Friday, October 29, 2010

This Old Starship

by Drew Martin

Captain's Log, Stardate 2010. Have recently been joining my 10 year old son and 12 year old daughter every evening to watch early episodes of Star Trek, resulting in a strange phenomenon: life has improved on planet Earth.

Revisiting Star Trek has been a pleasant eye opener. Despite some flimsy props and dated effects, there is a lot of production in the shows: orchestrated music, a well-casted ensemble of characters with a few spurts of decent-but-melodramatic acting, and writing with substance that references the Bible, Greek mythology and Moby Dick.

Despite taking place more than 2,000 years in the future and being tagged with the nuances of English speakers from the mid 1960's, the Roddenberry sci-fi lingo is anchored in nautical terminology: most specifically, WWII battleship and submarine-flavored phrases...though many expressions, such as "captain's log" are much older.

One thing that I found interesting was the overarching concept of maintenance: keeping a crew in order and preventing the ship from falling apart. The U.S.S. Enterprise reminds me a lot of my 100+ year old house...things are always breaking and in need of clever repair. There is no Home Depot in outer space so jury-rigging* is key. Typically, I freak out at home when the project of the week leaves me spelunking in basement muck or covered in plaster dust but now I view these trying moments as episodic challenges. As fictional and fantastic as Star Trek may be, the characters' woes are intense and never ending.

Recently, my father and I cut out a busted section of steam piping next to my boiler and replaced it without jeopardizing a crew of 400 and this morning I discharged water from a broken washing machine with the luxury of not being under Klingon attack.

*fyi: jury-rig is a nautical term from 1788 referring to the jury mast (coined in 1616) to mean a temporary mast in response to damage from storm or battle...and, most likely, short for "injury" mast. Not to be confused with jerry-built (1869) for shoddy, makeshift construction.