Posted by: bkivey | 8 September 2011

Still Trekkin’

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her 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.”

45 years ago today Gene Roddenberry and Desilu studios launched a TV show on NBC. Pitched to the network as “a Wagon Train to the stars”, the show was criticized as “too cerebral” after the pilot was shot. After a few tweaks and some major recasting, the first episode, “The Man Trap”, aired on Thursday, 8 September 1966.

The original show lasted just three seasons, and only because a massive letter-writing campaign by fans convinced the network to greenlight a third season. Given the quality of the shows in the third season, they might have saved their stamps. One notable exception is the episode And the Children Shall Lead, which provides an astonishingly prescient view of what Western society has become. The persistence of some of the show’s signature elements is remarkable. Phrases like “Set phasers to stun”, “She’s doin’ all she can, Captain”, and the immortal (?) “He’s dead, Jim”, are familiar even to those who’ve never seen a single minute of the show or movies. And what other TV show had a spaceship named in its honor?

I didn’t start watching the show until the third season, and was instantly hooked. It was for sure different than anything else on TV at the time. Fantastic as the premise and setting were, the elements were much more coherent than other contemporary sci-fi/fantasy, and thus seemed more obtainable. I and countless others wondered: how could you make that stuff work? Thus were born careers and interests that spanned lifetimes. I’d say that Star Trek inspired more children to take up engineering and science than any government program, save perhaps the Shuttle, and a lot of folks who made that happen were inspired by a bunch of people saving the Galaxy once a week.

I’ve used Trek references for post titles (Boldly Going, Going, Gone, Stone Knives and Bearskins, and Set Phasers to Awesome) as well as vanity plates (NCC1701 and TALOS4). I’ve got books and videos and even the original blueprints published in 1975, but have never been to a convention. If I do go, I will not be dressing up. Trek is cool and all, but there are limits.

So this day I raise a glass of tranya to The Great Bird of the Galaxy, and salute those who still boldly go.



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