Articles, observations, and fictions by Sam Girdich: history & philosophy buff, pop culture fan, aging martial artist, husband/parent, and proud owner of a pleasantly odd mind. Co-creator of the graphic arts project Strongarm Labs with illustrator and storyteller Mark Gonyea.
People have argued for decades about the differences between
Star Wars and Star Trek, and which is best.
I have the answer. Star Trek. Case closed.
For me, at least.
Star Wars staked its second-place territory in the first few
seconds of its birth.
Star Wars was the past. It was a history lesson. Might as well have been a documentary. Did I love
it? Absolutely! A proper telling of the Hero’s Journey can shed illumination on
many levels. Plus, it was just plain fun. However, it was left to me to apply those lessons, and there was not much of a point of trying since I would be dead soon. You see, it was the 1970's,
Star Wars debuted at toy stores everywhere on May 25, 1977.
I was seven. Star Trek, however, debuted on September 8th, 1966. My
parents hadn’t even remotely had THE SEX event that caused my existence. Star
Trek, opposed to Star Wars, took place in the year 2265. It was a HUMAN future grown
from my own Earth. Star Wars took place somewhere else and was long gone. Star
Trek was a future where we FIXED things. Yes, it took hitting rock bottom in another
cycle of war, but we stood back up swinging. We were alive and thriving by our
works, our efforts, and our embracing of what it meant to be human. We were
explorers. Innovators. Enablers of advancement and the exchange of ideas. We finally
decided to not kill ourselves. That’s important. Paramount, in fact. I watched
Star Trek when it was in syndication in the mid and late 70’s. The Cold War was
a laugh a minute party even us kids knew about thanks to the atomic bomb
drills. We got to kneel under our little desks and pretend they would save us
from what happened to the Japanese children living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yeah.
Don’t teach kids about World War II and not expect at least some of them to
connect data points. Especially when you tell them the bomb (Hiroshima) dropped
at a little after eight in the morning on a Monday. A few of us looked at the
clock and did the math. We also knew the joyous wonder of waiting in long lines
at gas stations while our mothers and fathers swore and muttered under their
breaths about a Misery Index and the fuel shortage. The President had to wear
sweaters in the White House to keep warm. We were taught a new, unstoppable Ice
Age was coming to swallow the world, if mass starvation and a Population
Bomb didn’t do it first. The Club of Rome sold millions of its report on
why the planet would soon be a husk. (Does any of this sound familiar in current year? Just curious.)
Penny on Good Times wasn’t safe. You had a Death Wish if you
walked in Central Park any time of day. Even Saturday morning children
television programs weren’t immune. The live-action Ark II took place hundreds
of years in the future on our (wait for it) devastated planet, foreshadowing the
post-apocalyptic movies of the 80’s we consumed as teens. At least it had a jet
pack. That was pretty sweet. Killer bees were coming from the south to sting
all my friends to death. Disaster films competed with Nature Turned Killer films
at the box office. Logan ran and ran until he bumped into a bunch of damn,
dirty apes. And don’t get me started on 70’s music. I lost count of all the
clowns sent into cat’s cradles aboard the Edmund Fitzgerald after the new kid
in town showed up. Do you see the landscape I’m raking? Some of us early
Gen X’ers didn’t have much to grasp in the hopes of a future. Except,
perhaps, that one weirdly appealing sci-fi program with that guy from In
Search Of. That one example of a future, not perfect, but there and
striving. That five-year mission with a crew from my future.
Image from Alpha Memory, (c) Paramount
Star Trek was an optimistic vision in the
midst of times filled largely with the opposite. This is not an Earth-shaking
new statement. Many have made this observation before, and its been the subject
of many interviews and documentaries. Search “star trek documentary” in IMDB
and you’ll find twelve different titles alone. Beyond The Final Frontier
(2007), Trekkies (1997), The Captains (2011), and For The Love
of Spock (2016) are a good start. So is How William Shatner Changed The
World (2005). It’s well-known, for example, that Star Trek inspired Martin
Cooper to create the first cell phone. Remember that the next time you're
watching a cat video on Facebook or Twitter while sitting in your car, or while
watching Netflix at work. You can thank Star Trek for that.
Time to wrap this up. Like I said, there’s tons of material
about the impact of Star Trek on society at large, right down to individuals
all over the world. Like me. I simply want to say I am grateful for all the actors, writers, production
staff and everyone past and present involved in crafting Roddenberry’s little
space western. I am grateful for all the fans who have stayed passionate despite
the ups and downs. I am grateful for people like James Cawley who turned a
labor of love into a Trek shrine in Ticonderoga, NY you can visit and stroll through.