Where No Subculture Has Gone Before
Stardate: Captains’ log, 1585.9. The alien species is still unaware of the Federation’s presence, and under orders of the prime directive we are not to interfere. I am taking a risk by violating orders to contact the aliens in order to provide knowledge, which would help them understand our people. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, as Mr. Spock would say.
The aliens must understand the danger they face in their ignorance of the Federation. Our Assignment: Earththe 21st century. ‘Space the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilization.
To boldly go where no geek has gone before.’ Beaming back to 1966 when the phenomenal series of Star Trek began, a passionate following of Trekkies waited every Saturday afternoon to catch the newest episode, eager to see what new obstacles Captain Kirk and the Star Ship Enterprise would solve next. Star Trek was a pivotal show in television history, touching upon disputed topics such as racism, sexism, and war conflicts. One of the reasons the show was so popular was the accessibility and truth in many of the plots, which allowed the common person to relate. Taking place during the Cold War, many similarities can be seen in the show between Captain James T. Kirk and President John F Kennedy (Daly).
The restraint towards violence, but acceptance when it was necessary, was the key link between Federation’s War with the Klingons and The United States’ war against the Soviet Union (Daly). A surprising concept and twist to the show was a Russian character driving the ship under an American captain. Although the Star Trek universe was based in “a time when race and ethnicity no longer matter” (Matt) , in order to turn hostility away from the Russian Chekov, Klingons were created, allowing the audience to direct their hate towards a Space Soviet-esque empire. With a strict regime and code of ethics, the Klingons were a futuristic Soviet government audiences could understand and despise. The similarities are recognized specifically throughout many episodes, such as Trouble with Tribbles , when a Klingon spy was found to have interfered with a federation reconstruction project . Klingons are also notorious for attempting to start war between the feuding governments of the empireand the Federation.
Exploring the Klingon race even further, a direct correlation can be seen in the garbled language spoken by the Klingons, and that of the Soviets. “NuqneH! Qlt yljatlh tlhlngan vIghojtaH! mIS? ” The phrases translated a la Bing—Hello! Please speak more slowly I’m learning Klingon! Are you confused? —Don’t exactly roll off the tongue when pronounced in the distorted brutish manner held by many seasoned members of the KAG . For one unfamiliar with ‘beam me up Scotty’, ‘Engage’ or the world renowned ‘live long and prosper’, the Klingon language would appear as gibberish, as it does to most people outside the Star Trek fan base. Although Klingons were based on a government despised by Americans in the 1960’s, the characters have become widely popular with fans in the 21st century. The strong moral code and sense of loyalty are thought of highly by their fans.The brutish fan base first began in 1974, when a convention decided it needed bouncers with a twist (Davis).
Fans began to enjoy the idea of acting out their darker side by joining and participating in Klingon organizations and activities. The stigma of Star Trek fans being skinny, geeky, little people is a polar opposite from Klingon fans. They are known to be colossal, muscular beings with ridged foreheads, piercing eyes and thick pointed beards. One fan even expressed that the reason Klingon groups have such a large following is because “lots of people here are…in stressful jobs. This is a way to act out.
‘Cause they see the darker side of reality” (Davis). The Klingon way of life appeals to those who seek control in their lives, and have adapted a largely survivalist nature (Davis). The Klingons represent duty, strength, and honor, attracting the weak as well as the strong in the search for a new kind of life. Violating the prime television directiveand exploring controversies, was something that made the show intriguing for every episode. The ship’s right-hand was a Vulcan, an alien who could be paralleled to an illegal immigrant living under scrutiny in the United States. Fans sympathize with Spock, as he is part Vulcan and part human, trying to live life in accordance with two very different ways of life.
The connection to immigrants is clear, as they are also living by two different cultures. Characters from across the world occupied the bridge, from countries such as Japan, Scotland, Swahili, and the most controversial: Russia. In comparison having an African American woman running the communications unit was also a huge step forward. Nichelle Nichols who played Uhura was about to quit the show for lack of a substantial part, however she was told personally by Dr. Martin Luther King that she could under no circumstances quit, as she was a symbol for civil and women’s rights.He told her ‘”you cannot abdicate your position.
You are changing the minds of people across the world, because for the first time, through you, we see ourselves and what can be”‘ (Nichelle). Breaking even more barriers, Star Trek was also the first television show to share a scripted interracial kiss. In Star Trek voyager the show had their first woman captain, and Deep Space Nine had their first African American captain. Every series built upon the last, continuing themes and social conflicts prevalent in the modern world, something duly noted and of much interest to the fans. The series Deep Space Nine focused on a Space Station, a crossroads for the world, exploring the different cultures and species and their relation to people of today. The religious zeal of the Bajorans can be connected to extremist religious groups in the 21st century.
Deep Space Nine was also the first Star Trek series to focus heavily on religion and religious persecution, drawing similarities between the Ferengi and the Jews during World War II. Ferengi are beings constantly stereotyped and criticized because of the way they act and look. They are depicted with large ears and noses, and talked about as “vermin”; many stereotypes placed on Jewish people by the Nazi’s in WWII (Matt). As most of these obscure and compelling facts are hidden away in the dust-covered depths of Google, it is a rare gem to find someone who knows Star Trek like the back of their hand. While most of us would require hours of digging to find a particular episode, character, or obscure alien battleship, many fans can name them off the top of their head.
During my time spent with Minn-Stf I was able to meet such people and witness first hand the total love and appreciation they held for the show. The seasoned Trekkers knew any episode, and any character, of any Star Trek spin off. A common mistake is made in assuming Trekkers and Trekkies are the same, when in reality they are different things entirely, “‘for those who don’t know a tribble from a tricorder ‘”(Daly). A Trekkie likes Star Trek, has a favorite season but also likes other science fiction. A Trekker has dedicated their life to the show, collecting memorabilia, going to conventions, and sometimes even learning Klingon. For many Trekkers, it is the only science fiction they love, and the “guidelines of how they live their life” (Matt).
As prompted by members of Minn-Stf I began to research the influence Star Trek has had on the modern world. I was told fascinating stories of inventions created for the show, which are now objects of everyday use. The communicatorsfor example paved way for the invention of the cell phone almost ten years later . In Deep Space Nine, Ipad like objects are seen being used by members of the crew to access pictures and information, such as the purpose of the Apple inventions today.
Geordie’s glassesin The Next Generation inspired Google glasses, which can also be found in Deep Space Ninein their more recognizable form. Star Trek also has changed the way people look at society. In the Star Trek universe, Rodenberry created an idealistic and achievable society. He developed moral codes and standards which people in any day and age could hope to live up to. According to an article in the Journal of Consumer Research by Robert V.
Kozinets the show “[Scrutinizes] everyday culture…socially exclusive definitions of culture, preferring instead to inhabit the interstices between intellectual… and the so-called popular culture of mundane everyday life.” The different series portray cultures “we know and aspire to”, from the tranquil Bajorans to the members of the Federation, who seek justice for all people alien or human, criminal or hero (Matt). It also depicts an Earth where countries no longer war between themselves, and have become a Sci-fi United Nations to promote peace throughout the galaxy (Jindra). Even as Trekkers strive for universal peace, there is a supposed animosity between Star Trek and Star Wars fans; however this is not true. While Trekkers hold Star Trek near and dear to their hearts, many also like and appreciate the Star Wars films and can relate to fans of the latter.
However they are quick to point out the differences between the shows, labeling Chewy and Han as characters from a world of fantasy, while designating Spock and Worf as characters of pure sci-fi. According to a member of Minn-Stf, Star Trek characters were more like the common person while Star Wars characters merely had “bad guys and the comic relief” (Matt). While this is disputable, examining the Star Trek as a whole, they exhibit a wider variety of characters from different social circles and races. Matt also explained that “Star Wars fans are like the jocks, and Star Trek fans are a geeky, tightknit group that gets together to watch movies and talk about their passion” (Matt). Growing up in a household with a great love for Star Trek, my father being an adamant Trekker , I also learned to live and breathe the show. One member of the Minn-Stf shared a story relatable to me, of how he and his father shared a bond over Star Trek.
Working long and hard hours to earn a living for his family, this man’s father put aside an hour every Saturday to sit down, eat a frozen pizza and watch Star Trek with his son. The memories made by the show go even farther back, from one member doing radio interviews with Leonard Nimoy, to another waiting in line for hours to get into a convention. For others it was the mutual bond of Science Fiction, which brought them together; I was told of one such couple, who’s entire wedding was based off the Vulcan Koon Ut Kalifee . The legacy of Star Trek lives on, as the earliest fans start families and bring about ‘The Next Generation’ of Trekkers, who are just as avid and enthusiastic as their predecessors. About to reach it’s 50th anniversary in 2016, fans of all ages await the release, ending the trilogy begun in 2009 . Although the new cast brought a different spin to the ‘final frontier’, many elements of former Star Trek characters and spinoffs made a comeback.
In particular Leonard Nimoy, reprised his former character of Spock in the JJ. Abrams films. Sadly Nimoy passed away earlier in 2015, devastating fans across the world that had come to love him for his iconic bowl cut, pointy ears, and studious expression. Fans went into a national day of mourning, and when asked about the fateful day all the members of Minn-Stf grew silent, a somber reverence having fallen across the room. Star Trek will always be more than a show, offering something to all ages.
Bound up in immutable moralities and challenging ethics, Star Trek will never fade from the memories of its everlasting fans. Permeating through space and time to bring the world into the 21st century as we know it, the social and economical impacts of Star Trek will remain far past the reaches of this galaxy and time. Through the impacts in technology, to the tolerance towards different races and cultures, we have been influenced and jumped aboard the Enterprise, accepting the knowledge and power that came with it. Whether they wear the latex forehead and leather jacket of a Klingon warrior, glue on pointy ears and painstakingly draw in slanted Vulcan eyebrows, or merely enjoy getting together with friends to reminisce of a time past, fans will always remember when James Kirk was still Captain, Leonard McCoy was just a doctor, and Spock ‘has been, and always shall be, [our] friend’. Stardate: 1685.
9. Captain’s log: The prime directive having been disregarded, the crew and myself are to be commended upon reaching common ground and acceptance from the alien species. The secrets of the Federation now in the open, the aliens have assumed a new trajectory; expand the knowledge to the edge of the galaxy. Space the final frontier. Works Cited Daly, Steve. “We’re All Trekkies Now.
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