Today marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and I guess I’ve been paying close attention for about 35 or so of those years. When I was a kid, the routine was to rush home from school, turn the TV — pre-cable — to the “independent” TV station, watch cartoons for most of the afternoon, then finish with an episode of “Star Trek” before dinner.
The show shaped my imagination to a remarkable degree. “Star Wars” had all the good toys in the late 1970s and early 80s, but I found I could fashion a captain’s chair of sorts in my bedroom, use a flashlight to simumlate a phaser — and, occasionally, I could get my sister Rachel to make up “Star Trek” adventures with me.
I wanted to be an astronaut growing up, and “Star Trek” was part of that passion. The ambitions changed, but my love for the show didn’t.
Scratch that: My love for the show has evolved. I can see now that much of The Original Series was cheesy — how, in fact, much of The Next Generation was pretty bad, too. There’s probably more bad Trek than good Trek, in all honesty, but bad Trek is like bad pizza. It’s still kinda awesome.
My favorite series, these days, is Deep Space Nine. It was the first to use serialization, and though its run ended before 9/11, the themes that emerged during the show’s war between the Federation and the Dominion — about war and the toll it takes on our highest ideals — turned out to be startlingly prescient.
I dated a woman in college who went to see “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” with me. She was the first woman I ever thought I could marry. The woman I did marry? We celebrated our 10th anniversary by going to see “Star Trek Beyond” on opening night.
And all this has affected my son. When he was just three years old, I heard him playing in his room, having all sorts of conversations and making all sorts of noises. Suddenly, he yelled out: “CAPTAIN, WATCH OUT!” And I knew he was playing Star Trek, like I had as a kid.
I sometimes wonder about myself, whether it’s right that the stuff I loved as a kid is the same stuff I love as a middle-aged adult. But I love Star Trek. I imagine I always will.