Once upon a time, there lived a man. This man was a dreamer. This man had hopes and visions of a better future, a future built upon true equality and mutual respect. This man’s name was Gene Roddenberry.
Gene had an idea. He wanted to share his dream and his ideals. The way he did this was through a television series called Star Trek. However, many people at the time did not want Gene to share his dream. He was told that it was too cerebral, too liberal, too unbelievable. It took a lot of work for him to find someone willing to embark on this dream with Gene. But Gene did not give up. After five years of a lot of hard work and dedication, on September 8, 1966, Star Trek aired for the first time.
What aired for the first time was not Gene’s original vision. The original pilot, titled The Cage, which Gene started to create in 1964 and was completed in 1965, was rejected for a variety of reasons. Among the reasons was that, even among feminists of the time, the idea of a female first officer was simply unbelievable and insulting. Gene was also told to get rid of the character of Mr. Spock, among other things. However, the network was still impressed enough to order a second pilot. After a lot of negotiations and recasting, including negotiations to keep the character of Mr. Spock, the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, is what audiences saw for the first time.
Today is an important date to me–aside from the fact that today my oldest is 16. The reasons why today is important to me are extremely difficult to articulate.
Out of every thing that has influenced the geeky nerd I’ve grown-up to be, Star Trek played the biggest and most important role. This role was so important, that it received its own short story in my book.
As this day started to approach, I tried my best to figure out how I would relay all the ways in which Gene’s vision shaped me, all the ways that Gene’s vision helped to save my life. Originally, I thought I would share the story from my book. But without the context of the rest of my book and the fact the story was written two years ago, I feel it doesn’t have the impact that I think is deserving of such a day.
Growing up, I did not have the best life. In fact, it was as far from ideal as one could get. Growing up, I was told, “Don’t be silly, you can’t do that”, instead of, “Give it shot”. Star Trek taught me that I was capable of anything as long as I held on to my dreams. Star Trek taught me that I have unlimited potential and possibility laying before me, that there is no obstacle or barrier to stop me except for myself, that my imagination is something to be cultivated and nurtured, not subdued. Star Trek helped shape the nerd I am today, giving me a love for both science and art.
These messages were further ingrained within me when Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired in 1987. The character of Wesley Crusher was a life-saver. It is because I was and continue to be Wesley Crusher. Even though I was never teased by my peers for being a geek and a nerd, I had a hard time growing up because of my above-average intelligence. I received straight As without ever studying. I have an almost eidetic memory. Socially, I was very awkward. I found it extremely difficult–and still do to this day–to relate to people my own age. I had a habit of correcting adults, all the time, because they were wrong. I skipped grade 7. I felt alone. Star Trek and specifically Star Trek: The Next Generation and the character of Wesley Crusher allowed me to feel as if I belonged to something. I was not alone. And I am certain others relate to this.
Star Trek has a place for every one, regardless of sex, gender, colour, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age and background. Star Trek challenged social norms of the time and forced viewers to think. Star Trek allows people to dream of the possibilities. Star Trek allows us to believe that, as a species, we can overcome great obstacles and become united as one. Star Trek inspires many to pursue jobs in science and space. Star Trek gives us hope. Star Trek has given me more gifts than I could ever articulate.
From the day I was born, I watched Star Trek. From the day my boys were born, they watched Star Trek. One thing that makes me quite sad is that my boys do not have a Star Trek, one filled with Gene’s vision of the future, that speaks to their generation. When the original Star Trek first aired, my dad was 12. When The Next Generation first aired, I was 11. My boys are now 12 and 16. There is talk of a new series, one that is supposedly going to be true to Roddenberry’s original concept. I hope this becomes a reality.
I tried to find a 45th Anniversary tribute video that really spoke to me. However, I’ve yet to find one that even comes close to doing the series justice like the following 40th Anniversary tribute video does. Watching it never fails to put something in my eyes.
On October 24, 1991, Gene Roddenberry passed away, leaving behind a legacy not soon forgotten. May his dreams and hopes for a better future live long and prosper.
What gifts has Star Trek given you?