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When Did You Become a Star Trek Fan?

February 6, 2013

I used to work with an Iranian. I was born near London but I always felt that he was more British than me (he had studied in London) and he was a Trekkie. He would often weave comments about Star Trek into our conversations. My mother was a Trekkie. Not the sort that would go to sci-fi conventions. But she had a thing about Spock, or was it Leonard Nimoy? Perhaps my father wasn’t the most rational of men and it made a nice contrast. She died before Star Trek: The Next Generation arrived on the screen in 1987, but I think she would have liked Patrick Steward as Captain Picard. I think I knew her type. Mind you, I think that Captain Picard probably had quite a fan club. My sense is that there was a bit of a gender split with men tending to prefer William Shatner as the impulsive and intuitive Captain Kirk, while the women tended to prefer the more suave and cerebral Captain Picard. Although the original Star Trek only ran for three seasons and was never a ratings success in the US, it made it all the way to New Zealand and we’d watch it every Saturday evening. Those were the days of the moon race and it seemed like it would be just a matter of time before we get to the planets. Those planets seem a lot further away these days.

StarTrek_Logo_2007

The Original Star Trek ran from 1966 to 1969 and included 79 episodes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_The_Original_Series). Gene Roddenberry pitched the show to network executives as “Wagon Train in the stars”. Roddenberry also drew on C.S Forrester’s Hornblower novels and referred to Captain Kirk as “”Horatio Hornblower in Space”. Some of the main characters in the first series included Captain Kirk (William Shatner), chief engineer Lt. Commander Scott (James Doohan) and helmsman Lt. Sulu (George Takei), ship’s doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), communications officer, Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), and head nurse Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett), head nurse and assistant to McCoy. Walter Koenig joined the cast as Ensign Pavel Chekov in the second season. These characters (and actors) later reappeared in the Star Trek Film series and are shown below with one extra guy who I never noticed in the original series.  Wait a minute, maybe that’s a slim version of Scottie!! I’m so used to the much more porky version of him that appeared in the film series….

Star-Trek-Cast-Wallpaper
 
One thing about Trekkies is that they are thorough. There are some pretty long Wikipedia pages out there! And William Shatner has become a cultural icon. Here he is in 2012. Not bad for an 80 year old. You get the impression that he’s enjoyed himself. Although it may be hard to believe after years of him “hamming it up”, Shatner was trained as a classical Shakespearean actor and was regarded as a promising serious stage actor in his youth.
536px-William_Shatner_at_Comic-Con_2012_cropped
Star Trek: The Next Generation produced 178 episodes spread over seven seasons. The show was set in the mid-24th century, about 100 years after the original Star Trek series.

While Shatner was a trained Shakespearean actor who did quite a bit of stage acting, Patrick Stewart was in another league altogether. Here he is signing autographs after a performance of Hamlet a few years ago.
Patrick_Stewart_signing_autographs
Recently I came across a survey that asked people when they became Star Trek Fans (http://www.startrek.com/article/when-did-you-become-a-star-trek-fan).
The answers surprised me. 54% became fans by the age of 10. 39% became fans between the ages of 11 and 20 (that probably includes me). And only 7% became fans after the age of 20. This surprised me. Perhaps a new genre of science fiction appeals to a young mind. But as long as the Star Trek franchise keeps churning out new vehicles for the genre, there will be new  generations of fans seeking to boldly go into the furthest reaches of space, which would be good news for NASA.

I miss the days when there seemed to be no limits on what humans could do and where they could go.
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