Did You See Star Trek Last Night?

The end of every year of high school marked the annual awards banquets at my school. I don’t know what the athletes did but the theater kids had fun, especially if you were in stage crew. While the actors had their, ‘best actor’ and ‘best actress’ honors, the stage crew had their own awards customized to suit the recipient, such as the ‘Sorry I Couldn’t Make It’ award for the girl who could never make it to the meetings to build or paint but always had a reasonable excuse, or the ‘Best Rubber Chicken’ award to the guy who had, you guessed it, the best (and only) rubber chicken of the whole crew.

My award one year was the ‘Beam Me Up’ award, because after staying up late to watch Star Trek with my Dad on Sunday nights, I would come in on Monday and ask my friends, “Did you see Star Trek last night?” almost every week for most of the school year.

Deep Space Nine was one of the few television shows I watched in high school. It was The Next Generation’s grittier, less popular but more critically acclaimed younger sibling. I loved that show. I loved the characters and their relationships, I loved the fact that they were on a space station and couldn’t just fly off to a new planet the week after. They had to stay where they were and deal with the crap they got themselves into. There was more conflict, more gray area, and even the good guys had to do bad things from time to time. It was– and remains– a show I could watch over and over again and never tire of.

The years passed and the next two Star Trek shows came and went. Voyager got lost and made it home while Enterprise staggered on until its early cancellation and then… nothing. I wondered if Star Trek was a thing that had played itself out. Had we grown too jaded for such an optimistic view of the future? Then J.J. Abrams came along with his re-booted, alternative universe versions of Kirk, Spock, and the gang and showed that we weren’t so callous that we couldn’t appreciate a well told and optimistic story about the future. While I didn’t love the Kelvinverse films as much as the original shows, they were still Star Trek, and as far as I was concerned they held onto the ideals of Gene Roddenberry’s initial premise.

But as fun as they were, the movies weren’t a television series I could follow across the weeks and months while wondering what was going to happen from one episode to the next. The surprise was over in a couple of hours, and though I watched the movies several times, it wasn’t the same as watching a series unfold. So I was thrilled when the announcement came that Star Trek: Discovery was in the works, and I worried when the pre-production problems threatened to end the show before it started. But as things got back on the rails and moved forward, I got more excited, especially when they started announcing the cast and characters- wonderfully diverse and deep people, a fact that has always been at the core of Star Trek.

I was glued to my computer screen when 7:30 rolled around last night, with my headphones on, hoping the thunderstorm going on outside wouldn’t disrupt my internet service. CBS hadn’t let anyone review Discovery before it’s premier, so I was largely in the dark about the show’s quality.

Thank the Great Bird of the Galaxy, I was not disappointed.

Discovery is fantastic. Sonequa Martin-Green’s portrayal of Michael Burnham is just about perfect as she seeks to balance her humanity with her Vulcan upbringing while trying to keep her captain and crew safe in a dangerous galaxy. Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Philippa Georgiou is rather like Captain Picard- always seeking a peaceful resolution because she’s seen the consequences of war. And Doug Jones’s science officer, Lt Saru, a Kelpian (a new race in the Star Trek universe) provides a non-human perspective to counterbalance Burnham and Georgiou, but is human enough to be endearing.

The rest of the main cast hasn’t really been introduced yet because of Events (and those events earned their capital ‘E’), but I’m sure they’ll be fantastic, as well.

Except for the first episode, Discovery is only available via CBS’s streaming service, so like many other Trekkies I bought a subscription to CBS All Access specifically to watch Discovery. It’s about $7 a month. Big deal. I can forgo a couple of lattes to make up for it because this show is worth it, not just because I like the characters and their stories, but because of the optimism at the core of any Star Trek show or movie. Because it shows us that in spite of our differences– and sometimes because of them– we can all work together to create a brighter future. That’s worth a lot more than $7 a month to me. 

And for the next fourteen weeks, I will once again be able to come in on Monday morning and ask, “Did you see Star Trek last night?”

 

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