Why I Love Star Trek

I watch Star Trek pretty much every day. That probably sounds totally weird, and maybe it is. But Star Trek and I have a long history together. We’ve been through a lot.

My earliest memories of watching Star Trek were watching The Next Generation in the basement of my childhood home. We’d watch it while eating pizza and playing board games on family game night. I don’t know if I had strong feelings either way about it back then, but I have very fond memories of those moments, now. And I always held onto a love for the series and the values it espoused. Indeed, I attribute much of my commitment to equity and diversity to things I learned from Star Trek: coexistence, tolerance, not imposing your own values on other cultures, and appreciation of difference.

After college when I landed my first real job, I moved to the city, and discovered a nearby video rental establishment that had ALL of the complete Star Trek series on DVD. Heaven! I started watching them in order, starting with The Next Generation, then Deep Space Nine, and then Voyager (I’ve never been able to get into the Original Series). At the same time, I was struggling with a lot of anxiety: my beloved grandma was sick with cancer, which just happens to be one of my mortal fears. That fear is pretty well controlled with medication now, but at the time, I was having pretty regular panic attacks. Because I had/have panic attacks almost exclusively at night, I was also having a lot of trouble sleeping. So I took to just leaving Star Trek on until I fell asleep. I would often start the next episode on the disk when I was already dozing, and many times I drifted off to sleep to the opening them. The opening theme I associate most with those times is that of Deep Space Nine; to this day, that lovely, calm horn intro, followed by the same theme in the solo trumpet, played so mellowly and soothingly, it is very comforting.

I don’t have panic attacks very often anymore, thankfully. When I do, I now have Xanax for breakthrough anxiety, in addition to the Zoloft I take daily. But even when I take a Xanax, it often takes it awhile to kick in before I feel calm; in the meantime, the only things that can help calm me are lying on the cold bathroom tile floor and watching Star Trek. The latter is much more pleasant, and the soothing lullaby of DS9’s opening and closing themes never fails.

Social Life

I have been quite the social butterfly this weekend. Last night, I went to karaoke with Karlie, Amy, and hostess Jaime. It’s always a fun time, though I felt especially off my game last night because of globus, PLUS there were lots of singers there, and most of them were really good, so I felt even worse in comparison. 😀 But that’s fine, it is always fun! Sleep-wise, it was nice that it was on a Friday night– usually Jaime hosts karaoke on Thursdays– but actually I think I prefer the Thursday nights. Fewer people, higher ratio of people I know to strangers, and generally more mediocre singers like myself than stellar voices like on Friday. 🙂

Today I had plans to go to a Geeks Who Drink themed pub quiz, and the theme was… Star Trek!!! Awesome! It was a great time. My awesome sister-in-law came to babysit (since the quiz started before the spouse got home from work), I put on my red shirt and communicator badge (my Jadzia Dax uniform, I discovered, doesn’t fit as well post-baby), and headed out to the Chatterbox Pub in St Paul, which also just happens to be one of my favorite watering holes, in my very own St Paul. Good times! There I met up with my friend Natasha and our other teammates, whom I didn’t know before (except one by sight from Fest), but who were all very nice people. My brother and sister-in-law were playing as well in Vegas. Wish we could have all played together, but alas. My team did rock, though. We called our team the “Spock Stars.” There were some hard questions. Some of them I knew, some I did not but others did, and some, none of us did. After the first 3 rounds, we had only got 2 wrong and were in 3rd place, but by the end we ended up in 6th place (out of 14 teams). But, as one person put it, we won, because we were hanging out together having fun! And it was a very fun time indeed.

Tonight I was invited to go to the Rocky Horror Picture Show with some Festies, but decided to decline because the show doesn’t start until 11, and sine the spouse is on day shift, I have to be up when the baby wakes up (usually between 6-7am). But it would have been a good time I’m sure!

Tomorrow I have plans to meet my BFF Kelly and her son (my godson), who is about 6 months older than my son. We’re gonna let the boys have a little play date and catch up.

So many social activities for this introvert! It helps that Friday I worked from home, so I had some good, solid alone time while the kiddo was at daycare. Yes, I was working, but I was still alone, and that is very refreshing. There were even a good couple hours of complete silence around me, except the sound of my work on the computer, while the dogs were napping. Lovely!

Also, as it turns out, I realized that recently I’ve been hanging out with Festies outside of Fest. Like socially, not just at Fest-related things like band or Terp practice. This is the first time I can really say that, and it’s kind of cool.

Star Trek as a Modern Day Myth: The Shifting Interpretation of the Prime Directive

So randomly recently I’ve had several people ask to read this paper that I wrote for a class back in 2008. I’m posting it here for general consumption.

WARNING! Super nerdy content ahead!

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Star Trek as a Modern Day Myth:

The Shifting Interpretation of the Prime Directive

As any Trekker knows, Star Trek began as the brainchild of the visionary Gene Roddenberry. Not only did Roddenberry conceive the idea of the Star Trek universe, he also wrote or co-wrote many episodes of The Original Series and of The Next Generation.  In the United Federation of Planets and its exploration-focused military force, Starfleet, Roddenberry created a utopian society based on humanism, friendship, tolerance, freedom, and mankind’s ability to overcome its basest instincts in favor of its inherent potential for goodness.

Although Roddenberry can accurately be called the father of Star Trek, the franchise’s development, like that of any child, was not influenced by its parent alone. As Jon Wagner puts it in his book Deep Space and Sacred Time: Star Trek in the American Mythos, “popular entertainment is always influenced, through a variety of direct and indirect avenues, by public taste and shared cultural assumptions” (8). Thus, the proverbial village had a hand in Trek’s rearing. Trek’s status as a shared cultural experience allowed the franchise to grow into one of the most enduring and popular myths in modern day America. Trek also makes exceptionally good mythic material due to the fact that it is set in the future. This may seem somewhat counterintuitive since traditionally, myths are set in the past, but in today’s science-focused society, we have the tendency to dismiss anything that is not factual and verifiable as “just a story.” That is not to say that myth is dead in modern day America – we have simply found different ways to frame our myths in order to make them plausible. One such way to accomplish this is to do precisely what Trek does: set the story in the future. Wagner writes, “both the future and the primordial time-before-time stand apart from concrete history, but with a big difference: the past either happened or it didn’t; but the future might happen” (7). The future is a blank canvas through which our logos-driven minds can be free to imagine a state of existence to which we can aspire.

Like all utopias, however, Starfleet is not without its problems. As mentioned above, Roddenberry’s vision of the Trek cosmos places particular emphasis on freedom and tolerance—ideals that often conflict with one another. Starfleet’s General Order No. 1, which prohibits Starfleet members from interfering with the development of other societies, is often a casualty of this conflict. This order, known as the Prime Directive, places tolerance of cultural difference in a position of utmost importance in Starfleet’s credo. Interference can range from revealing the presence of life on other planets to societies that are not yet aware of this reality to exposing a culture to a technology they have not yet developed themselves to aiding one side over another in a war or conflict. Clearly, the latter situation presents a moral dilemma when one party is oppressing or exploiting another. Which is more important: the oppressed or exploited society’s right to liberty, or Starfleet’s non-interference policy? Trek’s answer to this question varies depending on the social climate in the US and in the world at the time of the series in question: The Original Series tends to value freedom over diversity; The Next Generation places respect for cultural difference over the pursuit of liberty; Deep Space 9, in the postmodern spirit of the 1990s, attempts to mediate the two perspectives; and Enterprise represents a return to innocence of sorts, backing away from postmodernism and reaffirming respect for diversity as the pinnacle of enlightenment.

Some of my favorite lines from Star Trek

From DS9:
Worf: At the first sign of betrayal I will kill him, but I promise to return the body intact.
Sisko: I assume that’s a joke.
Worf: We will see.

Q: You hit me! Picard never hit me!
Sisko: I’m not Picard

Odo: There are other ways to create order in your life. Your quarters, for example. Everything in mine has its specific place, and it’s all arranged just so.
Worf: Yes, mine too. Even with my eyes closed, I would still know where everything was.
Odo: Exactly.
Worf: I would not tolerate it any other way.
Odo: I’ll tell you what else to do. Make sure everyone knows they can’t just drop by your quarters to say ‘hello’. If someone does, whatever happens, don’t make them feel welcome.
Worf: Of course not! That would only invite subsequent visits.

[The above is one of my absolute favorites… Odo and Worf are such obvious introverts it’s awesome! :D]