Thursday, May 14, 2009

Star Trek Ears

In honor of the revived Star Trek movie franchise, I've posted a brief essay below. I wrote this over ten years ago, and recently revised it for everyone's viewing. Enjoy!


Here’s one for all you fans of psychology, psychiatry, cinematography, and/or otology (look up that last one):

When I was about six years old or so, my dad took my older brother Greg and me to a movie in the one theater in town. We saw the sci-fi flick (or as they sometime call them, “space opera”) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. For younger readers, this was the original Kirk/Spock (Shatner/Nimoy) era of Star Trek, way before Trekkies and non-Trekkies alike would ever believe a bald man could captain the USS Enterprise.

Anyway, the aforementioned Khan ("Khaaaaaaaan!") was a bad-dude super-human from 300 years in the future’s past, as revealed in his first Star Trek appearance 20 years prior in one of the original television episodes. It all had to do with Khan being a criminal awoken from a cryogenically-frozen sleep, and some other techno-jumbo about which I had no clue. All I knew was Khan was the bad guy. And this was no Fantasy Island.

= ?

Back to the movie. In one scene, Khan and his bad-guy flunkies capture a couple of Starfleet crewmembers. (You know how it goes: the never-ending supply of nameless victims in Star Trek stories, although I believe one of these two was Mr. Chekov—poor Russian squirt.) So now, Khan’s got his human prisoners and wants to do something with them.

"Hmmm . . .” he broods, “It is time for me to do something evil.”

Naturally, Khan goes and gets a hold of some slimy finger-sized scorpion/eel type-creatures. These parasitic beasties take over their hosts’ minds. That’s not bad. But here’s what’s bad. They get to the victims’ brains by burrowing through their EARS! Eeuuwww!!

Granted, I’m sure we all have seen plenty of nasty stuff. However, for this six-year-old sitting in that cushy theater seat, the scenario scarred me for life. I’m talking major psychological damage here. Both Greg and I (and Dad, too, come to think of it) were pretty much grossed out for the rest of the movie.

That night when I went to bed, I feared deeply for my ears. I had to do something to protect their well-being. I’ve never been one to pull the covers over my head. I always feel like I’m going to suffocate under the heavy blankets. So I came up with a much more efficient, yet effective technique. I wrapped the spread up just barely over my ears, leaving my nose to have free access to open air.

Today, of course, I notice some flaws in this strategy. My nose, mouth, and eyes were utterly defenseless. The bad guys could do whatever they wanted with them. But not the ears. They were key.

In the thousands of nights to come in my childhood, I continued to get in the ear flap position before I would feel completely safe to slumber off into dreamland. I’m 22 years old and I still do this at night. I truly can’t get comfortable unless I’ve got the ears covered and safe from any nighttime invaders. And this all started from watching that creepy movie. Thanks, Gene Roddenberry. (I'd spit on your ashes, if they weren't orbiting Earth in outer space.)

Anyway, that’s just my own analysis of my condition. In all these years since, I’ve never again viewed that scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I wonder if the burrowing brain suckers really are that disgusting.

Better be safe and not find out. I’d rather not bring back any post-revulsion shock still buried deep within my consciousness.

If anybody’s out there with a license to handle such idiosyncrasies, give me a call. You could get a couple of counseling sessions out of me. I welcome your diagnosis. Dig into my brain.

Just don’t mess with the ears.


Post Script: Ten years after first writing this essay, I can proudly say I no longer require blankets over my ears in order to sleep peacefully. Instead, I insert a mouth guard to avoid grinding my teeth. I'll leave that story for another day . . .

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