Forty-six years ago, the first episode of a science fiction TV series was broadcast. It was called Star Trek and it was destined to change the world. Half a century later, it is ingrained in our pop culture, lives on in spin-off shows, movies and books and has inspired three generations of thinkers, explorers and dreamers.
It began with a simple, powerful idea — that in the future, humankind could abolish war, poverty, racism and intolerance. We would strive not for money or power but for the betterment of ourselves. It was a radical idea for the late-1960s, when thousands were dying in the jungles and rice paddies of Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement was railing against inequality and two nuclear superpowers stood one phone call away from mutual annihilation. The idea that humanity would survive and thrive into the 23rd century as a peaceful society was a blinding flash of hope in a world so desperately in need of a reason to believe in a better future.
I was introduced The Next Generation during its original run (before I could even read). Then, as I grew older, I discovered The Original Series and its later incarnations. At first, I was drawn to the adventure, the larger than life characters and the explosions. It was only later that I realized there was a message. It wasn’t just the planet/monster of the week that I loved, it was the promise.
I watched a lot of Trek in middle school, shortly after moving to Flagstaff. I was having trouble fitting in and making friends. Star Trek taught me that I had a place in the world and I didn’t have to change — infinite diversity in infinite combinations made the universe go round. It was a soothing salve for the loneliness.
I know it’s just a TV show, but it’s my favorite TV show. Sure, it’s cheesy, but that’s exactly why we Trekkies (and Trekkers) love it so. The struggles faced by the crew of the Enterprise are more or less the same things we all struggle with. But while we get mired in petty fights, they rise above. They are us at our finest; the people we hope to someday be. We want Captain Kirk’s courage, Dr. McCoy’s humanism and Spock’s logic. We, too, want to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no one has gone before.
And as long as people continue to be inspired by Star Trek and its ideals, I have no doubt that we’ll reach that final frontier.
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