Star Trek is 50 Years Old

There’s this father and son thing in pop culture, where a dad will watch baseball with his newborn baby boy on his lap. My life was like that, except me and my dad were watching Star Trek.

Captain Kirk has been with me for as long as I can remember. He’s my captain. Every trekker has a captain they latch on to, usually between Picard and Kirk, and I was easily swayed to the gold shirted captain of The Original Series. He defined masculinity for me very early on. I don’t mean Chris Pine’s rebellious bad boy version of Kirk either. William Shatner’s Kirk was a military man who followed orders and expected his to be followed. He was a man who believed in his friends and stood by them in the darkest of times. He was a man who didn’t believe in no win scenarios and always found a way to persevere.

It’s actually kind of maddening that Star Trek has made it to 50 years old. When the original series aired it only got to three seasons, and even that was just barely. Yet it stayed in the public consciousness. That bright future, where humanity comes together to become explorers once more, has never stopped being worth striving for. In fact, I would say it’s become even more of an ideal future for us. The Original Series captured that best I think. In The Next Generation the captain and crew were cerebral people, too smart and too good to relate to. But in The Original Series the crew was made up of very flawed people just trying their best.

The time period that sticks out to me strongest when I think of Star Trek is high school. Because school started so early in the morning, I would wind up eating breakfast with my dad each day around 6 AM. There were only two things on TV at that time. The weather channel, a favorite of his, and classic Star Trek, a favorite of both of us.

We went with Star Trek.

I became capable of naming any episode within the first couple of minutes. I got to see some of all of them, from the stone cold classic;  Balance of TerrorArena, The City on the Edge of Forever,  Mirror, Mirror , and The Trouble with Tribbles to the less fondly remembered; Spock’s Brain.

There are the outlandish _____ Planet episodes. The Gangster Planet, the Nazi Planet, the Cold War Planet.

Many people see Star Trek as the overly intelligent sci-fi series to Star Wars so I’ll say it again. GANGSTER. PLANET. Star Trek is dumb fun and I love it.

My favorite episode, if I have to pick one, is Where No Man Has Gone Before. It’s the second pilot, where the first one starred a different captain and crew save for Spock, and probably carries more personal stakes for Captain Kirk than any other. The Enterprise comes across a strange energy that gifts Kirk’s friend Gary Mitchell with god-like powers. Gary quickly lets his powers consume him and Kirk has to personally take on the duty of putting his friend down, when he’s at his most dangerous. It’s thrilling and epic and would’ve been a great choice to adapt into a Kelvin Timeline movie.

While the movies look back to the Original Series to rebuild the franchise, on TV Star Trek will push forward once more with Star Trek: Discovery. Abbreviated that’s DSC, which along with TOS, TNG, DS9, VGR, and ENT makes this the sixth incarnation of Star Trek, boldly going into the realm of streaming television on CBS All Access. Welcome to the future.

There have been so many think pieces on Star Trek today all over the internet, but I wanted to make my voice known among the masses. Star Trek, from the beginning, is one of the most inventive and fascinating series to ever air. No other sci-fi show can come close to it. Star Trek didn’t just bring in TV writers to write its episodes, it brought in big name science fiction authors. Every episode was a new discovery for the characters and audience. Star Trek dared to dream of a future where a crew of people as diverse as Earth itself could explore space, the final frontier, just for the joy of discovery. Who wouldn’t be into that?

Star Trek has played a big hand in making me the person I am today, and this is the best way I know to give back.

The human adventure is only just beginning…

-JP

PS, Star Trek is all on Netflix by the way so get on your butt and watch some.

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