“Why do you guys do Star Trek ornaments? They don’t even have Christmas in Star Trek.”
Given my connections to the worlds of Star Trek and of Hallmark ornaments, I hear variations of that query from time to time. While I won’t be tackling the question specifically -- find me later on Facebook or something -- it’s fun to consider the topic. There are plenty of reasons to suspect that Christmastime continues to be very meaningful to people in the 23rd and 24th centuries. And I, for one, want to believe it does. I mean, will. I mean … oh, you know what I’m saying.
Many fans point to Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s numerous quoted statements about his disavowal of religion in general as evidence enough that a holiday such as Christmas would not be observed by the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise or anyone else in Roddenberry’s vision of the future. For discussion’s sake, we’ll set aside the personal beliefs of any of Star Trek’s characters as matters for other writers to explore.
Any Christian context aside, our celebrations of Christmas certainly are filled with ceremony and tradition, and those aspects of the human adventure are ones of which Roddenberry very much appreciated the importance -- or he never would have created the Vulcans. Just think how much the Vulcans might appreciate -- or perhaps help us debate -- the ways some of us adhere to our Christmas rituals. Turkey for dinner, or ham? (Likely neither, for a vegetarian Vulcan.) Which version of “A Christmas Carol” do we watch? (Irrelevant as long as it is not performed in the original Klingon, a Vulcan might say.) Whether it is more logical to open gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day might be an issue only a Vulcan could determine once and for all.
Gift giving, one of our most favorite rituals of the Christmas season, certainly carries over into the world of Star Trek. Some may point to favorite examples of this being shown in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, in which we see Captain Kirk receive gifts from his two closest friends. In honor of his birthday, Kirk is given a large, leather-bound copy of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities by Spock, and a pair of eyeglasses with which he can read it by Dr. McCoy. My own favorite moment of Star Trek gift giving appears in print rather than on screen in the opening pages of the Star Trek Generations novelization by J.M. Dillard, in which she chronicles the firewatch parties aboard the Enterprise-A before the starship’s decommissioning. Kirk, Spock and McCoy exchange farewell gifts among themselves, with each explaining to the others why their gifts were chosen. I refuse to spoil the revelations for you here -- find a copy and read it for yourselves. It’s one of my favorite scenes in all of Star Trek, fiction or otherwise.
While one was never decorated for display on the bridge, Christmas trees are not the stuff of dim memory in Star Trek. In the aforementioned Star Trek II, Chief Engineer Scott compares his circuitry bypasses of the Enterprise’s energizers to looking like a Christmas tree. The crew of the U.S.S. Voyager once experienced its starship being transformed into an ornament for a Christmas tree by Quinn of the Q Continuum. (The next time I watch “Death Wish,” I’ll have to figure out whether Voyager had become very small or the tree was simply very big).
And Christmas itself continues to be celebrated at least in some form, or else Captain Kirk never would have attended the party aboard the Enterprise at which he met Dr. Helen Noel, whose very name practically says “Merry Christmas.” (Check out the Star Trek: The Original Series episode “Dagger of the Mind” for more on that one.)
Factual evidence all, but what gives me real reason to believe that Christmas in Star Trek has meaning? You need look no further than Star Trek Generations, which for me provides one of the most heartfelt moments in all of Star Trek storytelling.
On Veridan III, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is pulled through a ribbon of pulsating energy into the Nexus, an otherworldly dimension in which one can create the perfect reality with just a thought. Once plunged into the Nexus, Picard’s mind became the inspiration for his very reality. He had the capacity to draw upon his memories and experiences of uncounted alien worlds, not to mention the magical flights of his own fantasies, to sculpt an existence for himself unmarred by pain or tragedy and shaped by the most passionate of his dreams and desires. The world Captain Picard built for himself was one filled with the laughter of children, the love of family and the warm glow of a decorated tree.
In the blink of an eye, Picard could have gone anywhere and experienced anything his heart wished to be true -- and what he wanted to do more than all of it was to go home for Christmas. And as choices for the best of all realities go, who am I to argue with the captain of the Enterprise?
Christmas is a time for us to share the best of ourselves with complete strangers, and our love with the people who matter most to us. It’s a time to celebrate hope and peace and good will toward all. It’s a time to look back on what made us who we are, and to look forward to what we can become.
It sure seems to me that there’s a lot of Christmas in Star Trek when you think about it.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Kevin Dilmore is a veteran journalist and Star Trek author, and he's currently a senior writer at Hallmark. Click HERE to follow him on Twitter.
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