I can remember when I first saw Star Trek.
That’s not so unusual, but if my memory is right — and I’ve just more or less confirmed that it is — then when I first saw it was the absolute first time anyone could see it, in this country, at least.
Here’s the memory (and it’s tied up, as many good things are, with Doctor Who).
It’s 1969. It’s the summer holidays, and we’re in a holiday home with a TV. That in itself makes me doubt the memory, because back then holiday houses just didn’t have TVs. A lot of houses in general didn’t. But this memory has always told me that we were on a family holiday. And it’s Saturday, late afternoon. I’m settling down at the TV, and somebody says — I think it’s my sister — ‘Martin, Doctor Who finished, remember?’ Because it was Doctor Who time.
And I said, ‘But this is like Doctor Who!’
And as the new programme started someone else — my Dad, I think — said, with a tone of surprise, ‘He knows all about it!’ And then the Enterprise swooshed towards me out of the screen.
I’ve long wondered how true this memory was. It was 1969; I’d have been five. But I just checked:
Initially, the BBC was the first-run broadcaster of Star Trek (12 July 1969-15 December 1971).
The series was shown in four seasons, the first on Saturday evenings at 5:15 pm (in the time slot usually taken by Doctor Who).
Which exactly matches my memory: summer, Saturday, Doctor Who slot. And the calendar confirms that the 12th of July 1969 was a Saturday.
I wouldn’t be five for another month plus. Not a bad bit of early-memory retention. I wouldn’t have remembered it at all, if it wasn’t for one thing: trauma caused by fear that my parents would turn the TV off just as this exciting new programme was starting burned it into my brain.
My Dad always liked Star Trek too, so I guess I was partly responsible for that.
Yesterday I watched the first two episodes of Star Trek: Discovery, which are on Netflix (in the UK and Europe, at least; in the US they’re on CBS’s own new streaming service). And I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it felt like being that nearly-five-year-old again, but it did feel like they’re trying something new and potentially very exciting.
Today I was looking at its entry on IMDB. It turns out there are user-written reviews there, which I don’t think I’d been aware of before.
Sadly they are almost universally negative. ‘It’s not Star Trek,’ is a common theme. But there’s a strong whiff of racism and misogyny coming through. Two non-white women as leads means ‘social justice warriors’ are running the show, it seems. Well from what I’ve read of Gene Roddenbery, I think he’d have been happy to be called a social justice warrior. Star Trek was always about diversity and tolerance.
I don’t know how many episodes of this new series they have lined up, but I know I’m looking forward to watching them. So is my inner five-year-old. So would my Dad have been. And so would Gene.