It’s getting close. The golden anniversary of Star Trek is just around the corner (of course, it’s after the 50th anniversary of a certain Time Lord…).
September 8, 1966, the original Star Trek debuted on NBC. What followed has been a well-documented roller coaster of bad ratings, syndicated bliss, and a cultural impact never anticipated by cast and crew. (and yes, we know “The Cage” was made in 1964, but it didn’t hit the airwaves until it was repurposed into “The Menagerie”, so don’t quibble over the tribble.)
Indeed, when the show was in its infancy, everyone figured it was just another job. But consider the fact that the show addressed social and political issues, something science fiction has been very keen at being able to do. “A Private Little War” spoke to Vietnam, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” rather bluntly tackled racism. And other episodes — some written by science fiction icons like Theodore Sturgeon and Harlan Ellison (yes, we know what he says) — led to a paradigm shift that did what 2001: A Space Odyssey only marginally managed to do.
And now, 46 years later, the show has spawned all manner of sequels, movies, comic books, novels, fan films and web series, and inspired a United States President to name a spaceship properly. When Orbiter L-101 rolled out of the hangar as Enterprise, fans knew we had arrived.
Even though it’s taken another twenty-five years or so to be accepted in the mainstream of culture (and for some it’s still a struggle to be taken seriously), science fiction fans are now sort of chic. Say what you will about the J.J. Abrams movie, but his version of Star
Wars Trek boosted awareness — and an appreciation that documentaries like Trekkies could only hope to accomplish on a good day.
So, sometimes in spite of itself, Star Trek has become entrenched in our society, inspiring technology, inspiring astronauts, (even inspiring Google) and giving fans the hope that one day man might actually venture out amongst the stars, and go where no human has ever gone before.
Congratulations, Star Trek. May you continue to live long and prosper.