By Mike Medeiros
Welcome to the Spirit of Trek, a weekly column where we identify and celebrate Gene Roddenberry’s vision by discovering how its messages has started to permeate throughout humanity’s collective consciousness by looking for it on the Internet and within popular culture. This week we’re going to be taking a look at the extraordinary efforts that some Star Trek fans will take to share their trek fandom with the world – specifically, we will be taking a closer look at Seth MacFarlane.
Star Trek fans once lurked in the shadows, keeping their fandom to themselves or sharing them with select like-minded individuals. People didn’t understand what it was that made Star Trek special. Trekkies didn’t see Star Trek as merely a Sci-Fi television show. It was so much more. These people saw the best of humanity and strove to make the Spirit of Trek a part of their everyday lives. These brave visionaries kept the Spirit of Trek alive when it seemed that Star Trek was long dead and gone.
Trekkies would be ridiculed for their fandom and looked upon as strange, obsessed individuals in need of psychiatric help or pity. They may have been socially awkward individuals, but they were also brilliant, compassionate, and courageous people that wanted the human race to evolve into something better than it was. To these people, Star Trek was much more than a television show, whose heyday had long since passed; it was a blueprint for a brighter future where all people were equal and valued.
After nearly half a century; an animated series, four television spinoffs, nearly a dozen feature films, countless conventions, and so many fan fiction stories, audio dramas, and fan-made productions; the perception of Star Trek and its fans has slowly transformed over time. Where we were once the butt of many jokes, and pitied as disturbed individuals; we are now accepted and have taken prominent roles in society, industry, business, and entertainment.
When this transformation occurred, I can’t say for sure. It has been a long time coming. Some credit the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation, while others point to the recent success of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot film. TNG was nominated for and won many awards, including several Emmys during its run. This certainly brought it into the spotlight and allowed for Star Trek to be taken seriously. However, I can’t ignore the efforts Abrams undertook to change the perception and eliminate the stigma behind Star Trek. What comes to my mind, are the dozen or so articles that came out prior to the film’s release featuring well-known celebrities admitting that they are Star Trek fans. Some of these celebrities included: Matt Groenig, Tim Kring, Chris Jericho, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks, Rosario Dawson, Kelsey Grammar, Christian Slater, Whoopi Goldberg, Stephen Hawking, Mira Sorvino, Megan Fox, Al Gore, Colin Powell, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Eddie Murphy, Richard Branson, Ben Stiller, and Seth MacFarlane. I will spend the remainder of this column speaking about Seth MacFarlane.
Seth MacFarlane is the creator of the animated television shows Family Guy, American Dad, and The Cleveland Show. He’s an American actor, voice actor, animator, screenwriter, comedian, producer, director, and singer. He has appeared in a pair of episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise (The Forgotten and Affliction) as the patriotic engineer Stewart Rivers. He has even mentioned in an interview last year that he would love to bring Star Trek back to television. I believe if anyone had the ability to return Star Trek to the small screen and use it to tell stories about the future of humanity while drawing attention to the issues that we face today, Seth MacFarlane can.
One of the commonalities that identify Star Trek fans is the usage of references, in jokes, and more. For instance, I can’t tell you how many times; the theme from Amok Time has sprung into my mind while watching some intense fight scene. Then, there are the eternally debated questions, like which captain is better: Kirk or Picard? If you’re a Star Trek fan, you probably have an opinion on the subject. FYI: It’s Sisko! But, I digress.
Seth MacFarlane is not afraid to let his geek flag fly. He has made countless Star Trek references in his animated shows. In American Dad, he named an episode: Star Trek. In The Cleveland Show, we saw Star Trek alumni Marina Sirtis, as well as Michael Dorn reprise his role as Worf, and who could forget the epic rap battle between Cleveland Brown Jr. and Kayne West.
However, with Family Guy, the Star Trek references and in-jokes jump to warp 9. Beginning with the second episode of the series, we learn that Peter Griffin’s favorite show is Star Trek and even see a few humorous clips of the Enterprise, Kirk and his crew. However, it does not end there. In every season of the series, we are treated with gags, references, guest appearances by Star Trek alumni, and even parodies of iconic scenes from TOS, TNG, and several of the films. Throughout the show’s 10 year run, we’ve seen Meg kill William Shatner; saw Neil Goldman discuss who’s better Kirk or Picard; Majell Barret voice the computer on Stewie’s ship; Kirk battling the Gorn Captain; a scene from TNG with Worf, Riker, and Picard; a parody of Spock’s Funeral and the Genesis scene from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Voyager’s Living Witness; the Mr. Sulu Show; Spock winning the Lottery; and even the music from TOS’s The Enemy Within and TNG’s The Best of Both Worlds Part 1, made their way into the show. Then, there’s the Family Guy movie: Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, where Quark Griffin speaks with Odo. However, the show’s most impressive homage to the Spirit of Trek was the seventh season episode, Not All Dogs Go To Heaven, where the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation was reunited at a convention and later kidnapped by Stewie to spend the day with him.
Seth MacFarlane’s passion for Star Trek is evident in his parodies, references, and jokes. So far, he has represented every Star Trek series except for Enterprise and the Animated Series. However, with Family Guy’s 11th season just getting under way, perhaps we will be seeing some of those shows represented in upcoming episodes. Stay tuned, because I most certainly will. Seth MacFarlane has kept the Spirit of Trek alive and well on television during a time when there is very little new Trek being made. If he were given the keys to Star Trek to bring it to the small screen, I believe that it would be in very good and capable hands.
The time has come to wrap up this week’s column. Thank you for joining me on this journey to discover how the Spirit of Trek has started to permeate throughout our culture with the hope that one day, Gene Roddenberry’s vision for humanity’s future will become a reality. If you come across something that you believe embodies the Spirit of Trek on the Internet or within popular culture, please do not hesitate to share it with me. I may discuss it in a future article. Live long and Prosper.
Copyright © 2013 Priority One Podcast.
Star Trek Online ™ & © 2012 CBS Studios Inc. All rights reserved. STAR TREK and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. This website is not endorsed, sponsored or affiliated with CBS Studios Inc. or the "Star Trek" franchise. The STAR TREK trademarks and logos are owned by CBS Studios Inc.