A surprising omission …

Its a bit surprising as I look back over this blog that I’ve made nearly 130 posts over a couple of months, and I’ve yet to make a post about Star Trek. I suppose the fact that Enterprise went off the air last year has something to do with it … for the first time in more than 20 years, there’s no active Star Trek TV series in production, so there’s little new to talk about.

But its still an omission … while Star Trek over the years has had its share of bad acting, hackneyed writing, and questionable special effects, it also represents a rather impressive ‘canon’ of creative material. Between the TV series, the movies, the comic books/cartoon shows, and the novels, the amount of creative energy expended in the Star Trek universe over the past 40 years.

The franchise has an anniversary of sorts this year … it was Sept 8, 1966 that the first episode of Star Trek was broadcast on NBC, so the franchise as an ‘accepted’ piece of entertainment is 40 years old this year. Of course, there was a pilot episode before the 1966 series start, in 1964, and by all accounts was in Rodenberry’s head before that, but 1966 seems a good year.

I didn’t see the original series when it first aired. In fact, I was born the Monday of the week that Star Trek first aired in 1966, so I was a bit young to have caught it the first time around. Regardless, from the first time I saw the show, in re-runs in the 70’s, I knew it was something of interest.

It goes beyond the writing or acting, some of which were less than memorable. You can certainly point to classic stories and episodes from all Star Trek forms, but there’s an ethic that has always run underneath the Star Trek universe. It was shallow, and weak in the original series, but if it hadn’t been there, that original series wouldn’t have survived its faults. Instead of succumbing to its flaws, instead of becoming the cliched ‘wagon train to the stars’ that it was originally billed as, it was able to rise above its limitations.

And rise above in spectacular fashion. After 4 more TV series (plus a cartoon show in the 70’s), some 10 movies, and countless books, the official Star Trek universe has grown vast and diverse. What began life as the barely 2 dimensional world of Kirk and Spock, now spans space and time and culture. There are few parts of our culture … from the design of flip cell phones through medical scanning technology … that haven’t had some tangential impact from Star Trek.

I think the reason for this ubiquity is that underlying ethic I mentioned before, the one that let that original show, and a few movies, rise above their worst moments. It started weakly, brashly, with a lot of style but little substance, but it was there … the notion that despite all the evidence to the contrary, humans were eventually going to work out how not to kill each other and focus on larger issues. Initially, this was little more than a technology cult, worshipping at the alter of the mechanization of the future. But as the series and movies progressed, the substance fleshed out.

The final triumph of Star Trek, the reason that it is still relevant 40 years after its first episode aired, is that there was always hope for the future. The underlying notion, however preposterous it seems from our perspective today, that we would all someday work together for the betterment of all people, instead of competing with each other for the profit of a few, is why Star Trek continues on today with talk of an 11th movie. Its worth noting that as we are 40 years after the first Star Trek episode, we are also some 57 years early for another important anniversary … in 2063, in Boseman, Montana, Zefram Cochrane will make the first warp flight, and bring Vulcan contact with earth for the first time. Or so the story goes, anyway *G*

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