By Will Thompson
There are more than 750 episodes of the “Star Trek” television series. Most are 45 minutes or longer. There are 13 “Star Trek” feature films that span two of the “Star Trek” series and one standalone, cinematic universe.
If you speak with someone who brands him or herself a “Star Trek” fan, you may find yourself quickly lost in a sea of character names, planets, fictional races, conflicts, spaceship technology and universe and timeline-spanning events. This is quickly becoming the case with “Star Wars,” too. Thanks to “The Mandalorian,” it quickly became necessary to brush up on events in not one, but two animated “Star Wars” series. Since when did animated series become canon? And, let’s not ignore the monolithic cultural behemoth that is the 23-films-and-counting Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Marvel universe also includes a growing number of TV spin-offs and comic books, which, you know, are the source material for the entire thing.
No one likes homework, not even the people who assign it. (I know — I’m a teacher, and I don’t assign homework.) So why pick up a fictional series of any kind that must be treated as a research project? Granted, this tickles the fancy of the nerdiest of the nerdy, and many of us have been doing this for years. But, even someone like myself, who loves a good deep dive, has time and attention span restrictions, not to mention, you know, other interests. A good fictional universe shouldn’t require collegiate level study or pouring over a Wiki page looking for necessary context in order to enjoy the first episode of a series.
At this point, why on earth would anyone become a “Star Trek” fan on their own (at least “Star Wars” is still much shorter, and therefore accessible)?
Because it’s fun and no one said you had to be an expert. Here’s how to go about it.
- Embrace your ignorance. In “Finding Nemo,” Dory the fish blissfully blunders her way through the sea as she helps locate the titular Nemo. She is ultimately successful. The things she doesn’t know could fill a book, but she goes mightily into the unknown; as should you. If “Star Trek Discovery” looks exciting, then watch it — even if the dedicated fans think it should be scrubbed from the face of the Earth. Heck, they even designed “Discovery” so new fans could hop in. I also might add that I loved the first season and really liked the second (why did you have to leave, Bryan Fuller?).
- Find a buddy. I’m lucky enough to have a very dear co-worker who is, A) A lifelong “Star Trek” nut; B) Always ready to discuss “Star Trek” whenever I feel like it; and C) A generally kind person. Hopefully you can find someone like this too, for whatever you’re interested in delving into. If not, you can become that person.
- Don’t overthink it. The beauty of the content streaming universe is that, for $15 or less, you can usually subscribe to a service that will give you access to the entirety of a series. If you get halfway into, say, “Game of Thrones,” and it’s too dark for you, give it up. It’s pretty low-cost to jump ship.
- Make it physical. Buy something to show your love for whatever your newfound fictional universe or interest is. I used to be afraid that if someone saw me in a shirt with a Rush band logo, fellow fans would compliment my shirt and then, in a brief conversation, find out I wasn’t up to their level of Rush-related lore, and walk away with their nose in the air. This is a ridiculous scenario, and it has never happened. I doubt I’ve seen more than 50 episodes of Star Trek, total, but I’ve got a shirt with the original Enterprise on it. It’s extremely comfortable, and I feel like a Starfleet Academy cadet when I wear it.
Extra credit: Frank Zappa’s music is, in some ways, the equivalent of a complex fictional universe. The recent documentary “Zappa” is a wonderful, human portrait of an often caustic genius. If you want to listen, throw on the live album “Roxy and Elsewhere.” It’s a great cross-section of many of the genres he so incredibly blended with a sprinkling of just enough of his humor to not drive away newcomers.
Thompson enjoys putting somewhat carefully chosen words in relatively meaningful order. He has been to college. He lives in Lewiston and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Instagram at @theswap_quadcities.