It was the Summer of 1969, and one of my earliest memories came from a vacation to Florida. We were in a hotel room, and there was a TV show on with three space explorers in brightly colored uniforms, and they were trying to help a strange, mute girl. I didn't understand it, but I was fascinated by it. It was years before I knew that the show I had seen was Star Trek, and by the time I was aware of it consciously it was off the air. But every week night at 5 it was on, and I watched it faithfully. I soon discovered the novelizations of the series, which I collected and still proudly own today. I even enjoyed the abysmal animated series. Even as a child I felt that bad Trek was better than no Trek. One of my most cherished memories of my late father was going with him to see Gene Roddenberry at the Bushnell auditorium in Hartford, Conn. Gene was touring with the blooper reels, and a recently unearthed, black and white print of the original pilot. I was 11.
Then in 1977 George Lucas knocked the movie world for a loop with Star Wars, and suddenly producers realized that there money to be made with this science fiction stuff. Fast forward to December, 1979. I stood in line for an hour outside of the Village Green movie theatre(now a Best Buy) with my brother to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I still feel the goosebumps when I remember the first time the new Enterprise appeared on the screen. Damn but she was a fine ship! Matt Jeffries was inspired when he designed her. The movie itself was deeply flawed, but it did well enough to garner funding for the second, and far superior Wrath of Kahn. Who cared about plot holes you could pilot a starship through, Star Trek was back.
In 1987 Gene Roddenberry took us further into the future with Star Trek: The Next Generation. As an original series purist(read: snob) I shunned the show after watching the pilot. For the next two and a half years I decried the show as crap, and even now I feel that the first two and a half seasons pretty much sucked, but slowly, inexorably the stories got better. As the cast found their footing, I found myself tolerating, then liking, and finally loving the show. So many of Trek's finest moments occurred aboard Enterprise D, although I still hate the design of that ship. Tin Man, Measure of a Man, Yesterday's Enterprise, Best of Both Worlds. ST:TNG came to represent all that was best about science fiction. Then they did the unthinkable. They announced that season 7 would be the last season. I was crestfallen, but then they also announced a new show that would take place on a space station called Deep Space 9.
DS9 overlapped ST:TNG and hit the ground running. I had learned my lesson with the Next Generation, and I withheld judgment for a season or two. Once DS9 found her feet the show rocked! Granted their re-opening of the parallel universe got pretty silly, but they also had some very powerful episodes, with some of the finest performances ever in a Star Trek series. And they also did the requisite 7 seasons, but then they handed the torch to a small, tadpole shaped ship called Voyager.
Captain Katherine Janeway, not the first female captain on board a Starfleet vessel, but the first female lead of a Star Trek series. Again it took a couple of seasons to solidify, but then the crew, under Roddenberry's heir Rick Berman, gave us the same high quality Trek we had come to expect. And then, the number 7 came round again, and Voyager came home.
There was a brief gap after Voyager went off, but Next Generation movies kept us occupied while Enterprise was being created. This prequel to all previous incarnations promised to show the beginnings of the Federation, but the ratings were never very good. Each season the show got better, while the ratings got worse. Maybe if Capt. Archer were courting a dozen Orion women who all thought he was a millionaire it might have done better. Tonight was the final episode of Enterprise. Series finales are never as good as you would want them to be, but this one was all right. But now we head into a situation that hasn't existed since 1986. Next season there will be no first run Star Trek series, or movie in production. Forgive my nerdish tears, but I am deeply saddened by that.
Star Trek was always more than just a TV show to me. It was something that I could share with my Dad, it was a role model in a world with very few role models. It was a beacon that got me through some of the darkest periods in my life. It was that rarest of things, an optimistic view of the future that said "Hey, guess what? We didn't kill ourselves after all!"
I used to be embarrassed by my fondness for the show, but the one Star Trek convention I attended(yes, only one) showed me just how very normal I am...at least in reference to Star Trek fandom. I cannot remember a time when I didn't know who Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Scotty and the rest were. The shows have inspired me to look for the positive whenever I can, and to watch out for those who can't watch out for themselves. Star Trek made me interested in science, and learning, and bettering myself. I am a better person today for watching Star Trek, and I truly hope that this will merely be a brief pause between series, because my daughter is finally old enough to start watching the shows with me.
Live long and prosper, my friends.