When Star Trek premiered in September 1966 this young teenager faced a problem. The local NBC station was showing reruns of Laramie (NBC Western 1959-1963) during the time slot.
It would be later in the season before the local station would begin its broadcast of this innovative series, after a number of letters were written to the station manager. So began a journey which has lasted until now.
At the time no one knew the impact this television series would have on the teenagers who watched it. From a simple beginning the series has touched the lives of countless millions.
Why did Gene Roddenberry create Star Trek, the wagon train to the stars?
“Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.”
In essence Star Trek taught that the earth is a very small community in the neighborhood of the cosmos. Out there the “second star to the right and straight on till morning” was a grand adventure waiting to be found.
Star Trek focused on all humans coming together for the common good of the planet. As we know, in the 1960s the planet was fractured and tilting like an old broken windmill on the Oosterschelde.
The series left the air in 1969, but not without a gallant “save Star Trek” letter-writing campaign to the NBC brass by the young viewers (including myself) who were not viewed as a demographic heavy-weight. Syndication gave new life, and those teenagers grew up to take over the running of the country.
In 1976 something marvelous happened as NASA planned to roll out its first space shuttle—Constitution. After an extensive letter-writing campaign to President Gerald Ford, the name was changed to Enterprise. Complete details are delineated in the references below.
Then rumors began to circulate of a possible movie or a new television series based on Star Trek (Star Trek: Phase II). Paramount Pictures had plans to launch their own television network with Phase II as its flagship series. The fans were excited.
After all the hurrah, Paramount decided to make a feature length film and choose Robert Wise to direct. Star Trek the Motion Picture debuted in December 1979.
As I sat in the Washington, DC theatre watching this film, “the toy for the eyes” as the late Roger Ebert penned in his December 7, 1979 review, the music, pristine cast and ship were overwhelming. It was an enjoyable experience for this recent university graduate.
However, in the years to come with more films and television series, new generations of trekkers were born. In 2009, with the reboot of the film franchise under J. J. Abrams’s skill creative genius, as an older trekkie, I found this new version “fun”.
Looking forward to the May release of Into Darkness; The concepts and philosophies of Star Trek will live long and prosper after my generation has left the scene.
As Captain James T. Kirk eloquently stated in the closing comment of Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country:
“Captain’s log: Stardate 9529.1
This is the final cruise of the Star Ship Enterprise under my command. This ship and its history will shortly become the care of another crew, to them and their posterity we will commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man or no one has gone before.”
G. D. Williams © 2013
Previous Posts on Star Trek
Thursday, September 8, 1966
The Star Child and Its Destiny In The Cosmos
The Inner Light
Star Trek: Into Darkness
The Hollywood Reporter: Damon Lindelof
William Shatner as Captain Kirk used the rifle to great effect in ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ which aired in 1966
“The first space shuttle was originally supposed to be called the Constitution. But in 1976, President Gerald Ford received tens of thousands of letters from “Star Trek” fans.
“The science fiction buffs saw the shuttle as the realization of their dream world. They wanted it renamed Enterprise. Ford ended up renaming the first space shuttle after the starship from a TV series that ran for only three years. Suddenly, a bunch of Hollywood actors found themselves in the realm of astronauts and rocket scientists.
“It was amazing what they accomplished,” said George Takei, who played Lt. Sulu on “Star Trek.” “The number of letters going to the White House was of tsunami proportions.”
In 1976, Takei found himself with his fellow cast members at center stage when the Enterprise was unveiled to the public on a runway in Palmdale, California. “They had the Air Force band there. And they started playing the theme from ‘Star Trek,’ ” Takei said. “Out rolled this glistening craft with the word Enterprise painted on its side. It was a memory that I still cherish today.”
Takei learned that day that “Star Trek” inspired an entire generation of science fiction buffs to get involved with space exploration. NASA engineer and iReporter Candy Torres was among them. “I went to conventions in New York City, and I have the costumes and all those pictures … and I’m not ashamed of them,” she said.
Torres worked on software for the space shuttle at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She said “Star Trek” fueled her interest in space exploration. “Yes, I wanted the excitement of travel in space and all that, but the ‘Star Trek’ image of people working together was also very important to me.”
Roger Ebert: Star Trek Move Reviews
Star Trek Phase II
Star Trek Renegades
Star Trek: Of Gods and Men