This article was originally published on January 15, 2020
Parenting is easy. Humankind has written volumes on the subject from the earliest What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Cro-Magnon scribbled onto ancient cave walls to today’s vast, helicopter parent flight manuals. There are even YouTube tutorials for parents who despise reading. But what about those looking for a how-to on raising a fan? Those parents are out of luck, because Dr. Spock said diddly about Mr. Spock.
Luckily, as a Star Trek dad I’ve got a collection of hard-earned rules and advice to help you boldly raise your own Star Trek lover.
So, you’ve decided to pass on your love of Star Trek — pat yourself on the back, you’re one of the good ones. But how do you do it without finding yourself in a childrearing Kobayashi Maru?
Odds are most parents will have a fair bit more warning when expecting a new Trekkie — Trek-training was thrust upon me when I met my future wife and her already seven-year-old son, Ty. Seven years without proper Star Trek training!
With my next sons, Jude and Malcolm, I had the benefit of starting their geek cultivation with cradles full of plush Enterprises and lullabies by Jerry Goldsmith. But with Ty, I had my work cut out for me. I joked to a friend about my plan to indoctrinate Ty into our fraternal brotherhood of Star Trek fandom; his response blindsided me:
“Just don’t push too hard or he’ll end up hating Star Trek.”
Oh dear God! Is this possible? We’ve all heard stories about children who push back with extreme zeal from strict, pious upbringings. What if I’d tried too hard and shove Ty into the same about-face that made preacher’s son Vincent Furnier into shock-rocker Alice Cooper?
Happily, there’s a middle road between the zero effort of simply hoping your child absorbs Star Trek via some form of nerd-osmosis, and propping their eyes open, A Clockwork Orange-style to force-feed them fandom.
That brings us to our first dilemma… Which Star Trek series should be their first contact?
Oh Captain, Which Captain?
I won’t lie to you — this is the toughest choice you’ll ever face in life. Everything else pales in comparison to picking your child’s first — and potentially favorite — starship crew.
Which is the perfect starter series? Sorry to disappoint but there’s no right answer. Every kid is unique and likewise, every introduction to Star Trek must be uniquely suited to each child.
The key is finding the series that fits with your child’s interests. What are your kids into? Go-Go boots? Cosplaying androids? Quippy bartenders? Sarcastic holograms? Jamming to “Faith of the Heart”? Pet tardigrades?
At seven, Ty came prepackaged with a collection of edgy, TV-14 tastes. I was terrified that if I chose the wrong series he might declare Star Trek lame, and by extension, his new Stepdad. I chose the 21st-century big-budget spectacle, Star Trek (2009), as Ty’s first introduction to the 23rd century. Next, I picked Enterprise, the most contemporary, and so I figured relatable, series at that time. After visiting Archer’s 22nd century we traveled into the 24th century for DS9. Seven years later, we boarded Discovery together.
For younger kids, like Jude and Malcolm, I recommend the more family-friendly adventures of TNG and Voyager.
While those series might not be the comfort-Trek of my youth (TOS), they worked for my boys. Your results may vary, but remember: it’s about them, not you.
You might also be wondering, should I simply go from series premiere to series finale or serve only select morsels? Don’t be a maniac. The proper way to watch any series is from episode one to episode done! Let’s not reinvent the wheel here.
Are any movies off-limits? No. But do cover young eyes whenever a Ceti eel appears or risk a lifetime of bed-sharing.
Greasing Their Palms!
Now that you’ve introduced them to Trek, it’s time to get them hooked; that means bribery. Possibly the most useful tool in the parenting arsenal. The problem is these days Star Trek toys are harder to come by than a childless tribble.
Luckily we live in a marvelous age of online retail. With just a click you can beam down a treasure trove of toys from the Trek-toy heydays of the 1990s. Warning: beware of buying toy ships online. Like fine wines and life insurance rates, their prices increase with age.
You could also do the unthinkable: give up your toys. But which toys can you safely hand down without fear of devastating destruction to rival the Enterprise-D’s drop to the surface of Veridian III?
Children destroy everything they touch…but we’re trying to foster a fandom here, so pour yourself a tall glass of Romulan ale, arm your hypospray, and hand over your toys. After the initial throes of panic, the sight of my boys enjoying my cherished plastic fleet made this geek’s heart swell.
The Wrath of Cons
Now that they’ve picked a series and have a collection of newly-wrestled-from-your-grip toys, are your kids ready for conventions? While cons may be the crux of fandom, it’ll take a riper age before you can plop your offspring down at a panel without boring them to tears. No child wants to sit through a lecture. In some families, the phrase “lecture” is considered adequate grounds for emancipation. Kids’ll love the panels when they’re older, until then focus on cosplay and shopping! (My seamstress wife handles the costumes; I handle the bribery.)
Cherish this rare chance to take your kids shopping for toys you’ve actually heard of.
The two biggest tests in Trekkie-training are birthdays and Halloweens (Halloween, aka the “gateway drug” of cosplaying). Are your kids willing to go public with their geeky affections? The moment they allow their friends to see them roaming neighborhoods in pointed ears or blowing out candles on a cake that prominently features a Starfleet insignia, you’ll know your job is done.
Just don’t force it. Remember the “cute” group costume your family coerced you into participating in when you were young? Many of us never recover.
With Ty, I practiced patience. In our first Halloween and birthday together, Ghostbusters and zombies prevailed. However, the following year Ty “chose” (with a safe dose of mildly-insistent prodding) to go trick-or-treating as Spock and invite his friends to a DS9-themed birthday party.
Thank the Great Bird of the Galaxy, I did it!
Where Many Parents Have Gone Before
At times Trek-parenting can make you feel like the only red shirt on a landing party — terrified! In the end, it all comes down to a single basic truth: your kids love and adore you. For the same reason Michael Burnham adopted a Vulcan-bob to honor her adopted pop, Sarek, your kids will want to love Star Trek because you love Star Trek. Just keep trekking and they’ll trek right alongside you.
Andy Bray (he/his) is a husband, father, and co-author of the memoirs, Making Fake Star Trek and Making More Fake Star Trek. He developed his unhealthy obsession with Star Trek as an embryo; in his twenties he acted in an official Star Trek production no one’s ever heard of: “Spock’s Brain” the stage play; after cultivating a collection of obscure credits on his IMDB page, Andy now spends his days writing and embarrassing his children. You can follow him on Instagram at @AndyBrayAuthor and on Twitter at @TheAndyBray.