13 THINGS I Loved About CLASSIC STAR TREK as a Kid



Growing up with classic Star Trek, the original 1966-69 series, there was always a palpable feel of creator Gene Roddenberry behind it all. When I look back, really think about it, he was probably one of the first SF creators—beyond prose writers—whose name I knew.

It was always there of course at the beginning of each Star Trek episode, and he was all over my much-loved copy of The Making of Star Trek, as well as in Starlog Magazine. Gene was The Great Bird of the Galaxy, and we knew it and respected him for it. He was George Lucas before George Lucas. He was The Man.

Early mockup of the latest essay collection edited by Jim. More on that below!

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that childhood memories mean a lot to me. That great feeling when everything was new and fresh, and there was an entire galaxy out there to discover and explore, just can’t be beat. The late Roddenberry — who was born 102 years ago on Aug. 19, 1921 — and Star Trek are a big part of that for me, and now that his name is barely bandied about anymore in connection with the property, at least compared to my halcyon days of the very early 1970s when I was becoming a SF Kid, I feel a tribute is needed to the Great Bird.

And so, here it is. It is not logical, perhaps, but it is often true. Happy Birthday, Gene. Here are 13 THINGS I LOVED ABOUT CLASSIC STAR TREK AS A KID, as when the world was new…

Doctor McCoy. “Bones” is most likely my favorite Star Trek character, or at least the one I gravitated toward as a kid. Kirk was a level of coolness I could never hope to attain, and Spock was, well, Spock, so McCoy was a guy who maybe I could actually talk to. He seemed like he’d maybe like kids. And he was funny in his grumpiness. That was attainable for me.

Submarine Warfare in Space. I was too young to realize what Balance of Terror was emulating back then, but the idea of spaceships duking it out in “silent running” fashion really appealed to me, as did how cool the Romulan commander was.

Klingon Battlecruisers. Speaking of spaceships, I have always loved the design of the original Klingon ship, and always will. If the Enterprise’s look was a leap forward in artistic thinking, the Klingon battlecruiser was the dark, badass side of that same coin. When I got that model kit back in the day, I thought it couldn’t get any better.

The Squire of Gothos. Maybe fans don’t necessarily think of Trelane, played by the amazing William Campbell, as one of the series’ main villains, but I’ve always placed him in that category. He had a cool wonderland full of toys, held the crew in the palm of his hand, and in the end turned out to be a kid just like me… and I always figured he’d sneak away again sometime from his parents to make more mischief.

The Gorn. You knew this one was coming, right? For a kid watching Star Trek, especially a Monster Kid like me, this was paydirt, man. This was the motherlode, the big, green lizard guy money shot. It may seem clunky now, but there wasn’t anything else quite like the Gorn on TV back then, not until the Sleestaks came along—but c’mon! The Gorn would eat them for breakfast.

Khan. OK, yeah. Sure. I’ll give it up here for the guy. Mr. Rourke before the island. He had to be on the list. You don’t watch Space Seed as a kid and not walk away wanting to be Khan just a little. Today, you watch Montalban and you see all the subtle things he’s doing, especially in the dinner party scene, but as a kid you just see the badassery and you love it.

The Horta. Man, the show had so much to offer us Monster Kids, and the Horta is right up there with the Gorn for Monster Goodness, albeit in a completely different way. I remember trying to figure out as a kid just what the heck the Horta was, but always feeling a lot of respect for it, as well as sympathy. And the mind meld sequence? Brrr.

“De ahn-voon and de lerrrpa…” There’ve got to be other fans like me who were drawn to Amok Time and saw it as a peak of greatness for the series back then, right? I mean, Vulcan? The fight? Spock acting all weird? Kirk kind of holding his own, sort of? And the creepy old Vulcan lady with the great accent? I don’t know how you can watch this one as a kid and not feel like you were just on a real alien planet.

Redjac. Scary. That Wolf in the Fold stuff was scary and creepy. “Die! Die! Everybody die!” I mean, that was a kids show?

Journey to Babel. This episode was sort of a sequel to Amok Time in that it gave me more Vulcan stuff, and a whole bunch of aliens to boot. I think I loved the Andorians more than any other Trek alien species, and always wished there would have been a lot more appearances of them than what we got. Also, why does Spock’s dad look familiar?

Gangsters. A Piece of the Action was then and remains today one of my most favorite Star Trek episodes. It has everything: drama, action, humor. It also has William Shatner expanding what we knew about Captain Kirk in ways we could have never really imagined. As a kid, it was like he suddenly got cooler as he got funnier.

Kollos. We’re back to creepiness with this one. As a kid, I recall how hard it was to wrap my brain around just exactly what Kollos was in Is There in Truth No Beauty? The idea of a formless being who lived in a box and made people go stark, raving bonkers if they looked at it was high concept for me back then, and not a little bit frightening. And cool.

Wink of an Eye. You’ll probably never see this one high on the list of “Best Trek Episodes Ever,” but I have always loved it. I didn’t care if the science was all wonky—as a kid I was drawn to the “other world behind the real world” set-up and wished that I could go there and maybe see Spock running around fixing the Enterprise and stuff. That’d be neat.


— The STAR TREK Top 13 Episode Countdown. Click here.

— From COP SHOWS to STAR TREK: A Birthday Salute to GENE RODDENBERRY. Click here.

13th Dimension columnist Jim Beard’s new book of essays, by a typically stellar selection of experts and superfans, is all about growing up Trek. Galloping Around the Cosmos: Memories of TV’s Wagon Train to the Stars From Today’s Grown-Up Kids is out soon — and here’s the official description:

Jim’s latest essay collection, is out soon.

And the Children Shall Lead!

Though creator Gene Roddenberry endowed his groundbreaking 1966-69 science fiction show Star Trek with plenty of substance and style to engage and entertain adult viewers, it also amazingly attracted the attention of younger eyes and imaginations—and in doing so forged entire generations of Trek Kids!

Watching the original series for the first time was a heady experience for a child, so much so it often made such an indelible impression that lasted their entire life. Galloping Across the Cosmos sets out to collect the memories of those who recall those early days in front of the TV for voyages into the Final Frontier alongside the stalwart crew of the Starship Enterprise, characters who became their teachers, mentors, and, yes, even friends along the way.

Beam up to the Federation’s top-of-the-line vessel with writer-editor Jim Beard as he curates a collection of essays from Grown-Up Kids who remember a time when Star Trek was new, fresh, and exciting—and even able to shape the people they would become as adults.

We need warp speed now, Mr. Sulu!

Keep checking 13th Dimension and the Becky Books Facebook page for updates on availability.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Jim, I always enjoy the insight to your childhood. Our paths seem to be taken in similar directions. I can agree with many of your picks and I have a few I’d have to add to make my list. Bones was cool but it was Kirk I wanted to be as a kid.

    When do we get another taste of your own prose? Any stories out there to tell other than your editing?

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    • Buck, thank you for the continued kind words. So glad you liked this new article. As far as prose, I just published the third book in my D.C. Jones and Adventure Command trilogy, and have my very first Western story in the all-new SIX-GUN LEGENDS from Flinch Books.

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  2. Hi Jim. I’m a 1st generation Trekkie and darned proud of it. I’m 70 now and still a Trekkie, NOT a Trekker! I loved this essay and thank You for it.
    Sadly, since this is Gene’s Birthday and He is no longer with us, I have to say, (and You just KNEW this was coming), “He’s DEAD, Jim!

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for beaming in for this, Larry! Me, personally, I’m a T-r-e-k-k-l-e 🙂

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  3. A great list, Jim. I’m thrilled to be part of the Essay book. I love Star Trek.

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