My love for Star Trek goes back to even before my teenage years, which is why I have become most pleased that I have a holiday that I can celebrate. Fans of Star Wars have more than one. Actually, they have a 3-day celebration starting with May 4th (May the Fourth Be With You), followed by May 5th (Revenge of the Fifth) and May 6th (Revenge of the Sixth). Okay, so maybe those last two aren’t entirely original in how they copy each other, but I will applaud any fandom that finds dates to celebrate their passion. But today it is our turn as Star Trek fans to celebrate the science fiction franchise that left a permanent mark in popular culture. We have First Contact Day. Oh, but what is First Contact Day I hear you ask?
On November 22, 1996, Paramount Studios released the 8th movie of the Star Trek franchise. It was also the 2nd movie starring the cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The movie was Star Trek: First Contact. It dealt with plenty of the fun elements that have been successful in past Trek episodes, and this time it brought back time travel and the Borg, one of the most popular enemy species ever created. During the course of the movie, we discover that April 5, 2063, was the date when humans on Earth discovered that they were not alone in the universe as scientists from the planet Vulcan landed and made First Contact. It’s a significant moment in Trek canon. Up to that time Earth suffered from The Eugenics war of the late 1990s and then World War 3 ended some 10 years before First Contact Day. Humanity suffered a staggering loss of life and was plagued with poverty and disease. Once humans learned they weren’t alone in the universe the entire human culture began to change. Poverty and disease were wiped out within 50 years and Earth began to experience a new level of prosperity it had never known before. From there humans began to reach out to the stars. It was clumsy at first, but it would eventually lead to the stories as told in the original 1960s Star Trek series. All of this stems from First Contact Day.
So why is this day important to us? Well, there could be any number of reasons, but for me, I think there are two of them. First, it’s the day that we Trek fans (Trekkies, Trekkers, Trek fans, etc.) have adopted to say “this is when we wish to celebrate all things Star Trek!” People want to celebrate the fact that not only do we have a wonderful catalog of past shows and movies to watch, but new Trek shows are still in production, delighting fans both old and young with the exploits of a starship crew seeking out new lifeforms and new civilizations! The argument could be made that we should be celebrating September 8th as that is the anniversary of the airing of the first Star Trek episode “The Man Trap.” However, celebrating it on April 5th has a tendency to feel more encompassing. This leads me to my second reason.
Star Trek’s popularity isn’t because it’s just some science fiction show with ships and ray guns (phasers). It’s a series about ideas. It dares to discuss issues about racism, slavery, the folly of war, sexuality, and even the idea of what constitutes a family. That last one may seem light and ridiculous, but think about those people growing up in broken homes and then they see how a family comes together, not out of blood, but out of love for each other, and then that person from the broken home can sit up and say, “Hey, I would like to have that.” How about a young child of color looking up on the screen and seeing someone who looks like them. Maybe the person they see is a woman of color who is also the Captain, and somewhere a young girl sees that and realizes that she has it in her to also be great. Think of the power such messages are capable of communicating. Star Trek also reminds us that while we are not a perfect species, we can still work at bettering ourselves and strive for perfection despite it forever being out of reach, for as one of the franchise’s most popular characters once pointed out, it is not the destination, but the journey that yields its own rewards. Perhaps this is why April 5th has come to have greater significance as a Star Trek holiday. It is the day where we can come together and not only celebrate all of the different forms that exist under the Star Trek banner, but it also allows us to remember, celebrate, and strive, for that better way of life for ourselves, our neighbors, and all of us who live on this little blue marble traveling through space called Earth.
Today, there is a very special event happening on the Paramount+ network for those who wish to celebrate First Contact Day. The first Trek film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is having its Director’s Edition made available on the streaming service in glorious 4K. This is something that many Trek fans have been salivating over (myself included as I do count that movie as my favorite of the entire franchise).
If you’re interested in jumping on the Trek bandwagon (it is NEVER too late to do so) there are a myriad of resources to check.
If you decide to check these out to see what fans are talking about and then find something that excites you to where you want to come back and see more, then to you I say “welcome.”
If you’re already a fan, then to you I give the only proper salutation I know how to give; “Live Long and Prosper.”