46 Years ago, a television series made its debut across the airwaves, pronouncing that they were boldly going where no man has gone before. And through nearly five decades, Star Trek has held up its promise. It has done what no other television show has done. It has entertained millions as it has tackled serious social and political issues of the day, taught valuable life lessons, inspired technological advances in our society, promoted a strong anti-racism message, and most of all gave us a hope.
And yet, even after the series was canceled before its time, it took a life of its own in syndication to the point where it had grown an even bigger fan base than when it was live. And over the next few decades, it spawned four other television series (five if you count the animated series), each lasting far longer than the even the original, and eleven motion pictures. Indeed Star Trek refused to die.
The reason for Star Trek’s strength and longevity can be found in those immortal words we first heard 46 years ago when William Shatner narrated with such conviction, those famous words that millions can quote by heart.
Space, the final frontier – with those words, Star Trek launched into our living rooms giving us a glimpse of a possible future of mankind. We were going to space. And before that decade had closed, we were not only in space, but we had put a man on the moon. Now 46 years later, we have a Mars probe. What is next? Will we one day move beyond our solar system? Whereas, many doubt (and understandably so) that we will ever have the means to travel to the far reaches of space, we do like to dream that there is that final frontier out there. We do not like to think that this is all there is to life. Star Trek gives us that dream to pursue our own final frontier. It may not be space. But we all have dreams that we want to pursue. Where Star Trek pursued those dreams with a passion, we sometimes just loosely hold onto those dreams as if they were unattainable. But if there is anything Star Trek taught us, it is that our dreams are not unattainable. Even though it was not written about Star Trek, a year ago I was so convinced of that we needed to pursue our dreams, our final frontiers, that I wrote a book entitled Pursuing Your God-Given Dreams.
These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise – The Original Series, The Next Generation, and the final (to date) series Enterprise, all centered around the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. But these voyages did not only show us fourteen years worth of adventures, they also showed us that we can indeed put aside our differences and work towards a common goal. From the unstable social environment of the 1960’s to the war on terrorism of the early part of the 21st century, the crew of the Enterprise (as well as Voyager and Deep Space 9) has shown us how to work together. Simply looking at the bridge of the Captain Kirk’s Enterprise, we see that people from different races can be unified. On that bridge, at any one time, you would find an Anglo American captain (yes, I know Shatner is a Canadian, but his character is American), an African communications officer, an Asian helmsman, a Russian Navigator, a Scottish engineer, and a totally alien Science Officer.
It’s five year mission – James Kirk and his crew only made it three out of the five years of their original mission (yet through novels, an animated series, and even an incredibly well done fan film series known as Star Trek Phase 2, the five year mission is still ongoing today), the fact that we are celebrating Star Trek’s 46th birthday shows us that even if our time on earth is relatively short, we can have an impact on future generations. Star Trek begs the question of us, “is our life over the next five (or three) years going to impact people for the next half a century or beyond?” If Star Trek could do it, why can’t we?
To Explore Strange New Worlds – Virtually every episode in Star Trek (with only a few exceptions), the Enterprise proudly put its stamp on another world. Never mind that sometimes, the Prime Directive was broken (that is a discussion for another day), each time the crew of the Enterprise beamed down to a new planet, they left it in a better condition than the way they found it. Star Trek encourages us even today to explore our new worlds and our new opportunities and never be afraid of what lies out there. And in every new world or opportunity we find on our journey, we should follow the example of the crew of the Enterprise and leave our footprints in a positive way. We should strive to make each world we enter (the people in our path) a better place because they came in contact with us.
To seek out new life and new civilizations – Star Trek has never been satisfied with the status quo of living. Whether it was showing the evil of racism or the joys of love, Star Trek sought out a new way of looking at our regular life. In a world today marked with uncertainty, a unstable economy, and high unemployment rates, Star Trek gives us hope, knowing that we can still seek out a new life and perhaps a new way of doing things. Star Trek has shown us that advancements in technology, as great as they might seem, may not really be the road to happiness. It shows us that perhaps, living the simple life on a rural planet with little or no technology offers us the best chance for peace and happiness.
To boldly go where no man has gone before – We have mentioned or alluded to the fact that Star Trek has truly gone where no man has gone before. It not only spawned so many spin off series as a myriad of movies, but it sparked other, nonTrek shows that took up the mantle left behind by Star Trek. For example, the long running series Stargate Sg-1 was nothing more than a retooling of the Star Trek paradigm. In fact, how many Stargate shows seemed to be a rewrite of an original Star Trek show. They say that imitation is the best form of flattery. If that is true, then Star Trek has been flattered perhaps more than any television show ever has. I’ve even flattered Star Trek in ways that go way beyond this article. My series of sci-fi/fantasy novels, known as The Center Circle Chronicles are filled with both subtle and obvious Star Trek allusions and symbols. A true Trek fan would love reading the two books out in this series, The Center Circle and The Weapons of Warfare. From the name of the main character (Landru) to their ability to transport to other worlds or dimensions, The Center Circle Chronicles is full of Trek. So even though for 46 years Star Trek has gone where no man has gone before, with authors like myself still out there, there is reason to believe that Star Trek is nowhere near its end. It will continue to live long and prosper.