I am not sure what this post is…acknowledgment of 50+ years of thoughtful entertainment? Tribute to a personal hero? A love letter to a figment? Vulgar display of emotion? Perhaps all the above. Star Trek is not just a science fiction show, not just “Wagon Train to the Stars;” forget the Star Trek vs. Star Wars debate. Star Wars is fun, adventure, and deservedly much beloved. Star Trek, though, is incomparably more to me: it’s an examination of ourselves…a simultaneous indictment of the worst in us and a celebration of our potential.
When & how did my fascination with Star Trek, and more specifically with Spock, begin? Early. I don’t remember precisely. Star Trek was my babysitter, my first teacher. By the time I was 5, a life-size poster of Mr Spock stared at me from the back of my bedroom door.
Pictures of me throughout the ’70s and ’80s show a lanky boy with a bowl cut giving a Vulcan salute. Yet it was more than fandom, always. I was a different kid. Odd. Curious. Stoic. Hated sports & camping (a serious character flaw for little boys in the South in the ’70s). Loved to disassemble (and try to reassemble) things. I was painfully shy. It would’ve been difficult for me to define myself as gay or nerdy early on, but I was certainly different in several ways.
Now to be clear, it’s not as if I had a bad childhood; I certainly didn’t. My mother and father were, and still, are, loving and supportive, even when (especially when) they don’t understand me. My early life was full of many wonderful moments: summers with my father’s parents on the Homosassa River, Christmases with my mom’s parents, and of course, Halloween when I was, on the bell curve, “normal.” Still, as I grew, all the things that set me apart, kept me from being comfortable in my own skin, much less my environment, became a source of much internal conflict. That conflict paved the way for isolation, anger, and loneliness. I wasn’t an emotionally expressive child or teenager; the anger and sadness were internalized. Implosion, alcohol, drugs, self-destructive behaviour, depression, suicide…any of those could have ended me; some came close. Some are still struggles today.
But there was a mentor, a role model: Mr Spock. He is a misfit of two worlds, a character based on internal conflict and on reconciling one’s gifts with one’s perceived flaws. Spock taught me that one may be an outsider without being an outcast. He taught me that my differences are a source of strength. Spock taught me that I cannot avoid having emotions, but that I can control my reaction to those emotions and need not be a slave to them. This is how I survived childhood, how I survived adolescence, and how I still survive as I slide into my 50th year.
Beyond the coping skills to endure (and one day embrace) my own “otherness,” Star Trek and Mr Spock taught me the value in not just tolerating, but celebrating, differences in others. The Vulcans taught me Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. IDIC is no more valid, invalid, sincere, or absurd than any other religion on Earth. Tens of thousands of years of human history and development. More than four thousand gods, packaged, recycled, and worshipped. Still, I only care about the lessons learned from the
Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry: explore, seek out, boldly go. We need not succumb to our baser instincts. We are more than the sum of our parts. We can be greater than our mistakes.
Star Trek influenced the course of my career as well; TV, while more passion than a job to me, might not be “boldly going” exactly, but it was important to incorporate that explorer-spirit. I have been working in broadcasting for 25 years on local, national, and international levels. The past 17 years have been spent travelling (16 countries & 45 US states, so far), meeting new people, experiencing different foods & cultures, picking up a bit of language. Too many Americans are dangerously underexposed; travelling is the best cure for prejudice, racism, and xenophobia.
And, hey, I did finally get to work for NASA-TV, so… GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!
The year that Leonard Nimoy retired from the convention circuit, I met him briefly in Las Vegas for a picture and autograph. It was enough time to thank him for his years of inspiration and entertainment. Nothing he hasn’t heard a thousand times, a hundred thousand. A million anonymous ‘thanks’ in the more than half-century of Star Trek. It pleased me to say it, nonetheless. What Leonard Nimoy created in the role of Spock is etched indelibly into my personality. I admired Spock. I loved Spock. When I learned that Leonard Nimoy had died, I felt as if I had lost a family member. There was no containing my emotion that day. There still isn’t…watching Wrath of Khan to this day, I am that 12-year-old boy fighting back tears in a darkened theatre.
After Leonard Nimoy succumbed to C.O.P.D. in February of 2015, my younger brother, Mike, contributed to the fundraiser for Adam Nimoy’s documentary film, For the Love of Spock, in my name as a birthday present; it’s an incredibly sweet and well-produced retrospective on Spock & the actor who breathed life into him. Through a series of events stemming from my amazing lil’ brother’s gift, it was my good fortune to support and participate, if for a moment, in the “Spock Doc.” That’s a whole separate post though…just see the film, and support documentary & independent filmmakers. It was an honor, a thrill, to be included and, in some small way, burned into the on-going celebration of Star Trek.
Star Trek has given so much to our world…generations of entertainers, writers, artists, NASA scientists, astronauts, doctors, its inestimable influence on the evolution of our technology. My sincerest gratitude to the thousands of creators, writers, actors, technicians, fans, Trekkies, Trekkers, and everyone else who makes Star Trek the phenomenon it is. Thank you to everyone who has kept Star Trek evolving for 50 years.
Thank you, Gene. Thank you, D.C. Fontana, David Gerrold, & Jean Aroeste. Thank you, Leonard. And most of all, thank you, Spock.
Second Star to the Right, and Straight on ’til Morning…
Live Long & Prosper
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About The Author
J. Marty Dormany was born in Florida in the 1970s; despite that, he has never had a headline written about him that begins with the phrase, “Florida Man…” He grew up in Tampa & Homosassa Springs. After graduating Florida State University with a degree in Communication/Media Production & minor in the Russian Language (in which he has only childlike proficiency) Since 2012, Marty has owned his own television-centric creative services agency in NYC. While he can link literally anything back to Star Trek (seriously, it’s like a superpower), he almost certainly is frantically searching for his phone or keys at this very moment. He lives in Harlem with his husband, Dr Tom, where he smuggles Spock action figures into the apartment.
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