Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Best TV Series of My Life: Star Trek (1966 - 1969)

There are countless blog posts, tweets, and disquisitions about the enormous cultural impact this series, and the subsequent follow-up series, have had. For its time, the Original Series, as it is known today, wasn't popular, and was canceled after just three seasons, once again affirming that just because something isn't popular or impactful today doesn't mean that it isn't going to be in the future--a lesson critics refuse to learn; and a lesson the herd, even more so, refuses to learn.

For me personally, the Original Series was literally a lifeline to sanity. My home life was, to put it mildly, fucked up. You can read all about it in Obituary for a Bad Man and Reflections of Connie: Memories of a Sundered Love. Much more is coming about that utter dysfunction, but those two will suffice for now.

I would come home from swimming practice and hurry to the TV and turn it on. Star Trek was everything to me, and I watched, then re-watched, then re-re-watched each episode with great joy. I learned every line, every musical note, every set, every nuance of every actor's actions. It wasn't until much later that the reason why Trek was so important to me availed itself. Star Trek--the Enterprise--was the family I wanted and would never get. It had intelligence and science--both of which were absolutely despised in my household--and camaraderie and brotherhood and sisterhood--all of which were missing in my family--and optimism and decency and happy endings--all of which were grotesquely absent with the Helberts.

My so-called family noted my love with--no surprise--great disdain. They made fun of me at every opportunity, calling me a "nerd" and "fag." (I could never piece together how love of this series somehow implied something about my sexual orientation.) Being called a nerd in the 70s wasn't the same as being called it today. The bullies back then were much more brutal than they are today, and were able to get away with a lot more; and that is fully recognizing that they aren't all that wonderful or laid-back these days.

Back then, being thought of as a nerd was pretty damned scary.

The Original Series stoked in me a love for science and mathematics, the latter of which I would eventually earn a Bachelor of Arts in. It stoked a love for inquiry and exploration, and of some of the deeper philosophical questions: Is there a God? Can a consciousness evolve to the point that the physical body isn't needed? Why do people make war? Is it possible that the human species will grow up and make it to the stars?

Of this last question, I have become more and more pessimistic since my boyhood. In Star Trek's timeline, by the mid-1990s, humankind was already venturing out to the stars. It's 2019, and we have yet to even go back to the fucking moon!

There are countless reasons why this is so, and if you read this blog with any regularity, you'll know what I think they are: suburbanism and consumerism, shortsightedness and violence, greed and ignorance, racism and imperialism, the latter of which, it turns out, ends up feeding back on itself in the end, which, I believe, we are witnessing today. The same is true for capitalism, another reason why we have abandoned the stars and keep slashing NASA's budget. Capitalism is always about scarcity and short-term thinking and maximizing profits at the expense of anyone and everyone it can. Hardly a recipe for long-term space exploration, science, and enlightened thinking, let alone practical optimism.

We as a species will be damned lucky to make it to the 22nd century, let alone the 23rd, when the Original Series' timeline plays out. To get there will require a sea change of attitudes and philosophies from absolutely everyone, not just the movers and shakers and leaders of any given country or culture. Everyone. As I write this, there are stirrings that such may occur. But they are as yet very feeble, very fragile. The moo cows that make up the vast majority of the human species seem content to let it all burn down around their fat fucking ears.


My three favorite episodes are probably (probably):

"Balance of Terror"

"The City on the Edge of Forever"


"Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"

This last episode is even more relevant today, sadly, than it was in the 1960s.

How far we haven't come.