“…None that I am conscious of — save, perhaps, for ‘Happy Birthday.‘”
Today marks the day, 50 years ago, when Star Trek first aired. It was not an instant hit, in fact it was fought against in many ways, and yet it survived. It has since enjoyed reboot after reboot, with the original series, the next generation, deep space 9, and multiple movies. But what made this series so important?
“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”
― Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek.
It was an almost revolutionary idea. Not only did it change what it meant to explore space in the middle of the great Space Race, but it also broke down boundaries in culture. Nichelle Nichols, a black actress, was the first black woman ever portrayed as something other than a servant on television.
“I thought it was a Trekkie, and so I said, ‘Sure.’ I looked across the room, and there was Dr. Martin Luther King walking towards me with this big grin on his face. He reached out to me and said, ‘Yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan.’ He said that Star Trek was the only show that he, and his wife Coretta, would allow their three little children to stay up and watch. [She told King about her plans to leave the series.] I never got to tell him why, because he said, ‘You can’t. You’re part of history.'”- Nichelle Nichols.
Not only did Star Trek help with civil rights, but it also led to a different view on entertainment. Along with Doctor Who, this was bringing to light a new age of Science Fiction. It has been Iconic to science fiction ever since it was created, inspiring shows like Babylon 5 and Firefly. It’s also alluded to in shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Futurama, and even Veggie Tales. Not only that but NASA has named several of their projects and ships after memorable parts of their show, like the USS Enterprise inspiring the NASA shuttle Enterprise.
So, this show followed it’s classic tagline ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’. What started off from humble beginnings has become iconic and essential to geek culture.
Although the classic television series is over, we still look back and enjoy them, and look forward to the new movies coming out. They might not feel the same, but like Spock said,
I like to believe that there are always possibilities.