There’s nothing quite like finding a piece of pop culture you connect with on a visceral level. This connection can manifest in different ways, whether it’s relating to a fictional character on screen or a real-life person with whom you share your obsession. No matter what, being a fan can show you that you’re a part of something larger than yourself, even when it feels like you’re alone in the universe.
This is the relationship countless fans have with Star Trek. The franchise inspires strong feelings of belonging among its devotees, probably because those sentiments are deeply ingrained in the series themselves. In Star Trek: Discovery, streaming now on Paramount+, Captain Michael Burnham and her crew must lean on one another as they fight to prevent a galactic threat. Burnham’s rousing narration in the season-four trailer says it all: “Wherever we come from, whatever our experiences, we’re all in this together.”
To celebrate Discovery’s return, I asked fans over email about the ways the series, and the Star Trek franchise at large, reminds them they’re not alone. Here’s what they had to say.
Kellan, the ‘Thrifty Trekkie’
Kellan is an avid Star Trek cosplayer who creates incredible DIY costumes and looks on a budget. They explained to me how the craft allows them to bond with the franchise’s characters as well as other Trekkies.
Every character I choose to cosplay is one I relate to somehow, and through the process of creating their costumes I get to reflect on where I see myself in their journey. When I feel confident in a costume I’ve made, I am less shy about connecting to other fans, either online or at conventions. … Recognising the character someone is cosplaying as is a quick way to start up a conversation and get to know each other.
Kellan also shared what Star Trek’s recent treatment of gender identity has meant to them.
I am so glad to finally have trans and non-binary representation in Discovery! … I absolutely loved when Grey said, ‘I’m still me, I’m just more me,’ when Adira was unsure of his identity after he had joined to his symbiont. This resonated with me as if he was coming out for the first time and embracing his true self. Similarly, when Adira states their correct pronouns, I loved that moment.
Michael Todd Cohen
Michael is a writer and editor who grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. Revisiting a particular episode in adulthood helped him cope with the loneliness that comes with losing a spouse.
In the months that followed my husband’s death, I didn’t know where to find solace. Alone in an apartment, … I came to one of my favourites, ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise,’ and settled in to see a familiar story. Instead, I saw myself reflected. In the episode, beloved crew member Tasha Yar — senselessly killed on an away mission years before — appears back on the ship; the result of a time rift. … Tasha shouldn’t be there. Yet, it’s inconceivable to [Captain] Picard to let her go.
How many times did I wake, groggy with dream-visits from my husband? … Eventually Tasha, like my husband, vanishes into the past. The time rift is sealed. Nearly everyone on the crew forgets the visit. Anyone who has experienced loss knows this fear: forgetting their face, their laugh, their spirit. … How do we keep loved ones with us when they are already gone? In the closing moments of the episode, Guinan sits opposite Geordi La Forge in Ten Forward. Her eyes meet his. ‘Tell me about Tasha Yar,’ she says.
We remember, together.
Reenu is a senior marketing analyst working in renewable energy. When I asked her how she related to Star Trek: Voyager (her favourite Trek incarnation) she told me she found common ground with Chief Engineer B’Elanna Torres.
I most admire her character’s growth at the beginning of the series where we watch her transition from being a member of the Maquis to being a respected Voyager crew member contributing in the effort to find a way back to the Alpha Quadrant. Watching B’Elanna’s character development is a reminder that every single human is struggling in their own way to find a way to fit in. … At the end of the day, whether you are human, Klingon, Talaxian, or Species 8472, be kind to each other because we are all just trying to figure out our niche in life.
A newcomer to Discovery, Reenu told me she also connects with Michael Burnham and her background as a human who was raised as a Vulcan.
We see her battling between heart vs. logic. Being a first-generation Indian-American, I relate to the struggle of navigating how I fit into both cultures. Behind many decisions I make, I find myself battling between my Indian values and American values and wondering if I’ve made the right decision.
Shenikwa, Creator of Black Alert Podcast
Shenikwa is a marketing and communications advisor who founded Black Alert Podcast as a safe space not only for Black Trekkies but for people of all ethnicities and communities. She, too, relates to Michael Burnham on a personal level.
Seeing a Black woman leading a sci-fi show, and now she is captain?! OMG. Michael Burnham is a trailblazer; she is space Stacey Abrams! … [A moment that resonated with me was] the ending of season three when the admiral told Michael [comparing her to his daughter], ‘She didn’t do things the right way. She did it her way. And it worked.’ I’ve never identified with women or people that fall in line. Speak up and speak out. Well-behaved women seldom make history.
Shenikwa also explained how Black Alert podcast has become a source of camaraderie for herself as well as the show’s listeners.
We’ve interviewed a few actors from Star Trek: Discovery, but one particular interview was life changing. Wilson Cruz [who portrays Dr. Hugh Culber] discussed how being emotional and vulnerable was a sign of strength. I got so many DMs on Twitter after that episode was released, because we’re in the middle of a pandemic and people are tired, depressed, and feeling so many emotions. It was comforting to hear Wilson acknowledge that; it gave so many of our listeners an audio ‘hug’ so to speak.
Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.