Fifty years ago today, Star Trek hit the airwaves for the first time. While it only ran for three seasons (and a letter writing campaign had to save the show for that last one), Gene Rodenberry’s creation was unlike anything that came before it and changed the face of science fiction on television.
There are so many things I could talk about here, be it Trek‘s social messages, its occasional problematic imperfections, or how its utopian vision was so needed when it aired… but I think a lot of other people are going to be writing that article today. Instead, I thought I’d talk about something else: how important Star Trek was (and still is) to me.
I, of course, was born in 1980 — long after Trek‘s initial run ended — but as we all know the show lived on in syndication. As a child, I grew up with a lot of classic science fiction, and reruns of Star Trek were the most important part. I can’t recall a time in my life where I didn’t know the names Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Sulu, Uhura, Chekov and Scotty. Before the age of six, I had watched every episode of The Original Series and The Animated Series multiple times. One of the first films I remember seeing as a child was Star Trek IV (at a drive-in no less).
My older sister, my younger brother and I used to “play Star Trek” when we were little, my sister insisted on being Kirk, I was Spock, and my brother was McCoy. We’d go on imaginary away missions and pretend that the living room was the bridge of the Enterprise.
My parents weren’t geeks, but they both watched Star Trek. When The Next Generation premiered, we watched the show as a family every week. As I grew up, it gave me something to talk about with my father. When I felt socially isolated growing up, it gave me an escape.
I joined a local Star Trek fan group in Milwaukee as a teenager, and honest to god it’s the thing that changed my life. It’s one of the reasons this blog exists, and it’s the reason I’m doing that thing in a couple weeks. You see, joining said local Trek group got me into volunteering at Gen Con 1996. My entire convention career came out of my love of Star Trek — and I know I’m far from the only one where that’s true. Heck, most modern convention culture owes its popularity to Star Trek fans.
So here’s to Star Trek – what began as a simple, prime time science fiction drama and ended up inspiring the world. In many ways, it was clear the Gene Rodenberry’s creation was important from the start, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted how important.