Lunch time is a dangerous time for Dayton. It’s during this period on many a day, as I eat my salad or sandwich, that I tend to contemplate mischief.
Yesterday was one such day.
Those of you into the whole meme thing know that they tend to come and go. Somewhere, somebody does something clever and/or funny and shares it to their circle of online friends, some of those friends share it with their friends and/or total strangers, and if the conditions are just right, said clever and/or funny thing suddenly finds itself going “viral.” Its ability to grab someone’s attention continues for a few days (or longer if it’s really nifty) before something else starts the vicious cycle all over again.
This past week, it was the “American Chopper” meme, which was actually created several years ago but is now enjoying renewed attention thanks to the recent announcement that the television show is returning to Discovery later this year.
Rather than explain the whole thing, here’s a handy link, which comes with several notable examples from this past week: Inverse.com: The 20 Best ‘American Chopper’ Memes.
So, that brings us to me, sitting there at lunch, eating my sandwich, and contemplating mischief. Fresh off our April Fool’s gag, I was looking for something new to goof around with, and because I like to cross my streams and mix my drinks when I ponder this kind of silly stuff, I immediately began contemplating how to apply the AC meme formula to a Star Trek joke.
It didn’t take long:
No, it hasn’t “gone viral,” but I still had a bit of fun within my own little social media circle.
For those of you who until today have remained blissfully unaware of this bit of knowledge which has been a target of spirited discussion within various segments of Star Trek fandom, the joke has its roots in a bit of long time lore which has carried with it the ability to “divide” different sects of Trek fandom. We’re basically talking about whether the familiar arrowhead “delta shield” symbol worn by Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew during the original Star Trek series was intended to be an insignia just for that ship, or instead represent a larger group if not Starfleet as a whole? In the later films and television series, everybody does indeed wear updated versions of the “arrowhead,” which by this point does represent all of Starfleet.
To be fair, there is evidence to support both sides of this discussion. Some people point to a footnote in Gene Roddenberry’s novelization of Star Trek: The Motion Picture that the Enterprise‘s successful return from its five-year mission, with Kirk being the first starship captain to bring back his ship and crew “relatively intact after such a mission,” was cause for celebration and tributes of various sorts.
Somewhere along the line, somebody attached to this bit of trivia the notion that this was the reason for the arrowhead changing from being “just for the Enterprise” to “all of Starfleet.” I am absolutely certain I’ve read this in some publication somewhere, but I’ve been unable to find it.** Despite this and in the interest of total fairness and honesty, I entertained this notion for a lot of years, mostly because I was a young, enthusiastic, geeky little fan who had no other info which might contradict it.
Lo and behold, there was info out there.
Star Trek fan and Anovos product developer John Cooley got his hands on a copy of a memorandum written in December 1967, by incomparable and very much missed Star Trek associate producer Bob Justman to the show’s costume designer, the equally amazing and also very much missed William Ware Theiss. Check it out:
For the complete story behind the memo, check out John’s article about this very subject on StarTrek.com: Starfleet Insignia Explained. Warning: awesome geekery ahead!
Whoa. Mind. Blown.
Now, I have to tell you….this works for me. It makes sense that there would be a single Starfleet insignia worn by all personnel in uniform. With thousands of ships in the fleet, having each one with its own symbol would drive some poor uniform designer nuts after a while, after all. I know the Army and Navy have different patches for their units, ships, etc., but over where I come from, just having the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor was enough.
(Sorry, my Army and Navy buds. You know I love you. Well, except you. You know why.)
Yeah, there’s still some little headaches with this approach, namely the different insignia prominently worn by Commodore Decker (“The Doomsday Machine”) and Captain Tracey (“The Omega Glory”), and later the Defiant crew uniforms in the 2-part Star Trek: Enterprise episode “In A Mirror, Darkly.” And, course, the rebooted Star Trek films and Star Trek: Discovery, both of which show events set before the time of the Enterprise‘s five-year mission and depicting characters wearing the arrowhead on their uniforms, only add gas to the discussion fire.
With all of that said, I personally tend to default to the original series – and the intentions of those who produced it – when it comes to settling little debates like this. Your mileage may vary.
And when I’m not writing Star Trek stories and having to worry about all of these little details….I tend to make Star Trek jokes. Hence, the meme.
** UPDATE: As indicated by “David cgc” in the comments, the possible/likely source for this bit of lore comes from Star Trek: Mr. Scott’s Guide to the Enterprise, a reference work published by Pocket Books in 1987. From page 24:
“To honor the ship and her crew, Star Fleet Command unanimously elected in 2212 to drop the individual ship emblem employed since 2206 and then adopt the insignia of Enterprise (Command Division) as the official insignia of Star Fleet.”
The book was written before the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation that same year, and definitely before the spring 1988 broadcast of that show’s first season finale episode, “The Neutral Zone,” which establishes the “current year” as 2364, and helps to establish the events of Kirk’s five-year mission as taking place approximately 100 years prior to TNG. This contradicts dates used in the book which place those events decades earlier. Such is the way of tie-in products like books of this sort.