Star Trek lovers, unite! This Wednesday, September 8, marks the 55th anniversary of Star Trek Day, and in honor of that, we at The Crossroads tracked down the biggest fan of the franchise we could find. Many know Robbie Warnock as principal of Twin City Elementary, but what people might find as a surprise is the 47-year-old native of Oak Park and current resident of Statesboro is an avid Star Trekker. He provided a little of his time to answer the questions posed by The Chronicle’s Halei Lamb.
First off, give us a little background about yourself. Any family you’d like to mention?
Warnock: I would love to mention my kids, but if they found out I mentioned them in a Star Trek article, I’d end my days in a sketchy nursing home.
Fair enough! How long have you been an educator, and how long have you been principal of TCE?
Warnock: I joined the Emanuel County School System in 1997, and this is my third year as principal at TCE.
Understood… Were you aware there was a Star Trek Day?
Warnock: I honestly did not know!
Well, here’s a little background for you. The franchise, as you of all people probably know, has been a cultural phenomenon for decades. Star Trek is considered to be one of the most popular and most successful brands of all time. It debuted on September 8, 1966, and every year since then has earmarked that date to be Star Trek Day to celebrate its content and dedicated franchise. With that in mind, how do you plan to celebrate?
Warnock: I may (or may not) have just ordered some Spock ears for school on Wednesday…
For those who haven’t seen Star Trek, can you, in your own words, summarize the franchise?
Warnock: Gene Roddenbery called the original series “Wagon Train to the Stars,” and that still fits. Most episodes of Star Trek are just like those old westerns where the characters are basically going from Point A to Point B while dealing with the events or happenings found during the journey.
Explain to us how old you were when your love for Star Trek began, and tell us why you love this series.
Warnock: I fell in love with the show when I saw the TOS episode “The Doomsday Machine” as a child in the ‘80s. I have always been interested in space and science fiction as well as the stories every day people have. Star Trek, at its best, is a television show about people in space and how they have been shaped by their stories and lives, and it is the unique combination of those things that really gives everyone something to enjoy. A prime example of this—baseball fans should watch the Deep Space Nine episode “Take Me Out to the Holosuite.” It is an episode about people playing baseball, but is that all that it is about?
What Star Treks have you seen, and which is your favorite?
Warnock: With the exception of a few episodes of “The Lower Decks,” I have seen it all. The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine are my favorites. There are so many iconic television scenes in those two shows that I could not pick one over the other.
If you’ve seen the latest remakes, what is your take on those compared to the earlier versions?
Warnock: I am not a fan of the newer movies simply because I feel that those characters are retreads of their namesakes. Fans will understand that the two words that make me change channels are “Kelvin Timeline.”
What iconic moment from the series do you remember most?
Warnock: Readers who have watched Star Trek: The Next Generation will immediately get goosebumps when I remind them of the last 60 seconds of “The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1.” It is thought by a lot of critics to be one of the most powerful television cliffhanger moments ever filmed, a scene where the viewer gets powerful emotion from the majority of the cast punctuated by three words from Jonathan Frakes as Commander Will Riker. Head over to YouTube and search for “TNG: Best of Both Worlds, Part 1 cliffhanger.”
Who, if anyone, did you share this love of Star Trek with? (For example: a parent as a child, your child today, etc.)
Warnock: My cousin Rebekah always brought me paper grocery bags full of novels from the Star Trek franchise. My own children are not big sci-fi fans but my daughter is getting old enough to watch it, and I hope that I can use Ava Lane’s love of space and science as a scaffold over to Capt. Janeway on Voyager. Back in my classroom days, I had a lesson that connected the TNG episode “Darmok” to cultural literacy and allusion. That is one of my favorite class sections ever!
What, if any, kind of Star Trek merchandise do you own? (IE: Apparel, figurines, comics, etc.)
Warnock: The bulk of my nerd collection is Transformers and ‘80s stuff. The first new Star Trek addition in years will be the ears I mentioned earlier.
Do you know any Star Trek “fun facts” you’d like to share with our readers?
Warnock: I had to dig deeply to try and find something that even longtime fans might not know. Everyone knows Spock’s famous “Live Long and Prosper” hand salute. A lot of people know that Leonard Nimoy borrowed that gesture from a synagogue he attended with his family. The salute takes the shape of the Hebrew letter Shin, representing “Shaddai,” a honorific title meaning “Almighty God.” Very few people know that William Shatner (Captain Kirk) was physically unable to perform it, so they tied his fingers together with fishing string when he had to be respectful. If you have ever read about how difficult Old Bill was, you are probably not surprised that they had to use some 50-pound. test line to get him to be respectful.
If anyone hasn’t seen Star Trek, what part of the franchise do you recommend they start with—if they want to give it a go?
Warnock: For someone who has never watched it, there are a few episodes I would cherry-pick:
• Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 2, “Darmok.” That is probably my favorite hour of TV.
• Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 5, Episode 18, “Cause and Effect.”
• Star Trek: The Next Generation – Season 2, Episode 16, “Q Who.”
• Star Trek: Deep Space 9 – Season 7, Episode 4, “Take Me out to the Holosuite.”
• Star Trek Deep Space 9 – Season 4, Episode 8, “Little Green Men.”
If you have never watched any Star Trek, those are episodes about how difficult it is to talk to someone when you don’t know anything about them, a good time travel (sort of) story, how your amazing technology is useless when someone else has better tech, how life is a lot like baseball, and how every supposed close encounter with aliens probably would happen. Each of these is also a bottle episode—all you need to enjoy is right there.
As principal at the elementary level, you have an important role in children’s lives during an important time in their lives. Sometimes there’s a stigma with sci-fi stuff; it’s seen as “nerdy” and sometimes discouraged, seen as “uncool.” What positive message do you hope people take from this story?
Warnock: Guiding nerdlings is one of the best parts of my job. I encourage them not with advice to them but with advice to their critics and bullies. Bill Gates gave us the most wonderful quote about nerdery. “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you will end up working for one.”
What other sci-fi franchises do you like?
Warnock: All things Transformers, except those live action movies. We don’t talk about those. I grew up with Doctor Who on PBS. I like the middle three Star Wars movies and The Mandalorian is the best western I have ever watched.
In conclusion, perhaps the best and easiest way to celebrate Star Trek Day is simply taking the time to marathon the original series. Paramount+ will have a free live-streamed celebration of Star Trek Day on Wednesday, September 8, beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Live from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, California, Star Trek Day will be hosted by Wil Wheaton and Mica Burton and feature a live orchestra composed by Jeff Russo, back-to-back in-person conversations with cast members and creative minds from the “Star Trek” Universe, “legacy moments” with iconic cast, plus surprise announcements and reveals throughout.
Join the celebration by tuning in on Wednesday. Live long and prosper!