used to get excited by two-part episodes, but my steady diet of soap meant I liked a continuing character arc, too.

The format of the Star Trek franchise – new planet every week - almost begged for it stay traditional. But as television changed in the 1990s, so did Trek to an extent. Yes, I’m still a big fan of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew, but it’s nowhere near the love I have for Captain Sisko and the complicated crew and denizens of Deep Space Nine.

After a while, I got a bit Trekked out. I parted company with Voyager before they made it home. I sampled Enterprise but quickly switched it off. And I thought I’d put my fannish tendencies in the past until JJ Abrams resurrected the feature film series in 2009. And I still have a complicated relationship with the series after that.

There are elements of every one of the shows I love and while I’ve only been watching for twenty-five out of fifty years, I recognise the half century legacy of the show is rather phenomenal. I may not have been born until nine years after the original series aired, but I still came into the show back at a time where most of its history was lost in the wilderness.


In January 2017, Star Trek Discovery premieres and I cannot wait. It’ll air in Australia on Netflix, so instead of waiting years and watching it post-midnight, I’ll be able to wait hours and watch it after work. To go boldly where so many have gone before, fifty years into the future after Gene Roddenberry first dreamed of a more evolved humanity reaching out into the vastness of space.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

REVIEW: And Then She Became A Chair by Michelle Myers

  Michelle Myers in And Then She Became A Chair A woman emerges from the darkness, head covered, moving slowly, weighted bags are attached to her dress and drag along the ground behind her. She is in a waiting room. A doctor’s office. A hospice. Inside a commercial begging her to start a new life in Queensland. This is purgatory. Michelle Myer’s one-woman performance, And Then She Became A Chair , is an unsettling, confronting and poetic study in grief. We watch as a woman deals with the inevitable death of her mother, remembering absurd moments of her life, of their lives, in the years, weeks and days leading up to… C.S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed , a reflection on the passing of his wife, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” And it’s this observation that Michelle explores in this work – grief being the fear of loss, the fear of the unknown and the fear of what comes next. It’s interesting that the first work of theatre I have seen this year is focused so mu

Careful the things you say... Joe Wright’s HANNA & the combination of genres

Once upon a time... I tried to write a film script that melded noir and Grimm’s fairytales, where the femme fatale , clad in a slinky red dress, was also (in a way) Little Red Riding Hood. Where the lover of a hit man discovered his true identity from something hidden under his mattress. Evil (step)mothers, adopted children, hunters, princesses and family fortunes. Noir and fairytales have a lot in common and yet... I had real trouble finding the right tone for the piece. And, in the end, my script read too much like I was trying to get the concept to work, rather than telling a compelling story. Saoirse Ronan as Hanna Joe Wright’s film HANNA , screenplay by Seth Lockhead and David Farr, finds the perfect balance between a high tension thriller and a fairytale coming-of-age story. And travels further into the story of this mysterious girl than the trailer suggests. Going in, I was worried this might be too close to Leon or La Femme Nikita – the original films of which I t

You are far away: Agent Cooper and his troubling return to Twin Peaks

“What year is this?” Dale Cooper asks in the final scene of Twin Peaks: The Return , the last of many unanswered questions left as the 18-part feature film concluded a week ago. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen someone who looks like Dale Cooper lost for answers over recent months. But it might be the first time we have definitive proof that he’s in over his head. Mr C, Dale Cooper’s doppelganger, who was first seen in the original series’ finale back in 1991, returned to the town of Twin Peaks with a goal in mind. Mr C was flexible, though. He had to be; he’d set so many things in motion over twenty-five years, if he’d remained fixated, he would never have come as far as he did. Dougie, Dale Cooper’s tulpa – created by and from Mr C, wandered aimlessly through life, but slowly made every life he touched better. Plans change and Dougie changed with them. Slowly but surely, Dougie pieced together Cooper’s past life and became richer for it. Agent Cooper, th

Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: THE AVENGERS assemble on the big screen

I like superheroes. I grew up with reruns of the 1960s Batman TV series. The Superman films were released when I was really young. The Amazing Spider-Man , Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were nighttime TV shows. And one of the defining motion picture releases of my teenage years was Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. I was never a big comic book reader as a kid – I’ve probably read more comic books, uh, graphic novels in the last ten years than any time before that. But superheroes were always very cool. And Burton’s Batman took my favourite superhero very seriously. Well, until Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins appeared – taking it ultra-seriously and much darker than I’d ever hoped for. As a non-comic reader, I find it hard to align myself as a DC ( Batman , Superman , Wonder Woman ) or Marvel Universe ( Spider-Man , X-Men , The Avengers and its consitutent parts) person. They appeal to different parts of my brain. In effect, DC’s superheroes are often lone warrior

Carrie Fisher: No More Postcards

Two Princess Leias, a medal and some broken jewellry Did I ever tell you about the time Carrie Fisher kissed me on the cheek? Stick around, I’ll tell it again soon. Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia; no getting past that. Except, of course, she did. And then she stepped right back into being her last year. She was the right person to play Leia because she was the right age at the time and she is part of Hollywood royalty. She was also the right person to have been Leia in retrospect, too. Can you imagine anyone else describing Jabba the Hutt as a “giant saliva testicle”? Anyone else who would bring an audience member up on stage to mount a Leia “sex doll” and whip it away before they get close enough to fulfil their childhood fantasy? Actors, even those of Star Wars­­­ -level fame, go in and out of the spotlight. Oh, you could spot Fisher on screen in the 1980s and 90s, but much of her hard work went on behind the scenes, as a script writer and script doctor. Hook , Sist

Colder by Lachlan Philpott - Red Stitch

Colder Photo: Teresa Noble I’m there. I’m sitting there in the dark. Sitting there in the dark watching a play by Lachlan Philpott at Red Stitch. A child has gone missing at Disneyland but nothing evokes Disneyland for me, not even the actors wearing mouse ears. Especially not the actors wearing mouse ears and affecting exaggerated American accents. I want to feel what the mother is feeling, while officious behind-the-scenes Disney workers assure her everything is going to be fine. I want a sense of her being frantic and frustrated. But I don’t get this sense because the language of the play is putting me at a distance. The expository monologues don’t paint a picture or flesh out a world beyond the very basic (“padded concrete, padded seats”) and the facile (“padded people”). This choral arrangement of voices is not singing. Eight-year-old David remains missing all day and we learn that his single mother has felt separate from him ever since. We ar

Walking out... I couldn't do it, could you?

Every so often, I think about walking out of a play, but I can't. I've never done it and I don't think I ever could. I've never walked out of a film, either. It's not in my nature. In the end, I'd rather suffer through the entire thing so I can criticise the entire play, rather than leave halfway and never know if it got any better or any worse. This has come to mind now, not because I wanted to walk out of Terence Malick's big budget experimental film The Tree of Life , but because apparently walk outs are becoming a phenomenon with that particular movie. And in a packed theatre at Cinema Nova last night, the walk outs were notable by their absense when the lights came up at the end. It certainly won't be to everyone's taste. It's very much an impressionistic film that explores grand ideas through mood and beauty, rather than telling a coherent narrative. But, even those moments in the film that were the most challenging on a "need for

REVIEW: This Genuine Moment by Jacob Parker - Midsumma

Christmas Eve. A bedroom. Two strangers, their limbs entangled; the doona cover and pillows hiding their identities just a little while longer. Riley wakes first to chimes from his mobile phone; an alarm or an early morning text message. He carefully manoeuvres himself away from last night’s hook-up and drags himself out of bed. His family are coming over for dinner and he’s got to clean up his new apartment before they arrive. But first thing is first, he’s got to get rid of “L” – the man he slept with last night, whose name escapes him right now in his early-morning, hangover fog. L doesn’t seem in a hurry to leave, though. He’s checking his messages; friends are texting photos of their Christmas Eve barbeque, trying to talk him into coming over. He’s not sure he wants to. He’s also sending messages to someone in his phone known only as FUTRE HUSBND and ignoring texts from his dad. Riley, in a haze, is trying to put the pieces together from the night before. He got wasted at

REVIEW: Stay at Home, Kasey Gambling – Melbourne Fringe

Have you ever felt trapped at home? I know, it’s 2020. If you can work from home, you must work from home. There are only four reasons to leave your house. You can only leave for one hour a day for exercise. No one can visit. But have you ever felt really trapped at home? And scared? Unable to leave. Four years ago, theatre-maker Kasey Gambling created an immersive audio experience for a single audience member on the streets of North Melbourne called The Maze . It’s still one of the most memorable pieces of art I have ever experienced, headphones in and following a woman on the street. Wearing headphones on the street can get you killed. At home, they should be a form of escape – listen to music, listen to podcasts, phone a friend. And yet, Kasey’s new show, Stay at Home , isn’t an escape. It’s another immersive audio experience, but this time you’re not following a woman, you’re in her shoes. But this is your house. How well do you know your own house? You’d think, after loc

REVIEW: Riot Stage Gets Famous - Melbourne Fringe

Early in 2020, Riot Stage – the youth theatre company – was getting ready to launch their show Everyone is Famous at the Next Wave Festival in May. They had been working on it for two years. They even got as far as appearing at the launch for the Festival. Then COVID happened. The members of Riot Stage had to wrestle with what to do next, just like theatre companies all over the world. They wanted to keep making theatre but had to think outside the box. Instead of premiering a show about persona in the age of social media, they made a documentary about trying to get famous in three weeks. Social media connects us all and every platform has its own quirks and expectations. And they all need content. The Riot Stagers launch new accounts to post art, sexually-revealing photographs, thirsty pics of Harry Styles, bad makeup tips from a learner, and reviews of pickles. The goal, of course, is to get as many followers as they can in three weeks. One Riot Stager goes the old-fashioned