On this day in 1966, the world premiere of Star Trek happened on television. The Original Series lasted just three seasons before NBC killed it, but the most influential pop culture phenomenon in human history had begun to make its mark.
Here we are, 50 years later. There have now been six series, 13 movies, and who knows how much other spin-off stuff in terms of games, novels, technical manuals, fan movies, etc. CBS/Paramount have made any number of moves in recent years that seems designed to kill the franchise, but Star Trek perseveres.
The original series had a profound impact on the world. People like Whoopi Goldberg and Mae Jemison attributed seeing a strong black woman in an important role on the show as being the reasons why they reached for the stars. The show featured the first interracial kiss and dealt head-on with race relations on several other occasions. It featured an episode talking about American policy in Viet Nam at a time when no one else on television dared even mention that war. It presented a future in which humans learn to get along with each other and achieve great things, a vision of hope in the face of humanity’s consistent refusal to find common ground.
And then there’s the tech. Flip phones, iPods, transparent aluminum, tricorders and more are now actual things, all inspired by Star Trek. If someone ever figures out how to travel by space warp or teleporter, you can thank Trek for that too.
Sure, there were some missteps along the way. There are more than a few episodes that are pretty painful to watch (“Brain and brain. What is brain?”). But there are also some that are brilliant. From “Balance of Terror,” to “Space Seed,” to “City on the Edge of Forever,” to “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” the show found a great balance between action, adventure, big concepts, and characterization.
This is a show that has coloured my whole world view. I have a fascination with outer space. I always try to look at things logically. I try to keep an open mind and see the possibilities. My wife and I have travelled to James T. Kirk’s future birthplace so we can say we’ve been there.
Will the show remain relevant for another 50 years? That remains to be seen. But as new chapters of the franchise continue to be written and more fans are inspired by the show’s vision, theres no reason to think it couldn’t live on in people’s hearts and minds, driving us forward as a society.