Legacy of Star Trek
Past and Future
the most recent J.J. Abrams Star Trek "origins" movie, this significant
franchise has received a much-deserved reboot into the popular consciousness.
I never considered myself to be a Trekkie, or Trekker, or Trekkist, or whatever
you want to call them. Nevertheless, as a kid I made sure to catch every episode
of Star Trek because the stories were just plain fun and thought provoking.
was mostly a cheesy fantasy show with laughably cheap sets, but Star Trek also
featured some high-quality, well-written stories among the many mediocre ones.
Some episodes were brilliant, some were so-so, but none were totally bad. Even
the worst ones had something of interest to offer. ST always made you think, in
the same way The Twilight Zone would grab you and turn your usual thought patterns
inside out and upside down.
Star Trek: The Original Series (ST:TOS)
I was surprised to learn that all 79 episodes of ST:TOS could be found for free
Sadly, their website no longer offers this service -- instead, they just have
short clips of various episodes. But when I found this temporary Trek treasure-trove,
it was hard to decide what I should watch first. Over the years, I'd seen most
of the shows over and over again, but there were some that I had only caught once
when they originally aired. Pretty much at random, I played Return to Tomorrow
and visited an episode I hadn't seen in over forty years. From the perspective
of an adult, I found this story to be a fine example of the worst and best aspects
of the original Star Trek.
Enterprise comes across a planet that harbors pure-energy remnants of three survivors
from a race that had died off half a million years earlier. These aliens seek
to "borrow" the bodies of Enterprise crew members (Kirk, Spock and a
hot chick) so they can build androids into which they will transfer their non-corporeal
consciousness -- then they can live again as physical beings. Complications and
a corny tragic romance ensue in predictable fashion.
Prophetic Monolog: Captain Kirk's famous "Risk" Speech
minutes into this episode, the key Enterprise members are trying to decide if
they should comply with the alien's wishes. All agree to go along except Dr. McCoy
who considers the procedure to be unpredictable and far too risky. This prompts
Kirk to give the following over-the-top speech, embarrassingly delivered in William
Shatner's trademark jolting, highly impassioned manner that has endeared him to
millions of fans.
use to say if mankind could fly, he'd have wings -- but he did fly. He discovered
he had to. Do you wish that the first Apollo mission hadn't reached the moon,
or that we hadn't gone on to Mars and then to the nearest star? That's like saying
you wish that you still operated with scalpels and sewed your patients up with
catgut like your great-great-great-great grandfather used to. I'm in command.
I could order this, but I'm not because Doctor McCoy is right in pointing out
the enormous danger potential in any contact with life and intelligence as fantastically
advanced as this, but I must also point out that the possibilities -- the potential
for knowledge and advancement is equally great. Risk! Risk is our business.
That's what this starship is all about. That's why we're aboard her. You may dissent
without any prejudice. Do I hear a negative vote?"
Moon Landing is ancient history in Star Trek's world
you catch that reference to "the first Apollo mission"? This show
originally aired on February 9, 1968. To the audience at the time, the moon landing
had not yet taken place, and it was by no means a sure thing. In fact, we now
know that there were serious technical problems encountered during the landing,
and it was only the uncanny piloting skills of Neil Armstrong, plus a lot of luck,
that avoided a horrible disaster on that momentous day in July, 1969.
for Captain Kirk, the moon landing was old news, as it is for us today. And this
demonstrates the abiding appeal of science fiction that Star Trek brought to a
global mass audience. "Risk is our business." Embrace the possibilities
of the future, then some day you can look back and marvel at the wonders that
have come to pass.
and Future Trek:
Gene Roddenberry's Legacy
many ways, Star Trek showed us what was scientifically feasible -- and in some
cases, it actually made them come true. It is well known that the cool futuristic
"communicator" inspired the invention of a practical mobile phone, according
to its inventor at Motorola, Dr. Martin Cooper. Now let's get busy with the adjustable
phaser, universal translator, replicator, transporter, and ST: The Next Generation's
Trek continues to lead humanity toward a wondrous future. The original series
made a significant impression on the Baby Boomers, and the latest incarnation
will certainly have a similar impact on Millennials who have never seen Classic
you, Gene (wherever you are), for continuing to portray a positive, exciting vision
of humanity's future. Hey, it looks like maybe I'm really a Trekkie after all.
Okay, I can accept that...
Beam me aboard!