Happy 45th Anniversary, Star Trek

Geek Culture

Once upon a time, there lived a man. This man was a dreamer. This man had hopes and visions of a better future, a future built upon true equality and mutual respect. This man’s name was Gene Roddenberry.

Gene had an idea. He wanted to share his dream and his ideals. The way he did this was through a television series called Star Trek. However, many people at the time did not want Gene to share his dream. He was told that it was too cerebral, too liberal, too unbelievable.  It took a lot of work for him to find someone willing to embark on this dream with Gene. But Gene did not give up. After five years of a lot of hard work and dedication, on September 8, 1966, Star Trek aired for the first time.

What aired for the first time was not Gene’s original vision. The original pilot, titled The Cage, which Gene started to create in 1964 and was completed in 1965, was rejected for a variety of reasons. Among the reasons was that, even among feminists of the time, the idea of a female first officer was simply unbelievable and insulting. Gene was also told to get rid of the character of Mr. Spock, among other things. However, the network was still impressed enough to order a second pilot. After a lot of negotiations and recasting, including negotiations to keep the character of Mr. Spock, the second pilot, Where No Man Has Gone Before, is what audiences saw for the first time.

Today is an important date to me–aside from the fact that today my oldest is 16. The reasons why today is important to me are extremely difficult to articulate.

Out of every thing that has influenced the geeky nerd I’ve grown-up to be, Star Trek played the biggest and most important role. This role was so important, that it received its own short story in my book.

As this day started to approach, I tried my best to figure out how I would relay all the ways in which Gene’s vision shaped me, all the ways that Gene’s vision helped to save my life. Originally, I thought I would share the story from my book. But without the context of the rest of my book and the fact the story was written two years ago, I feel it doesn’t have the impact that I think is deserving of such a day.

Growing up, I did not have the best life. In fact, it was as far from ideal as one could get. Growing up, I was told, “Don’t be silly, you can’t do that”, instead of, “Give it shot”. Star Trek taught me that I was capable of anything as long as I held on to my dreams. Star Trek taught me that I have unlimited potential and possibility laying before me, that there is no obstacle or barrier to stop me except for myself, that my imagination is something to be cultivated and nurtured, not subdued. Star Trek helped shape the nerd I am today, giving me a love for both science and art.

These messages were further ingrained within me when Star Trek: The Next Generation first aired in 1987. The character of Wesley Crusher was a life-saver. It is because I was and continue to be Wesley Crusher. Even though I was never teased by my peers for being a geek and a nerd, I had a hard time growing up because of my above-average intelligence. I received straight As without ever studying. I have an almost eidetic memory. Socially, I was very awkward. I found it extremely difficult–and still do to this day–to relate to people my own age. I had a habit of correcting adults, all the time, because they were wrong. I skipped grade 7. I felt alone. Star Trek and specifically Star Trek: The Next Generation and the character of Wesley Crusher allowed me to feel as if I belonged to something. I was not alone. And I am certain others relate to this.

Star Trek has a place for every one, regardless of sex, gender, colour, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age and background. Star Trek challenged social norms of the time and forced viewers to think. Star Trek allows people to dream of the possibilities. Star Trek allows us to believe that, as a species, we can overcome great obstacles and become united as one. Star Trek inspires many to pursue jobs in science and space. Star Trek gives us hope. Star Trek has given me more gifts than I could ever articulate.

From the day I was born, I watched Star Trek. From the day my boys were born, they watched Star Trek. One thing that makes me quite sad is that my boys do not have a Star Trek, one filled with Gene’s vision of the future, that speaks to their generation. When the original Star Trek first aired, my dad was 12. When The Next Generation first aired, I was 11. My boys are now 12 and 16. There is talk of a new series, one that is supposedly going to be true to Roddenberry’s original concept. I hope this becomes a reality.

I tried to find a 45th Anniversary tribute video that really spoke to me. However, I’ve yet to find one that even comes close to doing the series justice like the following 40th Anniversary tribute video does. Watching it never fails to put something in my eyes.

On October 24, 1991, Gene Roddenberry passed away, leaving behind a legacy not soon forgotten. May his dreams and hopes for a better future live long and prosper.

What gifts has Star Trek given you?

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18 thoughts on “Happy 45th Anniversary, Star Trek

  1. The first time I ever stood up to my domineering step-father was when I was watching The Next Generation at seventeen and got up to get a drink of water. He took the opportunity to change the channel. When I walked back in the room and he smirked at me, I lost it. There were so many, many things that he did to make my life miserable, changing the tv channel isn’t really a big deal. Yet, at that moment it was the breaking point. I had never raised my voice to him before, but I screamed, “I WAS WATCHING STAR TREK!” He changed it back without saying a word and left the room.

    Two years later I was in a tiny apartment with my boyfriend and newborn daughter far away from home. My real dad sent me tapes he had made of the new Star Trek called Voyager because I couldn’t get tv reception where I lived. My dad told me the woman in charge kicked ass, just like me. They saved my sanity.

    A short time later I was married, living in a new city far from home and had two kids. Every Wednesday night was Voyager night. For one hour a week, my husband kept the children away from me while I watched my show. Ice-cream was a part of this ritual 🙂

    I love Star Trek.

  2. Growing up, Star Trek was the one of the only things that gave me hope. It showed me that being different didn’t have to mean a life of misery, which probably saved my life (and definitely saved my sanity).

  3. I grew up watching reruns of the orignial series and I was hooked. TNG helped me value my potential; and to move forward, not backwards. DS9 helped me see that there are positive role models for African American men which was rare at the time and an alternate to the comedy shows which Black actors are often on not showing a non-comedic role.

    At first, some people criticized Avery Brooks I believe due to his race. I even debated with fellow sci-fi fans about it and stuck to my guns. My argument had proven that I was right because the criticisms were racially motivated. Captain Sisko has proven to be a great captain just as if not better than Kirk and Picard.

    I am glad that DS9 stayed on for 7 years and even my mother who wasn’t a sci-fi fan enjoyed an episode when Sisko went back in time in the 1950s. She lived through that era and could relate to the issues of Race and Gender which are still relevant today.

    I am now 40 years young and thankful for the impact that Star Trek has left on my life. Happy Birthday Star Trek and thank you Mr. Roddenberry.

  4. My very first memory of color television was watching a white starship moving across a bright orange planet spinning in space. It was 1969, and my father had bought a brand new color television. He told my mother that he’d bought it specifically to watch the first manned landing on the moon, but really, he bought that TV because he was tired of watching Star Trek in black and white. I loved that show. I wanted to be Lt. Uhura when I grew up, and I attribute much of my geekiness to her.

    I love telling my kids how much Star Trek has influenced their lives. I mean, admit it, who doesn’t think the iPad was influenced by the PADDS in Star Trek???

  5. I was close to the age of your dad when I first saw Star Trek. I was and still am a TOS fan. Next Generation and the other spinoffs never had the same appeal for some reason. Thanks for reminding us of the anniversary!

    1. Earlier this week, I was having a conversation on Twitter about something relating to this. I’ve notice that what people label as their favourite Trek has a lot to do with when they came into the Trek universe.

      Those who are just coming into Trek in the last couple of years, tend to like Berman’s Trek a lot more. One person made a comment saying they liked it more because they feel that Roddenberry’s Trek was too optimistic and that nobody suffered.

      Those of who grew up with Roddenberry’s Trek needed that optimism, we needed to believe that whatever limitations society was saying we had, for whatever reason, can disappear; life can be better. Roddenberry’s Trek wasn’t blind to the horrible things in the world. Quite opposite. Roddenberry’s Trek taught people to fight and try to eliminate those things. People suffered very much in Roddenberry’s Trek.

      Berman’s vision never caused me to think. Both TOS and TNG challenged me think about the way I viewed the world. DS9 and Voyager didn’t do that for me. It also didn’t help me to feel like I had a place.

      I always go back and forth over which is my favourite TOS or TNG. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pick because both of them gave me different gifts, using similar mechanisms. And I think TNG was very good for speaking to my generation. It dealt with very relevant issues of the time.

      I really hope my children get something similar. Sure, we have wonderful discussions about how the situations tackled in TOS and TNG were very taboo and hot topics but for them, at least in the culture they are growing up in here in Canada, the issues are not as relevant as they once were. They too need and deserve a show to shake them out of their comfort zones.

      1. I am a fan on TOS and TNG, DS9 was the black sheep of Star Trek. It allowed the characters to be darker and it dealt with issues that the previous shows didn’t address in the past such as Race and Spirtuality in more detail and with Terrorism. Nana Visitor had said in a recent interview that when DS9 was on, people wouldn’t get it and years later, they are starting to understand it.

        I am excited for this new series and looking forward to it.

  6. I grew up watching Next Generation, and Trek will always hold a special place in my heart. There’s a reason why my webcomic is built heavily around the Star Trek concept.

  7. I found Star Trek in 1994, when I was a nerdy 14 year old. I started with TNG, but quickly became hooked on TOS. I didn’t get to watch many episodes, since we were living overseas, but I devoured the novels. The next summer, when we moved to a new city and I didn’t have a single friend, Captain Kirk and Spock and all the rest of the Enterprise crew were my friends, and again the summer after that, when we moved again. Even now, I still love reading those books, like “Spock’s World” and “The Wounded Sky”, because of all the beautiful things they have to say about friendship and hope and the good things that humanity can accomplish. Compared to the horrible things we see on the news every day, it’s nice to be reminded of those things.

  8. Saw TOS so many, many times. What an amazing cast – so much accomplished with so little. That 40th anniversary vid (along with the comments above) says a lot about how many of us feel about it.

    And, I think, about the future we’re heading for – regardless of all the deprived imaginations that would have it otherwise. Salud!

  9. this is wonderful. One thing. Don’t count on a new series being true to Gene’s vision. If JarJar Abrams showed anything it’s that he doesn’t understand and couldn’t care less about Gene’s show and TRUE Star Trek.

    1. BWAHAHAHA @ JarJar Abrams.

      I don’t know if you clicked on the link or not, but Abrams will have nothing to do with the new series. David Foster is. Just to quote a bit of the article:

      “Foster envisions his series as a return to Roddenberry’s original concept. “[W]hile Star Trek has moved on with other series that were not exactly in line with Gene’s original vision, the roots are there to tap into,” he said. Don’t expect something too old-fashioned, though — Foster also lists Joss Whedon, Ron Moore, Manny Coto, and J. Michael Straczynski as his inspirations on his site.

      Timeline-wise, the new series will very definitely be moving forward. The show will take place in the post-Voyager era, and will remain faithful to pre-2009 canon as well as Star Trek: Enterprise canon. (Since Abrams’ 2009 film took place in an alternate timeline, Foster’s story would not be in conflict with Abrams’.)

      Although Foster was reluctant to spill too many details, he revealed a bit about the plot:

      The series is highly energized with a much younger cast, and uses cutting-edge future technologies with newly envisioned special effects and designs. It includes Klingons, Ferengi, Andorians, Vulcans, Trill, and many more. The Klingons are getting very restless since the Praxis incident forced them to come to the peace tables, and are tired of having to rely on the Federation for support. The Ferengi have discovered a vast new resource that has propelled them towards instant riches and power beyond anything they have previously experienced.”

      A younger crew makes me a bit nervous, but if they are fresh out of Star Fleet and by young they mean 20s instead of 30s, I could get behind that.

  10. I think Star Trek has been a very positive influence on education and schooling for the sciences– not just in futuristic views alone.

    I met James Doohan many years ago as a young grade schooler, but didn’t know it at the time. I think it was 1980 or 1981, when I was in first grade. He was there on behalf of the Department of Energy; I live near the Hanford site and engineers have definitely been a part of its long “Atomic Age” history. I was familiar with TOS but honestly didn’t know who he was, then. I just thought at the time he was a very nice man who came to talk to us at the Hanford Science Center about energy issues.

    I didn’t realize until the local newspaper reported him doing a similar appearance. Thinking back that I didn’t recognize him those years ago, but remembered his educational commitment… THAT impressed me.

    (I’m not a professional teacher, but I was trained to be. What did you expect?)

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