Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Star Trek Memories: Learning from Kirk & Co., Pt. 1

My library was having a sale and whaddaya know, I picked up "Star Trek Memories" by William Shatner, he of Captain Kirk fame, for one thin dollar.

When I was growing up, my only relief from the banality of suburban life, schoolwork, bullies and housechores for ungrateful parents was heroic fantasy, especially superheroic and sci-fi fantasy. Like all nerds of the 70's, our "man" we adored and respected was one Captain James T. Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, who appeared in syndication in our living rooms every day after school at 3:30 p.m.

Kirk was cool under fire, charming, thoughtful and heroic. I will also confess my GREAT admiration for Spock and while the Vulcan was my first hero, I have to be honest and say Kirk was my second and ongoing hero to emulate (since as an Irish lad I lacked the chops to be emotionally distant, cool and calculating ALL the time).

As I have been reading it, I confess I've liked Shatner's irrepressible ego. Though Jewish, Bill Shatner has played an Irishman so long he knows exactly how we are. He's funny, he's flawed and he helped me to see more 'behind the scenes' than I used to know - and now I have the leisure to process the info as a middle-aged adult, not as a prepubescent child.

The insane and health-threatening dedication Gene Roddenberry and Gene Coon, along with Bob Justman and Robert Milkiss, gave to this TV series was stunning. Folks, when you burn THAT much midnight oil, you can set anything on fire. Still, mortality has a way of rearing its ugly head and Gene Coon, who was uncredited for many incredible contributions, died within five years of leaving the show. "If you are willing to die, you can do anything," says one button I have in my collection.

Just be careful what you die for, folks.

So I'm reading this, and I realized that my personal SF dream, The Future King, my novel of 600 plus pages, while it can be great, will take a LOT of energy to make happen as a film or TV series, a commitment like unto an obsession in fact. I also realized that I am too old to burn myself out on such a dream. I enjoy jail ministry for the most part simply because it means a REAL impact on a REAL life, and I can watch it happen. An impact that will last for eternity, far beyond meetings at a Science Fiction Convention endlessly repeating what I did umpteen years ago. Now I am going to finish the novel and I will go to such conventions, but that is NOT what my life's work will be about.

We have to decide For What or To Whom we will give our life, and then we can look back as to what it meant. For Roddenberry, it was creating human drama, specifically Star Trek. He got to see Star Trek VI, the Undiscovered Country JUST before he died, effectively the last full voyage of the U.S.S. Enterprise under the command of James T. Kirk. In other words, he got to see the end of the original series and characters he'd created.

I think God granted him that as a courtesy. I mean that.

Now About Those Trek Women...
Just last night, near the end of finishing Shatner's book, I ended up watching "Elaan of Troyius," a really great episode of ST:TOS, in which "Taming of the Shrew" meets "Barbarella." [Watch Full Episode here on YouTube]

One France Nguyen ('Nuyen' in credits) plays the beautiful black-haired spitfire who's on her way to be married to the leader of another planet. Purpose? To end the hostilities between their worlds. Its her duty, and she hates it. Arrogant and unreasonable, she even knifes her tutor, causing Kirk himself to have to step up and train her in civilized manners and common courtesy.

Unfortunately, there is a reason these women from this world get always what they want: they have tears that act as a fast-acting love potion. You touch their tears and BANG! they got you. And there is no known cure.

Guess what Kirk does when she cries that nobody likes her? Guess what happens next off-screen?

I tell you, I've never seen Kirk look so tired.

Yeah. Being older DOES change the episode for the viewer. You don't have to guess how Kirk reacted - *ahem*. [Side note: that said, I really appreciate the old-time censors unlike so many other creatives. Adults know what happened, the kids don't. That's as it should be. The story's impact is not lost one iota.]

But here's the beauty of the episode: lil Miss Minx is warmed by Kirk. She falls for him too. This is not just one-way. Kirk's command and compassion awaken her mind to a better way of behaving. And then Kirk does something even downright amazing: Before McCoy can find a cure, before Kirk gets this 'love virus' out of his system, he makes a decision.

He's going to let her go. His first duty is to the Enterprise. Her duty is to her new husband.

Now if you have EVER had a passionate love affair and HAD to break it off, you know what it feels like. It does NOT matter how wrong it is, the feelings each person has can be overwhelming, consuming - even maddening.

But feelings when in conflict with faithfulness must always fall. Kirk does what he HAS to do: let this woman go. And when he makes that decision - and she knows he HATES it - she is given enough courage by his example to follow suit. She too will accept her duty and save millions of lives.

Its a pretty awesome episode. Her quivering chin as she is transported away hit the little romantic in me pretty hard. If you're a man and have seen that look on a young lady you love, you know what I mean.

Next month it will be 10 years since I broke up with last girlfriend. A woman I loved dearly, yet could not possibly keep. Our lifestyles were just too different. Next to her I felt four inches taller and ten times wiser.

But it was either her or the ministry. I knew it. She knew it. She said to a mutual friend that she did not want to be a pastor's wife, and I was taking seminary courses at the time.

I really have had no one to talk to about this without sounding like I'm whining. I guess I'm wondering 'Was it necessary? Could we have worked it out?' and 'Why was I introduced to someone so fabulous in my eyes if God wanted me to follow Him? Was it some sort of test?'

And the answer I just found out last night was: Yes. It was a test of duty, of loyalty. I had a calling that I couldn't deny. "Many are called but few are chosen," says Jesus.

I think I know what that means now. You only get to lead by sacrifice, by doing what no one else would do. It may get you killed, but that's why you become the leader.

I'm glad I loved her. I love her still, in my mind as I knew her.

But when Jesus said "If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me," He meant emotional sacrifices as well as physical.

But if you DO know Jesus - His powerful love and His spiritual gifts - you know WHY you are doing it. You know why I did it.

He's truly worth the sacrifice. He's my Lord and my Savior and my elder Brother. He said the world would hate me but I would know Him. I would know God as my Father. I would not live in darkness if I obeyed Him. "I do not call you servants, but friends- for a servant does not know what his Master is doing."

And as I look back over my memories of the past ten years, I have got to say that is true.

Jesus has ruled me well. He is my best friend. He is worth anything and everything.

Farewell, Elaan.


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