Vulnerability Aboard the Enterprise

Star Trek Beyond collectible poster by Matt Taylor.
One simple pleasure of life is reconnecting with old friends after a prolonged separation. Perhaps over a meal you swap stories, catch up on each other’s lives, and remember what brought you together in the first place. That was how I felt about Star Trek Beyond.

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know Kirk and his diverse crew. I watched the show so often I could identify episodes after hearing a couple lines of dialogue. Although other series in the Trek universe scratched my itch for new stories, none of them quite evoked the same warmth for me.

Star Trek Beyond put me back in touch with my dear friends. The plot of the film is mostly an excuse to showcase the crew’s personalities.

Despite nagging doubts about his career decisions, Kirk remains both energetic and resolute in defending life—especially the lives of his crew. Spock approaches his problems—even romantic troubles—with cool detachment. McCoy greets every new crisis and opportunity with an evenhanded mixture of snark and competence. Sulu gets time in the spotlight as the de facto leader of crew members who are temporarily separated from the command structure. Uhura serves as Sulu’s second, showing her heroic side. Chekov steps up his game as Kirk’s apprentice in action.

Kirk has won the crew’s affection because they know they can rely on him.

Just like a dinner with old friends, the characters reminded me of the things I loved and admired about them even as I learned about their new adventures. Kirk and company feel real to me; more like characters than mere collections of personality quirks.

Star Trek Beyond got me thinking about my own friendships. Who am I to my friends? The endlessly, annoyingly, pragmatically logical Spock? The cantankerous McCoy? The over-eager ensign Chekov? Or would I be someone else in the Trek universe. Actually, I think sometimes I’m like the new character—Jaylah.

Stranded on an alien planet, Jaylah is introduced when she rescues Scotty from other, more dangerous aliens. She single-handedly defeats a group of combatants using a clever bit of technology which projects multiple images of herself; making it appear that she is in several places simultaneously.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Jaylah has mastered the technology of deception. She hides behind illusions that keep her safe, but keep everyone else out. She has booby traps to stop the curious from getting too close. She’s secure, but she’s also stuck. She chooses to break cover because she needs help from the crew if she’s ever going to escape the planet. She has to risk it.

I’ve been like that; more than I want to admit. Around new people—and sometimes even my friends—I put up barriers to keep myself safe from vulnerability. Humour is a wonderful shield; it distracts people so they won’t look too closely at me. It works just like Jaylah’s projector; keeping people looking at something other than the real me.

But there’s a cost to that strategy.

Staying protected keeps me from getting hurt, however, it also keeps me from moving forward. I have a few  good friends and in all cases the friendships have developed through mutual honesty and vulnerability. That means I risk the possibility of being hurt or of hurting my friends. Breaking cover means deciding whether or not I am willing to live up to other people’s expectations.

That’s the hard choice of friendship. If it is to mean anything, it has to change you for the better.

More simply put, to have a friend you have to be a friend.

Just like a dinner with old friends, the characters reminded me of the things I loved and admired about them.

In Beyond, Uhura affirms her belief that Kirk will look after his crew. “Our captain will come for us,” she says. A bold statement, but one in which she has absolute faith.

Kirk has won the crew’s affection because they know they can rely on him.

The same thing is true of my good friends. Even when we are separated by time and distance, I know who they are. The duties of parenting kept my wife and I too busy to spend time with friends for several years. Now that we are empty-nesters, we find ourselves reconnecting with old friends. I am delighted to find that the things I admired in them years ago are still there now—and still worth admiring. Time has not diminished our ability to rely on one another.

My good friends are dependable; the kind of people I want to be around me in a crisis.

Which makes me want to be trustworthy in return. I’d like to be known for my sense of humour (when it’s not just protective cover) and fondness for wordplay. Being called clever would be nice, too. Most importantly, though, I’d like people to say I have integrity. That’s high praise indeed. The author of Proverbs said that it is “Better to be poor and walk in integrity than rich and crooked in one’s ways.”

That’s a high standard to live up to, but I think it’s worth the effort. Like the crew of the Enterprise, I’d like to be a good friend to the people closest to me.

Kevin Cummings

Kevin Cummings

Contributing Writer at Area of Effect
Kevin grew up reading the ABCs—Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke. Since then he's expanded his fandoms to include films, television, web series and any other geek property he can find.

He has been married to an extraordinarily patient woman for more than three decades and they have two adult sons. Kevin also has entirely too many DVD boxes with the words "Complete Series" on the cover. He enjoys exploring themes of faith through his fandoms.
Kevin Cummings

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