Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Nearly Five Decades of Trekking Through the Stars

Yes of course, I’m talking about Star Trek. Not just a television series, but a cultural phenomenon. When the original Star Trek series began no one could have predicted what it would spawn into and how it would challenge our very culture through its hour long missions to explore space. Since those first few years, several spin-offs have sprung up including Star Trek the Animated Series, Star Trek the Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Enterprise along with a series of 6 movies following the original series cast and 4 following the cast of The Next Generation. These new series have expanded the mythos and solidified a place for Star Trek in the hearts of a whole new generation. Still as the newer spin-offs came to a close there was a void in the hearts of all trekkies where once new episodes had been. The gnawing emptiness remained unaddressed until in 2009 J.J. Abrams’ new movie Star Trek came out astonishing audiences and rebooting the series for a whole new generation of fans.

I will ashamedly admit that I was not terribly interested in seeing the new Star Trek movie until I found out that it’s story line was actually a tie-in to the backstory for an at the time new MMO based upon the Star Trek I.P. called Star Trek Online. As I eagerly awaited the games release, counting down the days till open beta would begin I kept up with each back story post as though the very future of the galaxy depended upon it. On the day when the tie-in to the new movie became clear I happily let go my misgivings and embraced the coming movie with the appropriate gusto. In fact I was so excited when I went to see it on opening night that I accidentally spilled my nachos on myself and missed 10 minutes of the movie cleaning up (thankfully not the very beginning). Still even this tragedy couldn’t spoil my mood and I relished every minute of the new film, even returning later with another friend to see it in IMAX (it was well worth the money, in case you were wondering). As Such I now eagerly await the newest addition to the Star Trek franchise, Into Darkness schedule to come out May 17 of this year. As you can imagine, I fully intend to do a review for the film shortly after opening night.

With the advent of a revitalized franchise, those who produce merchandise like Star Trek t-shirts, and Star Trek games have started up the production lines once more. Though I’m not a merchandise collector, what nerd doesn’t have some bit of Star Trek memorabilia floating around their home?

The one aspect of the nerd culture that the Star Trek franchise has continually struggled with is games. They had a good start with 3-Dimensional chess, but it’s been pretty much downhill ever since then. Despite being entertaining many early games like Star Trek Bridge Commander lacked the depth or replay value to keep them in people’s collections long term. Still there have been some exceptions to the rule and they’re worth noting. Star Trek Armada II for instance is a wonderful game and despite its age, still sells for anywhere between $49 and $275 depending on whether you’d like it new or used. My copy cost about $90, but in my opinion was worth the expense. Other good Star Trek games include the Starfleet Command games (yes even Orion Pirates) and Star Trek Online, which while a little odd and regrettably a little weak on the crafting system still manages to capture one’s attention and tell an interesting story. Since its release Star Trek Online has gone free to play, so if you have some spare time and love Star Trek why not check it out?

Of course Star Trek is much more than entertainment, but rather it actually serves as a commentary on our society as it stands and where we all hope we’ll end up. I can personally attest to the fact that Star Trek has reshaped many of my ideals in regard to the reason for working and the benefits of cooperation. Until I started watching the different series and really listening, I never worked simply to better myself, but that’s something the society we see in the films and television series’ asks each person to do. The commanders and the crew of each ship are all volunteers. They do what they do because they choose to and for no other reason. Of course the life lessons don’t end there. The series has much to say about racial prejudice, war, and even religion and challenges our beliefs on every one of those topics. It also raises the question of what is the appropriate definition of intelligent life and whether our inalienable rights are merely inherent with our species, or if their shared across all sentience.

Since the beginning Star Trek has pushed the envelope of both entertainment and morality, not just keeping our focus, but also shaping our society. We all hope that the idealistic utopian life we see in the Star Trek universe might one day be ours, but until that day comes and even there after Star Trek will belong in my N3rd C0rn3r.