Star Trek Turns 50

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^Top Photo: The original “Star Trek” crew man the bridge of the starship Enterprise. The popular television show first aired 50 years ago on Sept. 8, 1966. Credit: © Interfoto/Alamy Image

Fifty years ago today, on Sept. 8, 1966, the science-fiction televisionprogram “Star Trek” first aired on NBC in the United States and CTV in Canada. The show’s ratings were never strong, and the series lasted just three seasons. Reruns in the 1970’s gained the show legions of new fans, however, giving birth to an entire “Star Trek” culture. Loyal followers called Trekkies formed fan clubs and held conventions. More than 100 “Star Trek” novels have been published, along with over 20 nonfiction books about the series. Numerous spin-off television shows have had much longer runs than the original “Star Trek” series, and the “Star Trek” movie franchise has been ongoing and incredibly popular sinceStar Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979.

Numerous events and exhibitions—and yes, conventions—have been marking the show’s 50th anniversary throughout 2016. The largest just may be at Seattle’s EMP Museum, where a continuous “Star Trek” celebration—Exploring New Worlds—began in May and runs through January 2017. Other months-long events include the wandering Starfleet Academy Experience in New York City; Ottawa, Ontario; and Calgary,Alberta; and the “Star Trek” Global Art Exhibition in New York City;Toronto, Ontario; and Birmingham, England. This past weekend, “Star Trek: Mission New York” treated Trekkies to interactive exhibits, celebrity guests, gaming, panels, screenings, and lots and lots of merchandise. Later this month, the symphony orchestra in Paris, France, will perform “Star Trek: the Ultimate Voyage Concert” ahead of the main Destination Star Trek Europe event in Birmingham. Several other musical performances will feature symphony orchestras playing along with screenings of the franchise’s many movies. At least two “Star Trek”-themed cruises will carry Trekkies around the Caribbean Sea, and conventions are being held in such cities as Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Truly, there are simply too many events to list them all here.

“Star Trek” was created by Gene Roddenberry. It was set hundreds of years in the future and followed the adventures of the starship USSEnterprise (NCC-1701) as it explored outer space—“the final frontier.” The Enterprise crew was commanded by Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner. His first officer was Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy. Spock was born of a father from the planet Vulcan and a human mother. The character, with his pointed ears and unemotional manner, became a cult figure among “Star Trek” fans. Other original characters included the spaceship doctor, Leonard McCoy, played by DeForest Kelley; Mr. Sulu, the chief navigator, played by George Takei; communications officer Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols; and engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, played by James Doohan.

“Star Trek” has had a significant impact on the arts, culture, fashion, and technology—even on the English language. No explanation is needed when someone asks to be “beamed up” or to travel at “warp speed.” The show’s weaponry—phasers and photon torpedoes—are both in the Oxford English Dictionary, as are the show’s Klingon and Vulcanhumanoid alien races. (Vulcan is also applied to mind-meld and nerve pinch.) Most people probably know Spock’s catch phrase, “Live long and prosper,” as well as the Enterprise crew’s mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

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