Saluting 50 Years of Star Trek

Gene_Roddenberrys_officeAlthough Gene Roddenberry first conceived of Star Trek in 1964, today we celebrate its 50th anniversary as it debuted on NBC. For a number of reasons having to do with post-production optical effects and editing, the network decided to open with a monster-of-the-week episode, “The Man Trap”, rather than the second pilot, which introduced us to Captain James T. Kirk or the first story filmed for the first season “The Corbomite Maneuver”. As a result, it took audiences a while to figure out what the show was about and who really was aboard the ship. Costumes and sets were being refined as were the relationships between the characters.

I missed all of this since I was just eight years old. As the show debuted at 8:30 p.m. that evening, I had just finished watching “Walk the Straight and Narrow”, the concluding chapter of Batman’s second season premier (with Art Carny as the Archer) and was going to bed.

Man Trap title cardNo, I didn’t get a glimpse of the show until sometime later when I had come to the kitchen for something and looked into the play room where Dad was watching something and I saw these colorful people dematerialize.

A year later, I finally got to catch a complete episode, “A Piece of the Action”, and thought it was tremendous fun. I believe I saw episodes here and there, especially during the summer rerun season when I could stay up later.

My love affair with Star Trek truly began when the series arrived on WPIX, channel 11 in New York. It aired at 6 p.m. and I watched in fascination. And then I attended the first convention. And then I volunteered to work at the third convention.

Star Trek #1 1988I wrote about Star Trek for my junior high and senior high school newspaper. Early in my career at SUNY-Binghamton’s Pipe Dream, I came back to New York for the September 1976 convention and wrote about that.

By then, Star Trek was embedded in my DNA and loved the characters. I wrote about them for fanzines, consumed the Bantam novel, and lost my virginity to an older woman I met at a convention.

Why?

When I discovered Star Trek, I was already a huge comic book fan and that expanded into science fiction. The quality of the stories and strong performances made certain I remained a faithful watcher but didn’t come to analyze the series in that way until later. The stories were good, the humor leavened the drama, and yes, the show’s optimism against these bleak days certainly resonated, although subtly to someone so young.

Countless people were propelled into careers as doctors, astronauts, engineers, and other fields because they loved Star Trek or The Next Generation or one of the other iterations. No other piece of pop culture has had that lasting an impact on the world as a whole. That’s something worthy of celebration.

Bob, Howie and The Shat 1In time, I became a professional, covering Star Trek for Starlog and got to know many of the cast through interviews and convention appearances. That deepened my appreciation for the show and then I got to repay it all by editing the Star Trek comic for DC. People continue to hold up our work as among the very best comics adaptations of the show and for that I am appreciative.

Star Trek has been a part of my life for these five decades, through good times and bad, through excellent movies and outright bombs. I continue to read the novels my friends are churning out at Pocket and write about the series as opportunities present themselves.

Gene Roddenberry, at his best, most lucid times, talked about a united federation of worlds, told us the human adventure was just beginning, and frankly, that’s a future I want to be a part of, want for my daughter and descendants.

I salute its enduring nature and how it has become a cultural touchstone, not just here but around the world.

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