To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before…

"Star Trek" in theaters May 8, 2009.
“Star Trek” in theaters May 8, 2009.

 

Nerds everywhere cannot wait. Geeks are struggling to contain their excitement. Lonely sci-fi aficionados are about to burst a blood vessel in their brains from the basement of their parent’s house. Ready or not, “Star Trek” is coming.

Not your grandfather’s Star Trek, however. A new and improved Star Trek loaded with sexy young stars, state-of-the-art special effects, and mainstream media hype. The days of William Shatner’s awkward acting style and fake-looking cardboard set pieces are over. Star Trek has finally entered into the “hip” arena of American pop culture.

And it’s about bloody time.

I am not a real huge Star Trek fan. I’ve seen a few episodes from the original television series and anywhere from 10 to 15 episodes from “The Next Generation” series. I did not grow up watching Captain Kirk or Captain Picard in action. My hugest Star Trek memories are watching the movies, which are relatively lame when compared to the Star Wars franchise. Compared to some people, the role Star Trek played in my youth is minimal.

Nevertheless, I consider myself a casual Star Trek fan. I appreciate the series, empathize with the die-hard Trekkers (not Trekkies, apparently. That’s a politically incorrect moniker), and understand its significance to our culture. I think William Shatner is a pretty cool guy, despite his tendency…to…talk like…this…by taking a…lot …of…pauses…in between words…in a…sentence.

Mr. Spock, Sulu, Scotty, Chekov, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and Uhura are all characters that are forever ingrained in Americana. The Starship Enterprise is either a thing that makes you cringe in geekiness or smile in sentimentality. And don’t even me get started on the theme song. You know you know it. You know you’re humming it right now. Don’t worry. I am too.

But what significance does the release of “Star Trek” this Friday, May 8th have? J.J. Abrams, the creator of the television series “Lost” and the director of the outrageously corny “Mission: Impossible III” in 2006, is a hip new Hollywood director who seems to have taken an old and dying franchise and put some new life into it. I have not seen it yet, but I am guessing this new Star Trek outing will have all the exciting and expected elements that most summer blockbuster films can boast. Who needs “Transformers” when we have Klingons?

This new “Star Trek” films might prove that it’s okay to be a nerd. Being a fan of spaceships, funny looking aliens, and exploring “new life and new civilizations” should be something we embrace, not hide. We should love our geekdom, not shy away from it. Who cares what the rest of society thinks? If we think space is truly the final frontier, who is to say that we’re wrong?

Outer space is a very interesting concept, though. President John F. Kennedy, a man whom Barack Obama is often compared to, made space travel and mankind landing on the moon an exciting goal for America to strive toward. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon on July 21, 1969 and said those famous words, that moment brought about a sense of accomplishment and pride to all who watched.

Since then, never in world history have people become that excited over a scientific accomplishment. Never has any scientific or medical breakthroughs since 1969 captured the hearts and imaginations of people quite like the moon landing. But now things are different. There is talk about NASA sending a man to Mars. However, with the economy being in the shape that it is now, that project has been put on hold. What a shame.

Thomas Friedman of The New York Times has suggested the need to go green as the new major scientific endeavor of the 21st century. If President Obama can promise that America will lead the charge on developing alternative and clean energy sources like Kennedy did with the space race, actual progress toward decreasing the world’s dependence on oil may happen.

In other words, in a small way, “Star Trek” could help spark our interest back into science. After the Soviet launch of Sputnik in 1957, the U.S. government panicked that America was losing the scientific front of the Cold War to those backwards godless Communists. In an effort to catch up, in the 1950s and 60s America saw a huge investment by the federal government in public education thanks to the National Defense Education Act of 1958. That act allocated $887 billion to aid both public and private education in the United States.

Statistics show American school children are falling behind students in Asia and Europe in test scores and academic achievement. Shortly after the Sputnik launch, America was number one in children enrollment and performance. Today that is not the case. American kids, while still successful, are falling behind many kids in countries like China and India; where the future of the global economy seems to be heading.

“Star Trek” may not help revive the American school system, but it does send a message that being smart and interested in science can be cool. If progress is to be made in the 21st century, Americans need to embrace their inner nerd and boldly go where no one has gone before. Forget football games. Hang out in classrooms instead. That’s where all the cool kids are at.

If not, we might descend into death and decay like the Klingon empire. What we need is Americans everywhere to stop their ridiculous anti-intellectual machismo attitude and embrace a more scientific and progressive way of life that is much more logical. Those Vulcans were right about something.

Are you ready to do this? Good. Now make it so.

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