Since September 8, 1966, Star Trek has become the stuff of television legends. It was the low-rated science-fiction show saved by its fans from cancellation that became a phenomenon in syndicated reruns. While there is some truth to the legend (in its initial network run Star Trek’s ratings were always moderate to low), there is much about the legend that simply isn’t true. Indeed, even while in its first run there were signs that Star Trek was on its way to becoming a phenomenon.Comic-book writer Christopher Mills offers his own thoughts on the show, in Atomic Pulp, explaining that the original, 1966-1969 Trek “inspired and informed the person I became.
I learned the value of reason and logic from an alien with pointed ears and a Satanic visage. I learned the nobility of humanity and compassion toward all life, regardless of shape, color or form, from an anachronistic Southern medic. And, most importantly, I learned about the worth of boldness, courage, and tempered wisdom from a charming leader with a confident swagger sporting a gold tunic. [Captain James T.] Kirk was a fighter, a diplomat, a philosopher—and a libidinous wolf—but in my eyes, he was the best of us as a species. He wasn’t perfect—and to his credit, usually admitted his flaws and acknowledged his mistakes—but he was also a man of intelligence and action, who sought out brave new worlds and always had his eye on the future.My own experience with Star Trek didn’t begin until the early 1970s, when I was old enough and aware enough to appreciate television. To my mother’s regret and my father’s everlasting bewilderment, I became a Trek fan for life as a result of watching reruns of that series’ original 79 episodes about a multi-cultural crew of explorers who raced across the galaxy in a sleek starship, bringing help to humans and aliens in need, and taking with them a message of hope and love and peace. (It didn’t hurt, either, that there was the occasional Orion dancing girl to catch a young boy’s eye!) I have since seen all of the Star Trek spinoffs and every Trek movie save the most recent one. I even went with my niece one year to a Trek convention, during which I had the pleasure of listening to William Shatner recount his hilarious experience in traveling to Seattle for that event.
I think creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek has been greatly enhanced and deepened by some of the people who took over the franchise after his death in 1991, particularly executive producer Rick Berman. Yet Roddenberry gave television watchers the blueprint, and even half a century later, his “Wagon Train to the stars” is as durable and promising and hopeful as ever.
Live long and prosper, my fellow Star Trek fans!
READ MORE: “To Boldly Imagine: Star Trek’s Half Century,” by Andrew Liptak (Kirkus Reviews); “Star Trek’s Still as Relevant on the 50th Anniversary,” by Dave Marinaccio (Bookgasm); “The Mission to Restore the Original Starship Enterprise,” by Jackie Mansky (Smithsonian); “Star Trek at 50: The Theme Song Has Lyrics. No, Really,” by Chris Barton (Los Angeles Times).