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The next generation boldly goes where many went before

It was love at first sight. After 216 episodes and 6,120 minutes, I have found myself in an unlikely situation: I’m a Trekker, through and through.

After watching a few episodes of the original series, I dragged my sister into the equation, and we watched the rest of the three original seasons together. William Shatner is the least subtle actor in the history of the profession, and there is virtually no production value (an alien is not supposed to be just a human with blue ears). The crew spits out pseudoscientific nonsense (“the dilithium crystals are smashed into the warp engine circuitry!”), the premises are often hilariously strange (“Oh no! A floating rainbow space cube is blocking our way!), and the overly dramatic music reveals every plot twist ahead of time.

In other words, it is brilliant, unadulterated perfection in a Starfleet uniform.

We both agreed that Spock was by far the most useful character. How many times does Spock save the day with a Vulcan mind meld or nerve pinch? His logic and repressed human emotion serve to illustrate a duality that we found . . . fascinating.

At the end of the 80th and last original episode, my sister and I turned to look at each other nervously. It was time to jump a century, switch captains and begin “The Next Generation.”

At first, we were disappointed. The sets looked too professional, the special effects were too big, and the transporters and phasers didn’t make funny buzzing noises anymore. The new Enterprise was much too pretty.

We missed the crusty banter and the by-the-seat-of-their-pants ridiculousness. We missed Spock. (We still miss Spock.) Captain Picard, a Frenchman with a British accent, drinks Earl Grey, quotes Shakespeare, and he probably has the Prime Directive (a statute of non-intervention) tattooed above his heart. Comparing that to Kirk’s “fire the phasers!” diplomacy made us feel nostalgic.

It took us a few episodes, but slowly, we warmed to the idea that “Star Trek” could be both serious and seriously good. After the first season of “TNG,” we were hooked.

The nature of humanity is put quite literally on trial in one of my favorite episodes, “The Measure of a Man,” in which the sentience of the android Data is debated. Picard’s moving closing argument in defense of Data’s freedom is just one of many moments from the six seasons of “TNG” we’ve watched so far that have left my sister and me stunned into a silence that lasted well into the end credits.

We have reached the point where every episode seems to shatter a pre-existing notion or to illuminate a blind spot. “TNG” persists in asking easy questions like “what is the role of humanity in the universe?” It’s inspirational, for crying out loud.

My sister and I are approaching the end of our “TNG” journey, but we’ve just begun our odyssey through the “Star Trek” universe. (Thank goodness for syndication.)

I’ve come to realize that the world of “Star Trek” is our own; Sector 001, the Terran System, is our Earth. There will always be Romulans and the Borg to do battle with. There will be doctors holding beeping tricorders and security officers firing photon torpedos and first officers who raise red alerts.

Kirk and Picard are our heroes, Spock and Data are our lightning rods, and the Enterprise is our home, now and forever.

Q, an infamous adversary of Picard, says, “It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross, but it’s not for the timid.”

Such is interstellar space, and such is life. Both are for the intrepid: challengers, explorers, and captains are we all.

My favorite quote, however, belongs not to Q but to Data, who says, “ If being human is not simply a matter of being born flesh and blood, if it is instead a way of thinking, acting, and feeling, then I am hopeful that one day I will discover my own humanity. . .Until then, Commander Maddox, I will continue learning, changing, growing, and trying to become more than what I am.”

That is all any of us can hope to do.

Warp-9, Ensign. Engage.

Emily Ge, a senior at Charles Wright Academy, lives in Gig Harbor. She is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at geemily26@gmail.com.

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