Fifty years ago today, a sci-fi series began on television that was so groundbreaking, it changed the world. And if that claim seems preposterous, I can add that Star Trek, at least, changed my world.
Created by Gene Roddenbery, this series, originally described as Wagon Train to the Stars, premiered on September 8, 1966 with the episode The Man Trap. William Shatner, as the daring Captain James Tiberius Kirk, provided the voice over for the opening monologue, promising that the voyages of the starship Enterprise would boldly go where no man had gone before.
And they did.
Set in the 23rd century, Kirk and crew showed viewers in the late 1960s a future that offered equality, diversity, acceptance and hope. As they explored the far reaches of space, they also explored the depths of humanity, the mysteries of the unknown and the strengths of friendship. They boldly went, and we went with them.
That first series only lasted three years. But in syndication the franchise continued to grow its fan base, eventually launching six more tv series, including Discovery, premiering next year, and 13 feature length movies. A reboot began in 2009, introducing a younger generation to Star Trek. Add in hundreds of novels, comics and video games, and the huge scope of this fandom can be seen.
Star Trek not only inspired additional series and movies, but influenced technology and science as well. We are using, well before the 23rd century, devices that in 1966 were the stuff of fantasy. What was imagined then, has become reality. The list includes small handheld computers, flip phones, diagnostic beds, tractor beams, hyposprays, computer tablets, voice activated computers, bluetooth headsets, transparent aluminum, GPS, automatic doors and a VISOR for the seeing impaired.
I couldn’t let this day pass without recognizing this extraordinary show and the impact it has had on the world, and on me. As a young teen figuring out my place in this often confusing world, Star Trek expanded my mind and heart and taught me to think about and see a bigger reality. In ways that go immeasurably beyond being a fan girl, the Star Trek universe was my safe place for years. In that expansive space I had the freedom to explore who I was and what I could do, and discover what I could offer to the world.
I was thrilled with Facebook’s commemoration of the day by switching the response emoticons to Star Trek based ones. And I added a Live Long and Prosper banner to my profile picture on that social media site. This evening I enjoyed the episode The Naked Time, from season one of the Original Series. A virus allows repressed and hidden traits within each crew member to surface, creating hilarity, vulnerability and anguish. Star Trek was genius…and light years ahead of its time.
I am grateful for Gene Roddenbery’s vision. I hope Star Trek journeys on, so that in another 50 years my great, great grandchildren smile about their Trekkie Yaya who embraced that vision and lived a bigger life because of it. And then go visit me in the holodeck.
Live long and prosper, Star Trek. Happy 50th!