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Star Trek 45 Years Later, Enterprise Feels Like a House with all the Children Gone.

By Louis Trapani - Posted on 08 September 2011

The Man Trap. The first episode of #StarTrek aired 45 years ago today (September 8, 1966), titled 'The Man Trap' on NBC. It was not the first episode made, nor was it a pilot episode, but the suits at NBC wanted a

Today marks 45 years since the very first episode of Star Trek aired. It was September 8, 1966 when NBC aired 'The Man Trap' to an unsuspecting audience. It is not the "birthday" of Star Trek... die-hard fans ('Trekkers') know that the series had two pilot episodes commissioned. The first pilot, 'The Cage' dates back to 1964, and the follow-up pilot, 'Where No Man Has Gone Before,' to 1965. The first episode to air was not meant to go out first, but the suits at NBC wanted an episode with a "monster" in it (they felt it had to compete with Lost in Space at the time), 'The Man Trap' had a monster and therefore it was selected to air first.

This anniversary is bittersweet for me. It comes just a couple weeks after loosing a long time friend who had been a great Star Trek fan. It was an unexpected loss and therefore I have to say even now, I am still in shock and disbelief about it.

On this anniversary, there is quote from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock that keeps going through my mind:

"USS Enterprise, Captain's Personal Log: With most of our battle damage repaired we are almost home. Yet I feel uneasy, and I wonder why... Perhaps it's the emptiness of this vessel? Most of our trainee crew have been reassigned; Lieutenant Saavik and my son, David, are exploring the Genesis planet, which he helped create; and Enterprise feels like a house with all the children gone. No... more empty even than that. The death of Spock is like an open wound. It seems I have left the noblest part of myself back there on that newborn planet."

It's not just Kirk delivering this log entry, but the haunting music by James Horner that accompanied it in the scene that resonates with me now.

The friend I speak of and I went to see this movie on opening day. In fact, we camped out to see it in June 1984. I recall it being a particular chilly day for a June day. Chase, or as he was known back then, Charlie and I had driven to the opening this time since we could now drive. Previously, such as for Star Trek II, we had to rely on our bicycles or public transportation to get to the theater. We were first on line at the theater once again and when it got rather cold, we decided to go back to the car and turn the heat on for a bit to warm up during that night. We noticed that there was another car in the parking lot with people in it. What? Others have come the night before as we did for the opening of this movie? Actually, no, that was not the case... the windows on that other car were all fogged up and the car was rockin' so we didn't come knocking if you get my drift. They were not there for an early spot on line for a Star Trek film, that much was certain. Our first in-line spots were still secure.

Although I grew up watching Star Trek and had been a fan of it since I can remember, it is hard to think of Star Trek without thinking of Charlie. Both of us grew up watching the series. Though that shared passion was independent of each other until we became friends in the late 1970s. Just in time for the revival of Star Trek on the big screen. The films were the latest and greatest Trek at that time. It is hard to believe how much time has passed since the films of the early to mid-1980s. I was tempted to watch Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home earlier this week and I realized that this year marks the 25th anniversary of that film. A quarter of a century has passed since the crew of the Enterprise had to track down two humpback whales, George and Gracie.... How can this be? I didn't watch the movie because I felt it was probably too soon after loosing Charlie/Chase and I might as well wait until the actual anniversary date (November 26th).

The passage of time becomes very real when you consider how many we have lost already from the original series. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the series, DeForrest Kelley (Leonard 'Bones' McCoy), James Doohan (Montgomery Scott), to name some of the biggies. It's hard to believe that both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy are both 80 now.

Charlie with a bag of convention goodies in hand

Charlie and I went to many so many Star Trek and science fiction conventions together back in the early 80s. They were like holidays for us. It often meant returning home with a bags of goodies and we would compare what treasures we obtained afterwards. Charlie was not one to dress up as established characters, so when he did dress up (what we now call "cosplay" at conventions) it was always characters he invented himself that could fit into that universe.

Many of the conventions took place in Manhattan which meant taking the train into the city for it. In the photo above, you can see him dressed up with bags of goodies from a convention at the railway station.

As I am writing this, I decided to queue up that soundtrack by James Horner. It seems fitting.

With the death of an old friend, now more than before, the Enterprise does indeed feel like a house with all the children gone... or as Kirk said, "No, more empty even than that." As I continue to look for my own newborn planet to feel young again, the sudden death of an old friend is like an open wound to me, indeed. It is hard to listen to this music without tearing up now.

I had only watched 'The Search for Spock' again earlier this year. This time in HD on Blu-ray. I meant to review it here, but I never did... I was probably wrapped up in post production of one of our shows.

If nothing else, as I write this days before the 10th anniversary of the September 11th tragedies in the US, it serves as a reminder not to take anyone's life for granted. As often is the case in these situations, I had thought about stopping by to visit Chase earlier that week before he passed. I was busy though and I figured I would do it another time. As was the case with September 11, 2001, I am sure there are many people that made that same assumption about people we lost that day as well.

Regardless of our losses, Star Trek remains and will always remain with us. Long after all those involved with it are gone and after I am gone. Its popularity may surge and dive at times, but Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek offers us hope for the future. In today's world, that is often hard to come by it seems. Perhaps that newborn planet to make us all feel young again is Star Trek itself.

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