We all have that moment when the right fandom property at the right time changes our course, and we go on to dedicate our life to something. The Catalyst to My Fandom is a place for all of us to share those life-altering moments in fandom. For me, it was Star Trek and how the messages in the show taught me hope.
Most of our fandoms are things that we come to in our youth. It makes sense that our deepest loves would be forged when we are the most impressionable. Though there is an element of that when it comes to Star Trek for me – I’m speaking of the franchise as a whole – it wasn’t until later in life that I discovered how important the world and characters really were. It wasn’t until I had lived for a while that I realized what Star Trek had really instilled in me: hope.
When I was very young, I absorbed Star Trek primarily through my father’s love of the series. At the time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was currently running and had gone on to be a pop culture phenomenon. I still remember some of my earliest toys were a communicator badge and a model of the Enterprise-D. I can remember pretending one of my mom’s hairbands was Geordi La Forge’s visor. To be honest, I was too juvenile to grasp what was going on in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but the aesthetic and the technology instantly fascinated me.
As I grew up, my dad would introduce me to the original series through their films. If we’re being blunt, I didn’t take to the old crew at first. They felt outdated and silly compared to the cast of The Next Generation. But through it all, I intrinsically grasped my father’s love of this fictional world and its promise. He was raised during the golden era of science fiction and was barely an adult when a man landed on the moon. He spent most of his adult youth as a sailor, living on a boat and free to explore the frontier of the Earth’s oceans. Naturally, the voyages of the Enterprise spoke to his seafaring heart. To him, there was no other greater vision of the future than what Gene Roddenberry had concocted.
So, at this early age, I knew I liked the bells and whistles of Star Trek, but it was easier to delve into the world of Star Wars since the story and characters were far clearer for a child. The morality of Star Trek was much too complex for me, and so I busied myself more with tales of bounty hunters and smugglers rather than a peaceful coalition of planets striving to make the galaxy a better place.
As I entered the formative years of middle and high school, I began to feel that unique angst only a teenager knows. A side effect of this was my increased cynicism. My political views began to take form, and I found that they contrasted with the standards of society. I began to gravitate towards ideas of anarchy, dissolution, destruction, and futility. I saw governments as shady corporations bent on enslaving the populace rather than representing it. The outlook of a post-9/11 world left me bleak and uninterested in mankind’s potential for self-improvement.
This outlook continued long into my late teens, and I fed this beast with the works of acidic minds like Ambrose Bierce and Alan Moore. Granted, those authors are brilliant and necessary in their own right, but I may not have been pursuing them for the right reasons. I identified with the caustic and the combative, and if my fiction didn’t align with those ideals, I dismissed them as cotton candy for the ignorant masses. I was not the most enjoyable guy to be around.
Then, my dad died.
The Voyage Home
To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever processed the death of my father. There were so many circumstances surrounding it that felt unresolved and pointless. Those last few years that we knew each other were filled with contention and disapproval. At the end, I saw a broken shell of a man who had once reminded me of that noble and commanding captain from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
It was some years after my father’s passing that I began to really think about Star Trek. It was a property that was so fundamentally linked to my dad that I never gave it the chance to leave its own impression on me. Thanks to a Trekkie friend of mine (hey, Ray!), I decided to go back and watch all of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was then that the utopian potential of the world really hit me. This is what the human race could achieve if we settled all our petty issued and really worked together. We could make it.
I began to devour Star Trek, starting by watching all the films and (recently) finishing the entirety of the original series. I fell in love with the original crew and even found a new appreciation for elements I used to dislike. For example, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was always my least favorite of the original films. That had to do with my childish love of spaceship battles and alien races. There was no need for a broad comedy in Star Trek!
Yet, at the behest of my fellow Fan Contributor Robert Mitchell, I gave The Voyage Home another shot. Thank George and Gracie for that man because I loved it. It was incredibly moving in a way I could never have appreciated at a younger age. I wept when Spock said that hunting a species to extinction is illogical. If only we saw it as such.
The Undiscovered Country
As I’ve gone down this road with Star Trek, the one thing it has brought to my life is hope. Hope that the world can start to realize what’s really important for us as a species. Hope that we can abandon the shackles of money and want, creating a society where technology allows us all to be truly equal.
In a year where the political climate is dismal no matter where you stand, Star Trek reminds me that it’s going to get better. I have to believe that. I spent too many years steeped in distrust and disillusion. Star Trek gives me something to believe in. There is something so powerful about its beliefs. It’s the kinds of beliefs the world could use more of these days.
What does the future hold? I don’t know, but Star Trek taught me that it’s something to hope towards.
Fandom is built on a foundation of passionate people with deep and unshakable knowledge spread across the entire pop culture landscape. The only way for that to manifest is timing: the right fan with the right property at the right time. Luminaries of film, music, television, games, and comics have all had that watershed moment where something infected them, and the impulse was too strong to ignore. We have shared some of those moments, and hopefully, you will join us in doing so as well.