Tomorrow marks 50 years since the first episode of Star Trek hit the television air waves. The TrekMovie staff take this opportunity to talk about how some of us came to love the franchise. If you’re reading this, it’s probably safe to assume that Star Trek means something special to you. Whether you’re a super fan, a new fan, a Trekkie, or a Trekker, we want you to tell us: what does the franchise mean to you?
Header image by Sam Woolley
We asked the TrekMovie staff how they got into Star Trek. Here’s what they had to say:
“My first memory of Star Trek is drawing the Enterprise”
My parents introduced us to Star Trek by showing us TNG on Sunday nights as part of our Family Home Evening. Instead of a big, elaborate Sunday dinner we would just eat sandwiches and snacks and watch the adventures of the Enterprise-D. But my first ever memory of Star Trek is drawing a picture of the Enterprise (no bloody A, B, C, or D) when I was in first-grade.
“It gave me direction. I can’t imagine life without Star Trek”
My love affair with Star Trek began in 1979 at the tender age of 6, and I remember it vividly. I walked into the family living room, where my Dad was watching this show I had never seen before. He told me that he was watching something called Star Trek, and I, probably more out of boredom than anything else, plopped down on the rug in front of the tv and started to watch. The episode, I realized later, was “The Enterprise Incident”, a pretty solid third season show. It dealt with Romulans, disappearing ships, characters in disguise, faked deaths, and assorted other things that absolutely riveted this first grader. I immediately began pressing my Dad for more information, who told me we could watch it again the following week (this was before we had a VCR). For the next few years, I made sure to be in front of the tv at 6pm on Saturday night.
Turns out it was a good time to become a fan. A few months later (or weeks, for all I know) I began to see ads for a Star Trek movie that featured all the same people that were on the show. My Dad and I saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture on opening weekend, and while my six-year-old mind had a hard time grasping the more metaphysical aspects of the film, I was completely sucked into the world the movie showed me, and became an even bigger fan. I gleefully devoured the short-lived Marvel Comics series and whatever books I could get my hands on that would allow me to learn more about this magical world I had discovered.
As I got older, I realized that the show was far more than action-adventure. It often dealt with heady ideas and had an inherent humanism to it that has kept me coming back for the last 37 years. It gave me a direction and affects my thinking to this very day.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like had I never wandered into that living room.
Thank you, Gene.
“Star Trek helped shape me into the scientist I am today”
Star Trek has always been a part of my life. I grew up as The Next Generation was airing in its first run on television. My parents would have friends over every week to watch new episodes. Later in life, I would watch TNG in syndication and slowly got into the other series and movies. About a decade ago I attended my first convention, and my life changed forever. Walking into a hotel and meeting thousands of people who shared a common interest meant we were all instantly friends. Star Trek inspired me to want to explore the world around us, so, yeah, I give Star Trek credit for shaping me into the scientist I am today.
“Trek influenced my decision to study Sociology”
Star Trek is “comfort food” for me, especially TOS and TNG. I was introduced to TOS at the young age of 6, right as the first season of TNG as was airing. So for a period of time, TOS was the only Trek I knew. Getting to know TOS and, then airing weekly, TNG got me through a rough patch when my parents suddenly announced a trial separation and I was whisked off by my mom to live with her parents in another state. Captain Kirk and Wesley Crusher became important role models for me. Kirk was a sort of aspirational version of myself (not afraid of change or new challenges), and was a bit of a pseudo-father figure too. Wes was important because it showed smart, sensitive, kids had a place in the future and would be treated with respect.
As I grew up, my love of tech, how things worked, and general curiosity about the world and the people on it, all intersected in Star Trek. Through books like The Star Trek Compendium and the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, I learned about behind the scenes information and they helped frame the episode plots with context, often pointing out how episodes were allegories for real-world events and issues. Books like the Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise, and The Next Generation Technical Manual fed my love of Trek tech, and of course influenced my interest in tinkering with present day computers. Seeing the intersection of pop-culture, social commentary and the strong humanist message in Trek, influenced my decision to study Sociology in school. Trek has shaped me, given me so much entertainment, and food-for-thought throughout my life; I’m excited to see where Trek takes me next.
“I absolutely wore those VHS tapes out”
I was a lad of only four years old in 1986 when I watched my first episode of Star Trek. Paramount had begun releasing the series on VHS that year, and my dad picked up a copy of “A Piece of the Action.” My father loved Star Trek and mobster films, so this episode was the perfect intersection of his two interests. For me, I loved how our heroes came upon a familiar looking society and, after being captured multiple times, went on to save the day by acting like the very gangsters they sought to pacify (although my appreciation for that episode has grown as I have aged).
Seeing that I was hooked on that episode, my dad showed me three VHS tapes that included episodes that had been recorded off of television. The episodes included “Amok Time,” “Obsession,” “The Changeling,” “Journey to Babel,” “The Menagerie,” “Charlie X,” “The Naked Time,” “The Enemy Within,” “Mudd’s Women,” “Miri,” “Dagger of the Mind,” “Balance of Terror,” “The Galileo Seven,” “The Squire of Gothos,” “Arena,” “Court Martial,” “Space Seed,” “Errand of Mercy,” and “The Devil in the Dark.”
I absolutely wore those VHS tapes out, watching episodes over and over again, as well as the first four feature films. During my Summer breaks from school, I would watch reruns of The Original Series every day. It was not until the series was released on Blu-ray in 2009 that I watched it in its proper order. The first Star Trek movie I saw in theaters was The Final Frontier at the age of seven. I recall this fondly as I started crying my eyes out because I thought we were in the wrong theater. As this was the first Star Trek feature to begin without the opening titles, I mistakenly thought we were watching the wrong film.
Being as young as I was, I did not realize that there was a new incarnation of Star Trek on television until 1990. My dad did not watch it, as he was more attached to TOS. It was easy to get caught up on the episodes I had missed as TNG aired every night. The first series I watched from beginning to end, week in and week out, was Deep Space Nine, which remains my favorite to this day. While I love that series so dearly, I will never relinquish my love for TOS, a show that I truly grew up on.
“It was my mom that got my eyes on Star Trek for the first time”
My mom used to tell me that she watched Star Trek when she was in the hospital recovering from my birth, but I had to tell her that it actually premiered six months after I was born. It doesn’t matter; it was still my mom that got my eyes on it for the first time. I was probably about 10, and got hooked almost immediately. The show delivered good news: there might be a future that included peace, hope, and bold adventure, and it came in bright colors, featured space travel, and was fun! As bizarre as it sounds, there was no fictional character better than Spock for an adolescent girl to connect with. I watched every episode, every time it was on, read The Making of Star Trek and The World of Star Trek over and over again, and longed for the day when the vision in this show would be shared by millions … because I had no idea that was already happening.
So while my mom was the first one to put the show on for me to see, no one told me about it or said it was good: the show did all the work, and that was that. Star Trek fan for life.
“Star Trek has always been in the background, I just pulled it up to the front page of my life story”
I have a lot of Star Trek memories that have led up to this point in my life where I’m recognized more as Starfleetmom than by my real name. I remember watching TOS on TV in the 70s as a kid. I remember getting really excited when I saw the trailer for the STIV at the movie theater when I went to see Silverado with my big brother. I remember having a new puppy in 2000 & the family couldn’t decide on what to name him… until we were watching The Voyage Home on TV one day. We all looked at Spock and looked at my pointy-eared schnauzer pup and unanimously decided to name him Mr. Spock. I remember going to Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas for the first time with my best friend and finding out that she was a Trekkie, too. I cried because she read every word of the museum timeline with me and I knew no other women than would do that. I laughed as she recited the Encyclopedia of Borg to a woman there that was dragged along by her Trekkie husband.
I remember when James Doohan died and my best friend and I decided right then that we should go to a convention and see these icons before we lost any more. At that 40th anniversary in Las Vegas, we were in awe of the people who knew all the episode names and minor characters. When we got home I remember recording and watching all of VOY and DS9 in order on Spike TV, which was broadcasting it daily. I recorded every episode on VHS tapes and reused them weekly, just like my mom did for her soap operas. In short, I remember certain milestones, but I have no Come to Jesus (or Come to Starfleet) moment. It’s like Trek has always just been there in the background and then around the turn of the century I just pulled it up to the front page of my life story. Since our first convention my circle of friends and circle of influence has expanded greatly and the Star Trek relationships and experiences have greatly enhanced my life and my happiness.
“My love affair with Star Trek grew as I did”
Syndication is where I first was exposed to The Original Series, although my earliest memory was playing with my original MEGO Scotty figure, which I no longer have. My love affair grew as I did, and seeing The Wrath of Khan on the big screen as a 12-year old, when it was first released in theaters, cemented Star Trek in my life. I still remember one of the patrons crying as Spock died on screen. It’s a moment that continues to resonate with me. After Star Trek II, I went back to watch, and watch, and watch TOS again and again on my local UHF channel (this was before VCR’s, digital recorders, streaming, etc.). During these rewatches, the one Star Trek episode which I always was excited to see was “City on the Edge of Forever”, which to this day is still my favorite of all-time; watching Kirk as he allows Edith Keeler to die to protect the future still hits me in the feels. His sacrifice to do what was right for the needs of many will be a theme which his character would revisit often, up until his death.
“Star Trek always meant the hope of fixing my heart issue through science”
It was 1974, the world was transfixed by the kidnapping of 19-year-old Patricia “Patty” Hearst, granddaughter of publisher William Randolph Hearst. What was the Symbionese Liberation Army? I didn’t care, I was watching Star Trek The Animated Series. I was also four. While TOS technically was my first introduction to Star Trek, but the animated series was mine. I felt like I had discovered it. When Star Wars was first popular, my grandmother’s total lack of pop culture knowledge put MEGO Trek figures in my lap instead of Luke and Leia and I began to take that as a sign. After the 1970s has passed, and in the 80’s without reruns or the Internet, I often wondered if it was just something my childhood mind had manufactured, but by then I was into all things Trek and eagerly awaiting the new Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am so glad I get to experience the thrill of a new show again and I owe it all to a shirtless half-goat, half-man with cloven hooves was bellowing “FRIEND KIRK!”
More than that, Star Trek always meant the hope of fixing my heart issue though science and helped bring me closer to my Grandfather.
Those are just a few of our stories. What’s yours? Tell us in the comments. And follow along during our live tweet of “Space Seed” tonight at 8pm PDT!