Trekspectives: A Journey of Fandom
StarTrek.com is pleased to welcome C Bryan Jones of Trek.fm to our stable of regular guest bloggers. Today, Jones introduces himself and his new column, Trekspectives.
Every story has a beginning. Mine starts in my great grandparents’ living room. No, I wasn’t born there; but my Star Trek fandom was. My first encounter with the five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise occurred while sitting in front of the kind of television you never see today. This was as much a piece of furniture with a screen tacked on the front as a piece of home electronics. Heavy, wooden, bulky. Clearly not suited for the bridge of a starship. But Kirk had his viewscreen, and I had mine—a window to another world. As a five-year-old, I was captivated by these adventures.
Around this same time, another adventure in a galaxy far, far away was landing on the big screen. I fell in love with that, too. For the next six or seven years, my fandom was split. But as I became a teenager, the core of Star Trek began speaking to me more loudly, with a force that could not be overcome. This core is the social commentary that powers Gene Roddenberry’s vision. Our teenage years are such a formative time, and as my view of the world began to change, the action-adventure veneer of Star Trek peeled away to reveal a layer of deeper exploration. Kirk and Spock weren’t just exploring strange new worlds, they were exploring us.
At the age of 16, I moved on from hoping to catch my favorite missions in reruns to stockpiling VHS tapes. These were of the official variety, purchased from bookstores. One episode per tape for around $15. (Feeling spoiled by DVD and Blu-ray sets?) I watched these over and over, studied the episodes, pondered the messages, and started down a path to lifelong fandom.
That was the late 1980s. In the decade that followed, Star Trek continued to shape my views well into adulthood, and in 2000 I began writing a column called Science Fiction & Society. This wasn’t exclusively about Star Trek, but it often was. Putting my thoughts into words that could be shared with others was the most powerful way I had found to deepen my own fandom. Until I found podcasting.
Those VHS tapes not only set me on a path to lifelong fandom, but also to a position where I could help others nurture their own. A decade after I began writing, I began talking. In 2010, I founded the podcast network Trek.fm with a single show: Hyperchannel. This led to group discussions on a second show, The Ready Room, and then to additional shows dedicated to each series. Today, my network is home to 20 podcasts and an incredible crew of hosts and producers. For me, what’s so interesting about this is looking back to that moment in my great grandparents’ living room and seeing it tethered to an Artist Page in iTunes. Is there any other franchise so powerful that it could lead someone down that path? It has been quite a journey.
The discussions I have today with my fellow podcast hosts and other fans drive home the brilliance and power of what Gene Roddenberry created. The diversity of our panels allows me to see people at different points of fandom. And what this makes clear is that Star Trek is a companion that travels with you through life.
As you get older and your circumstances change, you see different things in the stories. Many of the social messages don’t surface until you reach a certain stage of life. Some character relationships mean more to you when you find yourself in different situations. One prime example is how I read “Emissary” and “The Visitor” following the death of my father in 2012. Always poignant, the emotional tether was so much stronger after a personal loss. And even my least favorite DS9 episode, “Time’s Orphan,” is able to move me on at least one level now that I am a parent.
This experience of finding new things in episodes I’ve seen dozens of times, and watching others do the same, has driven home the reason why Star Trek endures—not just for the five decades since “The Man Trap” first aired, but for the decades to come. Perspectives change. The complexity of the Star Trek universe mirrors our own in a way that many other fictional worlds do not; and this is why our Trek perspectives continually evolve.
In this column each month, we’ll explore the ways in which Star Trek approaches social issues, how that approach has evolved with time, and how we as fans can tap into this at different stages of life and fandom. Sound serious? It is. But not all the time. I find that humor is necessary for us to make it through life. So expect some lighthearted takes as well. I always look for the good in Star Trek, and my hope is that, just as those who listen to my podcasts say that we’ve changed their perspective on episodes, you’ll find a shift in your own Trekspectives through these words. And just maybe I will, too.
C Bryan Jones is founder and publisher of the Trek.fm podcast network, host of The Ready Room and Hyperchannel, and co-host of The Orb: A Star Trek Deep Space Nine Podcast. Here on Earth, he’s also Editor-In-Chief of Metropolis, a city life and entertainment magazine in Tokyo. And when prattling on there isn’t enough, he turns to Twitter (@cbryanjones) and his personal website cbryanjones.com.