Lonely Among Us – Finding Unity in TNG
As a young boy growing up in what I would later affectionately come to call the ‘Golden Years’ of Star Trek (or more specifically, the TNG era), I relied heavily on those late-night episodes that ran back-to-back on the TV channel Sky One.
I was eight or nine years old when I first began to watch TNG through a crack in my door. My bedroom had no television, and I was supposed to be in bed, asleep anyway, long before the ten o’clock start time… but I just couldn’t help myself!
And so, every night, I’d tiptoe across the deserted living room to switch on that old, flickering and static-charged TV, choose the correct channel, increase the volume and then quickly scurry back to the bedroom. There, through a tiny sliver of light that cascaded through the opening between my bedroom door and the living room door, would I proceed to stand still like a statue and enjoy the best two hours of my day!
My parents had a small bar and hotel, and so they were never there to make sure that I was asleep; they were never really there for anything, as my Mother would be too busy working and my Father would be too busy drinking, and so I was often left to my own devices.
And that is how I fell in love with Star Trek, through a crack in a door, watching late-night TV, because I was lonely.
And through that crack in the door, I learnt everything that I should’ve learnt from my own indifferent family.
It was Picard who taught me about duty and discipline. It was Worf who educated me about honour, and it was Data who showed me that it was okay to be different… and Reginald Barclay, well, he taught me more lessons than I can count!
Looking back now, it’s clear to see how each character or episode highlighted questions of ethics and moralistic compassion that enriched the soul of a growing child as well as any adult who would care to watch.
Long before the well-known thought experiment “the trolley problem” came into my worldview, these questions of lesser evils and empathy were already being addressed and dealt with by the crew of the good old NCC-1701-D Enterprise, for my entertainment and subsequent illumination.
The lessons that should have been prevalent in school and at home – the truly important things like how to treat other people and how to treat yourself, how to respect the environment and other cultures, and how to challenge yourself with personal development to enrich the society you belong to – never really materialised in real life. Even in high school, these all-too-often-ignored issues lay dormant!
Instead, these concepts and meaningful life lessons were imparted to me and many others through a TV screen.
Picard took the place of my errant Father, and Troi became my Mother, the juxtaposition of the two different types of ‘parents’ being painfully apparent. Riker, Worf, Data and Geordi became my older brothers and Dr. Crusher my intelligent and educated older sister, and with this I finally felt like I had a functioning family. A family who was always there for me; a family I could look to for help with decisions and questions of growing up and to understand and adapt my behaviour.
Star Trek: The Next Generation truly was, and is, one of the deepest parts of who I am today. The messages resonated in such a way that it changed my life for the better and made me want to be a more well-rounded person who contributes to this crazy thing we call life and to our fellow humans.
This ideology was counter-intuitive to the thought processes of my peers and of the real-world family unit that I lived in, and so I endeavoured to enlighten those who had not yet been freed by the unifying message that Star Trek is all about.
Alas, mostly my words would fall on deaf ears. In retrospect, I guess no-one wants to listen to some twelve-year-old kid trying to tell them there’s a better way to be!
Nonetheless, eventually (and I mean eventually – it took a long time), I found my people. It took decades of travel and the wonderful invention of the Internet to help connect us all, but now I can relate about Star Trek and my experiences to other like-minded Trekkies all over the world, whenever I want to.
And do you know what? There are far more of us than I ever expected!
I’m an adult now and still spread the word of Trek far and wide, but nowadays, more people listen. Thanks to Star Trek, I’m no longer lonely and I’ll never be alone again. Just like so many lost and lonely souls who were before and after me, scared and lost but now connected in the most brilliant of ways; and, thanks to Star Trek‘s unifying message of togetherness, maybe one day, no one will be so alone again.