The Joy of Star Trek

Guest blog by Sarah-Louise Thomas

(Twitter: @shropsarah)

I’ve been wanting to share my joy for the Star Trek universe and the influence that it’s had on my life for quite a while. It’s taken me a long time to decide where to start. But then I thought, how about at the beginning?

Some of my earliest memories are of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation reruns on BBC2 sometime in the early 2000s on BBC2. It was always on after dinner at 6pm. I used to feel such an anticipation as the opening scenes began, awaiting the famous theme-tune of the classic 80s sci-fi credits to roll on.

As a geeky eight year old, it all felt so aspirational. The technology they had at their fingertips, the fact every crew members wanted to do good in one form or another, the hope and kindness winning over the evil and darkness. The characters were all so smart, strong and empathetic. Of course, through a fully fledged adult’s lens I now see some questionable themes and stereotypes that I may go into further on another blog, but innocent mini-me only saw joy and love.

I was a typical nerd who felt more comfortable having a conversation about cooking with adults than socially engaging eye-to-eye with my peers, so in many ways I saw myself in Star Trek. I was nervous, academic and much preferred to make believe than face the real world. I might not want to admit it, but you could consider me a classic case of Reginald Barclay. Even the quirkiest of character, such as Reg, despite being dubbed ‘Mr Broccli’ by the less forgiving Wesley Crusher (you weren’t exactly a social butterfly, sir) was not only accepted, but welcomed into the inner bosom of the crew with open arms. This type of acceptance and understanding of my weird ways was everything I hoped to received when I was a grown up.

Fast forward from the baptism of joy that was BBC2’s reruns, to the next Christmas. My parents and Uncle Martin quickly became clued up to my sci-fi obsession and wholeheartedly approved, buying me my first Star Trek: The Next Generation DVD box sets. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, and these box sets are still some of my dearest positions 20 years on.

I’m not sure how much depth I’ll go into on individual Star Trek episode in the future, but it seems fitting to recount my experiences of the pilot two-parter “Encounter at Farpoint2. Now, I want you all to bear in mind that I’m certainly not a critic, and many of my initial impressed were skewed by the fact I was a starry-eyed child…

Grumpy, bored, omnipotent alien Q decided to come along and put the previously aggressive and war-torn humanity on trial. What we found throughout this episode was that despite the horrendous past that these 24th century humans had faced (which is looking more and more like our future), our society had actually progressed and improved. You’ve got to remember at this point, mini-me was terrified of everything. The world was scary. People were scary. Bad things happened. I was acutely aware of everything always. It was tiring. So watching a future utopian version of ourselves was actually a very cathartic and relieving piece of hope that my anxious self needed at this point. And if I’m honest, it’s something I need more and more as I develop into a cynical adult too!

Then I come onto the biggest happy-hope-joy bringer of them all. The fact that the humans work out that the station is in fact a strange morphing alien, and choose to save the strange space jelly fish over ignoring the inhumanity and moving on to their actual mission. As an adult, I see some flaws with the pink and blue space octopus couple. But, as a child, all I saw was the humans choosing the welfare of another creature that they couldn’t even relate to over themselves. This was everything that I wanted (and still want) humanity to be. Intelligent enough to problem-solve the strange occurrences happening at the station, curious enough to investigate them and compassionate enough to act on anything that doesn’t meet our moral or ethical codes at humans. What more could you hope for?

I certainly think this is one of the reasons I followed a career path in charity. I want to work in a way that demonstrates an empathy for others, both human and animal. I want to make a positive difference, whether it is on a small individual basis through working with volunteers or in a larger, more general way by my life choices. I’ve been guided by the principles that Star Trek has taught me. Hard work, honesty, working together as a team, empathy and a shared goal to explore and do good. All of these are my learnings from a childhood on a diet of sci-fi. Along with the occasional cooking programme, too. But that discussion is for another time…

Guest blogs represent the views of the guest blogger.

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