The ascent to the attic room of the Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre is no joke, comedian Rik Carranza observing that he and his audience are practically in outer space as he opens his hour discussing his life and his lifelong love of Star Trek, opening with a consideration of the origin of the word fan: “to be divinely inspired.”
Raised in Scotland by his Filipino father and his Scottish mother, with very different backgrounds and parenting styles, Rik grew up without representation, the media devoid of anyone who looked like him, consoling himself with the belief that “If you didn’t see Asians in the eighties it was because they were all ninjas.”
And then came Star Trek; working in reverse, he began with The Next Generation on its BBC2 broadcast, then went back to the original series where he encountered Lieutenant, later Captain, Hikaru Sulu, and suddenly amongst the diversity of this surrogate space family who solved problems with intellect and wit rather than violence there was also representation.
A deeply personal show from a very personable man, it is also relatable; while it was George Takei who inspired him, the Federation welcomes and embraces all who wish to follow its philosophy of self-improvement, of helping others, of exploration and understanding, and yes, occasionally there will be exciting space battles.
Rik credits Star Trek for helping to make him who he is, and he is a good person who has found after many struggles that he is happiest when he accepts that simple truth rather than tries to pretend otherwise, but he is fully aware of the silliness of some of what that entails.
Dressed in the red of engineering and support services (yes, that includes the high turnover of security) he recounts his eventual meeting with George Takei, a professional photoshoot for which he paid £36. Is that a lot to ask for a memory of genuine happiness which will last a lifetime? “I’ve paid more on dates and got less out of them.”
This is not to say that the show is only for those deeply involved in science fiction fandom; even if the central subject were not a cultural touchstone, there is far more beyond, family, relationships, school bullying, rejection, mental health, the need for a place to belong.
Modern culture too reliant on the “safe space,” it should not something to be carried with you to protect you from the possibility of an unpleasant truth but to return to and centre yourself after you have faced the unknown and challenged yourself and others, and Carranza offers both, bravely taking the stage and sharing his stories while guiding his audience safely to their destination.