50th Anniversary—Star Trek
Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages
of the starship Enterprise. . . .
With those words, one of the greatest works of science fiction began. The date was fifty years ago today, 8 September 1966. I was nine years old then, and I watched that first episode with my entire family, including my grandparents, who had come that night especially to watch that anticipated show with us. What did we see?
Hope. Even as a little boy, I understood that. In the opening minutes of the show, we saw—
- That humankind had made it. Three hundred years into the future, our then enemies, Russia and China, had become our friends—the command crew on the bridge of the Enterprise included a Russian officer and a Chinese officer. That meant—
- A nuclear holocaust had not happened. We had found a way to avoid it. 1966 was barely after the Cuban Missile Crisis: it was the height of the Cold War. Star Trek was claiming that a day would come when the threat of nuclear annihilation would not just be behind us: it would be safely behind us.
- The command crew also included a woman—and not just any woman, but a black woman. In Star Trek's vision of the future, African Americans and women had achieved equality.
- Also part of that crew was someone not even human—which confirmed what many of us believe: that we are not alone in the universe. In Star Trek, we had discovered allies and friends beyond Earth.
Star Trek would go on to show us that we could conquer disease, that we could conquer poverty: that the future would be a wondrous place. The series has had a direct influence for good worldwide. For example, tens of thousands of scientists worldwide credit their career choice with Star Trek. Inventors credit notable inventions with being inspired by Star Trek, including—
- MRI technologies and CAT scan technologies (from the wondrous machines that let the various doctors in Star Trek correctly diagnose internal injury and illness without invasive surgery).
- Cell phones, from Star Trek's communication devices.
- Google Earth and satellite mapping from Star Trek's tricorder.
- Personal computers and tablets, widely used in the series.
- Microwave ovens, from Star Trek's replicators.
The list goes on and on. Over a thousand inventions in common use today were inspired by Star Trek. And, as with scientists, tens of thousands of doctors, engineers, linguists, biologists, exobiologists, and astronomers credit their career choices to Star Trek.
The world is a better place because Star Trek existed and continues to exist—CBS, this fall, will launch a new Star Trek television series: Star Trek Discovery. I am certain that it will inspire new generations to work to make the brilliant future Star Trek posits a reality. I feel confident that it will continue to give the world hope.
Here is a link to the official Star Trek website:
Tony Bremner, Star Trek Symphonic Suites, Vols. 1 and 2
In 1986, the British composer Tony Bremner composed suits for symphonic orchestra based on music from the original series of Star Trek. They give this music the dignity I always felt it deserves; plus, it provides a place in the classical canon for the music. I had forgotten some of the beautiful melodies from that first series, most notably, to my mind, "Is There in Truth No Beauty?: Miranda's Theme."
Here is a link to Tony Bremner conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra in his Star Trek Symphonic Suites (these suites are not available on Amazon.com; the links, therefore, are to iTunes):
Many articles were written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. One of the most moving, I felt, was an article in the Washington Post about the importance of Star Trek, and in particular the role of Lt. Uhura, in the Civil Rights Movement—Dr. King himself interceded with Nichelle Nichols, who was going to leave that role for Broadway, convincing her to stay because the work she was doing there was so important for the cause of advancing racial equality. When Nichols told Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, what King had done, Roddenberry wept and said: "He understands what I am trying to do."
I wrote for Star Trek. Paramount asked me to tell the love story of Deanna Troi and Worf, from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was printed in Amazing Stories (Fall 1999), and it has been anthologized in various anthologies. Here is a link:
I created "Boldly Go," the image above, in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from the opening lines of each Star Trek episode in both the original series and The Next Generation:
Space: the final frontier.
These are the voyages
of the starship Enterprise.
Its continuing mission:
to explore strange new worlds,
to seek out new life and new civilizations,
to boldly go
here no one has gone before!