50 years today, Thursday, September 8, 1966, the voyages of the starship Enterprise (Registry NCC 1701, Constitution Class) flew onto TV screens and into cultural history. At first it looked like the show was destined to blow up like a photon torpedo. Low ratings the first season threatened to beam Captain Kirk, Spock and “Bones” to the scrap heap. However, fans petitioned NBC to save the show from cancellation, and they succeeded. The original series lasted three seasons and spun off five more series (including an animated version of Kirk and crew) with another on the way. And don’t forget the mile long list of movies it spawned.
One thing that made Star Trek so revolutionary was it’s morality. Not content to rely on just space battles and green Orion slave women, creator Gene Roddenberry created a world of multiculturalism, which was as alien to 1960’s America as the planet Vulcan. Black, white, Asian, pointed ears, it didn’t matter. It was a utopia where money did not exist anymore. Episodes in all of Star Trek’s incarnations have tackled topical issues like racism, gender, war, terrorism, addiction.
Another hallmark of Star trek was it’s effect on technology. Science “nerds” have long been inspired by the Enterprise’s saga and brought many of the series’ gadgets into real life. Your smart phone is a direct descendant of the “flip phone” styled communicator and hand-held “tricorder” computers used by the Star Fleet crews.
Why do I love Star Trek? I love the characters that have been so dramatically created. Each crew is filled with men, woman and aliens that have become like family or friends over the years. How awesome would it be to sit down and have a cup of Earl Grey Tea with Captain Picard? How about playing chess with Spock or people watching on Deep Space Nine?
I love the special effects, which have always been on the cutting edge of what was available at the time. Sure the original series looks a bit goofy now, but come on, you still would love a door to go “woosh” every time it opened or closed.
Star Trek is what we aspire to be. We want to be bold and courageous, exploring and learning while wearing cool uniforms and shooting phasers. Let’s hope we can keep boldly going for many “5 year missions” to come. For an interesting article about William Shatner’s recollections of 50 years of Star Trek, click here.