My 'Star Trek'
My best guess is I first saw "Star Trek," Gene Roddenberry's "Wagon Train" to the stars as it was once called, on the old WKCH-43 when it was an independent station. This was back in the days, for any kiddos out there, when we only got four channels -- five on a clear day.
But I vividly remember my grandfather bringing home a rented copy of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" when my uncle Jeff bought his first VCR. Mom told me later that "Star Trek" was one of two TV series that Papaw wouldn't let anyone interrupt. (The other was "Gunsmoke.")
As I got older, I began to watch the original series in syndication, captivated by the adventure, intrigued by space (a passion that endures), and drawn to the one thing that to me makes "Star Trek" stand out from its other incarnations and competitors -- the palpable chemistry between Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley). Theirs felt like a real friendship. They felt -- and feel -- like real people.
My best buddy Matthew Shelton introduced me to "Star Trek: The Next Generation" when we were of middle school age. And we saw every film from "Star Trek V" forward in the theater together. (I'm not getting into J.J. Abrams tonight.)
I liked "TNG," especially the character Data, but eventually stopped watching the series. My grandfather and I watched the premiere of "Deep Space Nine," and liked it well enough, but neither of us stuck with it. (I'm trying, however slowly, to remedy that via Netflix.) "Voyager" did nothing for me (well, other than Jeri Ryan), and I tried my best to like "Enterprise" -- 'cause of its premise and 'cause I liked Scott Bakula in "Quantum Leap" -- but I couldn't get into it, either.
No, there was something special about that original series. I'm not going to get into the "which show is better" debate. That's subjective. But this is my trek, after all.
Going back more than a quarter century ago, I bought a few episodes on VHS, devoured several of the Pocket Books novels, even bought an Enterprise technical manual.
When I got old enough to "get" it, I finally discovered that I was captivated not only by the characters, but by Roddenberry's vision of the future -- a hopeful one, an exciting one.
I took a long break from the franchise for whatever reason until Shelton started buying the movies on DVD. We laughed our way through "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" (I still can't believe Robert Wise directed that train wreck), and seemed to enjoy the even-numbered films best. A local station began airing remastered episodes in 2008 or so, and I started watching it again. A few years later, I bought the Blu-ray set that contains your choice of watching the original episode as it aired or enhanced with technology not available in the mid-1960s. It's pretty cool. I also bought the animated series. It's OK.
Shelton and I even went on a whirlwind weekend trip to New York and back to see "Shatner's World" in 2012. I marveled that a man his age could stand up there and tell tales, and do it well, alone, for an hour and a half.
Today is the 50th anniversary of "Star Trek." In a little while, I'll watch "The Man Trap" just as it aired on Thursday, Sept. 8, 1966, on NBC. If I can't fall asleep, I might watch another episode.
My friend Bill Householder is the biggest Trekkie I know. (He shared his thoughts today, too.) He and I are going to be blogging about the series in the coming weeks, discussing our favorite episodes, maybe even doing a "live chat" conversation, I don't know.
What I do know is that "Star Trek" endures. Its ethos, quite relevant in the mid-20th century, are still relevant today. Among many, many other things, its vision of cooperation, of human beings finally putting aside their differences to explore the universe is as fantastic a future as we can hope to create.
It seems bleak now, what with everyone divided over everything, NASA a shell of its former self, and few dreamers daring to dream.
But dream they will, and dream Gene Roddenberry did, and we're better off for it, entertained, enlightened, uplifted. Fifty years later, "Star Trek" and its legions of fans continue to boldly go...
Well, you know where...