As young children, my older brother and I watched the original Star Trek series on Saturday mornings. We weren’t big TV watchers as a family, but Star Trek was special. To make it even better, it was the local PBS that aired Star Trek, presenting it free of all commercials.
Every Saturday, Todd and I awoke very early and watched the rerun for that week. This would have been around 1975, almost a decade after the show first aired. After each episode, Todd and I would talk, always mesmerized by the possibilities of space, life, and a billion other things. How much of the galaxy had this crew explored? Were they the modern Lewis & Clark? What happened when someone transported from one place to another? How smart were the computers? Were the Klingons the Soviets and the Romulans the Chinese? Or, maybe the other way around? Why did we only see the military aspects of Starfleet? What about the colonists, the pioneers? How did time travel work? If the Enterprise found itself sent back to Earth, why did it happen to arrive the same year the show was being filmed.
Pretty serious stuff for an eight year old sitting with his much admired thirteen year old brother.
I had no idea at the time, but the show’s founder and creator, Gene Roddenberry had actually described Star Trek as a “wagon train to the stars” when he first shopped it to studios. It would be set, though, on the space equivalent of an aircraft carrier, a mobile community as diverse as Gunsmoke’s Dodge City, he continued in his show treatment. The crew, roughly 203 of them, would be as diverse as possible, asserting that racial prejudice and ethnic strife would be things of the past in the non-specified time of Star Trek. Only later did the show writers decide it took place in the 2260s. From its beginning, however, Roddenberry’s Star Trek represented a brash Kennedy-esque liberalism, a confidence that America could teach the world the principles of civilization, tolerance, and dignity. [Sources: Whitfield and Roddenberry, THE MAKING OF STAR TREK (1968); and Paul Cantor, Gilligan Unbound (2003) and The Invisible Hand of Popular Culture (2012)]
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