Dude, if someone is into something, you can see it in their eyes. Even if they are an actor.
Take William Shatner, for instance. I believe he was happy during the shooting of STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME. Look at his eyes during the funnier scenes. Even in some of the in-between moments (not comedy, not drama), there is a glint. I credit Shatner, but also Leonard Nimoy, the director. They had become friends during the convention years of the 1970s. They had chemistry. They were like brothers. Nimoy could cut through Shatner’s BS and the results are on the screen in TREK IV.
In 1986, I was in the 4th Grade, in the second of three Ms. Johnson’s I had while at Grandview Elementary. I was an avid reader of Dynamite Magazine. I discovered Garfield comics. I sat next to Bianca, the prettiest girl I had laid eyes on up to that point. Ahhhh, Bianca. I never forgot you. I bet you’d never remember me. Such is life. And quoting Kurt Vonnegut.
1986 was a cruel bitch of a year. The Challenger disaster. My teachers at Grandview told us something went seriously wrong, all the astronauts were dead. I went home to be inundated by the image of the white plums in the sky just after the explosion. It was in the newspapers. I was numb that people going to space could be killed so easily.
What must they have been thinking of? Did they know what was happening? Was it just poof! and that was it? I slept very little that night thinking of these questions. I felt very bad for the astronauts.
I put that aside as I did my best in school, but found myself failing. I felt like I had nothing to hold on to. Life had to be more than just going to school and living for the weekends. I started not doing my work and became lazy. Something was bothering me, but I couldn’t put a finger on it. It wasn’t the Challenger.
They started fighting. Not a lot, but enough to let me know they were not the happiest after eleven years of marriage.
For my birthday that August, my Aunt Nancy gave me $20. While at the mall in Redondo Beach, I stumbled into a B. Dalton’s and found a book that captivated my attention. It was red. Kirk and Spock were on the front. It was in my price range and I bought it. “The Star Trek Compendium” by Allan Asherman was the first reference book I ever owned. But not the last. Nope, not the last by a long shot.
What Mr. Asherman did for me was open up a whole world of knowing all the useless minutiae of the original series, the animated series, and the first three movies. I opened the book while my Mom was shopping and I started ignoring where I was walking. I was a 10 year old kid about to walk into every post that mall had.
Dude, that book started a thirst in me. Not just for STAR TREK facts, but for knowledge in general. I was astounded by all the facts and bits that Asherman had collected.
There was a Captain before Kirk on the Enterprise?
A cartoon STAR TREK with a three-armed character?
There were only 79 episodes?
And the best, almost at the end — still pictures from STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME. It was a sneak peek of the Enterprise crew as they stood trial towards the resolution of the movie. There was going to be a TREK IV. It wasn’t that far off from my standing position in August. I’d start the 5th Grade next month and then, I could coast until this hit theatres.
TREK IV might have been the first movie I ever anticipated.
In the meantime, I focused on reading the ST Compendium from cover to cover. In the back index, there was a listing of characters. I found a Lieutenant Carlisle from episode 37. My name sake! Or maybe my great-great-etc. grand child in the 23rd Century.
I started recording the TREK episodes that aired at 11 PM on KCOP-13 in the Los Angeles area. I was the only one in the house who knew how to program the VCR. I’d record the episodes and then binge watch on Saturday. The best part: I could fast-forward through the commercials and watch five eps in less than five hours. My Mom had a habit of being tired, she often napped on Saturday afternoons, leaving me alone. I took advantage of that by dorking out to my favorite show from the 60s.
To answer your question: Of course I had my Compendium handy and I looked for all the errors Asherman pointed out. Did you even have to ask?
The Day came.
It was on a Saturday in Santa Monica that I got to see TREK IV. Just me and Mom.
The lights went out, the dedicated to the Challenger crew came and went, and I was touched that the STAR TREK Family remembered the real life astronauts.
I can’t say that I got a lot of the humor. I thought a “double dumb-ass” was a thing. The Probe looked like a sausage in space to me. The trippy time sequence into the past seemed strange at the time. Those heads, those strange heads, appearing out of nothing. What was that?
My Mom and I thought the movie so good, we saw it a week later, in the same theater, with my Dad.
My Dad was really the person who kept me in TREK. At another time, I’ll explore that.
I picked up a lot more about the movie at this second viewing. I fell in love with this movie, comprehended it and started to quote it like no other movie. I bought the comic book adaptation of the movie and I brought it to school to read… sometimes in class. I wore that comic book out, I can tell you that. So much so that I have no idea whatever became of it. I eventually scored another one at a convention years later.
Yes, I did conventions, but that’s for a later time.
Back to 1986.
At night, when I went to bed, I’d stand at the light switch at the door of my room. I’d pretend to flip open a communicator and utter, “Kirk to Enterprise. Maximum security. Engage cloaking device. Phaser on stun. Good luck. Kirk out.” I’d slam off the lights and try to jump into my bed before the light gave way to darkness.
Perhaps I have said too much…
I knew it was a game, but I liked games.
When I was a kid, I believed that I had to get out of the bathroom before the toilet flushed, or the toilet would explode. Again, a game. But what if it wasn’t and I brought down the whole apartment? Hmmmmm. Better keep doing what I was doing.
The height of my obsession with TREK IV came in 1987.
At school, I started to gain the reputation of a scientist. I even felt smarter. The less smart kids started to ask me questions and I’d answer them. Or BS them with TREK lingo that sounded like science. There might have been a flux capacitor or time circuits thrown in for good measure.
I felt like King of the Misfits.
One day, in my Boy’s Life magazine, I found an ad for special blueprints. For a few bucks, you could buy directions for how to turn a vacuum engine into a hovercraft engine.
YES!!! Let’s go flying.
I guess I thought a hovercraft could fly.
I proposed this idea to the Misfits and they loved it. We could build a clubhouse on a hovercraft and get around.
And then Ms. Friedman, my 5th Grade cutie of a teacher, handed out some sort of assignment. It was a line drawing of the Enterprise from the movies. An idea hit: We’d build a hovercraft clubhouse… in the shape of the 1701.
REALITY BREAK: In my own defense, I was ten years old and completely enamored with STAR TREK. I am 40 at the moment. I know a hovercraft can’t fly. I know it now. I know that a craft the shape of the Enterprise can only exist in two places: 1) in zero-gravity, and, 2) in science fiction as a special effect. I know that now. At the time, it seemed perfectly feasible to build a plywood Enterprise, put a couple of hovercraft engines in it and zoom around the city. I know it’s not feasible. I know it now. Also, the vacuum cleaner engines required a cord for power. How far was I expecting to go? I don’t know. Not even now. I do remember me and my friends talking about carpooling in the Enterprise hovercraft clubhouse. So, yeah.
The thing about STAR TREK that hit me was how real it seemed. It made sense. It seemed possible. The characters were like friends who were consistent. They came to modern day Earth and I bought all of it. I knew it was a movie, and once a TV show. Allan Asherman taught me a lot about how a TV show was made. But still, it was all very real when I was ten.
THE WRATH OF KHAN was my intro to TREK.
THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK stretched it, made me interested in the show and eventually led me to buy the STAR TREK COMPENDIUM.
THE VOYAGE HOME super-fueled my like of STAR TREK into an all-out obsession of love. If STAR TREK had broken up with me, I would have been like Alanis Morissette in “You Outta Know”. I can understand that kind of heartbreak and anger.
But STAR TREK has never broken up with me. In fact, it’s been with me for a long time and has rarely ever betrayed me.
Am I still obsessed like this after so many years? No.
It has quieted, I have grown up. I know fact from fiction, real from cardboard sets.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I am watching TREK IV as I write this, natch. Now, here’s an even FULLER DISCLOSURE: I was sick two weeks ago and watched this at that time. I am watching it again. I like this movie. Even though I just saw it, it’s easy to watch it again.
Does that mean I am still obsessed? No.
Denial is the first sign, says everyone.
It’s true, says everyone.
NOT FOR ME. I am not obsessed. Sure, I still have that dream that I’ve collected Catherine Hicks and keep her in a life-size Dr. Taylor action figure package. But who doesn’t? [For my own self-preservation, never answer that. Ever.]
I can quote most of the lines. I like it for what it is. I showed it to my ex-wife, Allison. I’ve shown it to my wife now, Julie. Neither women are TREK fans. But both seemed to appreciate TREK IV because it wasn’t space drama and latex aliens.
Am I still obsessed? No.
But if you could see my eyes, you’d see how happy the movie makes me. How happy it truly makes me. Wink, wink.
NEXT TIME: Let’s go look for God.