As soon as I was exposed to it, I was a rabid fan of Star Trek. We share a birthday, September 8, and a value system that holds art and science as equals. Trek was more to me than a fandom. It was a vision of our shared future world that was achievable. Maybe not warp drive and phasers, but philosophically and materially achievable. While I loved the Original Series, it was The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine that seemed to realize R. Buckminster Fuller’s (one of my favorite thinkers) dream of universal equity.
It is no secret that I love Star Trek. My daughter asked me why. I told her the following: I love it for its aspirational nature, its optimistic outlook for humankind, it’s marrying of science and art, and its borderline Shakespearean drama. I also love it for its horrible effects, its over-emoting, and the sheer high-corniness of most of the story lines. To me, Trek is the epitome of important television1. It entertained me. It made me think. It spurred me to action. Trek and Raiders of the Lost Ark are directly responsible for my pursuing undergraduate and graduate education. I learned things from Star Trek. Our conversation got me thinking about what I have learned from Trek.
Star Trek has meant a lot to me as a fan of pop culture, science-fiction, and television. It also has meant everything to me as a human being.
My grandfather, who was a WWII veteran, likely served in a segregated unit in the war. He returned home to a nation still refusing to deal with Jim Crow and other societal injustice.
When I was a very young, I recall him watching various genre programs like Wild Wild West, Gunsmoke, Rat Patrol, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and countless other series. However, he especially loved Star Trek.
Last night, I had the distinct honor to attend a screening of To Be Takei — the new documentary about Start Trek actor, civil rights activist, and social media maven George Takei — as part of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center‘s ongoing Asian Pacific Heritage Month celebrations. Bookended by remarks from Smithsonian APAC Director Konrad Ng and a Q&A with the film’s subjects, the entire evening was a celebration of one of our culture’s most trailblazing icons.
Having made its debut at Sundance in January, To Be Takei was recently acquired by Starz for digital and theatrical distribution later this year. In advance of its formal theatrical release, the film has been doing the festival rounds and made its Washington, DC premiere at the Warner Brothers theater inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. I was lucky enough to check it out with the homie (and fellow NOC) Patrick Michael Strange.
Black people were marching all over the South. Dr. King was leading people to freedom, and here I was, in the 23rd century, fourth in command of the Enterprise.
Star Trek first aired during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, between the time when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Supreme Court declared prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia.
Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lieutenant Uhura, television’s first major Black female character who wasn’t a maid, did not at first feel the full weight of her role’s significance until after the first season was finished and she handed her resignation to Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator.
In a 2011 conversation with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nichols told the incredible story of how one particular fanboy convinced her to stay after all. She gave notice on a Friday, and attended an NAACP fundraiser in Beverly Hills the next day. At the event, someone approached her, saying he had a fan waiting to speak to her.
Welcome to Day 4 of ST:NOC, and it’s an all-alien reveal in the categories of First Officer and Counselor/Chef/Shoulder to Cry On!! Tune in tomorrow for the final day of ST:NOC, when we tell you the winner (by an incredibly razor-thin margin) of our choice for Captain, as well as our vote for best Starship!
Vote for your own favourites after the jump!
Since it’s Star Trek Week, there are a lot of Trek comics that I could have discussed for the Wednesday Comics column. From the original issues by Gold Key and Marvel in the 60s and 70s to the modern era comics published by IDW, the four-color world of comics has been as integral to the Star Trek mythology as the television and film franchises (that said, the comics — and novels — still exist strictly outside of “canon”). But rather than writing about that, I’d rather you head over to Comics Alliance and read Kevin Church‘s excellent rundown of every single Trek comic era since 1967.
Instead, I want to talk a little bit about a book that comes out today and should be on the bookshelves of every Trekkie/er reading this blog right now: Titan Books’ hardcover of Star Trek: The Art of Juan Ortiz.
Aside from being the most physically powerful man that I know of, my maternal grandfather was also the first nerd of color I ever met. He was enamored of all things weird, off-center, having to do with outer space, other worlds, or the possibility that a monster just might rise out of the sea. He was my gateway drug to sci-fi. My grandfather is directly responsible for getting me hooked. It started with television. It started with Star Trek.
The earliest — actually, the most coherent — memory that I have of my grandfather is of us, in my grandparents’ basement, watching the “Arena” episode of the original Star Trek series. I’m not sure what triggered it, but he had some serious issues with the Gorn.
To celebrate “Star Trek Week” here on The Nerds of Color, I asked the NOCs to vote for their favourite crew-members; from the results of this survey, we compiled the official Star Trek: Nerds Of Color fantasy crew. Every day, I will reveal two new ST:NOC crew members!
Vote for your own favourites after the jump!