Do Unto Others…

For over four decades I have been a rabid Star Trek fan.  Some fans of my ilk are referred to as “Trekkies”.  Others prefer the moniker “Trekkers”.  I like to think of myself as a “Trekologist”; a person who has devoted considerable energy to the study of all things Trek.

When I have asked myself the question, “What is it about Star Trek that appeals to me so much?” I have come up with numerous answers.  Moreover, the answers change from time to time, depending upon my state of mind, which Trek incarnation I happen to be watching, and any number of other factors.  There is, however, one reason for my unbridled affection for Star Trek which never changes.  I am continually impressed by the positive outlook for humankind’s future which is depicted in all the Star Trek television shows and movies.

Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s creator, was convinced that we have the potential to overcome our petty differences and, one day, become united in a way never before witnessed on Earth.  He believed, as do I, that we are capable of sufficient intelligence, kindness, understanding, patience, and tolerance to survive our relative infancy as a race, to figure out how not to destroy ourselves, and to learn to live in harmony with each other and with our planet.  It stands to reason that, when that happens, atrocities like poverty, disease, war, hatred, and prejudice will become things of the past.  The day that comes to pass is a day I look forward to with great anticipation.

In order to reach such a lofty goal, however, we will each be required to make a contribution.  To that end, I have often tried to determine how best to do my part.  There is no single correct answer.  The one that carries the most weight with me though is this:

Do unto others as you’d have done to you.

The Golden Rule.  That little tidbit of wisdom that we all have heard since childhood and, yet, often forget to enact.  The implementation of this simple tenet is really rather easy most of time if one makes a conscious effort.  That is not to say it’s always easy, or even possible.  We are human and we have so many negative aspects to our nature that it is sometimes difficult to master and put into practice such a basic philosophy.  But we must try.  Always.  Sometimes, the biggest benefit is in the attempt rather than in the result.  The more attempts we make, the more likely we are to eventually get it right.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I only know how I feel when someone else is quick to judge, quick to criticize, or quick to deride me.  I try to remember that feeling whenever I’m presented with the opportunity to interact with another person.  Doing so helps me in so many ways.  It helps me to be polite.  It helps me to be considerate.  It helps to me to praise, to admire, to assist, and commit random acts of kindness.  So what does all of this have to do with Star Trek?

One way in which I stay immersed in my Star Trek fandom is by participating in an online bulletin board devoted to Trek.  It doesn’t matter which one – what matters is that it’s the virtual version of social interaction with like-minded folks.  Yet, my mind is constantly boggled by the intolerance and derision heaped upon others by folks on this BBS; folks who supposedly consider themselves fans of Roddenberry’s universe.  Just today, I found myself posting an explanation of why I was willing to help a newcomer who was apparently there only to glean information about selling a collectible.   Several other users got on this newcomer’s case and then decided to ridicule me for my willingness to assist him.  It was at that point I felt the need to write today’s blog entry.

It has taken me many years to figure this out but I am proud to be the person who offers assistance with no thought of reward.  I like the fact that I can trust one person regardless of negative experiences I may have had with another.  If someone has given me no reason to distrust him, I won’t do so unless or until I am given reason.  Furthermore, I’ll go out of my way to be kind, generous, and helpful rather than standoffish, difficult, and selfish.

If everyone could take it upon himself to approach others with this same attitude, the world would not only be a better place but the dream that it might evolve into the one Gene Roddenberry envisioned would be realized within our lifetime.

The [Re]Birth of a Legend

Just a quick entry today, while it still is September 8th in my part of the world.

As this entire blog focuses on Star Trek, I would be remiss in my duties as the blog host if I didn’t make an effort to commemorate the 45th anniversary of my beloved sci-fi franchise. It was, after all, on this very date in 1966 that the original, and still best IMHO, Star Trek series premiered on NBC with the episode “The Man Trap”.

As anyone reading this who hasn’t been living under a rock these past 4 decades knows, that original show struggled to survive while it was on network television and was cancelled after a mere 3 seasons.  Interestingly, it took a monumental effort by fans even to keep it alive for its third year.  Yet, the simple fact that I am writing this over 40 years later is a testament to the staying power of the show’s concept and the depth of its fans undying devotion to it.

ST: TAS Title sequenceThat devotion was never more keenly felt than in 1973, for it was in February of that year that the first fully realized International Star trek Convention was held in New York City. As far as I am aware, similar large conventions were held in other major cities, too.  Yes, there had been smaller gatherings of fans in previous years, but 1973 saw thousands show up when only hundreds were expected.  I believe it was that outpouring of affection for Star Trek that led its creators to try once again to “boldly go” to the final frontier; this time in animated form in a Saturday morning, half hour cartoon format.

I don’t know how long it took for Gene Roddenberry and company to go from concept toNimoy, Kelly, and Shatner taping their dialog for ST: TAS production but I do know that the bulk of the original cast was reassembled and was in the studio doing their voice-over recordings for several episodes at a time by early summer. In addition, many of the great writers who had worked on the original live-action series returned and contributed scripts to the new animated version.  Even Walter Koenig, who had portrayed Ensign Chekov in the original series and was the lone original actor not to return, wrote a story for the cartoon show.  In an elegant twist of fate, the 8th of September 1973 fell on a Saturday.  At 10:30 that morning, I and many other devotees like me had the great pleasure of seeing the first brand new Star Trek show in nearly 5 years.

Although the animated series was very much aimed at children, it did appeal to adults on many levels and even won an Emmy.  There are questions to this day how much of it, if any, is considered canonical by the producers and fans.  Nevertheless, it was extremely and indescribably significant because it was the first of many re-imaginings of Star Trek and, as such, proved that it could be done and done well.  For my money, that’s worth celebrating almost as much as the “birth” of the original live-action show.

I’ve Just Won My Fourth Game

There is something extraordinarily satisfying about playing a good game of chess.  I think this is due, at least in part, to the necessity of using so many different areas of the brain in so many different ways simultaneously.  A competent player needs not only a thorough understanding of the rules and strategies, but the ability to visualize geometrically in multiple dimensions, to recognize patterns, to think ahead several moves, to consider numerous possible outcomes, and to intuit from his opponent the likelihood of playing a given piece.  It is an intellectually demanding, yet stimulating, experience to be sure and the game is one that we might expect master strategists to play in their spare time.

Kirk and Spock playing chessI think the producers and writers of Star Trek realized this as well.  There are at least thirty separate references to, or depictions of, the game of chess throughout the various Star Trek TV series.  In fact, in several episodes of the original series (TOS as we Trekkies refer to it), chess is pivotal to the plot.  Not surprisingly,  Kirk and Spock are seen playing chess in the opening sequence of the pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”.  This makes perfect sense in terms of the development of the two characters, both of whom are exceptionally intelligent but who are so very different in their approach to the galactic difficulties they encountered each week, as well as their approaches to the game.

Of course, like so many other things depicted in Trek, the game of chess is given a futuristic update in the form of a three-dimensional board on which pieces can be moved up or down as well as laterally.  As it turns out, this isn’t really futuristic at all as many three-dimensional variants on the game of chess have existed since the 19th century. Nevertheless, the version in Star Trek is the one with which most people now seem to be familiar.  One more instance of the enormous pop-culture impact of the iconic TV series.

Although many people are aware of the existence of three-dimensional chess thanks to Star Trek, they may not be aware just how “real” the game has become because of the influence exerted by Trek fans.  Several sets of rules have been developed to allow for fully realized games using the board designed for TOS.  The Franklin Mint manufactured and sold two different Star Trek 3D chess sets for avid collectors.  Star Trek: The Next Generation and its sister series depicted 3D chess in a goodly number of episodes.

As a fanatical lover of Star Trek, I was always a bit disappointed that our heroes weren’t depicted playing the game in any of the theatrical motion pictures.  It always seemed to me that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock were better prepared to deal with whatever the galaxy might throw at them after a good chess match.  Of course, they are only fictional characters.  I suspect, however, the decision makers who control many aspects of our lives in the real world could benefit greatly from the occasional game of chess, too.

Interestingly, I find that I have greater clarity of mind after playing chess for a while than at almost any other time.  By the same token, however, the focus required to succeed at chess, forces one to suspend (temporarily, at least) concentration on any other topic not related to the game at hand. Perhaps this is why such mental cobweb clearing is often the result.  I have to wonder what the world would be like if more people approached the serious business of life as Kirk and Spock do, with the much-needed distraction of a challenging game of three-dimensional chess.