Formidable Courage

Christian, Writer, Farm-girl, Fangirl. The rest, as they say, is history.

Still Boldly Going: my Star Trek 50th Anniversary Post

“Captain’s log: Stardate 1513.1. Our position: orbiting Planet M-113. On board the Enterprise, Mr. Spock, temporarily in command. On the planet: the ruins of an ancient and long-dead civilization. Ship’s surgeon McCoy and myself are now beaming down to the planet’s surface…”

And thus began, on this day 50 years ago, the first episode of the revolutionary television show, Star Trek. “The Man Trap” introduced the young captain of the starship Enterprise, his half-alien first officer, and his ship’s surgeon…and the world and pop culture have never been quite the same.

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First time you see these two dorks on an adventure together. #historyishappenin

While “The Man Trap” is an enjoyable episode, I doubt that anyone watching it on September 8, 1966 would’ve expected Star Trek to become such a phenomenon. When I compare it to the first episodes of my other favorite TV shows (Blue Bloods, NCIS, and Call the Midwife), it is an unusual way to jumpstart a series about a bunch of interplanetary misfits travelers. You aren’t given a detailed introduction to any of the main characters; rather, you get thrown head-first into a murder-mystery and just get to know everybody along the way. The story isn’t particularly shocking; anyone who’s seen Loki in action knows how crafty those shapeshifters can be. And when Kirk, Spock, and McCoy fight the salt monster, it’s easy to smirk and say, “I’ve seen worse in the Mines of Moria.”

But honestly, the part where the monster attacks Kirk is still one of the freakiest scenes in the whole show. The shapeshifting drives you crazy because YOU KNOW THAT PERSON RIGHT THERE IS THE MONSTER AND NOBDOY ELSE DOES! And you realize, quite suddenly, that you’ve gotten to know a whole lot about a certain character just by the way he or she reacts to a situation–and you didn’t need bagoodles of backstory to tell you all you needed to know. Not yet, anyway.

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Dramatic poses whilst investigating a murder-mystery? All part of a day’s work.

Of course, this is the first episode of the first season: the actors and the writers are still trying to “get in the groove.” Captain Kirk, for example, is even more boyish and playful than he is in later episodes. Dr. McCoy’s sense of humor isn’t nearly as acerbic and he doesn’t backtalk Kirk very much at all. Spock is much more animated and expressive. Interestingly, so is Uhura, making you wonder if the writers originally intended to make her more of a prominent character. These dynamics make this episode and “The Naked Time” the most similar in character structure to the reboot films.

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“Shall we pick some flowers, Doctor? When a man visits an old girlfriend she usually expects something like that.”

You also learn, though, that Kirk is intensely protective of his crew and that the burden of command weighs heavy on him. In a highly-advanced technological age, McCoy remains stubbornly old-fashioned and even spiritually conservative. Spock looks at everything from a logical angle–and yet when Uhura challenges him on whether or not he cares about Kirk’s safety, he gets downright touchy. Uhura herself is cheerful and self-confident, the only one besides Kirk who can be openly playful with Spock and get away with it.

These things never changed, even as the Triumvirate actors settled into their roles and Uhura (sadly) moved more into the background.

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“Why don’t you tell me I’m an attractive young lady, or ask me if I’ve ever been in love?”

According to Memory Alpha’s article on the episode, the producers had to decide between several episodes for Star Trek‘s television premiere: “The Corbomite Maneuver,” “Charlie X,” “Mudd’s Women,” “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” “The Naked Time,” and “The Man Trap.” They chose the latter because “its straightforward action plot was not considered too exotic, it had the advantage of a monster to thrill the viewers, and it fulfilled the series’ ‘strange new worlds’ concept.”

Fair enough. I would’ve preferred “The Naked Time” because it does an even better job of developing the characters, and it includes Scotty and Christine Chapel. Nobody asked for my opinion, of course…haha. But “The Man Trap” still has all the things that make Star Trek so enjoyable, in spite of its over-arching humanistic worldview. The characters are believable, relatable, lovable. The good, honest, principled guys and girls always triumph in the end.  Racial divisions are completely demolished by the inclusion of an Asian man and an African woman in the main cast–a big deal back in the 60’s. And if you can learn anything from this story and the ones that followed it, it’s that overcoming our differences and working not just as a team, but as a family, is more important than personal agendas and prejudices.

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The Triumvirate in the third and final season.

Even though it was cancelled after only three seasons, reruns in the 70’s made Star Trek an international, cultural phenomenon. By the time the first movie was released, girls were writing fanfiction in their college dorms (three cheers for our fandom foremothers!), people were actually attending Star Trek conventions (like, we probably wouldn’t have Comic-Con if it wasn’t for those people, okay?)…and poor William Shatner was having to accept the fact that he was going to be Captain Kirk for a long, long time.

And now it’s been 50 years since “The Man Trap” first aired. We’re still writing fanfics and people are still attending conventions–and not only that, but we have four (soon to be five) other series and something like thirteen movies! We even have technology directly inspired by Star Trek. The only thing that’s really changed is that William Shatner is okay with being Captain Kirk forever. All’s well that ends well 😉

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And as for me? Well, I’ve been a Trekkie a little over a year, and in spite of my issues with its worldview, it’s still my happy place. There’s nothing better than settling down with an episode after a long day of work and writing. I love being able to have inside jokes with my Trekkie friends and family. I love knowing that Kirk and Spock and McCoy and all the rest of them are always going to be there to make me laugh and cry and look up at the stars and whisper, “Space…the final frontier.”

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Oh…happy birthday you big silly wonderful old show. I love you to Vulcan and back.

“The rivers shall not overwhelm you…”

Water is pretty much omnipresent where I live. Unless we’re in a drought, “Louisiana Summertime” usually means a thunderstorm every day: dark clouds roll in from the Gulf, and once they’ve dumped their load they leave behind the sweet, heavy smell of rain and an oppressive humidity that makes your hair and clothes stick to your skin.

The Gulf itself is maybe four hours from my house. Look at a map of our area and you’ll see countless creeks and streams, draining into this or that river. But as friendly and healthy and welcome as water can be, it can be a fearsome enemy, too.

I was only a few months old when Hurricane Andrew hit. I was 10 when Hurricane Lili went from the perfect nightmare to a simple rainmaker. (“Miraculous,” they called it.) I was 13 when Hurricane Katrina hit. 16 for Hurricane Gustav. I know what it’s like to sit in a power-less house, watching the water fall in sheets while the trees twist and groan. I’ve seen more videos of a flooded New Orleans than I can count. I’ve heard all the Katrina stories. I even have a few of my own from Gustav (like that heart-stopping moment when I heard the sound I only ever heard in my nightmares: the freight-train roar of a tornado).

But as familiar as I am, because of my location, with the force of water and the devastation it can leave behind, it used to be just head-knowledge. I saw it in newspaper photographs, or on TV. Flooding was something that happened to people two hours away in New Orleans.

It didn’t happen to people down the street.

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Denham Springs, Louisiana

It’s been two weeks today since “The Storm Without a Name” hit. No one could’ve known then how quickly things would change. Even for those of us who didn’t have their homes destroyed, life suddenly went from Status Normal (“eh, it’s just a bad thunderstorm”) to Emergency Mode (“oh my gosh, this isn’t normal, what’s going on here?!”). Familiar houses and streets that never, ever flooded–not even during a hurricane–were full of filthy river water in a matter of hours. Parking lots came to life as the water reached the cars and sent all the horns blaring, lights flashing, and windshield wipers scraping.

My brother says that watching a car drown is a terrible sight. It’s like the car panics, tries desperately to stay alive, and then just gives up. He says the total helplesness of the situation is enough to make you cry.

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A dear friend from Slidell came up to help rip flooring out of my grandparents’ church. My grandmother told me one of the first things he said when he arrived was: “Oh…it’s the smell.”

He went through Katrina; he knows what flooded homes smell like. I don’t know if it’s the wet sheetrock, the mildew, the rotten food that floated out of tipped-over refrigerators, or the muddy river water that pools under flooring and fills every single pot and pan and cup and cast-iron skillet left in a cabinet–but whatever causes that smell, you can’t miss it.

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And obviously, you don’t ever forget it.

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Decades of waterlogged memories sag alongside countless streets. Antique china cabinets, once-comfy sofas, boxes full of photo albums that are too swollen with water to salvage…it’s all sitting out by the road, waiting for the garbage trucks that may take weeks, maybe even months, to finish the job. Look around some neighborhoods, and there’s nothing but sprawling piles of moldy possessions as far as the eye can see.

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source: http://licatholic.org

I’ve heard the gut-wrenching sobs of a woman after she found years of beloved Bible study materials, sticky and slimy and falling apart at the touch. I watched another woman sigh sadly over a streaked photo of herself on her wedding day; her husband was slipping her ring on in the photo, and she looked radiant. The bigger wedding album had gone to the street days ago.

“But it could’ve been worse,” you hear them say over and over again. “At least we’re safe and sound. Most things can be replaced. But we’re alive, and that’s enough.”

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When my precious sister-in-law walked into our house after hours of sitting in the sun as an evacuee, her face was red from sunburn and crying. When she wrapped her arms around me and dropped her forehead on my shoulder, I almost started crying too.

The same thing happened when I met my great-aunt in the driveway of her flooded house. She had tears in her eyes, and as she put an arm around me she dropped her head on my shoulder.

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The suffering is deep and raw and it’ll take time to heal. But the spirit of compassion and community is just as palpable as the pain of loss and uncertainty. Friends, churches, convention centers, even the movie studios in Baton Rouge have opened their doors to people who never thought they’d ever be homeless. Louisianans know how to eat well even in the worst crisis: last Saturday it seemed like there was a food booth on every corner of Denham Springs, with volunteers handing out fresh lunches to the families who’d come out to gut their own homes. Relatives and friends have come in from other cities and states to help rip out flooring and sheetrock. Nobody’s afraid to get their hands dirty.

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Perhaps most poignantly, black families help white families, and white families help black families. Nobody cares about the color of your skin, or where you live, or how you vote. We’re neighbors, and that’s all that matters–and don’t let anyone in politics or the media tell you anything different about us. The unconditional love we’ve witnessed reminds me of something a very wise man once said…something about how, one day, “we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope…we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.” 

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Louisiana is hurting, but not defeated…wary of a rather disconcerting tropical forecast, but hopefully not frozen in fear. There’s a lot to do and everyone’s ready to do it, with open hands and open hearts. No doubt we’ll be telling stories about the Great Flood of 2016 to our children and grandchildren…but at least they’ll be stories of incredible perseverance, kindness, and courage.

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And in spite of the suffering, those are still the best kinds of stories.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you…for I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:2-3)

A quickie post + request!

I know I NEVER make more than one blogpost a day, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures!

My sister Emily has set up a GoFundMe for our brother TJ and sister-in-law Jenni. You can read their whole story here, but the long story made short is that they’ve lost both of their cars in the devastating floods, and we’re trying to raise $5,000 so they can “start from scratch.”

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If you can donate anything to this fund, even the smallest amount, every cent is greatly appreciated.

Thank y’all so much!

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