Tonawanda News

May 16, 2013

Boldly going, yet again

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I’m here to admit that I’m ... yes, a Trekkie.

Or is it Trekker? I can’t never remember the going polite term for such things. Suffice to say that I’m a fan of “Star Trek” -- original series right on through to Abrams films ... and leave it at that.

Once upon a time, I would have seen “Star Trek Into Darkness” -- which just opened at midnight -- by now. Heck, maybe I’d even have seen it twice. Life being life, it’s going to have to wait until Saturday. 

That’s a pity. I like the people who attend midnight showings of Star Trek movies. I also like the people who attend Star Trek (and science fiction in general) conventions. They tend to have a certain “Who cares what you think? I’m having fun!” air about them, a certain disregard for what anyone else thinks is “cool” and even an openness to others that society might consider a little ... different.

And that’s not a bad thing. 

The people who don’t bat an eyelash at a man in full Klingon makeup and battle dress (do you know what a bat’leth is? I do) also don’t bat an eyelash at a young man with a disability who’s taking a little extra time to ask a question. And they sure as heck don’t care what color you are under that Borg prosthesis. We’re all fans. We have that in common.

Gene Roddenberry, I think, would be proud.

Roddenberry, who in the 1960s dared enough to put Sulu, Uhura and Chekov on the bridge (and attempted to cast  the original series’ first officer as a woman, though that wasn’t allowed to get far), envisioned a future where none of that mattered. For the time, it must have been eye-opening, breath-taking, mind-challenging. I wish I could see what he’d do today. 

But since he’s not around, J.J. Abrams will have to do.

Abrams is no Roddenberry. But he’s a heck of a storyteller, and he brought Trek back into the lives of hundreds of old (and new) fans. And for that, I thank him.

To me, “Star Trek,” no matter what the incarnation, will always be about optimism.

It’s the continual assertion that not only is there a future, but it looks sort of cool. And in it, people don’t care as much about things we get all caught up in today. There are still problems ... but we deal with them without getting caught up in all this garbage about how the amount of pigment in someone’s skin, or where they were born, makes a bit of difference when it comes to things that matter.

I observed in 2009, when the last “Star Trek” movie premiered, that the crowd on opening night ranged from a middle-aged guy in a business suit, to an older woman in a Trek T-shirt and ratty jeans, to a young woman in spiffy hat, short designer dress and uncomfortable-looking spike heels, to a little boy at least 40 years too young to remember the first “Star Trek” series when it premiered.

“They ran the gamut,” I wrote. “They could have been teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, soldiers, mechanics — the kind of people who run this country ... They probably were, in fact.”

I said it then. I’ll say it again. Give me even the rabid Trek fans over their critics any day. They have imagination, they have courage (tell me it doesn’t take bravery to go out in public dressed as a Klingon) and they actually care about the future. 

We could do worse.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at