It must have been in the early seventies. I was not older than 10 when I saw a rerun of the original Star Trek tv series on Dutch television. I was shocked. “Space, the final frontier.” Maybe it sounds too philosophical but to me, back then, it changed my perception of the world. It was as if there was suddenly no frontier. And if there was one, it seemed you just had to cross it, to discover there was another one behind this one. I was still a young boy, but Star Trek showed me that reality was just an expression in my time and my space; a reality that could change or simply be replaced by another reality. Star Trek was not just mere entertainment for me; it pushed me to think and contemplate. In that sense, it was maybe a better education than the hours I spent in the classrooms at my primary school, although I was privileged with a splendid teacher.
I remember an episode in which the Enterprise crew arrived on a planet where fantasies became reality. You just had to dream or fantasise, and it just turned into a real happening. I can’t recall it exactly, but it had some moral lesson connected to it. I think it had to do with addiction. You got stuck with your fantasies, and you couldn’t leave the planet because you could not let go of your dreams. Star Trek, especially the first seasons had some Christian moral teachings hidden within its marvellous setting, including the introduction of a black character on Western television (Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura). Some will probably argue that it had nothing to do with Christianity but to me, a character like Uhura was connected to the lessons I learned in my Catholic church which I visited until I declared myself an atheist when I was 16: “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself”.
For me, Star Trek also had a big parallel with the 17th-century journeys of Dutch ships to the Far East and the Indies. Unlike the Portuguese and the Spanish explorers, the Dutch didn’t bring priests or missionaries with them to convert other people to their belief. They were on discovery to find new races, new animal life, new continents. They were not on the way to colonise, especially not in the first decades of exploring new worlds. It was really like it happened in the Star Trek series: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
In the course of years, I actually lost track of Star Trek. I got other interests and to be honest: all the following series and movies never gave me the feeling that these original shows had given me: the sense of an unlimited space and unlimited imagination. But it changed with the Star Trek movie from 2009, simply called ‘Star Trek’. With the emotional opening sequence of the birth of James Kirk, it was for me a rebirth of the emotions I had when I was a little boy: once again I was hooked. 18 seconds before you die, the only thing you want to do, is to chat with your wife who just gave birth to your son, and who you forced to leave before your space ship rams into the ship of your enemy. To chat with the person, you love the most, about the creature you wanna give a personality, your baby: “What are we gonna call him?” What identity are we going to give him? Watching this scene once again, I am thinking to myself: Is this what Star Trek is all about: love? Is seeking the final frontier and trying to cross it, seeking the love that will absorb all boundaries, seeking the power that will unify us all, the ultimate message of the best sci-fi series of all time? It is a beautiful thought, and I will cherish it. But for now, I will be happy with the ordinary knowledge that I can enjoy a new Star Trek movie this year, a new series in 2017, and that I can imagine myself as the captain of the Enterprise in the command chair on the bridge during the Elfia event in Holland this April; and I will call myself Kirk, James Kirk.