The passing of Leonard Nimoy has had a lot of us thinking and talking about his impact, not just on Star Trek and pop culture but also what he’s meant to us as fans.
While I was writing about him yesterday, it made me think about watching Star Trek as a kid. Way back when, before the internet and home video and Netflix and all that jazz, Star Trek existed–for the most part–as a package of 79 episodes run, rerun, and rerun ad infinitum on local UHF (remember that?) TV stations. I was born in 1967, so I was too young to watch the show during its initial broadcast. I came to love it through those reruns, every afternoon after school and maybe an extra dose on Saturday.
There also, however, a Saturday morning cartoon…excuse me…animated series, that I got to watch first run, and there were sporadic comic books, along with coloring books, models, action figures, and the occasional paperback novel. First there were the adaptations of the original series episodes as written by James Blish, but later there were “original” novels featuring Kirk and the gang boldly going where they’d never been on TV. Meanwhile, my friends and I would “play” Star Trek, the same way you played “Army” or “Cowboys & Indians.” We had our Tracer Guns and our
walkie talkies communicators, and that big weird slide/climbing bars/ladder ball thing at the center of the nearby playground was our Starship Enterprise.
As for watching the show itself? For the longest time, there were many afternoons when Star Trek looked a lot like this:
I found some pictures on the ‘net to help me illustrate my point, and da-yum if this isn’t pretty much exactly the way I remember some of those days after school, or on a Saturday when the weather sucked or I was way out at my aunt’s place, well beyond the optimal distance for getting decent reception from WTOG, Channel 44 Tampa-St. Petersburg.
(Oh, and let’s not even get into the often savage cuts made to the episodes in order to cram in more commercials. Brutal, people. Simply brutal.)
Depending on any number of factors, and despite my best efforts to angle my little black and white television’s rabbit ear antenna just so, there were times when I had to decide between watching Star Trek and listening to Star Trek. Hell, I don’t think I even knew the original series was a color show until some point in the mid 1970s. The only reason I knew what color everything was supposed to be was thanks to the cartoons and comics and toys and other stuff.
Ah. The good old days.
Fast forward to the present: forty years after those wonderful afternoons at the playground or being transfixed by that little black and white TV, here we are. High definition media has seen to it the show is as gorgeous as it’s ever been. If I’m not pulling my original series Blu-rays off the shelf, then I can stream them on my television or my computer. Hell, I can watch a favorite episode on the phone in my pocket. I can do any of that whenever and wherever I want, without having to wait for my local TV station to cycle back through the rerun package. This is awesome, amirite?
And yet, there’s something about that simpler time that always brings a smile to my face.
Okay. I could’ve probably lived without stuff like this:
Anybody else old enough to remember watching Star Trek this way?