Boldly Going As Far As I Can Go

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I’m a British Trekkie and have been since “The Next Generation” first started on BBC2 in 1990. Yes, we got it three years after it launched in the U.S.A. I was about eight years old at the time and, while I don’t exactly remember what first attracted me to it, I do have the odd memory from through the years. I’ve said on Twitter that I always remember watching “The Arsenal of Freedom” from Season 1 and jumping around excitedly yelling, “THEY’RE SEPARATING THE SAUCER!!!” If you’ve seen the whole of TNG, you’ll know how rare that was.

But, on a personal level, such displays of excitement and sheer happiness were rare for me back then. I got bullied relentlessly throughout the entire of school. I didn’t fit in and would often spend breaktimes by myself with only my imagination for company.

As TNG continued and became more well-known, if not as well-liked, it quickly got around that I was a fan and so it became yet another thing I’d get bullied for. I didn’t know, until I was age 37, that I was Autistic. But I quickly realised that I could retain a lot of information and details from TNG. I innocently must’ve talked to other kids about this and so my tormentors would regularly ask me stupid stuff like, “How many windows are there on the Enterprise?” or “Are you going to book a spaceship for when you get married?”

Despite all the constant terror and misery, it didn’t ruin my love for “Star Trek”. I really felt compelled to watch every week, excited like never before and very much emotionally attached to the characters. I bought whatever merchandise I could find, which there certainly was a lot of on the high street in those days. Even my very first music purchase was a cassette tape of the soundtrack for the TOS episodes, “The Doomsday Machine” and “Amok Time”. This was despite my parents telling me it’s not the same as watching the episodes. I just wanted it because it was “Star Trek”. So began my love for TV and film scores, which endures to this day!

I think what I’ve personally got the most out of Trek is a sense of belonging and hope for the future. I’d obviously had a real hell of a childhood and teen years, but even my adult years have been mixed. I’ve battled depression, anxiety, near-suicide and never been able to hold onto a job long enough. As I said earlier, a lot of that came from me not knowing I was Autistic and therefore never had any proper support and have had a lot of people get the wrong idea about me.

Looking back, I think I must’ve connected with Trek because of it being so diverse and accepting. It doesn’t matter what show or movie you’re watching, there’s such a mix of people. So many stories have been trying to understand some sort of alien race or have them understand the main characters, often in order to get out of some sort of conflict. People often talk about how mixed the cast of TOS were, with black, Chinese and Russian characters all equal on the Bridge of the Enterprise. But, as I came into Trek through TNG, I saw an Android, a Klingon, a blind man and a teenage boy all working together and being accepted.

Data especially has always been seen as an excellent relatable character for neurodiverse people like me, although personally I think Barclay’s probably more obviously Autistic himself. Data would struggle to comprehend emotions, jokes, social situations, personal style and would even have that encyclopaedic knowledge of stuff like me too. He’d also be the butt of people’s jokes sometimes, which again was very relatable to me.

Through the entire of Star Trek, I learned a lot about life, how to deal with all kinds of situations and to accept those different to me. In my adult life, it’s even taught me to stand-up for what I believe in, even if it sometimes means challenging authorities if their actions are morally/ethically wrong. It was never just simply entertainment or something to pass the time with. I may not have known it at the time, but it shaped me into the person I became as I grew up. Without Star Trek, who knows how I might’ve turned out? Who knows if I’d even still be here today?

It annoys me, especially now in the era of social media, when people hate on Trek. But, most of all, I hate when people criticise it for tackling stuff which I relate to like mental health, LGBTQ+, diversity etc. It’s so important that the show keep doing stuff like that, as there must be other people, especially younger people, who could be going through the exact same situations and problems that I’ve been through. If it can keep inspiring hope or helping people find their way in life, it needs to continue doing so. Goodness knows I’m a huge fan of the big-budget, action set-pieces they do, especially space battles. But it’s the quieter, character dramas which have the biggest impact. People will see themselves in characters like Culber, Stamets and Tilly from Discovery. Or kids may see themselves in characters like Dal, Rok-Tahk and Jankom from Prodigy.

“Because, in the infinite of space, everyone needs to know there’s a place out there willing to accept us all. No matter how different we think we are.” – Gwyn from “Star Trek Prodigy”

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John

Autistic, amateur photographer, Mental Health & kids’ rights advocate. Working with parents & organisations to support/protect/mentor boys/men.🏳️‍🌈(He/Him)

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