Saturday, September 19, 2009

The frontier of dreams

The final frontier.
There is an image from my childhood. A dark background, broken up by little pinpricks of light. Slowly moving towards me, then gliding off the edge. A single musical note, broken up by tiny little tinkles. Each one for a star maybe? A promise of heroics to come. And a voice.
The final frontier.
The music would rise, rise, rise and there it was. Whipping past, speeds measured in warp, the vessel of my dreams, the brave, the tough, the fantastic Enterprise. And a child would sit open mouthed, his head filled with images of space battles and strange aliens, of vile villains and swashbuckling heroes, phasers and photon torpedoes. A crew of men and women who would trek through the stars and have amazing adventures just so I could watch them in awe.
Star Trek was not a weekly treat for me. When it aired here, we didn't even have a colour television, much less cable. No, Star Trek was something I could indulge in only when I was at someone else's house. A relative, a friend, anybody. If it was five in the evening and they had Star Plus on the dial, I would beg, plead, whine and ignore the ugly glances from my parents just so I could watch. I would pay later, but Trek was worth it.
Much of the subtlety of Trek was lost to me as a child. I didn't realize how revolutionary the multicultural crew was. I didn't always understand the underlying themes and messages on contemporary society the show was so famous for. Nor was it just the concept of reaching out into the unknown that drew me in. Star Trek, above all, was like a flare going off in the depths of my imagination. It showed me what stories could be when they broke free of all the traditional trappings of time and space. It taught me that real storytelling was not about lasers and guns and starships exploding(although they were a lot of fun too), but about people and how they were with each other.
When TNG came around I was ready. This time I really GOT the show. Picard, with his calm and authoritative demeanor was a captain far closer to my own heart. Data's quest to be more human resonated within me, made me ask myself what it really WAS to be human. This Trek crew was not immune to faults and failings, hardly superheroes. Even in a starship hurtling towards the unknown, they were the ones I could relate to more that anyone else on TV. TNG was a show that took risks. The borg weren't simply a scary alien race. They were representative of a political ideology that is very much present today. Trek debated on the meaning of being human, and whether soul and sentience were the same. Trek made me question happiness and it's costs. Trek made me think and wonder. It didn't give me answers, but made me ask questions.
But more than the philosophy and ideas, it is emotions that drive the Trek universe. Hope burns the brightest. Hope, not of a perfect day, but a better day. Hope that today's minds would understand that tomorrows world was theirs to shape, and make the right choices. Hope for humanity, hope for the world, hope for the universe. That is why it doesn't matter when ships explode with a bang in the vacuum of space.Or when treknobabble is employed to explain all emergencies and their solutions. Star Trek's science can be questionable bordering on the ridiculous, but few can argue the quality of it's fiction. Gene Rodenberry and the Trek cast and crew who came after him knew that to tell stories that evoke wonder and joy and sorrow and all those things that make us human, it is necessary to dream. To envision. To break barriers.
To boldly go where no one has gone before.