44 years ago tonight, NBC aired the first episode of Star Trek. That episode was “The Man Trap.” Now, 44 years later, 726 episodes of Star Trek have been created over 30 seasons of television. 11 feature films have been made and another is slated to be released in the summer of 2012.
On September 8, 1966 Star Trek was revolutionary. Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a positive future was astounding given the social and political climate of the day. He envisioned a future where humanity had not only survived but had overcome the petty jealousies, racism, sexism and capitalistic greed of the twentieth century. Its vision of hope, more than the nifty gadgets, great adventure stories or larger than life performers, is what has allowed it to become such a huge part of our popular culture.
Worldwide, whether people are Star Trek “fans” or not, they know the names Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Enterprise. They know what Warp Speed, Phasers, Communicators and Klingons are. Catchphrases like “Beam me up, Scotty!”, “Make it so!”, and “Engage!” can be heard in almost every country.
For me, the appeal of Star Trek is at its roots. I love Roddenberry’s Humanist ideals. They have informed my own personal philosophies since childhood and helped to make me the person I am today. For others, the appeal lies in the science fiction adventure and the incredible gadgets that Star Trek has created. The designers of Star Trek predicted cell phones, personal computers, iPads and needless injection technology many years before any of them were reality.
Whatever its appeal is for you, I hope you take the time today to watch an episode or two of Star Trek and help to celebrate 44 years of entertainment, enlightenment and adventure. Though we as a species have a long way to go if we’re aiming for the ideal of humanity as presented in Star Trek, we will always have it as a guide. Happy 44th, Star Trek! May you Live Long and Prosper.