April 24, 2013
May 1977. I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was a Sunday, around noon. Little me, not quite six and a half years old, was laying on the carpet in the living room of our small apartment with the New York Daily News Sunday comics spread out before me. The carpet was turn-signal green. The bedroom carpet was turn-signal red. Hey, it was the 70’s.
Dad asked me and my little brother if we wanted to go to the movies. I suspect this had less to do with wanting to take is to the movies than it did with Mom wanting us all out of her hair. With me and my little brother, not quite four and a half years old, we were a handful. And my Dad could be, well, you had to know him. So my Mom would really appreciate a Sunday without us around.
It was a sunny day and the TV was on, although I am not sure what it was playing. I distinctly remember that it was shaping up to be a lazy day. I’d probably end up driving Mom nuts with getting underfoot, hence Dad wanting to get us all out of the house.
I’m pretty sure I was pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. “What’s playing?”
Dad was flipping through the movie section of the paper. When Mom picked the movie we’d end up seeing Victor Victoria or Kramer vs. Kramer. When Dad picked the movie I tended to enjoy them a little more. A couple of years later, little eight year old me would enjoy Roger Moore in Moonraker with him. (I enjoy that film a bit less today.)
After a few seconds of selection, Dad said “Star Wars is supposed to be good.”
I was not impressed.
“Nah, it’ll be boring like Star Trek. Let’s see something else.”
At that time, WPIX channel 11 aired Star Trek on the weekends, two episodes sometime between, I think, 3 and 7. During the week Star Trek aired at midnight. As I said, I was not impressed. Little six and a half year old me said “all they do is talk.” (Ironically, that is one of my current complaints about The Next Generation.)
Dad was a sci-fi fan. Most of my early sci-fi books, by people like Harry Harrison and Frederick Pohl, came straight out of his collection. I read The Dragonriders of Pern because of him, as well as The Elfstones of Shannara. My collection today still features his 1977 hardcover copies of Star Wars and Han Solo at Star’s End from the Book of the Month club. So his wanting to see Star Wars was no surprise.
Well, Dad wanted to go, so we went. And I loved it. So much so that when I got home I turned on the TV to watch Star Trek and I not only sat through it, I loved it. I was hooked.
Oddly enough, it was Star Wars that made me a Star Trek fan.
Star Wars must have struck that right chord of action and aliens that made me want to sit through the Spock and McCoy bickering until the Enterprise encountered the Klingons. Today of course, I realize that the Spock and McCoy bickering is just an example of the type of characterization that makes Star Trek work.
Dad took us to see Star Wars five times. We could not get enough, and he went just to see what he missed the other times. Two little kids always want something. Dad was always getting up for popcorn, or soda, or more popcorn, or candy, or more soda, and he said that he saw the same film five times but never saw the same parts twice.
So I became a fan of both series and even though it wasn’t long until Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out, I never did see it in the theaters, probably due to the bad reviews. (Unlike me, Dad had standards.) And looking back, it is a good thing I didn’t see it because if I once thought that Star Trek on TV was talky, I would have been bored to tears by that movie. That was one boring movie.
But when Star Trek II came out, I had already cut out the newspaper ads and pasted them all over the house so there was no missing that movie.
What puts me in mind of this tale is that although I earned my geek card in 1977, I think 2013 is the year I give it back. The new Star Trek franchise is not Star Trek. I see the trailer for the new film and nothing about it feels like Trek. George Lucas of course ruined Star Wars many years ago, and with Disney planning to put out a move a year starting in 2015, this may be the time to bail out before it gets worse. I’ve already torn my geek card nearly in half. Back when DC rebooted in 2011 I decided to get out of comics entirely and, other than a pair of back issues from the late 70’s, I have not bought a single comic book from any company since. So with all due love and respect to Dad, who got me into both comics and sci-fi, I think the ride is over.