Fifty years ago saw the humble beginnings of what would become a cultural phenomenon and an entertainment franchise. This week, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The iconic science fiction show debuted on September 8th, 1966 with the episode “The Man Trap“. Ratings put the show first in its time slot, but reviews from critics were mixed. Although ratings were strong to start, by the end of the first season, they had dropped considerably. However, NBC underestimated the passion of the show’s fans and various write-in campaigns kept the show on the air for 79 episodes and three seasons. That passion continued after the show was cancelled. Fans flocked to conventions, created fan art and films, and wrote fan fiction to continue the adventures of their beloved characters.
It was syndication that kept the show alive and generating new fans. I wasn’t around for the first run of the show, but caught reruns in the 70’s (as well as the Star Trek animated series) and was instantly hooked. Adventure, the unknown, aliens, new cultures, it was all fascinating and fun for this little kid. I enjoyed the rapport and dynamic of the crew, especially the banter between Spock and McCoy. As an adult, I learned to appreciate some of more of the subtle aspects of the show and also unravel the social commentary. The show had depth and intellect, which probably accounts for its longevity and staying power as a cultural phenomenon.
Star Trek is one of those things that friendships are built around. I made good friends in high school over a shared love of Dr. McCoy. The coolest thing at one of my friend’s house was the full size stand up of Captain Kirk. In college, Star Trek influenced the content of our coursework in my computer animation class. We spent many after class dinner conversations discussing the ins and outs of the show, the possibilities, the repercussions, the technology, the future.
Today, most of my friends love the show and we probably spend an inordinate amount of time discussing it or making references to it. We watch the show every Saturday together, livetweeting at #TOSSatNight. The 50th anniversary of Star Trek is the celebration of more than just a show. It’s a celebration of friendships, hope for the future, and as Dr. McCoy might say “good ol’ human emotion”.
So far, the franchise has spawned 7 tv shows and 13 films and shows no signs of stopping. I think I can speak for all fans when I say we don’t want it to.