Boldly Going

Boldly Going

Endeavour
Space Shuttle Endeavour Cockpit. 

Speaking of science fiction, I’ve spent the last few days attending the Star Trek Las Vegas 50th Anniversary Convention. It was a great convention put on by the Creation people, and it’s been a blast, well organized, lots of things going on. Five thousand tickets were sold out months before the event had even booked its final guest list. Leaving this afternoon it seemed as if I owed it to myself to go home and binge watch for a while.

This is an iconic show, Star Trek. It owes its longevity to fans, to writers, to actors, investors, marketers, and a whole host of people behind the scenes that made it come to life and keep it not just alive, but thriving. More than 700 episodes and movies later, it shows no sign of ending. From emojis to props, costumes to games, trading cards, posters, photos, books (oh, the books!), star maps, aliens, and of course, the USS Enterprise, in another 50 years I can only surmise that it will be bigger, with new aliens, more ships, and a bigger fan base that ever.

It’s part of Americana, integrated and woven into our culture. Even if you are not a fan, you’ve heard of Star Trek as surely as you’ve heard of Watergate, but with a significantly more positive reputation. Developed originally during the early space race years, no one had landed on the moon until after the show had run 3 years and been cancelled. Deemed too cerebral for the average audience, the original Star Trek franchise suffered from time slot changes and censors that actually refused to air some episodes in some parts of the country, resulting in lower ratings.

Star Trek pushed the boundaries of television, and after a successful write in campaign brought it a third season, it was left to the fans in syndication. Ten years later, a major motion picture stirred up the hearth fire for Star Trek, and despite the limited success of the movie, mostly due to a rush for release and lack of editing. And more movies followed. Soon another franchise was born, followed by three more, several more movies, and we are here, 50 years later, hoping that the message of future peace will one day be a reality, even if it appears traveling faster than light from star to star in a matter of days is not in our future.

The industry that flourishes because of Star Trek can’t be dismissed without examination. Costumes, set builders, writers, film crews, camera repair, catering businesses, musicians, and others, just locally near the studio and on location, all benefit from the advertising dollars which support television. After the fact, conventions, licensing, reruns, more advertising, station employees – the trickle down from this single show over fifty years is almost incalculable.

Some products we use today were inspired by Star Trek, including small communication devices, small computers, nano technology, medical advances of all kinds, doors that open as we approach them – the list goes on. No one can deny the impact of this single television show on our culture, and, as originally hoped, perhaps on the improvement of our civilization, and humanity.

As long time fan, I enjoy the conventions, if for nothing else but the people watching! Young, old, fit, disabled, all races and both genders attend with the single obsession over this television show. They arrive from all over the world to meet the people who make it come alive – writers, actors, producers, composers, photographers, artists, vendors of everything Trek. Stage appearances and guest panels take place all day long, photographs and autographs are a major part of the activities as well as trivia games, contests, game demonstrations, even cake baking and art exhibits. Props are available for fans to make self portraits from cyborg regeneration alcoves to time travel portals and the famous transporters that look cool even if you don’t really go anywhere.

Star Trek is science fiction at its best. Not simply what we call Space Opera, a grand production with lots of show and sparkle with a basic story underneath, but a new concept of space exploration that “seeks out new life and civilizations” similar to historic explorers of Earth; Columbus, Magellan, Lewis and Clark, and Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins. People who took risks for the sake of curiosity. In another fifty years, I can only hope that Star Trek is still going strong, boldly going where humans have never gone before.

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