Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | February 18, 2012

Beam Me Out of the Closet, Scotty!

Okay, true confession.  Only a handful of you know my closet is crammed with Star Trek gadgets like my Borg Cube piggy bank, my Star Trek sound effects keychain, and plastic pointed ears.  By the age of sixteen I had attended my first Star Trek Convention, and knew every classic Trek episode by name and by heart.  When I left for college, Star Trek stayed home.  Then life, career, and family caught up with me.

But Star Trek left its mark.  As a kid I watched a lot of junk on TV, hardly noticing the difference between good and bad writing.  Well, that’s not quite true.  I knew all the writing on Gilligan’s Island stank, but watched it anyway.  I was fourteen when I noticed that the Star Trek reruns I was watching ran the gamut in quality.  Most were fine, some shone brilliantly and others fell flat.  I began to compare and analyze each episode, from the trashy Turnabout Intruder to the exquisite City on the Edge of Forever.

Each show featured the same cast, and followed the same format.  Each began with Red Shirts, those unfortunate crewmembers doomed to a cruel and unusual death before the first commercial break.  Law of the Universe.  I could live with that.  Many resorted to technobabble to explain and/or justify that week’s dilemma and resolution.  I could live with that too.   So what made one episode a masterpiece and another an epic failure?

Strange new worlds, the aliens that populated them, killer epidemics, and intergalactic wars provided intriguing backdrops.  That was enough for the action figure collectors.  But it was the emotional complexity of the cast I found most compelling.  Kirk, Spock, and McCoy were all so different from each other.  What interested me was their reactions to problems, interactions with each other, and their internal struggles.

My favorite episodes were lighthearted, like The Trouble with Tribbles or A Piece of the Action.  Other favorites, like Friday’s Child or Journey to Babel, gave us comic relief in between moments of high drama.  Many episodes were thinly disguised commentary on our own society.

A few shows were obviously written by people who didn’t understand the characters or who sold them out to squeeze a plot from a limp and pale idea.  The Galileo 7  was bad writing, and character assassination, pure and simple, of poor Mr. Spock.

From the simple exercise of comparison and analysis, I learned that I love humor, and use it now in whatever I do.  I prefer character-driven fiction.  I learned how to set up a story, and build tension, and be true to my characters.

I hope you will embrace whatever series, book, or show inspired and helped make you the writer you are today, be it Star Trek, Nancy Drew, Harry Potter or The Simpsons.  Analyze it, explore it, own it!

Whatever works for you, may you live long and prosper

Was there a particular book, author, or television series that influenced or influences your writing?

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Responses

  1. Write on! I, too, am a former Star Trek junkie, but I no longer have the toys. It’s in my brain, no denying, and I think all fans were inspired by our fearless leaders to thoughts of adventures in a future world where humans only disagreed with Aliens – the United Federation had taken care of all the problems back home on little Earth. LL&P

    • Dear Secret Admirer,

      I went years without seeing Star Trek. Then I had kids and had the pleasure of introducing it to The Next Generation of Trekkers. I was surprised at the visceral response I had the first time I heard the transporter sound effect, and there I was, transported back into Federation space! That’s when I got all my toys–sometimes I even let the kids play with them. L.L. & P.!

  2. I still find myself wishing for a Transporter very often . . . and a chance to chat with Spock ..

    • I really think that Star Trek did transport people–for a short while–into another world. I think that’s why I love sci-fi and historical fiction–so transporting, such a great escape! Isn’t it also interesting to see which one of the three original trio–Kirk, Spock, and McCoy–people are drawn to? Thanks so much for stopping by, Mary.

  3. I used to have a captain’s insignia and one of those sound effects key fobs. I watched the very first episode and was hooked for the next 45 years, all five series. When there was no more Star Trek on TV, I got rid of my TV. It was a huge part of my life. I just wish our politicians had been Trekkies and learned the Prime Directive. Yes, it influenced my writing, and my thinking in general. Now and then, I remember to “boldly go” where I have never gone before.

    • Dear Yaisage,

      That is so interesting! I wonder how many other closet Trekkers we know! Thanks for stopping by. I really love to hear from you.

  4. Great advice!! Get to know the details of anything and it may lead you into the universe. But does that include commercials? (Just kidding).

    Blessings,
    Tom

  5. Wow, Naomi, blasts from the past with some of those episode names. I loved that show, and STTNG was a good one as well.

    Boy, so much television influenced me. An old show called The Immortal, with Christopher George. The Incredible Hulk. Banacek. I could go on and on. Remington Steele.

    Stop me, or I’ll ramble on. 🙂 Good post.

    • Hi mj. You are probably the only other person on earth who remembers The Immortal! “I was a test driver. Then one day the doctor told me I had some kind of funny blood. I don’t understand it. All I know is…I gotta live free.” I LOVED that show! I used to watch Time Tunnel as a kid, but that show didn’t really stand up to the test of time. Watching it as an adult, I can see that the acting and scripts were not very good, but I loved the idea of traveling through time. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Can’t believe you remembered the Immortal, either. We are probably the two people … 🙂

  6. Nice post, Mom! Live long and prosper to you too.

    I know my writing is a hodgepodge of influences–yes, including Star Trek. I’ve also been inspired by Firefly, Tolkien, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joseph Heller, Joan Sfar, the Sherlock Holmes tales, and of course the various stories I heard, told, and read as a kid.

    • Hi Bea,I can see those influences in your writing, but you also have your own unique voice. It certainly shines through in your writing blog, Adventures for the Faint of Heart.

      • Thank you!

  7. I like science fiction a lot, my favorite books of all time have been 1984, Brave New World, and the Illustrated Man. And I think that it shows in my photography, I tend to go for the fantasy type of black and white sceneries, moody shots and dark-toned macros. As for my writing, I really admire Annie Q. Syed, you’ll find her page here http://annieqsyed.com/
    Thanks for sharing such a great thoughtful post!

  8. Good post. I sometimes wonder whether aspiring writers ever read anything! Ha Ha… Perhaps, “they” will read your blog. We can only hope…

  9. “A few shows were obviously written by people who didn’t understand the characters or who sold them out to squeeze a plot from a limp and pale idea.”

    Too true, not only for Star Trek but for many other shows that held on too long: Mary Tyler Moore Show, Soap, The Ellen Show, Will & Grace……..oh the list is endless!

  10. […] I’ve always been a Trek Geek so in my opinion, the best prize was an email address “@ starfleet.com,”and that’s even before I realized it was the gift that would keep on giving.  It was snatched twice by Star Trek officianados, AKA Trekkers.  When my daughter Bea’s turn came, she commandeered the Starfleet address and no one could take it from her, as she was the third to claim it.  At the holiday’s end, she returned to school. […]

  11. […] I grew up on Star Trek reruns.  The show helped me formulate ideas about writing, as well as life.  It was an enthusiasm I passed on to my kids. No wonder I became the Proud Mom of a Starfleet Cadet and that so many of our parties… […]

  12. I don’t believe I was ever as analytical as you about my tv viewing. I loved Perry Mason, both as an adult and a child. I didn’t watch much tv as a child – cartoons Shirley Temple reruns with my mom, Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons. My toys didn’t reflect what I watched either except my mom’s Shirley Temple doll, which I wore out. I love how your family just takes on all the characters and puts their own spin on them. You must have a lot of fun. 🙂

    • Hi Marsha, I remember my dad watching Perry Mason lying on the living room floor, trying to read the paper, while we kids climbed all over him like a playground toy! Thom’s mom had a Shirley Temple doll, but hers was long gone before kids came along. I used to watch her old movies, too.

      • Fun memories of your dad. I remember my Grandpa liking it so much. He read all the books as well.


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