Written by: Samuel K. Sloan (SoSF Producer & Managing News Director)
I can remember it now as if it were just yesterday. I am nearing my 18th birthday, the prospect of graduation and Vietnam is dangling over my head like the Sword of Damocles. There is unrest in the streets in North St. Louis, Martin Luther King is boldly facing down intolerance and opposition to freedom with peaceful marches, adherents of the late Malcom X are doing the same on the streets of New York, only with forceful language and defiance, but the message is the same one of freedom and equality. Students are rallying on campuses all over the country protesting a war gone terribly wrong and facing down National Guard forces comprised of fellow Americans their same age. The nuclear threat of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union hangs like a cloud over the minds of all the world. It is a time of great unrest, challenge, hope and promise – all melded together in a seething pot of discontent.
It’s September 8, 1966 and I am sitting in front of our 14 inch black and white television set with my younger brother, step-father, best friend and next door neighbor Joe waiting for a new show to come on that has been promised to take viewers to a place they have never been to before. The familiar NBC peacock comes on and the comforting voice says, the following presentation is brought to you by NBC Television. Then it happens, a space ship, unlike anything I have ever seen in my life or even fathomed in my wildest imagination comes streaking across the screen followed by the words: “STAR TREK” created by Gene Roddenberry.
It is safe to say that my life changed forever in that small fleeting moment in time. The ship and crew of the NCC-1701 USS Enterprise entered my soul and have remained a constant companion for 40 straight years. Captain James T. Kirk became the male influence that both my real father and step-father failed so miserably at, Mr. Spock became the model of conflict and success over what I felt rolling constantly inside myself as I battled with what I knew to be the better and worse parts of my inner self. Doctor Leonard McCoy was my inspiration that set my lifelong career path in the medical sciences. Mr. Sulu taught me how to be unique and accomplished even among those whose culture was radically different from my own, while Lt. Uhura was a model of tolerance in an intolerant world. From Scotty I learned that loyalty to one’s love is the highest integrity a soul can attain. Even Ensign Chekov taught me a valuable lesson – while I am young, and though I have a great responsiblity about to be thrust upon me (military service), it is okay to have fun and enjoy myself.
It’s 40-years later, and now I am no longer that naive 18 year old boy, but a man nearing that proverbial elderly period of life. And, while my body reminds me everyday of this, my soul is as young as the day I first allowed these friends from the heart and mind of Gene Roddenberry to enter it – and, it is there that they have remained, strong, lively and as young as they have always been. To them I have added an entire mythology that spans 3-full generations of lore all in the space of those 40 years. They will be with me until this old body bids farewell and I too enter that final frontier and boldly go where many have gone before.
Thank you Gene, and thank you – all the members of the Star Trek universe that have been such a vital part of my existence and life journey here on planet Earth. Congratuations on your 40th Anniversary and may you have 100 times 40 more in your future.