Beam me up Scottie
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Jeanne Carbone
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     For the uninitiated those four words may be meaningless, but for the legions of Star Trek fans, they represent a better world.

     A world where the prime directive is to do no harm to other beings, a world where women are equal to men even though they may be wearing mini-skirts and where galaxies are explored as well as the metaphysical recesses of the mind.

     Such a world has beamed into San Jose’s The Tech Museum of Innovation aproposly named Star Trek: The Exhibition. Not your usual Trekkie convention but more of a showcase of exhibits; sets, artifacts and costumes spawned from the five TV series and 11 films over the last 40+ years.

     On board to celebrate the media opening was George Takei better known as “Sulu” to fans of the science fiction phenomenon. The character was first seen on the groundbreaking original series “Star Trek” televised in 1966. The Starship Enterprise was a League of Nations: manned by handsome Capt. Kirk (William Shatner), the pointed eared logical half-human half-Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), the African-American female helmsman Uhura (Denise Nichols), Russian Chekov (Walter Koenig) and of course, Sulu who was Asian. “Beam me up, Scottie” were the words always uttered by Kirk to engineer Montgomery Scott (James Doohan) who would flip a switch and body atoms would be disassembled from one location and safely reassembled on the ship’s transporter.

     Remember, it was 1966: African-Americans were still portrayed as maids and service help, the Cold War was raging and the women’s movement in full swing—so it was a revolutionary series albeit with some pretty hokey costumes, gilled aliens, and bogus sets that looked remarkably real behind the lens of a camera. The Enterprise crew traveled to far away galaxies, encountered other life forms and saved quite a few worlds as well as their own lives while maintaining their humanity and sense of humor along the journey.

     Creator Gene Roddenberry created a peaceful Earth where countries joined as one to explore space, traveling to other galaxies and bring peace where they could. Wars were nonexistent on earth and the enemies were hostile aliens like the Klingons—a race that would rather battle than use diplomacy or the cybernetic Borg whose goal was to assimilate all other beings with the adage “resistance is futile”—all encountered in space, the final frontier. And love with the proper alien was possible as well— reinforcing the idea that it was who a sentient being was on the inside that truly mattered.

     Equally interesting were the gadgets the crew used—phasers, tricorders, communicators, and transporters. Roddenberry’s strength was that the “Star Trek” franchise was based on real scientific principles and theories. Forty years later, laser surgery is common, tazors are used routinely by police, geography and bodies are scanned with sophisticated equipment, and almost everyone carries a cell phone. The father of the modern day cell phone Martin Cooper even credits the original “Star Trek” series as his inspiration. What a difference four decades can make—where science fiction indeed meets science.

     I suppose that the best test of the lasting effect of Star Trek is that the five series are still seen around the world in syndication. The 11 movies are sold in boxed sets and conventions are hosted worldwide. This past summer, the new blockbuster movie “Star Trek” was released to eager audiences showcasing the exploits of a young Kirk and crew who graduate from Starfleet Academy, are assigned to the Enterprise and save the world. All were new actors who bore an uncanny resemblance to the originals except for one. Mr. Spock appeared to cheers of longtime fans in the theater when he gave the Vulcan salute and said that now classic line “live long and prosper.”
 
     But today, it’s back to the exhibit where grunting Klingons and character look-alikes Capt. Picard and android Data [both from the TV series “Star Trek: The Next Generation”] walk among humans investigating a replication of the command bridge, the transporter room where you can watch yourself disappear on a video screen and the Guardian of Forever, a time portal, from one of the original TV series most famous episodes.

     A Starship escape pod calls my name and I enter the full-motion flight simulator. It’s a rough and rocky ride with many death-defying close calls; shooting phasers at enemy ships and dodging enemy warfare. But in the end, I step out of my spacecraft knowing I’ve saved the world. And real or not, there’s nothing quite like that feeling.