“Alexander, where I come from size, shape or color makes no difference.”
Believe it or not - those words rocked my world! When I was 14 years old, I had never watched a Star Trek episode. One day, as fate would have it, I sat down after school and decided to watch a Star Trek rerun. The episode that day just happened to be Plato’s Stepchildren. My life would never be the same….literally.
Growing up with a form of dwarfism that stopped my growth at 4 feet 2 inches tall made life more difficult. Not only did I have to endure multiple surgeries on my legs and hips but I also had to endure the points, stares, and, occasional ridicule that kids can sometimes launch at other kids who are different. That’s not to say that I didn’t have a lot of wonderful friends who stood by me, but the world looked at me a little differently back then and I was painfully aware of that.
So when I sat down and saw a “little person,” like myself, on an episode of Star Trek, I was keenly interested. I saw how Alexander was treated differently, how it made him feel, and how he felt living in that world of the Platonians. The moment where Captain Kirk shared with Alexander what the world was like where he came from was almost as if he was speaking to me. I now dreamed of a future where I would be accepted for who I was, not how tall I was or how I looked. The Star Trek world now presented to me was one in which every human being was treasured for who they are and accepted for their uniqueness. It didn’t matter if you were tall, short, fat, skinny, blue, green or even if you had a human body – you were an appreciated member of the universe and, as such, respected and valued.
I began watching every episode of Star Trek and realized that there was much more to this show for me than just Plato’s Stepchildren. I grew up with Star Trek helping to form my values and ideals and, from a real life perspective, a career. As many of you reading this may know, I started the first official Star Trek Fan Club which was licensed by Paramount Pictures and supported and endorsed by Gene Roddenberry. In fact, Gene had become a good friend over the years and was always supportive of my “enterprise.” He told me how he had originally envisioned Spock as a little person and told me privately and for printed interviews some of the most inspiring stories I had ever heard in relation to Star Trek.
My Star Trek fan club business at its peak reached over 200,000 people all over the world through its magazine, the Star Trek Communicator, while membership in the club topped 85,000. I employed over 120 people and created hundreds of exclusive collectibles for fans before selling it to Decipher, Inc. in 2001.
I have always remained a true Star Trek fan (loving all the incarnations, but my loyalties are to The Original Series and cast). I have been to several Trek events this year and to see the growth in Star Trek fandom is very heartening. I have always felt accepted at Trek conventions throughout my life. My world came full circle at the last Star Trek convention in Las Vegas when a young woman, also a “little person,” came up to me and said she had been a Star Trek fan for years. She had read the Star Trek Communicator magazine, been an official fan club member and had read my story. She said it inspired her to start her own business and to continue her love of all things Star Trek. That, for me, was even more evidence of how Star Trek has changed lives. While the world around me is still troubled, I feel we’ve come a long way in the acceptance of others since the days when I was 14-years old and had watched my first Star Trek episode. I see that people, in general, are more accepting of “little people” like me. Without Star Trek, my life would not have been as rewarding and fruitful. Now, 35 years after watching Plato’s Stepchildren, I feel much more confident that, if I were able to, I could also look Alexander in the eye and say today, “Where I come from size, shape or color makes no difference.”
Dan Madsen is the former founder, president and publisher of the Official Star Trek Fan Club and Official Star Trek Communicator Magazine. He now works with actress Ashley Eckstein on Her Universe, which produces fashionable, female-focused apparel for Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who and other Sci-Fi properties.