Thursday, September 8, 2016

STAR TREK (1966)


I’m one year older than Star Trek. Of course, as memories of my early years are lost to the fog of infancy and toddlerhood, I don’t recall really becoming aware of its existence until I was about nine years old, when, in 1974, the Star Trek animated series became a staple of my Saturday morning cartoon viewing. Around the same time, I received a Mego Captain Kirk action figure for Christmas. Other random Trek toys – and a few James Blish paperback novelizations – followed, and for Christmas of 1976, my favorite cousin gifted me with a copy of Bjo Trimble’s seminal Star Trek Concordance.

You’ll have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the original series as yet, and that’s because, in the early Seventies, Trek rarely appeared on any of the four television channels our rooftop aerial was capable of snagging out of the ether. So my love for Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al, was first nurtured via the cartoon and Blish paperbacks. When I got the Concordance, with its encyclopedic coverage of the classic series, I was able to familiarize myself with the episodes I had not yet seen, whetting my appetite to the point of nigh-insatiability.

Of course, eventually, I saw the entire series (although a few of those episodes eluded me until my sojourn to art school in Jersey in the early 80s, where I finally received a TV channel that aired the show nightly), and, already well-indoctrinated in the mythos, found my passion for the 23rd century and the crew of the U.S.S Enterprise continuing to grow and thrive. Then came The Motion Picture, The Wrath and The Search. There was a Voyage Home, a somewhat disappointing detour into The Final Frontier, and an emotional denouement on the shores of an Undiscovered Country.

Other treks followed, with next generations, lost voyagers and denizens on the edge of deep space, but it was always the (sadly truncated) original Five-Year-Mission that inspired and informed the person I became.

I learned the value of reason and logic from an alien with pointed ears and a Satanic visage. I learned the nobility of humanity and compassion toward all life, regardless of shape, color or form, from an anachronistic Southern medic. And, most importantly, I learned about the worth of boldness, courage, and tempered wisdom from a charming leader with a confident swagger sporting a gold tunic. Kirk was a fighter, a diplomat, a philosopher - and a libidinous wolf – but in my eyes, he was the best of us as a species. He wasn’t perfect – and to his credit, usually admitted his flaws and acknowledged his mistakes – but he was also a man of intelligence and action, who sought out brave new worlds and always had his eye on the future.

I have aspired to all of these things, and usually fallen woefully short. But Star Trek continues to fire my imagination, fuel my creative efforts, inform my social conscience and drive my personal ambitions. To me, it’s not just a television show, and apparently, many, many others feel the same way. If that wasn’t the case, then we wouldn’t be celebrating the anniversary of its debut fifty years ago today. The brand wouldn’t be gracing new movies and TV shows (regardless of their relative merits) on our screens, large and small(er). And Star Trek wouldn’t still be sparking imaginations and inspiring so many people, of all ages and backgrounds.

May Gene Roddenberry’s vision of humanity’s future live long and prosper... and the U.S.S. Enterprise and her valiant crew go boldly on forever.

11 comments:

  1. I was 8 years old during it's first run and I remember how unique it was. But it's real impact on me was when
    it went into syndication in the early 70s on our local
    New York channel (WPYX) and played daily. Followed by the first film in 78 and the rest as we know is 50 years of glorious history....)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow, I'm 2 years younger than TOS (1 year older than Mr. Mills, apparently). I have a nearly identical history of TOS discovery: Animated, books, and then originals when rarely available. However, it was Stephen Whitfield's "Making of Star Trek" book that cemented the series in my mind early on. I still have that tattered paperback.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was born in 1961, but had an older brother who was a James Bond & sci-fi fan in the 1960s--he got me hooked on shows like Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants & the final season of Star Trek (when it was still on the air). By the 1970s, he'd moved on but I was hooked--Planet of the Apes, Space 1999, but above everything else, Star Trek. Love your site, and Happy 50th!

    ReplyDelete
  4. An excellent tribute Chris.

    Born in 1969, I debuted as The Original Series ended.

    I became aware of Star Trek when my father, a Police Officer, would watch it with me on the only evening he didn't have to work, Saturday night. He never got to see it when it aired, having been in the Army at the time.

    My dad wasn't particularly a fan of Science Fiction, or other such things, but we both loved Star Trek. For that I am eternally grateful to Gene Roddenberry, and those who made the magic happen.

    Happy 50th Anniversary Star Trek!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am almost 2 weeks older than Star Trek (13 days, to be exact). My first memory is likened to 'cultural/zeitgeist osmosis'. I was simply always aware of it, even if it wasn't airing in syndication on any of our channels in Atlanta. I remember the cartoon well, but remember that when it debuted I already knew of the show, and even recognized that the actors from the show were doing the VOs. Maybe it was on one of our stations when I was really young and I just don't remember. I finally had my chance to really watch TOS when one of our local stations started running it in the afternoons right after Star Wars came out and the pop culture space race was on. But even before that I already had the action figures (for some reason, Scottie was my first one), and the Enterprise play set, and was already well-familiar with the 'rules' and tenets of the show.

    Anyway, this is a beautifully written tribute. Your observance has added to my overall experience with this 50th Anniversary. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post. I suspect the station that aired STAR TREK nightly was WPIX in NYC, which is where this former Longuylanduh grew up watching those midnight broadcasts in the late 1970s into the '80s. For me and other tri-staters, TREK will always be associated with THE HONEYMOONERS that preceded it for years at 11:30.

    I watched "The Man Trap" last night/September 8 and today wondered if school kids fifty years ago were talking about the episode at recess like me and friends would do a decade later with SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN.

    Thank you for stirring up good memories with such a nice and nostalgic tribute to the world's greatest television series.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very nicely put, Christopher. I was born in 1970, so I pretty much grew up during the heyday of TOS mania, in a world filled with Meco toys and Bantam paperbacks. Needless to say I can't remember my first exposure to the show -- it was just always there, on TV and everywhere else you looked. But honestly, I thought Star Trek was just a show about old men talking and didn't get it. Even the first film failed to make much of an impression on me. Star Wars I loved and could never get enough of. But Star Trek: The Motion Picture...well, it was like two hours of old men talking. Then, when the movie came to cable TV in 1981, I watched it again. And again. And again. And then I started watching TOS reruns. And then The Wrath of Khan came out. And ever since, that show about old men talking has remained my all-time favorite.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That transporter room cast photo has the odd distinction of separating the still-living on one side from the deceased on the other.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't noticed that until you had pointed it out.

      VERY strange.

      Delete
  9. I guess I'm the old man in the crowd. I was born in 1955, so I had just turned eleven when Star Trek debuted. I can still vividly recall watching "The Man Trap" on that September night in 1966 and being absolutely wowed. And that fascination hasn't diminished within me since...

    ReplyDelete