'Star Trek' created hope for space exploration, humanity, fan says

‘Star Trek’ created hope for space exploration, humanity, fan says

Shay West, an instructor of biology at Colorado Mesa University, became a “Star Trek” fan while watching the series with her dad and has three “Star Trek”-inspired tattoos.

It’s hard to explain, that feeling of wanting to be there, of wishing that what was happening on the screen was, well, actually happening.

“I remember sitting there, chewing on my fingernails, going, ‘Oh, my gosh, I wish I was right there,’” explained Shay West, a “Star Trek” fan since watching the original series with her dad. “I think it’s just wanting to be part of something that’s bigger than yourself and going out there and being the first one to meet these other creatures and be nice to them.

“I think it’s wanting just to learn and wanting to kind of stretch myself and push myself and challenge myself.”

West, an instructor of biology at Colorado Mesa University, echoes what many fans explain at the appeal of “Star Trek,” today celebrating its 50th anniversary: a curiosity about the unknown, the joy of exploration, the potential in technology, the hope for peace not just in this world, but in others yet to be discovered.

“Something I’ve been hopeful about is that maybe we can be like the ‘Star Trek’ world,” she said. “As humans, I hope we can overcome poverty and disease and be a part of something that’s really big like exploring the stars, exploring the galaxy, meeting other alien races and being able to get along. I’ve always really, really hoped that could happen.”

A longtime fan of science fiction and fantasy, West really got hooked on “Star Trek” with the premiere of “Start Trek: The Next Generation.” Whereas “Star Trek: The Original Series” reflected the uncertainty, instability and violence of its time, West said, the Enterprise crew in “The Next Generation” “really seemed on a mission of peace and exploration, not about to conquer anything or promote war, not out to conquer other planets.”

She said she’s also been intrigued to see how the technology envisioned for the original series have become the tools people use today: smart phones and iPads, for example.

Ultimately, she said, she’s always been fascinated by space and would travel there in a heartbeat if given the opportunity. “Star Trek” helped to fuel her imagination for it, and also influenced the science fiction and fantasy novels she’s written (shay-west.com).

In fact, “Star Trek” inspired three tattoos, including the USS Enterprise on her back as well as the United Federation of Planets symbol with her name written in Klingon running through it.

“It’s just the whole concept of space travel, exploration, humans doing something more than blah blah day by day,” she explained, “letting their intellect take them to places they never even knew they could go.”