Star Trek was born on September 8, 1966, with the airing of the first ever episode "The Man Trap". Now, I'm not one of those people who claim that the heavens parted and their lives changed forever after that first hour of Star Trek was over. There's a good reason for that: I was simply too young to watch it, let alone be moved by it. No, my obsession didn't start until years later when I could actually think and read and stuff like that. Star Trek hit me right between the eyes when I discovered it being shown every afternoon at 6 on my local Kaiser Broadcasting station (Channel 61, Cleveland!) in the early seventies. While my parents watched Cronkite, I watched Kirk. And watched, and watched and – well, I'm still watching!
That staying power has been fueled by one key thing: Star Trek is, at its best, a story about ideas. Sometimes it's big ideas (the end of the universe!) and sometimes small (the love between mother and child). And that's the beauty of Trek. It's not just telling the same story over and over (Law & Order, anyone?). It's about opening new doors, looking into corners that are rarely, if ever, peeked at and shining a light onto new possibilities. It can be alternately heavy (The Motion Picture) or light (The Voyage Home), big ("Best of Both Worlds") or intimate ("The Inner Light"). Great and awful (too many of each to name).
Star Trek typically tells its stories through the lens of family and how that family comes together in a moment of crisis to move things to a safer ground. Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Picard, Data and Riker. Sisko and his crew, and on and on. Our heroes are challenged, then rise to meet said challenge through ability, intelligence, guts and having that most undefinable of qualities, The Right Stuff. Sometimes they win, sometimes they don't. But it's almost always a positive, forward-looking outcome which is refreshing in this age of stories about darkness, evil and How Bad Things Are. In an ever-increasing pessimistic world, Star Trek has always strived to show the best in humanity.
We need that optimism now more than ever.
With that in mind, there's a new Trek coming our way next year. It's called Star Trek Discovery, a name that evokes the very best of what Star Trek can be. You know the drill:
"...to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldy go where no one has gone before."
Let's hope this new Trek lives up to its distinguished pedigree.
Happy Fiftieth, Star Trek. May you continue to Live Long and Prosper.