What ‘Star Trek’ Means to Us

One of the original shooting models of the USS Enterprise at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Photo by Rob Huddleston.
One of the original shooting models of the USS Enterprise at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. Photo by Rob Huddleston.

Fifty years ago today–September 8, 1966–the starship Enterprise began its five year mission with the premiere of “The Man Trap” on NBC. Few science fiction franchises have had as profound an impact as Star Trek, and certainly fewer still can be said to be alive and well a half century after they began.

To celebrate today, several GeekDads and GeekMoms have shared their feelings about Star Trek and what the franchise has meant to them and their lives, including that Trek is indirectly responsible for GeekDad’s existence, taught GeekDad Matt Blum about expanding his worldview, connected several GeekDads with the generations past and future, and provided GeekDad Jules with his faith in humanity.

Ken Denmead, Owner/Publisher: Star Trek is, in a way, responsible for GeekDad and GeekMom existing today as they are. Back in 2007, when I joined the new GeekDad blog, I had spent the previous couple of years as a member of, and ultimately running, a Play-by-e-Mail (PbeM) Star Trek Role-Playing Game called Starbase Phoenix. Not only was it amazing fun, and a great fan-fic experience, it also taught me a huge amount about managing a disparate group of writers and putting out consistent, regular content. I had even taught myself how to podcast, and so already had many of the necessary skills developed when GeekDad came my way to run. It was an easy transition from being the Captain of an imaginary starbase to being the Grand Nagus of a real blogging community filled with just as many amazing, surprising characters, each with their own stories to tell.

Matt Blum,Editor-in-Chief: 

The Top 8 Things I learned from Star Trek:

1. Logic is awesome. Spock was my favorite TOS character, and my desire to emulate him no doubt was a key part of my love of computers as a kid. TNG started a few weeks after I started high school, and if I had needed any more convincing that I wanted to be a programmer, that would have been the final push.

2. Knowledge is important for its own sake. Both TOS and TNG taught me that to enjoy life you need to learn new things all the time, even if there’s no specific reason why you need that knowledge.

3. All sentient beings deserve the same rights. I grew up in the ’80s and I’ll admit that I was among those who didn’t quite know how to think about homosexuality or transgender (a word I’m not certain I heard before college) issues. The Star Trek philosophy of IDIC (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) and the way android-related issues were handled on TNG helped me recognize that people deserve to be whoever they are, and that every person deserves to be judged by how they act regarding things they can control, and not by the the things they can’t.

4. Questioning authority is probably the most important part of freedom. Leaders who don’t know that they’re fallible are dangerous, and citizens who don’t keep their leaders in check are even more so.

5. Brains are more important than brawn. There are times when it’s necessary to use physical means to solve a problem, but most of the time those physical means would be wasted without a sound plan to back them up.

6. Hunting humpback whales is awful. And, wonderfully, they were just taken off the endangered species list, so it looks like most of Star Trek IV won’t be necessary after all.

7. Patrick Stewart is a good enough actor to be believable playing a French character even with his obviously-British accent.

8. Counselor Troi should have been removed from the show at the same time Tasha Yar was, since the number of times Marina Sirtis made me forget that she was acting in the entire series could be counted on one hand.

Anika Dane: My mother died, suddenly, during the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I was thirteen. A few weeks later the episode “Pen Pals” aired. It starts with a young girl sending a message into space, just four words: “Is anybody out there?” Data, the Enterprise’s android officer, answers “Yes.” Star Trek has always been there for me when I needed to know someone was out there. The many series have provided entertainment, education, and encouragement and the many fans have given me somewhere to belong. Star Trek is my pen pal.

Will James: Star Trek means several specific things to me. My dad was a big Star Trek fan, but he could never convince me to watch with him. Then, when I was thirteen-years-old, he died and, among many other things, left me VHS recordings of the first two seasons of The Next Generation (season three was airing). I watched those tapes and fell in love with Trek. Star Trek, and specifically Wil Wheaton and Wesley Crusher helped me get through a really hard time in my life and also instilled a love of sci-fi and computers that is a huge part of my life every day.

Star Trek was also responsible for one of my current passions–cosplay and prop making. A Star Trek convention was my first con. My first cosplay (before it was called that) was a TNG jumpsuit my mom had made for me. I completed it with my first cosplay prop–a phaser made out of cardboard and painted with my Testors model paints. And although I never got to go to a convention with my dad, I know he would’ve gone with me and dressed up too. And I love carrying on that imagined tradition with my own kids.

Whenever I watch TNG, or anything Star Trek related, even if it’s just another Picard facepalm meme, I always think of my dad.

Samantha Fisher: My dad and I spent a lot of time together. He’d joke I was the son he never had since I was the youngest of five daughters and my parents had managed to convince themselves I was a boy when they found they were pregnant again. Most of the time we spent together was working in one form or another. Working on the house, the cars, or our warm weather standby of selling items at flea markets on the weekends. Very little of that time together was spent doing leisure activities. He had his interests and I had mine and they rarely overlapped. Star Trek was the exception to that rule. He loved Kirk, I loved Spock, and we both cracked up at Bones and his crazy drama. Scotty’s voice would give us both a smile now and then as well. He’d often look over at me at the start of the away missions and ask “which one won’t make it back from this trip, Sam?” I would, of course, call out “the guy in the red shirt!” and we’d have a good laugh when he immediately got shot or fell or whatever was on tap to befall the poor red shirts of that particular episode.  This anniversary is bittersweet for me. I lost my father three years ago and haven’t been able to watch since without overwhelming sadness. Perhaps this year will be the year I can watch with more fondness than sadness. Perhaps.

Patricia Vollmer: My first memories of Star Trek would have been the TOS reruns I’d occasionally watch with my family while I was growing up. It didn’t hold the same command of my attention and fandom as Star Wars had while I was a kid, but I found the show enjoyable nonetheless. My best friend growing up was (still is) a Trekkie, and she was never caught without a copy of one of the books, or some fan fiction, in her hand when we were in middle and high school.

And then I married a Trekkie. My husband of 21 years isn’t necessarily at the Klingon-speaking level of fandom, but still, he knows the TOS episodes, actors, and movies quite well. One of our first dates in 1994 was to see Generations in the theater while we were in college. We are now a house-divided. Since I am a ginormous Star Wars fan, he and I have had our share of arguments about which fandom is better: Is it Star Trek because of its ethics of space exploration and more-realistic science or Star Wars because of its parables of good vs. evil?

So what does Star Trek mean to me? It means something to share with my husband. Today, he and I share Star Trek with our two sons in the form of the J.J. Abrams reboot movies and reruns of The Next Generation on BBC America, which we all enjoy immensely. (And we have also shared Star Wars with our sons, from Clone Wars to LEGO Star Wars to The Force Awakens.)

Rob Huddleston: My earliest memory of Star Trek was coming home from school. My mom would be in the kitchen making dinner, and watching it on the little black-and-white TV we had in the kitchen. I remember standing in line at the theater with my parents, waiting to get in to see Wrath of Khan, and wondering why almost everyone was leaving the earlier showing with tears in their eyes.

Star Trek became more important to me in high school, though, because by happy coincidence The Next Generation mirrored my relationship with the woman who would become my wife. The first episode came on shortly after we began dating, and for some reason, this girl who wasn’t into science fiction at all was willing to come over and hang out with me to watch it. It became a weekly thing for us, sitting on the couch downstairs each week. While she still disavows any claim to nerddom, she happily accompanied me to the early cons that were in Denver, which included us accidentally riding an elevator with George Takei and getting to see the first-ever screening of the second part of The Best of Both Worlds.

The show that began almost simultaneously with the beginning of our relationship ended close to our next big milestone: we watched, along with our friends, in 1994 as the show ended, and a few months later walked down the aisle to get married. And so, TNG was there with us throughout our dating years.

Star Trek was also responsible for one of my closest friendships in college. I wore a TNG t-shirt to college orientation, which prompted Brian, who was way more into the show than I, to come up and introduce himself. And thanks to having that simple thing in common, more than 20 years later, we remain friends.

Jules Sherred: Star Trek has always been a part of my life. Articulating the impact it has had on me will never be possible. At least, not eloquently or adequately.

Star Trek means cuddling with my dad from the day I came home from the hospital while we watched.

Star Trek means cuddling with my children from the day they come home from the hospital while we watched, or having it play in the background during those nights where they just wouldn’t sleep and I needed some soothing.

Star Trek means feeling like I belonged somewhere. I was that odd child because Asperger’s wasn’t a thing that was really recognized when I was a child. I wouldn’t be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum until early adulthood. But, with Star Trek, I always had a place of belonging. Spock gave that to me.

When Star Trek: The Next Generation began to air, it gave me something I could discuss with my classmates. Everyone in my class watched it. It wasn’t a geek thing in my class. I had already been a lifelong fan, but finally, I had something I could share with others. Then, not only did I have Spock, but I also had Wesley and Data to help me know I was okay.

Star Trek’s morality plays heavily impacted me. The storytelling and Star Trek’s sense of what is just, the questions it forced viewers to contemplate, all of it was food for my brain. It also taught me how to think critically about certain situations.

Star Trek fueled my love of science and math. It caused me to dream. It taught me that anything is possible if I set my mind to it.

Star Trek is responsible for my relationship. It started when we decided to watch Star Trek with each other on a nightly basis. We even had a United Federation of Planets wedding where I was Spock and he was Kirk.

Star Trek gave me faith in humanity. I truly believe we can become what Gene Roddenberry envisioned for us.

Every night, I fall asleep to a Star Trek episode. There have been very few days in my 40 years on this planet that haven’t had Star Trek in them.

I can’t articulate what Star Trek means to me. It is one of my touchstones. It has always just been there. Its fingerprints are all over my life, influencing every aspect. How do you put that into words?

Corrina Lawson: My earliest memories of Star Trek was watching the original series in reruns on a black and white television with rabbit ears that was the first big thing I bought for myself with my babysitting money. There was no cable when I grew up, only three channels and whatever we could pull in on the rabbit ears. Star Trek was my first science fiction series. Before that, all I had were books as a window to the greater world out there. Now I had Trek, though I had to sneak to stay awake late and watch them. I’ve no idea what episode was my first, but I have this incredible memory of missing the “Trouble With Tribbles” episode one night and my best friend in high school, a similar geek, recapping the entire episode for me the next day over the phone. I still hear her voice when that episode plays.

As a mom, Trek was one of the first fandoms I shared with my eldest son. My husband (who went to a Trek convention when he was 15 in 1976), myself and my son borrowed old the VHS tapes from the local library. This is only appropriate because this boy was born when Voyager had just started and we had the episode with Amelia Earhardt on in the delivery room as I was giving birth to him. Now my youngest daughter is finally watching. Of course, we started her with “The Trouble with Tribbles.” Trek has been part of the glue that binds our family together.

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