A Father, A Life, A Legacy

I carefully aimed the remote control as though it were a hand phaser and I were Captain Kirk preparing to stun a hostile alien.  I pressed the power button and watched the image disappear from the screen as the TV flickered and went off.  Having just finished watching the lovingly crafted documentary Trek Nation, I was struck by two thoughts: I hope I have formed close enough bonds with my children that, when I’m gone, they don’t feel like we never got to know each other … and… if my legacy, whatever that happens to be, includes touching peoples’ lives for the better as Gene Roddenberry did, I will have been a success.  Of course, I’d like to think the lives upon which I will have the greatest positive effect are those of my family.  If that’s the case, I will not only have greatly differentiated myself from Mr. Roddenberry, but my achievements as a man will have reached a pinnacle and any good I do afterward will be just a bonus.

The documentary followed Roddenberry’s only son on a poignant journey of discovery as he familiarized himself with his father’s greatest work – Star Trek and, by extension, came to better know the man with whom he’d had a mostly uneasy father/son relationship.  The elder Roddenberry passed away before they could enjoy the closeness that many adult sons eventually find with their fathers.  In any case, the film was appealing largely for the same reasons that Star Trek episodes are.  Its focus was decidedly on the human emotional components of the story to which we can all relate.  The fact that it relied heavily on input from the producers, writers, performers, and fans of Trek just made it that much more interesting.

For rabid fans of Star Trek, there wasn’t a lot of new information revealed.  I think we all knew that Gene Roddenberry was just as flawed as any other human being.  Nevertheless, his son provided a very tasteful treatment of the subject matter which allowed me to come away with a new appreciation for the man while, at the same time, leaving my previous image of him relatively untarnished.  The interviews helped to cement the idea that, through Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry became known as a  visionary and  had a profound impact on a very large number of the shows’ fans – ultimately causing many of them to better themselves through life altering choices.  At the same. there was a good deal of emphasis on Roddenberry’s roles as a husband and father and his seeming inability to model his private behavior on the visionary philosophies he espoused through his TV shows.

Seeing and processing just how human the man really was didn’t make me appreciate his work any less.  It did, however, make me realize the importance of giving loving attention to those closest to you.  I believe it is in that way – by giving fully of yourself where your family is concerned and teaching your children the values of Star Trek by example –  that we will affect human evolution to the point where our society will one day resemble the kind Gene envisioned.  That is the legacy I hope to leave behind.

Surely the best of times…

Although it is relatively rare, we do occasionally see birthday celebrations in Star Trek. Kirk’s birthday is a plot device in STII: The Wrath of Khan and Lieutenant Worf’s birthday celebration is shown in ST: The Next Generation episode “Parallels”.

I happen to like the depiction of characters’ birthdays in Trek.  Somehow it makes those characters feel more real and reveals more about them.  One Star Trek regular whose birthday I do not recall seeing played out on screen is Commander Riker, although I would like to have seen how that would have been handled.  I imagine Riker might be a bit of a party animal and could end up in Sickbay the morning after his birthday.  Oh well.  We’ll never know.

Until recently, I wouldn’t have had the vaguest idea how Jonathan Frakes (the actor whoJonathan Frakes brought Riker to life) might celebrate his birthday.  After having met him last week, however, and seeing how outgoing and funny he is, I imagine he might be a blast at parties – especially one in his honor!   I further imagine that there may be just such a party tonight as today is Frakes’ 59th birthday.  I will have to settle for wishing him a happy birthday from the paragraphs of this blog as I’ve yet to receive my invitation to the shindig. So, a very happy birthday Mr. Frakes and many more to you!  If you get that invite to me by way of email or a telephone call, I might just have time to book a flight.  Nudge nudge, wink wink, ring ring!!

By the way, today would also have been the 90th birthday of the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Mr. Eugene Wesley Roddenberry.  I also had the pleasure of meeting Gene a couple of times and found him to be among the warmest, most sincere individuals I have ever encountered.  I hope, wherever he is, he realizes the great impact he and his television shows have had on me and so many millions of others like me.  Wishing you a happy birthday Gene!