Star Trek at 50: Why We Love It
Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Outright Geekery! Today’s a very special day for all the geeks out there, because it marks the 50th anniversary of the debut of one of the most prolific franchises in pop culture history: Star Trek. The brainchild of the late, great Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek in its various iterations follows a crew of explorers and adventurers as they travel through space, boldly going where no one has gone before. And with today being such a special occasion, it’s a good opportunity to look back and reflect on what makes Star Trek such a beloved property.
On the surface, this seems like it’d be easy, since there’s so much to like about Star Trek. But if you have to whittle it to its core, that can be harder to do. To me, though, the thing that makes Star Trek so endearing and enduring goes beyond the sci fi and the entertainment value. Star Trek isn’t great because it’s a good, well-written TV show, though it is that. It isn’t great because of how richly detailed it is, filled with nuance and backstory grounded in carefully thought-out and realistic science fiction, though it is that as well. Star Trek isn’t great because of its colorful, engaging characters who bring us into their world, though it most certainly has those in spades.
Star Trek is great because of all these things, but more importantly, Star Trek is great because it matters.
Star Trek matters because of how it fought against conformity and proudly featured a multicultural cast. Star Trek made an effort to feature a highly diverse cast with a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities, both actively and passively espousing a message of acceptance and unity. It should come as no surprise that the show featured broadcast TV’s first interracial kiss, and proudly centered several episodes around messages of overcoming barriers to find an understanding.
Star Trek matters because at its core, the drama centers around morality and the struggle to do the right thing in impossible situations. As the captains of the show fight to maintain their integrity while lives hang in the balance, we are taught that solutions often lie between extremes and present themselves when we think in creative ways, but that at the same time, hard decisions can’t be avoided sometimes. While special effects become dated and spectacle can become quaint, hard decisions are always going to be a part of the human experience. This gives Star Trek a timeless quality that has kept it relevant for decades and will continue to do so for decades to come.
But most importantly, Star Trek matters because it represents a promise. It is a promise that while mankind is not and never will be perfect, we’ll always keep trying, and that we can and will be better. It’s a show about hope and the indomitability of the human spirit, about our unquenchable thirst for discovery and pushing our limits. It’s a show about finding our place in both the universe at large and among the people we care about most. It is the belief that while we can’t solve every problem, we can solve ANY problem with the right combination of teamwork and ingenuity.
It is the promise that we can be more than what we think we can.
50 years after its debut, Star Trek remains an important statement of human optimism, something that we need to be reminded of every now and then. Sorry if I got a little sappy while I was gushing back there, but the show also taught me that things like that need to be said sometimes. Star Trek is an indispensable part of geek culture and the world at large, and I hope that all of you can take the time celebrate on this very special anniversary.
Live long and prosper, friends!