Steve Barnes' World of Happiness

I've finally purchased my first space station.

So to speak. It's the Eaglemoss model of Deep Space Station K-7, the remote setting for the original Star Trek episode The Trouble With Tribbles. I’d mistakenly thought the episode took place entirely on the Enterprise, even after its meticulous reference from within Deep Space Nine decades later resurfaced it to my attention (I’m sure I’m not alone in that). But recently noting the station itself transmogrified the experience of watching what I’d considered a relatively dry original episode. Why would that make any difference?

Star Trek’s scripts imply a good dozen space stations by name, though only a few were depicted, like the majestic Starbase 74 from 11001001, apparently a repurposing of an earlier shot containing the identical “Spacedock” around Earth. It was rendered as a massive majesty of cylindical symmetry, capable of holding the thousand-capacity Enterprise-D like a cabinet holds a candy bar. For the exterior of Starbase 173 from The Measure Of A Man (more like a Swiss army knife), its depicted lounge looks plain and comfortable, which is common for Star Trek.

Hints like that brought me to see its space stations as statements and not just settings. Any space station in science fiction is functional, but not always hospitable or accommodating, let alone alluring. Designed for TV and movies today, they’re often the opposite: unnecessarily dark, harsh or unaccommodating, as though “utilitarian” wasn’t a feature but a ceiling, a line whose overstepping would constitute some unspoken offense.

But Star Trek’s space stations never evinced this attitude. Returning to Deep Space Station K-7, a primary location for Tribbles was a common area with a trading post and dining area, but the station manager’s office looked equally desirable as a place to occupy at leisure. Based on the episode, Geoffrey Mandal (a graphics artist on DS9, Voyager and more) produced blueprints for this station class which included the areas for entertainment, housing, and nature, imagining a combination of functionality with relaxation and residency.

Despite its capacity to house a few shuttles rather than Starbase 74’s room for a few starships, the same future bestowed by Star Trek seemed present at the heart of that thinking: this might be a place where you could find flight crew, scientists, academics, or just families (who might more typically be those things), built on the expectation they would congregate or mingle or interact. “Expectation” is a word that might encompass Star Trek’s optimism: a model of a better humanity, beyond the vices of yesterday and today, was presented to be emulated. If humanity didn’t turn out this way, there wouldn’t be a purpose for this kind of space station. The message on the wings of this fictional conceit was not just “humanity can,” but “humanity will.”

That’s a kind of thing I enjoy thinking about. And that’s why, not really being a collector of physical objects, I felt such a desire to have this one nearby.