screengrab from Star Trek: The Original Series with William Shatner as Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as Spock
They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but my experience with William Shanter was wonderful and made me appreicate him and Captain Kirk even more.
I was born in Liverpool on the 12th August 1980 into a decade that brought us the greatest ever Saturday morning kid’s TV shows. Shows such as Transformers, He-Man and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to name a few thrilled children all over the country, allowing parents a few hours of peaceful rest bite from the normal chaos of the average day to day. A decade of questionably fashion sense, obscene shoulder pads, ripped jeans, oversized blazers and an era in pop music dominated by synthesizers and samplers. On a global scale, Liverpool might not have been the city that it used to be, it’s docks often referred to as a gateway to the world and a vibrant hub of international trade but it was still a well known and famous city thanks to some of its more recent exports in the form of the Beatles and the city’s two football clubs (or soccer depending on where you are reading this from).
For me, the 80’s was a great time to be a child as I was young in the era of the film merchandising boom, with many films released during the 80’s taking their lead from the groundbreaking sci-fi film, Star Wars who’s own action figure’s had become must haves and earned the films creator millions of dollars in the process. I had not a single care in the world, I would spend the week playing with my toys, pitting the Real Ghostbusters against the might of He-Man. At the weekend in the mornings I watched cartoons and then played football in the afternoon in the park with my friends. This all changed of course when I reached 10 years old and had to come to terms with the fact that I was starting secondary school (high school for my American friends) at one of the roughest schools within the district. My joyful childhood would be gone so quick at such a young age and it’s still something that puzzles me today. The talk of cartoon’s, playing with toys and
“have you seen that Star Trek thing?”
action figures seemed juvenile and forbidden and would often be met with ridicule, bullying and a tirade of derogatory abuse. If you didn’t talk music, football, fighting or girls then you were cast aside. For me, who even to this day considers myself a child a heart, it was a rude wake up call. It was around my 3rd year at school that I met my best friend and who then in turn introduced me to a TV show that would change my life.
Star Trek the Next Generation aired on UK screens in September 1990 for which the BBC had the rights to show, however after the ‘Best of Both Worlds part 2’ episode the BBC lost the show to Sky TV which just so happened to be around the same time that my parents had paid to get Sky installed. This of course had nothing to do with TV shows or even Star Trek but mainly down to the fact that the football leagues had reformed and the newly launched FA Premiership League was having the games broadcast live by Sky Sports and my father was not going to miss out on that. It was after a vigorous game of football on the fields close to where I lived when my friend asked the question that changed everything, “have you seen that Star Trek thing?”
And that was that. On the way home from the park we talked about the first couple of episodes and my interest was perked. That week I asked my parents if we could watch it and to my surprise they said yes. I cannot remember the first episode that I saw but I do remember it blowing me away, I was thrilled with what I was seeing. At the time I had seen all three Star Wars films (yes there used to be only three) which introduced me to sci-fi, followed by the BBC sitcom Red Dwarf I
screengrab from Star Trek: The Next Generation
fell in love with the genre. This however was something completely different, I was too young at the time to fully understand the dynamics of the show, what it was trying to offer and say; a different point of view of the future were all men lived equally without war or poverty and working towards the betterment of humanity. What the show did allow me to do however, was to escape from the daily trudge of life in school. My friend and I would watch it when we could and talked about it while playing our computer games. I was not fully in love with the franchise yet, although I liked Captain Picard, for me he was too disciplined and strict. Today he is one of the best characters to be created but back then he just wasn’t my cup of tea, I used to route for William T Riker. He was a bit more like how I would have liked myself to have been, I think mainly because of how he was with the ladies, something I struggled a lot with in my teenage years.