Once upon a time, a little science fiction television show called Star Trek debuted shortly before my first birthday. Of course, I didn't have the cognitive process at the time to appreciate this show, which didn't matter. The area where my parents lived at the time didn't have a TV station that carried the program.
Both situations changed three years later. Star Trek had been cancelled by NBC, but the show's new owners, holding company Gulf + Western, licensed it into syndication. Our local TV station broadcast started airing reruns at five p.m., which was when my mother would be cooking dinner.
And this is a perfect example of why parents should ALWAYS monitor their children's media consumption if they don't want their children thinking on their own.
My mother was horrified by the show on too many levels to count. To her, the worst part was my fangirl worship of Lieutenant Uhura, a black woman. I'm not sure what made a racist like my mother give in, but I managed to finagle a Sunset Malibu Christie for my 8th birthday. She was the only African-American doll available at any of our local stores at the time.
As soon as I could, I took off the doll's swimsuit and sunglasses, and created a bright red mini-dress for my "Lt. Uhura" to wear on her adventures. And did she have adventures! She and Wonder Woman (another Barbie who was re-imagined) were often sent in to rescue G.I. Joe and Steve Austin from missions gone wrong.
However, Star Trek did far more than hone my sewing skills. I was fascinated by the U.S. space program. For the first time, I saw a female astronaut, and I had hope that I could be one, despite my mother's protestations that girls could not be astronauts. (In all fairness, her statement was true in 1969.)
Despite the alleged maternal care that I didn't get too big for my britches, I studied and dreamed and finally, not only did the civilian astronaut program open, but women were accepted into the military academies. Majoring in physics seemed to be the path to my goal, except...
I failed horribly in a couple of core classes my junior year in college. My advisor, who was also the head of the physics department, was nearly in tears. How could I understand quantum mechanics and not get basic electricity and magnetism?
To make matters worse, I received the information packet for applying for the civilian program at NASA. And I discovered that my eyesight was so bad it wouldn't even qualify for NASA's laxer civilian program. You have to remember that this is the mid-'80's. Lasik was a highly experimental procedure from the godless communists of the U.S.S.R.
Oddly enough, I qualified for an internship at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the following summer, but my heart was no longer in physics. If I couldn't be an astronaut, what was the point of continuing?
As I tried to stuff the core classes for a computer science degree, Paramount, who now owned the rights to Star Trek, decided to try a new series. By that time, it had become something of a running joke in my sorority that I was a Trekkie. To my surprise, a bunch of my sisters wanted to go with me to see Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Hey, if there was a movie for non-Trekkies to see, that was the one.
Anyway, WUAB in Cleveland planned to carry the new series as well as the original Star Trek on Saturday evenings. They normally scheduled movies for Friday night prime time and decided to run the double-episode premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation as their Friday night movie, as well as showing it during it's regular Saturday night timeslot.
Anyone familiar with Greeks knows they like to party. Everyone in my sorority had plans for Friday night, and I thought, Yes! I'll have the living room TV to myself to watch the new series!
Which was a great plan until lunch on Thursday when I was badgered about going out on the next night. Two of my friends cornered my in my dorm room later, demanding to know what I was doing. I broke down and told them the truth. They decided they would stay and watch the premiere with me, then go to whatever party they'd planned to go to.
Thursday at supper, Martin, the boyfriend of one of nagging friends, charged up to me, demanding to know why I didn't tell him WUAB was airing ST:TNG a night early. Did I mention he started as a physics major as well? Oh, and he told me he was joining us to watch the premiere.
Now, Martin wasn't the typical science nerd. He was hot, athletic and popular. He told his brothers he was watching the new Star Trek show with his girlfriend, Anne-Marie. And Anne-Marie was also hot, athletic and popular. The next thing I know, my quiet Star Trek premiere night was an informal Greek mixer.
Five minutes before the show started, I stood up and announced if anyone so much as spoke during the show, I would seriously harm them.
Surprisingly, everyone remained absolutely silent.
Once I was out of school, I attended every Star Trek convention I could. I have an autograph from George Takei. Got to listen to DeForest Kelley's poetry. Saw Walter Koenig's unspoken dread over the release of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
Over the years, Star Trek became my test for friends and eventually my husband. If you couldn't stand the show and couldn't keep your high-and-mighty opinion to yourself, I knew you couldn't accept me.
So of course, since I love Star Trek, my son feels he needs to rebel and hate it. Or so he claims. Where most teens try to hide their porn consumption, my son tries to hide that he loves Star Trek: Voyager. He's binged the first three seasons over the last couple of weeks.
Happy Birthday, Star Trek! May you continue for another fifty years!
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