Stardate 1513.1 and Beyond
A personal Star Trek story by Bob Reyer
With the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek’s September 8th premiere on American television upon us, there will be many words written by those who have found in the 79 “Original Series” episodes and their various spin-offs, sequels and filmic adaptations, not only entertainment, but characters to whom we could deeply relate and a world-view that seemed to suggest that no matter how turbulent our world was, humanity had a future worth believing in and standing up for. Here at Meganerd Media, you will be treated to essays that will cover the full spectrum of the Star Trek experience, from “Best of…” listicles and character studies to in-depth analyses of the political machinations both in front of and behind the cameras. Our Editrix-in Chief, Melissa Megan, knowing that I’m a long-term (and kinda hard-core) Trekker, asked if I would contribute some thoughts, although she might not have realized exactly how long that history has been running!
On that September Thursday, my Dad allowed me to stay up later than my usual bedtime on a school night to watch a show entitled Star Trek that was debuting at 8:30 PM. He was a big fan of all sorts of science-fiction and horror films dating back to his own childhood when he saw the original 1925 “Phantom of the Opera” with Lon Chaney, and his love for the 1933 “King Kong” (which astounded him in its first-run Radio City Music Hall presentation) had already been passed on to me, so we were “movie pals” of the highest order, and he wanted to share this new show with me as well.
The programme opened with a shot of a sleek-looking spaceship orbiting a strange planet, an effects shot that to my ten-year- old eyes watching on our giant 25-inch B&W Motorola TV set was the equal of anything in my favorite films such as “War of the Worlds” or “Forbidden Planet”. When that was followed by a sequence where-in the landing party arrived on that world through some sort of “matter transmission” as in “The Fly”, I was hooked, especially thinking that there would be a different episode that would play out like a favorite movie every week!
For the next three years, each new show became an event for my Dad and me, as we loved spending time together in the company of Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the rest, and our chats afterwards brought home the strong points of that episode, and the series in general. We each had our favorites, with my father’s #1 undoubtedly being “Balance of Terror”, with its “submarine warfare” feeling, and his other top picks would have included “Space Seed” and “Piece of the Action”, as I particularly remember him laughing loudly at Jim’s “Fizzbin” gambit. At my age then, I was certainly more attracted to the action-oriented episodes such as “The Doomsday Machine” or creature-centric ones like “The Trouble with Tribbles”, “The Immunity Syndrome”, or “Obsession”, but once Star Trek passed into syndication (and I did into young adulthood), as the two of us re-watched the series, our new discussions would bring other episodes to the fore, whose subtler elements would have been over-the- head or beyond-the- heart of my ten-year- old self. Now I love “Devil in the Dark”, but for many more reasons than its cool monster!
Our love for Star Trek would continue, and I still remember the excitement that my Dad and I shared for seeing “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” on a wintry Friday night in December of 1979. The film may have had some pacing problems, but visiting with our old friends on the big screen was something quite special, and that first shot of the Enterprise in space-dock had all of us in the audience agog, and to this day, that same feeling comes over me as I watch that sequence. Not long after, I purchased my first VCR, but with the local outlet for Trek re-runs (WPIX, if you’re keeping score) showing them only on Saturdays at 6 PM, and as I would still be at work, my Dad would record each episode, editing out the commercials, compiling a library of our favorite show, so that we could re-watch it whenever we felt the urge…which was quite often, I must say! Early on in the VHS days, Paramount released five double-features of episodes, and despite the $70 price tag, each found its way into the collection, as did the complete set of 40 LaserDiscs, and they became staple items in our viewing agenda. (After buying the entire series on DVD, I donated those LaserDiscs to a friend, but they serendipitously found their way back into my hands through a fourth party, about which I am most happy!)
September 12th was my dad Hugo Reyer’s birthday, so you can imagine that the days following that 50th Anniversary of the debut of “The Man Trap” (whose opening Stardate is the title of this piece) will be spent in fond remembrance of a television programme whose content helped shape a young boy’s ideas regarding the world around him, but more importantly, a show that inextricably bonded a father and son.