Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fan Blogger--Chris Comte from Seattle

Here is our third fan blog all the way from…Seattle! Far or near or somewhere in between, I want to hear from you. Share your story about how Star Trek has influenced your life with like-minded fans by E-mailing it to Amy Ulen. Please include a photo if you have one.

Chris writes that he has performed in theatre, film and television productions throughout the Pacific Northwest for the past 20 years. He currently serves as the Membership Director for the Seattle Local of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and as Seattle Liaison for Actors' Equity Association, in addition to serving in numerous volunteer positions in the Seattle performing arts community. He's been a space enthusiast as far back as Project Mercury (at least according to his father), and holds memberships in both the National Space Society and Planetary Society. Although a devoted fan of Star Trek from almost literally “day one,” he admits he hasn't attended a convention since 1978, when he was kicked out of an elevator by Harlan Ellison!

Blog #18 by Chris Comte
from Seattle, Washington
I can't recall with exact certainty the first time I saw an episode of Star Trek, but I'm pretty sure it was sometime during the first season. And I won't swear by it, but I think it's even likely I saw the very first episode when it premiered in September of 1966. The problem of course, is that memory is a strange and funny thing, and a child's memory in particular is subject to the influences of imagination and wistfulness, and so I won't make the claim outright.

All I know is, at the time, my dad, my two younger brothers, and myself were living in my grandparent's house in Portland, Oregon, where we had a color TV upstairs in what used to be (and was again temporarily) my father's bedroom, and on most nights we would crowd onto his bed to watch our favorite shows. At the time, one of our most favorite, Batman, aired on both Wednesday and Thursday nights, and so I'm fairly certain we would have been watching on September 8th when a brand new series called Star Trek had its network premiere.

My dad was something of a space buff in those days, and so anything having to do with rockets or outer space would have piqued his interest, not to mention my own. Having been born in 1960, I was raised as a child of "the space age": as my dad likes to tell it, he would prop me up on pillows or cradle me in his lap to watch the early Mercury blastoffs, and I can easily recall Walter Cronkite's sing-songy intonations as he narrated later Gemini launches. In later years, we collaborated on building a model of the Saturn V moon rocket, complete with a Cape Canaveral diorama, as a cub scout project, and I can still remember begging him to take me to a screening of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey for my eighth birthday. The momentous events of July 20th 1969 have been indelibly etched into my memory, and it only takes a bit of concentration to call up the image of sitting on the floor in our living room, dad in the recliner behind me, as we stared slack-jawed and awestruck at the grainy black-and-white images of Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin planting those first furtive steps on the surface of the moon.

So, on that September evening in 1966, I can't imagine my dad NOT granting us an extra half-hour grace period from our usual 9:00 p.m. "lights out," if there was a promising new science fiction show about to premiere on TV.

But, even if I can't exactly recall watching that first episode, I DO remember seeing subsequent programs during the original run of the series, and nearly four decades of seemingly continuous reviewing have only sharpened my appreciation for the show's considerable strengths: its truly ahead-of-its-time depiction of race, gender and class equality; its vision of hope and optimism for our future; its willingness to confront contemporary social, political, religious and philosophical themes - and to acknowledge its equally obvious weaknesses: the decided lack of budget, its occasional forays into campiness, and - especially, near the end of its three year run – the embarrassingly ridiculous plot lines.

Yet, over the years, those of us who have grown to love Star Trek, whether we saw the series in first-run or later in syndication, remember it as much for these all-too-human failings as for its stunning prescience. Who would have imagined, back in the age of the rotary-dial telephone and room-sized computers, that in our own lifetimes we'd all flip open our palm-sized cell phones, just like Captain Kirk did with his communicator every week, or that we would routinely use tiny memory cards, smaller even than the colorful chips that littered Mr. Spock's library console, in portable computers not much larger than his trusty tricorder? Sure, they didn't get EVERYTHING right. Luckily there's been no "World War III" - yet, and no shipload of cryogenically frozen "supermen" blasted off to the stars in the late 1990's, but when you consider how much of our present day reality the creators of Star Trek imagined back then, well, it truly is "fascinating."

But, more influential even than the series' depiction of futuristic gadgets and hardware, was its vision of what we as human beings could achieve, despite our limitations and biases. The future world of Star Trek was not one darkened by apocalyptic struggle, or nuclear annihilation, but instead was bright and hopeful, full of adventure, heroism, and yes, occasionally sacrifice and sadness. But a FUTURE nonetheless, where all people, and indeed all beings, had the opportunity to live in peace and harmony with each other, if they so desired; where conflict and struggle were obstacles to be overcome, and not ends in themselves; and where our ability to exceed our potential was limited only by the scope of our own imaginations.

When I was young, I wanted to become an astronaut - in part because I wanted to help create the future that Star Trek envisioned. Later, when my eyesight and math aptitude seemed to preclude that particular career path, I became an actor instead - because I hoped someday to have the chance to do something as good and memorable as Star Trek. Today, I'm still in "the industry", albeit not on the stage or in front of the cameras, but instead working to provide opportunities for performers to realize their own dreams and ambitions. As the Klingons say, "The honor is to serve," and I hope my service to my profession and to my community of fellow artists has allowed others to go where I have not. That's another thing I learned from Star Trek: no matter what you do, no matter how small your task is in the bigger scheme of things, do it well, because the success of everyone depends on the success of each of us. It's not just about "the needs of the one" versus "the needs of the many"; it’s about "the needs of all."

And so, for forty years, I, like so many others, have kept the vigil: watching the various incarnations and reimaginings of the series, both on TV and film; purchasing the books, novels, magazines, blueprints, patches, photo stills, models, props, videos, DVDs, and who-knows-what; going to the conventions; keeping alive the dream Gene Roddenberry and so many others gave us. Because, to those of us with the imagination to truly see, the creators of Star Trek gave us more than just a TV show; they gave us the gift of a glimpse into a future where the best qualities of humanity shone with the light of a thousand suns; where everyone has been granted the opportunity to make the best use of their native talents and acquired skills; where worth is truly defined by the content of ones character, and not by the color of ones skin, nor the God to whom one worships, nor the land in which they were born. It is a future that we can all today help to turn into a reality, if we just have the grace, the imagination, and the courage to "boldly go where no man (or woman) has gone before."

Let's go!


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