As many of you know, I am a rather enthusiastic Star Trek fan. As nerdy as my university is, it regrettably does not have a student organization dedicated to the franchise. Wanting to spread awareness about the exploits of James T. Kirk and the others, I planned on starting just such a club next semester. Unfortunately, I am beginning to suspect that, with my increasingly intensive studies, I simply will not have the time to effectively lead the project. Instead, I wish to share with my readers what I would have to the club members: how I came across Star Trek.
I was introduced to Star Trek by reading Captain James T. Kirk’s final adventure. In the state of Texas, there is an idiotic exam called the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) that students in grade school have to take yearly. The test itself is easy such that only foreigners and the really slow struggle with it, but since it determines the funding of the public school next year, it is blown into a big deal by the faculty. Now I can go on and on about my hatred for the public school system (which I had already realized in high school), but I digress. The point is, security was so tight and the faculty so edgy that each student on test day could only bring one novel. That’s it– no pencils, no comic books, no snacks. A novel. At this point, I had read most of the books I had wanted to… One does not exactly tend to save them for no apparent reason. Around Freshman year, as I went to the library to find something, I happened to find myself in the Science Fiction area which was glommed together with the Fantasy section where the Harry Potter books (and thus myself) were located. Because of the glossiness of the cover (yes, I judge books by covers) a book titled Star Trek: The Ashes of Eden caught my eye.
I had seen a little bit of Star Wars, but found it really was not for me– I am one of those people who really do not get worked up by explosions and action scenes. Rather than such things, I much prefer complex interactions, character development, and atmosphere. (Those of you who have been reading my posts would know that I have the heart of an adventurer after all… I like immersion). At any rate, I picked up the book because I recognized the iconic ship that I would later find to be the Enterprise; even at then, I vaguely recognized the name “William Shatner” (Captain Kirk’s actor in the original series and the book’s author) which was written on the cover. Shatner being Shatner of course had a huge portrait of himself on the back cover which got a laugh from my friend, but also his assurance, “It’s going to be a gooood read.”
When I read a new book, I immerse myself into its universe as fully as I can manage. Even before reading, I let myself take in the cover: Deep space with a sun peeking over the curvature of a planet. In the background, a star ship moves with haste and the face of a man gazes into the stars. I quietly opened the book, sitting back on a video rocker in the media room at my house.
Seventy-eight years after history reported him dead, James T. Kirk’s journey had come to an end.
He was going home.
For the final time.
The first three sentences of the prologue hit me full-force. Despite the fact that Captain Kirk was established to be dead, I was immediately able to sense how much this man had achieved… His life was his journey. I cannot really describe… I guess the entire opening had a sort of epic feeling and vivid atmosphere; a legend had died.
From then on, the story was told as a flashback. Knowing that the story would detail Captain Kirk’s final journey, (or as I would later find out, his final journey before the Veridian III ordeal which was why he was dead in the prologue) the story had that much more meaning. The story had finality. When you see how Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy, Spock, and Scotty interact with each other, you can somehow sense that they have been through thick and thin out in the unknown– the book portrays their bonds that well.
Can you imagine what it would be like? The USS Enterprise had been out for five years into the unknown on an exploration mission. Being so far away from Earth, the ship never swapped out its crew and the personnel never got a chance to see their families between travels. The ship lived her life drifting in across space and met its fair share of perils and surprises. In that time period, the bridge crew especially, bonded into a family. A family in their own mobile microcosm. When I finally watched the television series, there were days when the Enterprise thought that it was finished– sometimes the Captain would be in a deadly situation and sometimes valuable crew members would die at the hands of unknown technology. The loyalty however reverberated throughout the bridge and its engineer. The crew members were duty bound and friendship bound to help each other.
And then it ended.
When the five year mission was complete, the Enterprise came back to give its report. Captain Kirk was instantly promoted to Admiral to spend the rest of his days behind a desk, Leonard McCoy retired, Spock traveled to Vulcan on a spiritual journey, and Sulu was given a starship of his own. The Enterprise itself was remodeled. After five years, seven friends went their separate ways. In the years to come however, one way or another, each one also came back to Starfleet. Fate? Perhaps, but fate also instilled the property of time in all of the officers… They were aging. For a man like Kirk, someone who possessed an adventurer’s spirit as well, time was numbering the days he would still be fit to explore. At the same time, Kirk had seen so much out on his missions that he was becoming bored. What more can a man ask from life, after all? He was not suited to be a family man… His home was out in the unknown.
I will not expose much of the plot, but basically, an alien girl approaches Kirk for a private mission to save her world. I know it sounds lame on paper, but consider the circumstances: Here is a man bored with life and has no direction. All of a sudden, a girl wants to ask his help in saving a planet that is not even present on the star charts. Long story short, Kirk takes his life in a new direction to take on this mission– he quits Starfleet.
Throughout his final journey, the old bridge crew is also forced to choose between their loyalties– Starfleet or Kirk. Friendship or Duty. The story however is told in a vivid, atmospheric manner true to what is found to be Starfleet’s motto: “To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.”
As the book ends, one realizes the mark of a legend. Even so, time keeps passing… Life goes on. Even in the book, it was stated that Starfleet would be changing its iconic motto on the plaques of newer starships. Man was taking a break from exploration and analyzing its newfound knowledge. Captain Kirk’s journey was over, but his dying words rang through the hearts of all who read of his adventures.
“It was… fun. Oh my…”