Tuesday, March 8, 2016

To Boldly Go: 50 Years Of Star Trek

Space, the final frontier. For the past fifty years, Star Trek has captured the imagination of millions of steadfast dreamers and science-fiction enthusiasts alike. With five television shows and a dozen films, this bright vision of the future challenges us to imagine a united human race without greed, poverty or prejudice. In Star Trek, humanity has not only mastered space travel but has created alliances with other lifeforms in the galaxy. The franchise’s continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Recently, I attended the Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage concert at the Landmark Theater in downtown Syracuse. This traveling production, celebrating fifty years of Trek, featured clips of the shows and movies accompanied by a live orchestra. As I sat in the darkened theater totally immersed in this series, I was once again reminded why I love it so much. Star Trek, in all of it’s many iterations, is not simply about space exploration but also things like loyalty, friendship, compassion and perseverance. To me, this franchise truly about hope at it’s core. Hope that the future can be better than today, that technology will continue to improve lives, that peace is always an option and that all sentient beings deserve certain fundamental rights. 

In the 1960’s, Gene Roddenberry conceived the original Star Trek series as a way to discuss the current issues of the time through imaginative sci-fi storytelling. When the groundbreaking show premiered on NBC in September of 1966, audiences were exposed to a racially diverse crew that solves moral conundrums juxtaposed with starships and aliens. The original series, simply TOS to fellow Trekkies, only aired for three seasons but forever changed what a television show could be. TOS addressed racism, class structure, militarism and gender inequality; the show even influenced the creation of technology such as cell phones. The show’s cult following in syndication, which included my mom and grandfather, sparked the continuation this intergalactic phenomenon on the big screen.

Twenty-eight years ago, the series finally returned to television with Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show that carried on Roddenberry’s vision until his death in 1991. The Next Generation (TNG), which my parents watched religiously, followed a new crew on a new Starship Enterprise one-hundred years after the events of TOS. The Emmy winning series starring Patrick Stewart, lasted for seven seasons, had four films and led to the spin-off shows Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Star Trek also spawned the Enterprise prequel TV show and the ongoing cinematic reimagining of TOS by J.J. Abrams. Every show and film of the franchise has it’s own distinctive style and tone but all share one common theme: imagination.

Carl Sagan once said, "Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”  Star Trek may exist in the realm of fantasy, however, Gene Roddenberry’s dream of a utopian future was very real and continues to live on. He believed, as do I, that a vastly better tomorrow is within reach and each of have the tools within us to make it happen. The franchise’s evolution itself proves that society is shifting. This series, that is so close to my heart, is far from over; Star Trek: Beyond hits theaters in October and a new TV series is slated to premiere next year. Here’s to fifty years of Star Trek and to hopefully fifty more. To all Trekkies young and old, I say: live long and prosper...

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