Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A Photon Torpedo is not a Toy


I once got into trouble for photon torpedoing the glass front door of a holiday home in Devon.

It was a plastic photon torpedo, and it was the early 1980s. I had been given a toy starship Enterprise for christmas, which went on many interstellar adventures. The photon torpedoes were small white plastic disks that you could shoot out of the front, and would probably be banned by health and safety today. But, ballistically speaking, they provided hours of fun.

 The toy Enterprise also included a little, plastic, yellow, shuttlecraft that you could send on planetary reconnaissances. This was a plus point: the shuttle was one of my favourite bits of Enterprise kit.

I even made a cardboard one, for the William Shatner action figure who had many adventures in the garden. You'd been surprised how our garden resembled an exotic, alien jungle in midsummer. Kirk even lost his phaser out there.

One of my favourite episodes of classic Star Trek involved the shuttle. It was called 'the Galileo Seven' and was when Enterprise crewmembers were marooned on this scary alien planet and menaced by furry giants who threw spears and roared. Mr. Spock was in charge and he made rather a hash of things, despite using logic every step of the day.

Then there were the models. I had a model version of the movie version of the Enterprise whose nacelles wouldn't attach properly. I tried glueing them to the secondary hull about five times, but they just went all droopy. The end result wasn't quite as majestic as I'd like, and I half poisoned myself with superglue fumes.

However, it was a bit more majestic than the Star Trek alarm clock, that 'beamed' me into breakfast every morning.

Star Trek was one of the most inspirational shows that I've ever watched, being an optimistic contrast to the dreary realism of Britain in the nineteen-eighties. According to Star Trek, the future was going to be better. We would solve our problems and explore the universe together and in peace (well, almost....)

Whenever I'm feeling gloomy or depressed about the future, I still listen to the soundtrack from The Motion Picture on my MP3 player. Jerry Goldsmith's music is the purest expression of the Star Trek spirit that I know. It insists on a bold, exciting, utopian tomorrow.

My liking for this soundtrack has sometimes mystified people. At university, some housemates of mine once played it when they were very drunk and said that they sort of got it after about track five.  I could sympathise. One of them owned a copy of William Shatner's album Transformed Man, which I also only understood when drunk.

All this probably makes it sound like I was some terminal trekker, but  for me, Star Trek was a piece with the works of Asimov and Clarke, and the real space program. Together, they reflected an ethos that said that the future could be better than the past, that we could solve our problems, and that we can be better than we are.

All of which seems very important when you're getting a life, Mr. Shatner....

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