More

Star Trek Turns 50: Beam Me Up?

star-trek

With the recent heralding of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, I find myself transported to the living room floor, crouched alongside my brother in front of the family’s sole TV. Tuned in to one of the few available channels, but “tuning in” with purpose, it became a ritual filled with mysticism and meaning. At the time, and sufficiently stimulated after the show, it only meant that we might demonstrate the Vulcan neck pinch on our sister or younger brother. But today, I reflect on how the show expanded my worldview. Anyone who watched it was forced to consider the implications of ever-bolder space launches and the terrific vaults of technology into abysses of space and time and even being.

So perhaps one of the reasons they canceled the show before it was recognized as genius was because they underestimated the extent to which it wasn’t about the future.

That small screen made me, unalterably, a big–picture thinker and dreamer.  The visionary creators: Roddenberry, the writers and directors, posited a daring future and did their best to make it plausible.

We barely questioned it.

So perhaps one of the reasons they canceled the show before it was recognized as genius was because they underestimated the extent to which it wasn’t about the future.

The studios didn’t give the viewers enough credit for recognizing that though the setting was still a century away, Star Trek was a call to move at warp speed and to travel through space-time–in social terms—to escape our own past. It was the 1960s and while that world was a hot mess of culture clashes, a cold war of ideology, and a gender revolution, the featured tribe of Star Trek was simply “humans.” And the concept of “other” was for other “life forms.”  As I consider, with graying hair, the show that changed me beyond any other, I see that message of pluralism and inclusiveness as a prescription (or even a prerequisite) for the whole planet to see the year 2060 without some form of self-annihilation.

As with all good storytelling, we were watching ourselves and imagining that just possibly, like the members of the Enterprise crew, in the great sea of space with only starlight to guide us; faced with profound unknowns and forced to choose between the needs of institutions and the needs of the individuals, we might do the right thing – as Kirk and the others always seemed to do.

It was noble business that show, that Trek. It was a bold and noble saga about yesterday and today and tomorrow and whether or not we would be able to preserve and protect the best and vital bits of our tribe, Humans.  And so fifty years later, I watch as through technology we vault ever higher and farther into outer-and inner-space and the future, wondering not so much how high we might fly but rather how we might land in that new-discovered country: yes, it will be a place where no human has gone before, but the bigger question is whether a “human” will ever return from it.

We need a new Star Trek, but perhaps in this one, we look inward with the same boldness.

 

WRH

Previous post

Florence Foster Jenkins (Movie Review)

Next post

My Parents, a Forest, Some Clues (Republished)

No Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please take a moment to let us know you're a human * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.