April 25, 1991

The Star Trek Illusion

Beam me up Scotty, I've had enough!

Bumper sticker

I watch Star Trek faithfully each weekend. No, I don't go into some bizzarre withdrawal symptoms when I miss it. That's because I've either seen it before, or it will re-run this summer. It doesn't really matter whether it's the old or new series, or whether or not I've seen it before, I still watch it.

Don't snicker! After all, it's one of the few things that I'm sure of. No matter what absolutely impossible situation they find themselves in, the crew of the Enterprise will solve the problem and emerge unscathed from the experience. If anyone is going to be killed, it will not be them. I expect that every time that a new crew member appears, that the gods have put him there to be killed during the episode. Why else would they bring in a new crew member? The principle characters have charmed lives, as does their vessel. The one time that Spock was really killed, they reincarnated him in the next movie.

Except for a rare episode that leaves me with something to think about, or rattles one of my senses, they are completely predictable except for the gimick that will be used to ultimately get them out of the impossible scrape that they a have been put in by the writers. It's usually a physically impossible gimick, so I can't predict what it will be. It is less predictable than most whodunits.

It was for the same reason that I went to the movies as a kid, to watch Tom Mix or some other gun-totin' cowboy get into some impossible situation from which he miraculously escaped. I would hide behind the seat so that I didn't have to see him get killed --which never happened. Eventually, through no particular effort on my part, I grew up.

What never grew up was something in me that wants to believe that somewhere, somehow, there is someone who can always overcome adversity and will end up standing tall when the smoke clears: someone who can't die.

I know that the earth continues to turn at a constant rate and that the seasons come inexorably every year, the stars stay fixed in their position in the heavens. That is one of the charms of astronomy --its relative certainty. This morning, although I know that the sun is up, I can't see it because the sky is cloudy. Ultimately, the sky will clear and I will see the sun. That is my bit of certainty. But life in the real world is full of uncertainty.

When Star Trek The Movie appeared, it had the protagonists all at their real ages, which was much older than when the series started. Although the plot was one of their better ones, I was disappointed. Comic book heroes aren't supposed to age. Dick Tracy didn't age. Little Orphan Annie didn't age --even Dagwood Bumstead is immortal. Beetle Bailey will contine to bedevil the sergeant long after both of those old soldiers should have faded away, and Charlie Brown will live forever and never have to shave.They are predictable and eternal.

There are many drugs for physical pain. Star Trek is my anodyne for uncertainty.

Next column

Return to the Light Stuff Home Page

Return to Ira's Home Page