Star Trek: its 50 year mission…to boldly keep on going

Star Trek: its 50 year mission…to boldly keep on going

September 8, 1966: the first episode of Star Trek debuted.

It’s now fifty years later…and the Trek universe is still a major part of pop culture, with a movie this year and a new series in the works.

I thought I’d share my own perspective…I go back a long ways on this. 🙂

I actually remember watching part of one episode when it was first aired. I was on my parents’ bed, and the TV was sort of stuck in a closet, where you opened the doors to be able to watch it. I don’t remember which episode it was, but I must have been being allowed to stay up late to watch it.

The series was almost canceled, but Bjo Trimble and her husband launched a fan campaign to keep it on the air. They used the tech available…encouraging a letter mailing campaign, not just to the studio and the network, but importantly, to the sponsors.

Star Trek got that third season.

Now, fans (or “fen”, if you want to use the fannish plural) generally consider the third season to be the worst…”third season” has even been a dismissive assessment of something. “How was that movie?” “It was so third season.”

Without that third season, though, there wouldn’t have been enough episodes for the show to be syndicated…and that could have been the end of the story.

This was all pre-home video…

While most syndicated shows had more episodes, it didn’t hurt that maybe we were seeing them a tad more often. The show would run five days a week…and if possible, we’d watch every one. Once we would get into the third season, I remember calculating how long it would be before it would start over. That’s not to say that the third season is entirely without its charms, but the early shows were better for me.

It was during this time that I, and many of my age, became deeply immersed in Gene Roddenberry’s vision. It was when, as a bumper sticker of the day had it, that I learned to “grok Spock”. Spock would become one of my fictional heroes (along with Doc Savage and Kwai Chang Caine). All three of these had things in common: other people saw them as “super”, but they all personally thought they were failures. They all valued emotional control. They all wanted to help others, but were always perceived as outsiders.

Spock, especially, exemplified this internal inferiority/external extraordinariness concept. Spock was, objectively, better than his crewmates in many ways. He was physically stronger, intellectually advanced…but felt himself to be weak, flawed, and unable to meet his father’s expectations.

Spock, though wasn’t as good as Spock plus Kirk…and McCoy was essential as the third point in the triangle.

We embraced all the characters (even “bad guys”, like Harry Mudd), and the tech, and the settings. We had Star Trek “tracer guns”, which fired small plastic discs. We read the Mad Magazine “Star Blecch” parody in 1967 (which was reprinted).

In 1970, Spock Must Die! by James Blish was published…and started a phenomenon of original Star Trek novels (not adaptations of episodes) which is still happening today.

By 1972, the first Star Trek convention was held. There had been fan conventions for decades, but this one was dedicated to this one series.

The success of syndication brought us the first follow on series: Star Trek: The Animated Series, starting in 1973.

It was great to hear almost all of the bridge crew back voicing their roles (only Walter Koenig didn’t make it as Chekov…although he would write a script for the series).

Quite a few of the elements of the original series returned…includes tribbles and yes, Harry Mudd.

It didn’t have the same feel for me, though. I particularly remember the music being intrusive.

Fan culture was big…there were fanzines, in particular, and fan clubs.

1977’s Star Wars suddenly made science fiction mainstream in a whole new way. Naturally, Star Trek, which already had a thriving fandom, made sense for a big screen adaptation.

Once again, the original bridge crew was reassambled…but the movie was, for many of us, disappointing. Some of it was so slow! In my area, rumor had it that Paramount allowed a local film student to re-cut it…for one thing, reducing the amount of time that we just were supposed to stare in awe as the Enterprise was onscreen. It retrospect, that almost certainly wasn’t true, but it was a widespread belief.

Fortunately, in 1982, Nicholas Meyer saved us (and the future of the series), with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Sure, it was almost operatic…but Ricardo Montalban was so good reprising a one-time role from the series! It had great moments, and many of us still reference the Kobayashi Maru. Okay, so Saavik never really became a fan favorite, but it was still a great movie.

Star Trek III simply wasn’t as good. Star Trek IV, though, the one with the whales, was fun! This created the mythology that every other Star Trek movie was going to be good. 🙂

1987 brought a new phase, with first live action follow on TV series, and it didn’t focus on the original characters…Star Trek: The Next Generation.

I wasn’t a big fan of the first season. I remember thinking that the way they solved things was by researching what the original crew did.

It grew on me. Picard and Data are iconic, and Q and the Borg were excellent additions to the universe.

From there on, we got more series and more movies. I’d say a standout for me was Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway (I was already familiar with Mulgrew), although Voyager wasn’t my favorite series.

When Star Trek was rebooted…I was pleased. I think Zachary Quinto is a charismatic and intelligent actor, and Chris Pine is always fun. It seems to me to be much more about action than thought, though, which takes it away from the core strength of The Original Series.

In particular, there seems to no moral ambiguity. The Federation was certainly imperfect, and so were the main characters. Kirk and Spock in TOS could be in the wrong…and could realize it.’

The 2016 Spock seems way too confident…he would not have become my hero in the way that the 1966 Spock did.

That doesn’t diminish my relationship to the Star Trek universe. For decades, it has been important to me and to the geekiverse…and society as a whole.

Thank you to Gene Roddenberry and to every single person involved in making Star Trek what it has been and what it will be.

Live long and prosper.

For links to many Star Trek resources, including searching for streaming options and public libraries, see the entry at The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip for September 8, 1966.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

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9 Responses to “Star Trek: its 50 year mission…to boldly keep on going”

  1. Phink Says:

    I love this series and oddly have watched every episode of every series except the original series and the animation series. A few years ago I tried to watch the original and could not get through more than a few episodes. I thought it was pretty bad. I know most Trekkie’s would take me off their cool list for saying that but I did not enjoy it. Saying that however, I do like the crew. I thought the story’s were just not that great for the most part.

    I love the series and even with my current job when interviewed I was asked “do you speak any languages besides English?” I answered “I speak Klingon. Does that count?” She laughed and said “No, that doesn’t count.” I would normally not joke during an interview but in 2011 I was at a point in my life where I did not need a job and really did not care a whole lot if I got the job or not. Of course I can’t really speak Klingon other than roughly 7 or 8 words that I use when I can. When I pick up the phone I answer with “Q-Plah” rather than “hello.” That is the truth. I really do.

    I started naming my kindles after Star Trek ships. The Paperwhite Next Gen got named ‘1701-D’. The next model was named ‘1701-E’. I named Voyage ‘Voyager’. I’m really glad the name was close so I could do that.

    Next Gen is my favorite but Voyager is a very close 2nd. I thought Voyager had the best story’s in the franchise. Although I think Captain Janeway was…..I won’t say the worse captain personality wise but in my opinion the worse when it came to decision making. Well, one of us would have made bad decision, maybe it was me, not her. In one episode the holographic Doctor disobeyed orders and ejected the warp core. If things had not worked out Voyager would have been stuck at impulse speed with no hope of ever going faster. The crew would have been doomed. What did Janeway do in the form of punishment? She took his mobile emitter away for something like a week. Oh my Lord that is a weak punishment. He would have been in the brig a while on my ship and then only activated as needed for at least a year to two. I disagreed with her on multiple occasions but loved the character and the show.

    Geez, this is long. Sorry, I did not mean to rant.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      The Start Trek multiverse is big enough to encompass all sorts of fans…I don’t think there are many people who love every second of it. 🙂

      Even big fans of the first series agree there were substandard episodes, especially in the third season. It’s possible that if you saw other episodes, you might like those…but maybe not. There are things now that can jar with modern sensibilities, certainly. It may be like me not liking tomatoes…tomato sauce is fine. I just can’t take the texture. I’ve been told it’s because I’ve never had a good tomato…but I’m not going to start trying more tomatoes to find out. 😉

      As to the Klingon thing…you are probably aware that Klingon is considered a real language, created by a linguist. There is a Klingon Language Institute, and they do translate things into Klingon. I remember a story (I think on NPR) years ago. A crisis center was advertising for translators, and one of the languages they listed was Klingon. Someone from the center was being interviewed, and the interviewed questioned needing a Klingon translator. The response was something like, “Well, we don’t need one full-time, but we do need someone we can call. We’ve had people show up here who only speak Klingon…” They did do mental health services. I was impressed that they would recognize Klingon (although it has a distinctive sound), but then I realized that the people in that situation might also look like Klingons…

      Janeway isn’t necessarily who I would want to have as my Captain, but I was saying the character stood out for me as distinctive. If I had to be in person’s crew…I think it would be Picard. I like the original series better, but I think Picard might be a better leader in some ways…more temperamentally like me, I’d say, but that probably shouldn’t be the measure (although I do think I’m a good leader). I would guess I’d be a blueshirt, though.

      • Phink Says:

        You know I am the founding and only member of the Klingon Bikers Association. I’d probably rename it the Congress of Klingon Bikers someday if I ever get a trike. I need a trike since losing my leg in a motorcycle wreck in 2003. And yes, they cut up my jacket with my logo (or colors as us bad boy bikers call them hehe) on the back. I never found another prospect because there were two rules. You must be a trekkie and you must own a bike. I knew a few that’d fit one category but not both. I was going to name my bikes after Star Trek females but only got to name one. I was saving B’elanna for a brand new awesome bike in the future. For the crappy bike I had at the time of my wreck I used the name Minuet. In case you forgot that was Rikers holographic love interest. I always liked her character.

        We celebrate 1st Contact Day (April 5th, 2063) every year usually with a cookout or something. It’s a lot of fun. I think I will watch the rest of the original series. I do like the crew (from the movies).

        If I were going to serve under one of the Captain’s I’d also choose Picard because I had the most faith in him than any other to do a good job. That’s not to say other capatains were not qualified. I’m just saying I think he was the best Captain of the bunch. Best character and best commander.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Phink!

        I’d also argue that Patrick Stewart had the best performance of the Captains, especially one episode where Picard was back home.

        Of all the characters, I’d most want Spock with me. After that, oddly, it might be Worf, even though we aren’t much alike at all. Of course, that can be an advantage. Meeting Data would be fun, but I don’t think he was that effective. Oh, Number One from the original pilot would be good as a team member! I’m just staying with Federation crewmembers…Harry Mudd would make for an interesting evening, and could be utilized in specific circumstances.

        I wanted that in the reboot series…that the Enterprise is captured by a mysterious force, whisked away, they get to a big sort of throne room, the throne rotates and…it’s Harry Mudd! That would be a great moment for me, for sure. 🙂

        Since you might watch the whole series, I won’t bother recommending specific episodes…although I can think of a few right off.

  2. Round up #146: get a free Echo or Fire Tablet with a subscription, big Fall books | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Star Trek: its 50 year mission…to boldly keep on going […]

  3. Phink Says:

    Off topic and just so you’ll know. My big box retailer employer is giving all employees $70 off ($109) the echo until next Saturday. That is pretty darn cheap but I just can’t use another one so I’ll pass. It’s possible they are doing this because very few of the employees know anything about it and sales have been horrific. I thought they had pulled the product but they were simply moved to another location. I’m really surprised they have not been discontinued because as you say floor space cost money and if something is not selling that is a big expense. Please don’t post this publicly. Thanx.

  4. Lady Galaxy Says:

    The only TV series I never watched was “Enterprise” because at the time it was on, my local area did not have whatever network it was on. I suppose I could find it streaming somewhere, but from what I’ve heard, it wasn’t one of the better series in the franchise.

    I missed the last few years of Voyager for the same reason, but I did go back and watch those in DVD. I had been a fan of Kate Mulgrew since her days on “Ryan’s Hope.” I wish I had avoided the final episode.

    I own all the DVD’s for the original series and Next Generation. I was one of those rare folks who watched the first episode the first time it aired on network TV. I can’t say I fell instantly in love with that first episode, but it got me hooked and kept me watching to the point that I eventually did fall in love with it. Reading the three “These are the Voyages” books made me really appreciate how much was done production wise considering the meager budget allocated. It’s amazing that the franchise survived considering how underappreciated it was by the network executives.

    I didn’t care for the first season of Next Generation, but I kept watching. Fortunately, it kept getting better and better. The final episode was among the great series ending episodes of all time.

    I watched all of Deep Space 9, but it was my least favorite. I loved the characters, but I wasn’t fond of the basic story lines. I don’t think Gene Roddenberry would have approved of all the religious aspects and the prolonged war!

  5. Phink Says:

    A friend of mine had a good idea for the final episode of Voyager. We discussed it the day before it aired. Before I tell then I want to say I’m not sure it’d be a great idea financially but I’d loved to have seen it. He had the idea that in the last episode of Voyager they’d have some type of major engine failure or other such problem with the ship and be forced to land and set up house on a Class M planet in the Delta Quandrant. That’s it. The series is over with them stranded on this planet. Then, the next movie would be the Enterprise E rescuing them.

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