All good things…

This story begins in March of 1992. I was dating this guy who was really into the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation and somehow after weeks of insistence he finally convinced me to watch an episode with him. The show was at that point in the middle of its fifth season and…hang on. Maybe I should back up a little more.

I was always aware, of course, that Star Trek was going on around me. Back in the early 1970s, I knew all about Kirk and Spock and the rest, but to be honest, I found everything about them completely boring. This is probably due to the fact that I was taken to Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 (“If the endless interstellar vistas of 2001: A Space Odyssey tested your patience, Star Trek: The Motion Picture will make you cry like a little star child,” wrote one reviewer, which I can fully confirm.). When Star Trek: The Next Generation started up I was so completely uninterested, I refused to acknowledge its existence.

So it was with great astonishment that I found myself instantly in love with the show. I’ve always said that it was a good thing the first episode I happened to see was exactly the kind I like. Show me anything that involves a rift in the space-time continuum and I’ll show you an excellent Star Trek episode. I continued to watch Star Trek every week, plus I also found it necessary to go back and watch every single episode that I had missed (which had been helpfully taped by my stepmother, herself an enthusiastic Star Trek fan).

And then a little over two years later, in May of 1994, that same boyfriend and I watched the final episode. When it was over, I found myself sobbing, “What am I going to do now?” It was that devastating.

Therefore it was with a tiny bit of trepidation that earlier this year I decided to start all over again with my girls, ages 8 and 11. “I think you’re going to like this show,” I said all casual-like, as together we watched “Encounter at Farpoint” on the evening of March 3. And that’s all it took: they were hooked.

For the next five months, nearly every day (sometimes twice a day if we couldn’t resist) we watched all of Star Trek: The Next Generation from beginning to end. As rituals go, this one was pretty great. We always watched it on the laptop on my bed, my younger daughter always on my left, my older daughter always on my right.

Since I only remembered certain episodes, we’d always try to figure out from the first few minutes if this was going to be a boring Worf episode (my older daughter came to the following conclusion: episodes that had more than two Klingons in them were always insanely tedious) or the ones with Data that always seemed to be the most interesting to my younger daughter or the time-space ones that were, of course, my favorite.

A couple weeks ago, we figured out when the viewing of the last episode would take place and prepared accordingly: I made a huge German apple pancake for dinner (Say, do you know what this is? It’s better than you think. You slice up some apples and sauté them in butter and brown sugar and cinnamon. Then you pour over batter made of flour and half and half and eggs and vanilla, and pop the pan into the oven. The pancake rises gorgeously in there and you have these caramelized apples on the bottom. Why would you not want this for dinner?) and we then had bowls of Cherry Garcia ice cream while watching the show itself.

The plot of the final episode involves a paradox as Captain Jean-Luc Picard finds himself moving back and forth through time (see: “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time”) due to a spatial anomaly that he must somehow stop from forming in the future, which would ultimately destroy the past. I mean, it doesn’t get much better than that.

And while watching it last night, I felt a little bit of time unsticking myself, just for a moment anyway. I was 24 when I watched the finale for the first time. I was just a few months from quitting my first real job at Random House, which had the unexpected effect of making me completely aimless and totally depressed for months. That summer I would compose a list entitled Things That Always Make Me Happy. I was looking for things that made me happy under any circumstance (as things like “eating” and “music” had a way of turning bad at times). My final list would look like this:
Star Trek
NPR

That was pretty much it. But a couple months later, encouraged by this list, I would apply for a job at a public radio show on WNYC, a kind of marvelous spatial anomaly of its own, that would spin my life in an entirely new direction.

But back to the present. Here I was watching the finale again, this time with my daughters, two of the most wonderful people I know, yet people that I hadn’t even had an inkling of all those years ago.

Have you seen the last episode? Last night, as soon as the poker game started, I burst into tears, feeling much as I had the first time around. But then when it was over, my younger daughter said, “I just can’t stop smiling.” Which I found unexpected but entirely right on.

Because of course: the sky’s the limit.

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