The most popular phenomenon in this world’s culture saw the light of day 39 years ago this week. In 1966 millions of American television viewers were treated to a new style of programming that would take them to a place “where no one has gone before.” Little did anyone know then what an imprint this one little space opera would make on the culture and mindset of human civilization that would extend into the 21st Century.
Creator Gene Roddenberry introduced us to a world in which things like, long-distance communicators, scanning devices, faster-than-light particles and Starships were commonplace. And thanks to STAR TREK, these same things are part of our vernacular and thinking today.
You can go anywhere on the globe and it would be extremely hard to not find at least one person who doesn’t know about phasers, warp drive or that most famous of phrases, “Beam Me Up Scotty,” which, by-the-way was never spoken by our hero Captain Kirk (played by actor William Shatner) until many years later in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home movie.
The original STAR TREK series (TOS) was scheduled for a 5 year run, but after only 79 episodes, or 3 years, was abruptly cancelled by NBC Television and replaced with lighter fair. The program ended up in a relatively new idea in television programming called syndication, where it found new life and soon caught on to become a cultural icon. If this had occurred today then TOS would have never again seen the light of day as it now takes a mininum of 100 shows shot and in-the-can before a program can go into syndication. While gaining new strength in TV’s backwaters an animated series centered around the characters in TOS was developed and also was popular with fans.
After several years of building a huge worldwide fan-base in syndication and with the success of that other big blockbuster “Star Wars,” the heads at Paramount decided to bring out their own big space adventure, dust it off, and put it on the big screen. The result was “STAR TREK: The Motion Picture.” Not a stellar event but it gained enough popularity with the fans and earned enough money at the box-office to spawn a total of 9 more feature films (with another rumored to be in the planning stages) and 4 spinoff series’, the most popular to-date being STAR TREK: The Next Generation (TNG).
It must be kept in mind that when TOS first aired in 1966 no human had ever walked on another world. Three years later Neil Armstrong would step foot on our Moon. The American space program was far behind that of the Soviets and Space Shuttles were not even on the drawing boards. STAR TREK has launched the careers of many of the NASA and JPL personnel that have created the phenomenal developments in space over the last 20 to 30 years. I would be hard-pressed to imagine where our venture into space would be today if it had not been for the imaginative ideals, ideas and concepts found in STAR TREK.
Thank you Gene, wherever you may be and Happy 39th STAR TREK. May you continue to LIVE LONG and PROSPER.