2016 seems to be the year of milestones.  Not only did I turn the big 5-O but so did a dear childhood friend of mine, Star Trek.  I am unashamed to admit that I am a HUGE geek.  Anything to do with science fiction, astronomy, space travel, and technology excites me.  I will watch Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Star Talk on the National Geographic channel happily.  I will also admit to having a guilty pleasure, Ancient Aliens. Yes, I know, some of the subject matter on there is crazy but don’t judge! Katy Perry is a fan. I guess that says something.  What it says, I don’t know.

When I was a young girl in the early to mid-70’s, I remember every day at 4:00 pm I would stop whatever I was doing to catch an episode of Star Trek.  Unfortunately, back then we didn’t have DVR’s, Netflix or Hulu.  I read every book about Gene Roddenberry, the show and the cast that I could find. My first real crush was James Tiberius Kirk.  Later on after learning more about William Shatner (who put quite a bit of his own personality into Captain Kirk) I fell for him too.

Little did I know that while I was enjoying what on the surface was a television show I was also learning about life and shaping my belief system.  I wanted to go boldly where no one has gone before.  Among the many things that I admired about Star Trek was the willingness to address social issues.  One of the original series most memorable episodes was “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield.” This episode addressed racism head on as two survivors of a planet torn apart by war continue to destroy one another aboard the Enterprise. The lesson I learned from that particular program was tolerance of other people who may be different in appearance or have beliefs other than my own. 

While I was daydreaming of Kirk, I was also subconsciously integrating his leadership qualities with my own personality.  Kirk was a man of action, he lived his life to the fullest.  He was unafraid when facing the unknown and he was more than willing to meet a situation or battle head on.  Jim Kirk was a warrior when he had to be and a diplomat when the situation warranted it.  He was an honest man.  At times he was headstrong and impulsive but he was true to who he was.  A truly nonpolitical individual, if he believed that the Federation was acting unjustly, he would not hesitate to call them out.  This tendency caused friction between him and senior officers numerous times.  Kirk was not about obtaining glory or position for himself, he was concerned with the welfare of everyone underneath his command.

I also admired Spock.  He was analytical and a keen observer of human nature.  His ability to remain calm, cool, and collected during chaotic times was simply amazing to me.  Through deduction and reasoning he was able to solve the most complex of problems.  He was also extremely resourceful and able to see a multitude of different outcomes for various situations.  When I grow up, I want to acquire Spock’s inner peace. In this world, it is hard not to lose one’s shit at the drop of a hat.  Spock was truly a Zen master.

Leonard “Bones” McCoy played by the late, great character actor, DeForest Kelley, was plain spoken and sharp witted.  He did not sugar coat his diagnoses. Bones was also not above expressing his opinions whether they were popular or not.  He accepted his limitations and knew what situations he could handle and when to defer those that he could not.  I fondly remember, “Damn it, Jim!  I’m a country doctor not a (insert whatever position Bones was not)!”  Believe me, I have gone to the “Damn it, Jim!” phrase many times in my life. Especially when I was in corporate America where you are expected to be a miracle worker.

Perhaps my most enduring takeaway from my love affair with Star Trek is loyalty, unconditional friendship and love.  In the original series, one of my favorite episodes is “The Tholian Web.”  In this episode, after an away mission, Kirk has fallen into an interdimensional rift and is feared to be dead.  His crew never gives up on trying to rescue him.  They risk their lives as well as the potential for war with the Tholian people in their efforts to find their Captain.  In the end, they are triumphant and Kirk returns to the Enterprise.

Probably the best example of these traits are present in the heart wrenching scene at the end of the movie, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Spock sacrifices his life for the lives of every Enterprise crew member.  If only we could all be that selfless! What a better world this would be! I still weep like a baby whenever Spock utters, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  I am and always will be your friend.”  

So Happy 50th, Star Trek!  Thank you for helping me be the person I am today; definitely older, somewhat wiser (that’s debatable!) and reaching for the stars.

How many of you have grown up with Star Trek in any of its various incarnations? Did this beloved show influence your life in any way?  I would love to hear your opinions on the subject!  Please feel free to post your comments or contact me @susan.womanontheledge@aol.com/@SusanontheLedge


Published by Susan Leighton Woman on the Ledge