Soaring Through the Stars
Before I was also baking flat chocolate cookies for dad, Friday nights meant Star Trek (ST), The Original Series (TOS). As a young kid, I didn't appreciate all the philosophical undertones, of course, nor did I question why the poor Red Shirts never seemed to make it back to the ship. All I wanted to do was fly around the universe with Captain Kirk and the crew.
I did love the camaraderie and the idea of discovery even then however, and never noticed the rather amateurish sets, stiff special effects, or somewhat wooden script. Who cared? I was hooked!
New Series, Same Federation
As I got older, however, I realized my fascination with ST went beyond the adventures. It was with the concept of the Federation and Starfleet itself and the intriguing possibility that mankind could evolve to value the acquisition of knowledge over wealth and the betterment of self and others over power.
I also rather appreciated that an organization like the Federation, made-up of mostly non-violent explorers and scientists, wouldn't hesitate to defend itself with full phasers and photon torpedos. Scientists who also kicked ass. Nice.
I watched all the ST progeny: The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, Voyager, Enterprise as well as the TOS/TNG and Kelvin timeline movies. Most were great, many good, a few so-so, but I embraced them all. While each rendition had its own unique personality, all shared the same mission with the same ideals.
Having said that, many of ST's heroes, on multiple occasions, also defied Starfleet (knowing the potential personal consequences) yet still stayed the hero. Why? Because they understood the subtle difference between defying the organizational structure (the, ahem, chain of command) and betraying the organization's mission. Starfleet management may be flouted when necessary, but not Starfleet ideals. It was this subtle difference that I came to appreciate later in my own working life.
The allure of the Federation followed me all through college and into law school, and it wasn't just the Humanistic principles. I still had the dreams of my youth, shooting to stars light years away, or at least to the earth's orbit and the moon. Sadly though, I had to finally face reality. I had little aptitude for rocket science, and I wasn't sure I had the stomach for space travel either. Apparently, the perfect gravity shown on Federation ships in the ST universe doesn't exist yet. Darn.
Still, I was able to satisfy something close to the dream. Since I attended law school in Washington DC, I had the advantage of being near NASA as well as the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum. I actually had a short apprenticeship at NASA and took Space Law (yes, a real class) in my third year. My class thesis centered on the drafting of the "Declaration of First Principles for the Governance of Outer Space Societies", a 1986-87 effort by several prominent individuals from science, government, law, media, and academia to celebrate the Bicentennial of the US Constitution by attempting to construct a framework of principles that could apply to future space societies. Gene Roddenberry actually wrote the foreward for the subsequent book entitled "Envoys of Mankind: A Declaration of First Principles for the Governance of Space Societies" (now out of print unfortunately). Ah well. At least I'd lived part of my vision.
Re-Discovering Star Trek through Discovery
During my 30 years in various government agencies and regimes, I found myself slowly drifting from the ST universe and its steadfast belief in positive possibilities. While I'd encountered great people and great missions in my career, the experiences never seemed to measure-up to Starfleet or the Federation. Yes, I know, anyone who bases their expectations of themselves and others on a fictional construct is bound for disappointment. But really, while the ST technology might be fiction, the Starfleet ideals weren't, right? Darn those subtle differences.
In any case, Reality does bite. And those subtle, but real, differences between mission and organization had bitten far too often. I was proud of my service and time in the trenches, but I also welcomed retirement where I could go back to daydreaming about space travel and thinking the best again of mankind and its future. The question was, did I still have the heart to do so, or had ST and all that it stood for been "disillusioned" out of me after 30 years?
I thought it might have been when the new ST series, Discovery, came out, and I didn't rush to watch it. It wasn't really because I'd have to pay for yet another streaming service, although that was annoying. No. I think I feared it would be disappointingly different, or maybe I was too different, too jaded. Could I still appreciate the innocence and "purity" of Starfleet and the Federation?
I'd been retired for a few months when Picard was announced. Since I'd had some time to reflect on my new (and old) reality, I decided to give the show a try. I'm so glad I did. Though the Federation (well, the organization anyway) doesn't come out looking so rosy in this one, I identified with this more personal Picard who'd had to deal with those "subtle" differences and live with the consequences. It was a gentle segue back into the ST universe.
Since Picard was a success, I thought I'd finally try Discovery. Even my husband was interested in seeing the show. I grabbed my bowl of popcorn and pushed play, not quite knowing what to expect.
I needn't have worried. From the first scenes with Commander Michael Burnham to the first strains of music for the introduction, I was transfixed, sucked back into the ST world faster than the Discovery's spore drive. I don't even remember finishing my popcorn. My husband was quite amused with the intensity of my interest and pointed out that I didn't look at my phone or laptop the entire show. A true sign of enchantment!
Even with the new characters and twists in the timeline (what? Spock had a sister? kind of?), the ideals of the Federation and StarFleet had endured. More importantly to me, so had my fascination. Discovery and Picard had been like old friends, welcoming me back home after I'd been away far too long.
I look forward to more adventures with this crew, as well as any other ST variation that might come along. Space is still the final frontier and I'm right back in it, thank goodness.
The only thing to say now is set a course, second star to the right and straight on till morning! Oh, yes, and of course, Engage!
Note: There are numerous articles and publications out there regarding the many layered philosophy of Star Trek. I found this one to be, in the words of our beloved Spock, "fascinating". I'm glad I was at least right about the Humanism!