“Phwoar!” enthused my imaginary friends, admiring my poster of the USS Enterprise D, as we hung out in my room, drinking tea and not smoking. “Look at the warp nacelles on that!”
It was 1991, I was 15 years old, and Star Trek: The Next Generation had premiered on the BBC several months earlier, hooking me from the very first episode until I was helpless in its wake, an addict feverishly awaiting her weekly Wednesday fix.
Girls, it turns out, don’t like boys. What girls like is shiny starships. Especially when their name is Enterprise. The D had me transfixed. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I got goosebumps as she glided into view in the title sequence, her sleek contours teasing as she zoomed back and forth. And oh, when she went to warp… The D was the prettiest pony in all the galaxy, and I wanted a ride.
The Enterprise, we sometimes forget, is as much a character in the Star Trek universe as Captain Picard or Lieutenant Commander Data. Certainly more so than Commander Riker. Picard even says as much in his title-sequence monologue: “These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations; to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Sorry, once again for those at the back: whose voyages? Whose continuing mission? That’s right: the Enterprise’s. And whoever came along for the ride was mostly incidental. Although it did help if they knew how to pilot her, and could avoid crashing her into a planet – *cough* Troi *cough* – or getting her blown up.
I got nervous whenever something went wrong with the dilithium crystals. Sure, I had the utmost faith in Geordi to fix whatever the problem was, but it still gave me the jitters. And auto-destruct had me leaping out of my seat in the way that I imagine the rest of the world does when their favourite sports-ball team is about to be vanquished. I was a teenage girl, living in fear of a warp core breach. It was a trying time.
I often wondered how the outside of the Enterprise managed to stay so shiny. Not that I was complaining. But isn’t space dusty? Did they have window cleaners? Did they send Wesley out with a squeegee when he got too annoying? The inside of the ship though: that’s what I really wanted to explore. The curvaceous corridors, the tempting Jefferies tubes, the enigmas of engineering. Each time a new location was revealed I was in my element. Or I would have been, if I could have got there. I had a particular fascination with crew quarters, and Worf’s was my favourite. That chair, right?
But the place on the Enterprise that stole my heart, the place where I would have lived if I could have, was the bridge. The bridge was the mind of the Enterprise. It was where the action happened, where life and death decisions were made, where Captain Picard intoned ‘Engage!’ as he sent his girl off on another exciting mission. And the bridge was a thing of beauty. It was sleek and sexy, with its black panels and blue downlights, its sloping floors and curving rails. We mostly saw it bustling, in a state of urgency, with crew flailing about, but it could also be tranquil, a place to survey the splendour of space, to reflect on our great achievements and to ponder what else might be out there, waiting to be discovered.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of those TV shows that helped me in life to go, if not boldly, then at least a little bolder. And the Enterprise, that gorgeous Galaxy class starship, was the heart of the show. The USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D was my first love, and although she is gone she will never be forgotten.
I’ll raise a glass to you, dear girl, of tea, Earl Grey, hot. May your spirit live on forever.