Thursday, September 8, 2016

50 Years of Star Trek

Here's to 50 years of Star Trek, in television, movies and beyond.

September 8th, 1966 saw the premier of Star Trek on network television.  The episode was "The Man Trap" (the Salt Monster one).  The show lasted for three seasons and blazed trails before spinning off into weirdly wild success in syndication.  Of course, Star Trek: The Next Generation cut out the middleman and went straight into syndication.

I am not a real Trekker, and I'm okay with that.  I never really watched much Deep Space Nine, Voyager or Enterprise.  Not the way I watched original series or Next Generation.  I like all the movies with the original cast for one reason or another, even if I mostly enjoy Star Trek V as camp.  I even liked Star Trek Beyond quite a bit  (Karl Urban was fantastic).

Where Star Wars broke me circa 1999, ending it's drought in 2015 with The Force Awakens, there's always been enough Trek to keep me invested, willing to go to bat and try another movie, TV show, episode, what-have-you.  But I've never felt fan enough to attend a Star Trek convention or the like.  Which is weird.  I guess I've just always been aware that I'm a fan, but I've seen the real fans, if you know what I mean (I do not know a single word of Klingon, for example).

The original show sparked my imagination when I became a regular viewer of episodes at 5:00 PM on the local UHF channel when I was about 10.  The idea of moving through space, of not just constantly fighting some antagonist over and over, but exploring, of discovery - that got my interest.  Also, Lieutenant Uhura.  But flying around in a ship I still haven't gotten over, not necessarily shooting or punching to solve the problem of the week, of trying to find a better tomorrow out on the edge of known space...?  Sign me up.

My earliest memories of the show include:
  • The episode "Arena", (yes, the one with the Gorn) which I've discussed at length, and which really sold me on Trek like nothing else until 
  • Spock talking to a rock with a Vulcan mind-meld
  • Spock's brain
  • Space hippies
  • Tribbles
  • Space Greek Gods
  • Gangster Planet
  • Captain Pike
  • Spock hanging from a tree and laughing creeping me out
  • Planet of people moving super fast
  • Kirk's totally bizarre fighting style
  • Sulu with a saber, chasing people around and cackling like a maniac (for a long time, this made me think Sulu was just terrific)
  • Kirk split-in-two, two blankets, two dogs with antlers
  • Salt monster
  • Zefram Cochrane and his romance with a special effect
  • Kirk putting his boots on
Whether they came from archetypes or became them, the characters created for the original series by Roddenberry, the writers and most definitely the actors, have become so familiar that they've become characters new actors can come to inhabit, as witnessed with the last three Star Trek films (more so Star Trek Beyond than the prior two films).  Amazingly, Star Trek: The Next Generation would go on to create their own memorable set of characters I would still be showing up to see at the cinema if they could get Paramount to make a picture with them.   And I suppose I think of a few other characters as iconic as well, from Janeway and Seven-of-Nine to Quark and Sisko.

And, some of those actors have become larger than life beyond their characters - certainly in the case of Shatner, Nimoy, Takei, Nichols and Patrick Stewart.

I can honestly say that Star Trek has been a guidepost for me on and off for years.  Like for so many other people,  the show provided me with a vision of what a future can look like when humanity turns it's face towards betterment of the world and the worlds beyond our solar system and, certainly, beyond our imaginations.  Committing yourself to the mission of futurism may seem a bit wacky - but on days when I'm a bit down at work for whatever reason, I remember - I'm fulfilling the vision of the Star Fleet computer on board the Enterprise.  We're making the world's information available digitally, we're making sure it's safe, protected and highly accessible for future generations.  Yeah, that makes me one of the guys in the background who has to wear one of those goofy kimono shirts, but you gotta believe.

Star Trek is a world of scientific marvels and technical breakthroughs - at least for 1966 - and like the articles you'll have ample opportunity to read this week, those same fictional ideas have already been met and surpassed in some areas.  In others, we're still trying.  Heck, here's an idea for a nice impulse drive.  And you know someone at CalTech is bending spacetime in a lab right now.  We could see a warp drive in our lifetime, for all I know.

But that's the thing about Trek.  It all feels possible.  Heck, if we could 3D print food (and we will), how far would we really be from Trek's galley?

I don't want to write too much.  I just want to mark the day, and give a whole-hearted salute to a show that's brought me a lot of joy, a lot of laughs, a couple of tears, frustration, delight and inspiration.

I'm looking forward to CBS's new show Star Trek: Discovery, and I hope Star Trek Beyond is helping to set the Kirk/ McCoy/ Spock films on firmer territory and encouraging the studio to try again.

Here's to five decades of a better tomorrow.

Jamie knows what it's all about


Stuart said...

Thanks for helping bring the Star Trek computer banks into reality! I bet you know at least one word of Klingon: "Qapla'!" (repeated ad nauseum since 1984 with the subtitle "Success!") 🖖

The League said...

See, at best "Qapla!" sounds familiar. It's one of those things my brain tunes out after I've gotten it in context but doesn't store in the personal memory bank for re-use. :( Not a REAL Trekker/ Trekkie.

RHPT said...