My Star Trek Story, and “Into Darkness” Review

Spoilers ahead. The following is based on true events.

I’m 13 years old, at a Star Trek convention by myself. Rode the light rail from near my home into Downtown San Jose. I have long, fat legs and big glasses fixed to my face by colorful Chums dangling like a ponytail between my shoulder blades.

Amid a pond of fat white people I found a single open plastic folding chair. I wedged myself in and my favorite Star Trek character came on-stage and told some jokes and some stories and then he started answering questions from the audience. Up went my hand.

And there it stayed, straining to stay straight. I would periodically use my other hand to push up my glasses and hold up the hopeful arm.

John de Lancie would go on to kill more people in Breaking Bad than any other character. Back then, though, he played Q on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Q has God power to do anything, so he transports around the universe. Sometimes he enjoys f*cking with Captain Picard.

And he’s not calling on me. WHY?!

A huge man whose gut is straining the fabric of his white T shirt is sitting almost directly behind me. He raised his meaty right arm up and cleared his throat. “Haahrmph!” Like an animal.

Me and Q both turn to look at him.

“Yes, sir?” Q called on the fat man.

“This boy here.” He keeps his arm raised, but his hand becomes fingers pointing right down onto me. “He’s had his hand up for a really long time.”

Q turns the spotlights of his eyes onto me, but I’m still looking at the fat man. My mouth drops open and all the blood in my body, all those pints, so much blood in my face I can feel the skin stretching with pressure.

My mouth stays open as I rotate 180 degrees toward Q. Why, fat man?

I’m panting. My glasses slide down so I push them back up and all the fat white people are looking at me.

“Yes.” He says it to me like a hissing snake, down from on high. “Yes, my lad?”

I gather myself. Remembering to breathe helps.

“Is there anything a Q can’t do?” I ask him.

All the eyes, hundreds of eyes, motion off me to him. He’s staring down on me. He brings the microphone closer as he dips his head. He’s looking at me with his brow down, like a threat.

“No.” The word resonates, echoing off the vast room’s walls.

He still stares. The fat folk all around me rumble with a chuckle made as one, but I’m not in on this joke.

He moves to the next raised hand with a suddenly beaming smile.

Q was not in any of the Star Trek movies. No matter what anyone says, ever, Star Trek’s best medium was television.

Come back in time a little farther (further?), to a Star Trek convention in Pennsylvania. I’m 9. My lanky, handsome dad is sitting beside me. We’re on plastic folding chairs. He has big glasses too, and poofy hair.

There are fewer people here than there will be at the one with Q in the California future. (Moving sucked.) They are fat, though, and so is James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original. Before this night is through he will sign two little Scotty cardboard trading cards I have.

Scotty is telling my dad and me and everyone that he didn’t really like Star Trek 5. He didn’t like the bad guy who somehow turns into God at the end. Scotty says his favorite is “The one with the whales.”

You can tell watching Star Trek 4 (The Voyage Home) that the cast had fun making that one. It’s light and sweet. Kirk’s blonde marine biologist girlfriend is certainly spunky and cute.

No joke – just this last Friday, as we were leaving the office, a fellow nerd(ish) coworker and I happened to be discussing Star Trek bad guys. What came to her mind as the baddest was the Borg.

“Star Trek: First Contact” was the best, in hindsight, of the Next Generation movies. (Nemesis is good too.) First Contact’s bad guys is the Borg. Imagine a collective of cyborgs who all share the same brain; they travel galaxies in a scarily gigantic robot cube loaded with laser weapons. The Borg is a virus on a human-sized scale. Its singular objective was to assimilate whole races, and it wanted humans bad.

Jonathan Frakes, who played Capt. Picard’s trusty sidekick Commander Riker throughout all those great Next Generation years, was the director of “First Contact.” You think Riker’s gonna make a Star Trek movie with the Borg that isn’t a classic of the series? No way. “First Contact” wasn’t perfect (*cough*Data-and-the-Borg-Queen*cough*), but it was pretty great.

The new “Star Trek” movie, “Into Darkness,” is so good. This actor named Benedict Cumberbatch (I know!) plays the bad guy, Khan. He’s awesome in the role. Scary voice. Super-strong and pumped up to fight. Has a cool, villainous back story that makes him more interesting.

At one point Zachary Quinto as New Spock actually calls Leonard Nimoy as Old Spock, who confirms Khan is indeed the toughest foe William Shatner’s Kirk ever faced.

And then Kirk dies to save the Enterprise, preserving the chain of events that will lead one day to Captain Picard beating the Borg on the brink of Earth’s assimilation.

Spock, this time, is the one who screams “KHHAAAN!!!” And it is awesome. The questions raised about timeline continuity are fascinating, but it’s also just really cool to see these two great characters share this dramatic moment. “Wrath of Khan” had the same scene in an alternate universe, with Kirk and Spock reversed.

I really loved that the “Into Darkness” director J.J. Abrams put that scene in this movie. He may not have been a Trekkie, but Abrams understands, and must have a fondness for, the source material. His Star Wars movie, due soon, will be great.

(If I had one quibble with “Into Darkness” it’s this: I thought it should have ended when the Tribble twitched.)

Riker: “I don’t need your fantasy women!”

The summer sun was setting over San Jose’s gappy skyline as I left that Star Trek convention where Q told me he could do anything. The big stairway outside the convention center was flanked by one of those kinetic sculptures with the balls rolling around on tracks. I pushed up my glasses as I jogged down those stairs toward the light rail stop.  I rubbed my aching shoulder. It had physically, literally hurt to hold my arm up so long.

Stupid Q.



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