Dilithium Crystals and Nuclear Wessels: How I fell in love with Star Trek
(Note: This article is entirely about The Original Series, the one Star Trek series that I love)
It’s a bit of an odd story, but it’s my tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of what has become, for me, the greatest TV show I’ve ever seen.
I’m nineteen. I don’t really like television. And I’ve never been a fan of any actors or celebrities (literally, never). I am, however, a writer. A fiction writer with two published books, who has an eye and a love for anything fictional, particularly characters.
When I look for characters on the screen, it’s usually in the form of movies. I come to appreciate those which, in my opinion, represent the best when it comes to plot, characters, and story line. There are several movies which I respect and enjoy, but up until now, there’s never been any that I absolutely loved.
Until, of course, my Dad (a life-long Trekkie — or is it Trekker?), decided to put on a Star Trek movie.
I’d watched it over his shoulder growing up, and I had always hated it. I mean, to a kid who really isn’t into sci-fi, a Klingon is probably the strangest thing you’ll ever lay eyes on. So when, after about a decade of not seeing anything Star Trek, I sat down with him to watch Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, I pretty much had no clue what I was getting into.
Or how much I was going to love it.
Needless to say, by the end of that movie, I was a Trekkie. I’d never seen such compelling characters or such a gripping plot. From there I discovered that what was known as TOS consisted of six more movies, and three seasons of a television series — from the 1960’s. Since I first saw that movie, I’ve watched, read, and learned practically everything I could about the Enterprise crew.
Why I love it.
I’m not into sci-fi, but Star Trek TOS was done in such a way that it was more than just a science fiction thing. It was a drama, it was a story, it was a plot about more than little green men. There was imagination, morals, and messages in every one of its episodes and movies. It was serious, mature, and as thrilling as you’d expect something in the 23rd century to be, but at the same time it could be the most warm and funny thing you’ve ever seen.
The imagination went beyond aliens to detailed, almost real-sounding technologies, from phasers to warp drive. You’re almost as interested in the devices they used as you are in the characters and actual story. You can sense the passion that went into creating the Star Trek universe, because it is so realistic that you can step into it and actually believe that a world like that could exist (even though it doesn’t!)
I haven’t been a fan for very long, but I’ve pretty much got the terminology down. Everything from “Nuclear Wessels” to “I’m a Doctor, not a ___.” to “Fascinating”. And there are hundreds of more iconic lines that have definitely stood the test of time. The script is brilliant when taking a scene or episode with such a serious, life-or-death story and placing an incredible line in just the right spot to lighten the mood.
Then there were the lines that just stick with you, the touching scenes between any two of the main cast, the dialogue and conversations that just tend to stick in the back of your mind long after the show is over. As a writer, I deeply respect those who wrote the episodes and movies. They created something that has resonated with the world for half a century, and its terms and quotes will live long after a century has passed, I am certain.
I’m going to take them one at a time, since there is so much to each character that I’m not willing to just sum them up within the same paragraph:
A lot of fans tend to bad-mouth Captain Kirk and William Shatner in this role. Maybe it’s because I’m new to this, but I don’t see why. The character of Kirk was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. He was a take-charge guy, smart, capable, and yet still flawed. But that is the best quality of a character: one who isn’t perfect. I think the creators did an amazing job portraying this in Kirk, as someone who isn’t perfect but is still awesome.
There isn’t much that hasn’t already been said, but Spock is an icon. The whole concept of Vulcans is something that definitely put a whole new spin on sci-fi.
I, like Spock, “Have never believed in little green men.”, but Spock definitely wasn’t that at all. No, what made him different was more than looks. His attitude, beliefs, and what made him who he was is something that all of us as humans can learn from. I never appreciated logic until I saw Spock, and he was played phenomenally by the late Leonard Nimoy, who deserves (and has received) the greatest honors for bringing us such an awesome character.
A seriously great character. Everything from his no-nonsense attitude as a physician to his conflict with Spock created a complex, funny, and intriguing character to watch on the screen. Often the voice of reason, he brought a brilliant emotion-driven human to counter Spock’s logic, giving us a perfect balance that was more than enjoyable.
The late DeForest Kelley truly portrayed a character to be proud of.
Uhura and Sulu
I paired these two together because they both brought something unique to the screen in a time where racism was even more of a problem than it is today: characters with different racial backgrounds. Even though these two weren’t my favorites, as a writer I saw characters that definitely brought their own unique touch to the Enterprise. They were more than supporting cast; They were icons just as much as the more ‘main’ characters, and the galaxy just wouldn’t have been the same without them.
With a brilliant and sometimes hilarious personality, the “Miracle worker” brought yet another fresh character to the Star Trek scene. Though technically a supporting character, he was responsible for the ship’s functioning, and was proud of his job and his ship. Both the characters of Scotty and McCoy inspired viewers to pursue careers in medical and engineering fields, and definitely left their mark on television history.
Yes, most would have placed him in the same paragraph as Sulu and Uhura, because, technically, he plays the same level of a role as them. But to me, both as a writer and a fan, (and this may be a little surprisisng), Chekov is the best character in the show. Why? Because in all my years of character creation, I have never seen a more perfect character. This young, intelligent, innocent-yet-mature Russian is more capable than you would expect, yet is always surprising you with a bold and hilarious statement about his home country.
The character of Chekov did 2 things for me when I first “met” him in Star Trek IV. The minute I heard him ask where the “Nuclear wessels” were, he was instantly my favorite. And at the same time, my sister (who I never really got along with before that) felt the exact same way. Chekov gave the two of us something in common for the first time, and was the one who, in a sense, broke the ice between us. Because of that, we’re now best friends. And we still adore a certain Russian navigator ;)
Not many shows (in fact, almost none) have the privilege of being such an icon 50 years after its conception.
I don’t know what its creators or stars thought it would become, but I’m sure no one ever expected something so huge that a 19-year-old in 2016 can fall in love with it 50 years later. With characters who are now icons and stories that will forever be a part of history, Star Trek has had an impact on the world that is rarely seen.
As a writer, I want my stories to touch and, in some small way, change the world. Every writer does. I write for God’s glory, and though Star Trek is not a Christian show (except for maybe when Scotty quoted one of Christ’s parables), it does stand here as proof of one thing:
That someone’s dream, someone’s vision, and someone’s story can, indeed, touch and change the world. That a plot, a cast, and a setting can become so real that we feel they are part of our lives.
No writer ever expects to have their work become such a huge phenomenon as Star Trek has, and I’m certain that no actor feels that way either. But if Star Trek can teach us anything, it’s that any story, and any one of us, can have an impact if we allow ourselves to.
And I’m grateful that God is using me as His ‘wessel’, to hopefully accomplish a smaller, yet still touching, impact. Because every person can be used to change the world.
Live long and prosper.