It has been 50 years since that first episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap”, was first aired on NBC-TV, in September of 1966. The show was subsequently cancelled in 1969; however, it’s popularity only grew in syndication. Over the years, its loyal fan-base—Trekkies—never waned. And, the original cheesy version eventually gave way to several, more modern TV spin-offs, movies, board and video games, books, etc.
My young son, Andrew, told me as we watched it together, many, many, MANY times, in the 1980s, that the secret attraction was that it was based on actual science. Real science fiction! Sure, it used poetic license to enable the crew to walk on planets without helmets and restrictive suits. But, without that accommodation, the storyline would surely not have been effective.
Besides science, Star Trek addressed a myriad of other topics, which caused its viewers—the many loyal “Trekkies”—to actually think. Consider: Captain Kirk dealing with a veritable ”United Planets” of a crew, which included non-human members from other planets; the Save-the-Whales theme in one of the full-length movies; saving the life of a maniacal killer; and political/philosophical considerations regarding travel between time periods, such as the episode when Kirk and Spock visited a Nazi-controlled like planet, similar to America in the late 1940s.
The partnership between the Star Trek franchise and NASA (our Space Agency) is legendary among fans and agency employees alike. In fact, many of the scientists, and perhaps some astronauts, have said that the show was responsible for developing their interest in science, at an early age. Maybe they watch it today on the International Space Station!
There are a number of devices today, versions of which the average person first saw on Star Trek. For instance: the “Communicator”, that each of the crew wore, is a version of a smart phone; Captain Jean Luc Picard had a device similar to a computer pad in his ready room; the medical crew carried Tri-corders, a version of which is used today by some physicians, providing a patients’ vital signs; and 3-D printers which have been used like Replicators. Some other items are, no doubt. still in the works.
The show opens with a voice-over, spoken by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner): “Space, the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no (wo)man has gone before.” To me, this establishes a real curiosity for the viewers’ own adventure, which surely will follow.
Now, my dilemma begins. I know how important Star Trek had been in awakening our son Andrew’s academic interests, not only in science, but in other subjects, as well. It also established a curiosity, his willingness to question what this all meant. Not just the What, but the How, Why and potential Final Outcome! How do I fight the urge to encourage my three and a half-year old grandson, Henry, to eventually become a Trekkie?
LIVE LONG AND PROSPER!