“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five year mission: to explore strange, new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” I can’t believe that a five year mission has stretched into a half century. However, it was 50 years ago today, (September 8, 1966) when the TV series, Star Trek, first aired. It actually only ran for three years, from 1966-1969. Yet, somewhere along the way, it became a cult classic, for which I am really glad.
I wasn’t around to watch Star Trek when it originally aired, but watched plenty of episodes thanks to syndication. While I might not have the exact times right, I believe an episode aired on Saturday night and a different one on Sunday night each week, in the 1970s. I remember one Thanksgiving that they (the cable company) was running a Star Trek marathon. That Thanksgiving I watched most of the episodes that were aired. I don’t remember how my family (immediate and extended) reacted to it. I do know I monopolized one of the TVs at my grandparent’s house for much of the day.
So you might think that I am a trekker. I am not. I am a huge fan, but I am not as committed as some Star Trek fans. I mean I did watch many of the spin off shows. I did train my fingers to do the vulcan salute. I also made sure that I saw all of the Star Trek movies (except Star Trek: The Motion Picture) at the movie theater. And I did attend a Star Trek convention in 2001, with my husband, Bobby.
While I’m the Star Trek fan, Bobby was the one who insisted we go. It was at this convention that all of the original Star Trek cast members made appearances. Well all except DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy) who had already passed away. We walked right by Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) and Walter Koenig (Chekov) in the hallway. We joined hundreds of other fans in the main hall to hear William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy speak. But the reason we went was so I could meet Ricardo Montalban. He played Khan in both the TV Series and in the movie, Wrath of Khan. This was a lifelong dream of mine. (This is a story for another post.)
So why do I like Star Trek so much? I don’t know. Maybe because it makes the future seem full of possibilities. Maybe because Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock were cute. Maybe because Dr. McCoy was funny in his seriousness (“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a…). Maybe because Uhura was a strong female role model or because Scotty could work “miracles” with the warp drive — and I liked his Scottish accent. I don’t know why, I just really enjoy everything about Star Trek.
I think that Gene Roddenberry, the creator, was a true visionary. He helped us picture a world of equality and scientific advancements. Look at our computers and cell phones and tell me you haven’t seen something like it on Star Trek. Even a talking computer was on the show. Something we have available to us on our phones. I can’t wait until transporters exist. I would love to say something like “beam me up.” (I know that Captain Kirk never said that in the show, but it would still be cool to say.)
I would be remiss if I didn’t pay homage to Star Wars. If it wasn’t for the success of George Lucas’ Star Wars, it is probable that Star Trek would have never made it to the silver screen. If it weren’t for the success of the feature films, there probably wouldn’t have been so many TV series spin-offs. And most likely, if it hadn’t been for the enduring and timeless message of Star Trek, there wouldn’t have been the latest Star Trek movies with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto.
Whatever the reason that I became a Star Trek fan, I’m glad to see I’m not alone. There is a whole sub-culture out there that would agree that Star Trek is one of the most influential TV Series ever created. I’m just glad they are keeping the franchise going. I say to them and all Star Trek fans everywhere, “Live long and prosper!”