Live long and prosper: Celebrating 50 years of Star Trek

Star Trek, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

On September 8, 1966, the first episode of Star Trek aired, meaning this past Thursday, the science fiction phenomenon had its 50th anniversary.

I’m so fortunate to have grown up watching this amazing television show and its multitude of films. Not only did the show influence me to have an interest in science and space exploration, but it gave me a host of characters to use as role models. Near and dear to my heart, especially, is Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek Voyager, played by Kate Mulgrew whom you may know as Red from Orange is the New Black.

Thinking back to all the television I watched as a kid, I can’t remember watching a show before Voyager that had a woman in an authoritative role, respected by her colleagues, and never judged for her decisions on the ridiculous notion that she is a woman and cannot, therefore, make any sound judgement.

I don’t know if that’s the reason I like the show so much–I definitely wasn’t thinking that as a teenager while watching it–or if I purely just enjoyed the storyline. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Next Generation and Captain Jean Luc Picard as much as the next Trekkie, but there’s something about the pacing, the characters and the conflict that draws me in more than any other Star Trek series.

The biggest thing Star Trek did for me, I think, was develop my opinion of humanity. Yes, we sometimes see the ugly side of humans, but I know, deep down, that majority of us are good people.

The show has always stood as a social commentary in a space opera setting, but I think the first episode of Next Generation speaks a lot to our situation today. In it, the crew of the newly commissioned Starship Enterprise are put under trial by an omnipotent being, Q, “to answer for the multiple and grievous savageries of the species.”

On this anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center 15 years ago, along with the recent attacks in Europe and the US in just the past year, I remind myself of the vision Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, envisioned humanity in the future. Yes, we can be a grievous and savage species. But we can be inspirational. We can be good. We can strive to better ourselves.

Most people stand up for what is right and we continue living the lives we want in spite of the threat of terrorism. Because that would strip us away of what we love most: Freedom.

Picard says a pretty poignant line in the same episode that moved me. In the scene, Q has just frozen one of the crew members for allegedly breaking the rules (there really are no rules in Q’s court, though).

Picard responds:

“You’ve got a lot to learn about humans if you think you can torture us or frighten us into silence.”

This. All of this.

Remember when the bombs went off in Paris last year? Remember what the Parisians did? They mourned, and then continued to enjoy their cafes, their music, their nightlife. They continued to live.

And Picard is right. These terrorists have a lot to learn about humanity. You cannot silence the good in people. You cannot silence humans’ love of all things beautiful, poignant and wonderful.

I could write a whole book on the influence Star Trek has had on the world socially, scientifically and artistically, but suffice it to say, this television show stands for more than just good science fiction. It shows us a world where humanity has overcome majority of its flaws, treats all equally and seeks to create peace within the universe.

Who could ask for a more amazing thing to write about?

And what a goal to strive for.

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