As I sit here, in my geek bar, drinking a Vulcan Red IPA from my Wesley Crusher pint, I reflect on what got me here. It’s the 50th Anniversary of the original Star Trek airing on TV and I have to say without that show my life would have been drastically different. Cliche, I know, but true.
I always wanted to be an artist. A Disney artist specifically. I loved to draw, color, sculpt. I begged my dad to buy me the Disney summer camp (which was like $300, a fortune when you’re seven). But, I never became an artist. I became an Engineer. When I was a kid I wasn’t into Star Trek even a little bit. I mean, who wanted “lame” looking space ships and funny costumes when I could have lightsabers, stormtroopers, and the DARTH FUCKING VADER?! What I was into was marine biology and ocean life. I lived for whales, dolphins, swimming, and the beach. I even had one of those crazy binders full of different animal pictures and facts that was popular in the late 80’s. You know, the ones you subscribed to every month?
One night at the beginning of summer vacation (I think I was going into third grade), my dad woke me up to tell about this “whale movie” on TV. Sure enough I dragged myself to the living room floor and there were whales! And this weird guy in a bathrobe swimming with them. But whales! So I laid there, watching this “whale” movie, only to come to the end and think “Wow, that’s Star Trek?” The rest of the summer I stayed up five nights a week watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.
How does this all relate to me sitting here reflecting on my life? Well, I know he’s not the most popular character but my favorite character early on was Wesley Crusher. See, the older fans didn’t get it, but Gene Roddenberry did. He put a character in this show that spoke to kids my age. Kids that thought they knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, but weren’t quite sure. Kids that were tired of parents telling them what to do because they knew they could do things. Here was a kid that earned the respect of adults, did adult things, solved problems, and was just awesome. He wasn’t an athlete. He was a scientist. He was awkward around girls (and most adults). Wil, if you read this understand that it’s incredibly hard for me not to fan boy the fuck out when you’re around. Your character was one of the first things in my life to make me think “Man, maybe being an Engineer would be fun!” So there ya go. You set a standard for kids my age that eventually went on to work on things like the Space Shuttle, ISS, next generation aircraft, and all kinds of cool shit.
So I spent the whole summer watching this show, and at the end had to ask “What was that original one like, with Kirk and the guy with the ears?” I had a few novels about the original series but reading them without ever seeing them never really gave me that impact. I have vague memories of watching a Star Trek cartoon when I was younger but it wouldn’t be several years later until I was able to really sit down and experience where it all came from. Being the early nineties it wasn’t as easy as pulling up Netflix or even downloading them from the web. I had to hunt, and I did manage to find a few episodes on VHS. I think it was a “Best of” type deal with like 6 episodes. Regardless, what I saw finally made me switch from art firmly to Engineering. That thing was Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, the ships miracle worker.
My first thought was “If Wesley had grown up and given that chance, he could have been Scotty.” When I watched this show I didn’t want to be the Captain. I didn’t want to be the guy that told the captain the odds were slim it could be done. I wanted to be the guy that did the thing. That was Scotty. Don’t get me wrong, Kirk was brilliant. But when he needed to get out of whatever situation he was in it was Scotty that made his ideas work. When the dilithium hit the fan, Scotty was there with the scooper (but he had to fashion it from old power conduits, replicator parts, and the 22nd century version of duct tape). That’s the guy I wanted to be. Fast forward about 12 years and I was an Engineer working on the Space Shuttle launch pads. Not NEARLY as glamorous, but it did have it’s moments. And now, I sit in my geek bar, drinking Star Trek beer out of my Star Trek pint glass and talking geek things with people and wearing my screen accurate replicate Scotty tunic. I’m curious what my life would be like if I’d never abandoned my artist passion. I bet there wouldn’t be a Cloak & Blaster, I wouldn’t be living where I am, and I probably wouldn’t be married to a girl searing Vulcan ears and drinking Romulan Ale.
So, here’s to the next 50 years of boldly going…