Friday, January 15, 2010

Why I love Star Trek, Essay #2: Elizabeth Calderon

Why I Love Star Trek

By Elizabeth Calderon (nee Weflen)

What started my early (and eventually steep) descent into nerd-dom?

I think it all started with my family sitting down to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation together. We would eat dinner as a family, and then immediately move to the family room and gather around the television to watch the newest episode of TNG. This family tradition started when I was an impressionable eight years old.

This was a television show that a family could enjoy together. There wasn’t anything that parent would have to uncomfortably explain to a child. These were intelligent story lines that addressed issues that otherwise weren’t easy to broach. The show tackled such things as the emotional abuse of women (“Man of the People”), rape (“Violations”), unexpected death (“Skin of Evil”), the stigma attached to disabilities (“Tin Man”), genetic engineering (“Masterpiece Society”), and terrorism (“The High Ground").

Star Trek offers a view of humanity that is, for the most part, without the social ills that confront us everyday in the real world. There isn’t discrimination, bloody war, poverty, disease, corruption in the Federation. When these ills are depicted, it’s almost always in a society that isn’t a part of the Federation.

I was a child that was considered a bit of a social outcast. I wasn’t welcomed into the popular cliques (a fact for which I am now grateful). I was teased quite a bit for a stutter (that I’ve mostly outgrown at this point). I’d been told that the words I used were too big. Why did I sound like a computer or a dictionary? Maybe because I was intelligent and didn’t want to dumb myself down for popularity’s sake. Star Trek gave me an outlet that showed a society where people weren’t judged for their popularity or power, but for their minds, integrity, and morality.

The society that children are raised in today places too great of a focus on popularity, at the expense of knowledge. Who where the most popular kids in school? The jocks and the cheerleaders. What do these people contribute to the greater good once they’re out of school? These were the kids that were allowed to pass through by the teachers because of the “prestige” they brought the school.

Schools (by which I primarily mean the Academy) in the Star Trek universe are not considered elite because of the sports that are played. They are considered elite because of the brilliant minds they produce and nurture.

Star Trek shows what people could be capable of if it wasn’t for greed, ignorance, and selfishness. This is a world that I would be happy to live. There’s no threat of people causing the end of everything. There are no petty wars that threaten to destroy the planet. There’s plenty of everything to go around. There’s no disease that can’t be cured, and lifespans are well into the hundred year range. Your impending mortality is a little further off in the Star Trek Universe.

Circling back though, what I really love about Star Trek is its ability to allow families, and even total strangers, to bond. When you run into a fellow Trekker, a question like, “What’s your favorite episode of Star Trek?” can’t be answered in less than fifteen words. That seemingly simple question can spawn hours of discussion.

I always looked forward to the newest episode of Star Trek, starting with TNG, then Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and even Enterprise. It was a time to sit down with family, relax, enjoy, and discuss.

I’m convinced that my life would be considerably more boring without Trek. I’d have less to aspire to, less to discuss, and less to dream about.

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