There I am, 13 years old. I'm in the guest bedroom, it is a little after midnight and while my parents were cool enough not to enforce a “bedtime,” I wasn't supposed to be here. Despite my usual practice of keeping quiet when watching late night TV, I am off the Murphy bed and pacing. I may even be muttering. I have just had my world (ALL of my worlds) rocked by the previous four minutes of television. It is an experience that will alter the trajectory of my life.
In an earlier column -- click HERE -- I detailed my experiences seeing the Star Trek films, and explained how The Voyage Home was the film that really got my matter/anti-matter chamber intermixing. Afterwards, I started working reruns of TOS into my late night TV repertoire.
There was a problem, though, and more than just not having a television in my bedroom. I was a devotee of music show PostModern MTV, which was on from 11:30 to 12:30. I was also quite hooked on Late Night with David Letterman, which was on from 12:30 to 1:30. Star Trek came on Channel 9 (NYC-area represent!) from 12 to 1 a.m. So this meant, at least in the early days, that I would have to choose between a rock n' roll/comedy lineup or sci-fi. You kids today with your TiVo and DVRs wouldn't understand.
(There was, of course, another distraction – and those of you who grew up in the 1980s with cable know what I mean. Back in the day, there was a glitch in the system wherein the “dirty” channels would come in all scrambled, but if you stared at it right, you might just catch a glimpse of something. Seems like a joke now, but, believe me, a teenage boy could spend hours staring at this swarm of color and garbled sound like it was some sort of beacon from a distant star.)
Then came a night the rock videos weren't doing it and so I switched over to catch the beginning of Star Trek. I was about to watch “Mirror Mirror” for the first time and had no idea what I was in for.
As someone who was just discovering Trek, I loved seeing Kirk try and negotiate dilithium from the Halkans. I knew that the Enterprise didn't run on unleaded, and to see this level of specificity in the mechanics of the ship was very exciting.
Then came the beam-out and the famous shot of the ship flipping from left-to-right to right-to-left. Not just a dissolve, but a sharp, brutal series of shocking cuts that looked almost like an editing glitch. Somehow, perhaps by my innate Vulcan psionic abilities, I instantly knew what was happening. We hadn't seen Evil Spock yet or even the title “Mirror, Mirror,” but in a flash as quick as ion storm lightning I was able to know things were going to go into “reverse world” and we'd see our heroes as villains.
The first thing you notice are the new uniforms. Then the insignia on the back plating. Then the reverse shot, a fascist salute from Lt. Kyle (I didn't know his name at the time) and Spock and OHMYGOD SPOCKHASABEARD!!!!!
You missed it? Okay, let's cut away from Kirk's confused reaction and ZOOM IN for an extreme close up as sinister brass blares and woodwinds trill. Spock. Has. A. Beard.
I once covered a Vegas Star Trek convention with a hired gun photographer. He was one of these dudes who lives in a pop culture vacuum. He'd never seen a single episode of Trek. (He'd also only seen one Star Wars film – “the one with the fat blob” as he put it.) He’d never heard the name Leonard Nimoy, but when he saw an image of Spock he instantly said, “Oh, that's Spock, the guy with the pointy ears. Yeah, everyone knows him.”
Okay, he may've called him “Dr. Spock,” but the point is that even the willfully ignorant know the icons when they see them. To someone just falling in love with Star Trek and starting to know the characters, the last thing you expect to see is that ingrained image get changed. Yet Spock had a beard. And he was evil.
Once our trans-dimensional travelers recognize that they should play cool (Scotty mimes a “not now” to Uhura for those of us having trouble following at home) we then witness the first of roughly 400 awesome things in “Mirror, Mirror”: the Agonizer.
“Your Agonizer, please,” intones a calm, cruel Mr. Spock and right there on Kyle's belt is a little red doohickey that, well, we don't quite know EXACTLY what it does, but it chilled me to my very core.
By now I was already standing, hovering in front of the television, locked in a tractor beam of science-fiction awesomeness. Man, if I had to wear an Agonizer in 9th period band practice I'd be a dead man!
What was going to happen next? Whaaaaat?!?!! Well, a commercial, that's what, and that's when I found myself doing something I'd truly never done before. I started pacing. Literally buzzing around the tiny guest quarters in my parents' modest New Jersey home.
What would happen to Kirk, Bones, Uhura and Scotty (and Bearded Spock!) was still to be determined, but one thing was made crystal clear that night. No more would I ever have to consider what to watch when I snuck out for late night television. A true Trekkie was born.
Surely you have a similar experience. I would love to hear your Star Trek Fanatic Tipping Points in the comments below.
Jordan Hoffman is a freelance writer, critic and independent film producer living in New York City. He fell in love with Star Trek through TOS reruns just as TNG was getting ready to launch. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels. He has a funny story about the one time he met Leonard Nimoy. Click HERE to follow him on Twitter.
Follow us for more news at StarTrek.com
and via our social media sites.