Like many kids born in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I grew up watching Star Trek on television. My first memories consist of watching the show in syndication on a tiny color TV in the living room of my family’s apartment. I was too young to understand most of the dialogue, and it wasn’t until many years later that the social issues Star Trek was known for confronting began to affect me. I just loved the stories and characters.
I had action figures, trading cards, toy phasers and tricorders. Every yellow, red or blue shirt I owned reminded me of someone from the series, and when I wore them, I was them. Of course, I was enamored with Captain Kirk, and any imaginary game played with friends starred me as the handsome, strong, awesome Captain of the Enterprise. I had a toy robot who became the mister Spock to my Kirk when no friends were about, and I would invent missions, planets, obstacles for us to overcome. We had some intense conversations and adventures.
In my mind, the people on the television show weren’t just actors playing a role. All of them, right down to ensign redshirt who was about to die on planet X were not acting out a script, they really were the characters they portrayed. I wasn’t foolish. I knew the difference between fiction and reality. It was just extremely easy to surrender myself, to believe what I was watching was actually unfolding.
The series inspired me, not to become a scientist or an explorer, but to create. Looking back, all my early writing (before I was 12) was loosely based on the Star Trek world with a dash of Battlestar Galactica and a dose of 1970’s Salt Lake County.
I no longer write much science fiction, but I still owe my creative desire to the wonderful Star Trek stories that filled my childhood with adventure and wonder, and the actors who made those people real for me.
Today, I learned of the passing of Leonard Nimoy. I never met him, never sent him a letter or interacted with him on social media, and beyond the interactions he personally chose to share with all of us, had no personal connection to him outside of his role on Star Trek. Still, perhaps selfishly, I mourn his passing. I feel sorrow for his family, for the pain they must be experiencing. Also, I mourn what I have lost, and while the memories of my young self remain intact, they feel forever altered knowing that Spock is really gone. I can’t help but feel as if part of my early childhood has gone away with him.