Fifty Years of Star Trek

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek. And, to celebrate, I thought I'd look back over why I love this franchise so much. At least I'm going to try. It's a hard thing to summarise. I'm going to take more of a general look, rather than delving into specific series/episodes. I know this is bound to be one of those posts I look over and remember everything I forgot to put in it.

Star Trek is very nostalgic for me. I grew up with it. Throughout my childhood and teens, Star Trek was on TV every week. More than any other sci-fi concept, Star Trek gave me hope. Instead of worrying that humanity would destroy itself, Star Trek showed us that we can do better. We will do better. It's an inherently hopeful concept. Most other massive sci-fi franchises available to us right now are a lot less hopeful. Here in 2016, we could really use the message of unity and optimism Star Trek shares. It teaches us that diversity should be celebrated. It's a lesson we desperately need to learn. Beyond really channelled classic Trek. It's why I love that film so much. It reminded me of the Trek I grew up with.

I remember sitting down with my family on Wednesday nights to watch The Next Generation on BBC2 in the early 1990s. The first episode I really remember is Skin of Evil, or, as I always think of it - the one with the black ooze monster.

I love this episode. Loooove it. But not as much as Frame of Mind, when Riker's performing in a play in which he's mentally ill... or is he actually in hospital suffering delusions? What's real? What's the illusion? Star Trek does those kind of mind-bending episodes so well. They definitely had an impact on my own writing.

As a little girl, I honestly believed Captain Picard and his crew were up there, on the Enterprise, flying through space. I can recall that sudden feeling of disappointment when I realised it was only a TV show. But it was a TV show I loved. Watching it all again now,  I still feel that sense of hope and wonder. And it is crazy rewatching some TNG and DS9 episodes and remembering them from when they first aired. It's amazing that these stories have stuck firmly in my head for over twenty years. That's a good lesson for a writer to learn; create something a little girl can watch at the age of four, five, six, and still love by the time she's thirty.

Oh, and even Voyager's early episodes have passed the twenty year mark. That's amazing.

The thing that keeps Star Trek relevant, even the original series, is how it takes our problems and transforms them into conflicts with aliens so that we can examine our society's issues from an outsider's perspective. It's not always subtle, and the stories don't always get it right, but Star Trek always tried to make us think. Watching all the different shows now makes that so much clearer to me. When I was younger, I just loved the idea of flying around on a spaceship with a bunch of friends, exploring new worlds and having adventures. As an adult, I find it fascinating how the stories deal with the conflicts we're dealing with today in a way that forces me to look at them from another perspective.

But I also love it when the show straight up throws science fiction at me. If you only ever watch one episode of the original series, be sure it's City on the Edge of Forever. What would you do if you accidentally saved the life of a woman whose survival changed the outcome of the Second World War? Then there's the episode of Voyager when they accidentally find themselves trapped in orbit of a pre-industrial civilisation and not only cause the planet below to suffer terrible quakes, but accidentally impact the world's cultural and technological development. Or the episode of DS9 when poor old O'Brien keeps jumping a couple of hours into the future and realises the station is heading towards its doom. The thing that differentiates sci-fi from fantasy is the idea that sci-fi could happen. And who are we to say these two plots couldn't happen someday?

And speaking of technology, do you own an iPad or another tablet? I remember looking at things like that in Star Trek growing up thinking how amazing and futuristic it'd be to own something like that. And now look at us! How many of you are reading this post on a piece of technology straight off the USS Enterprise?

(Hey, Jaffa, don't even pretend you didn't act like your Gameboy SP was a tricorder. I know the truth.)

I love the characters, and how their differences complement each other. I love how they interact with each other, and how they come together to solve whatever problems face them. I love how real and relatable they feel. I love the culture clashes. I love how friendships develop. I love how despite how different the crewmembers are, and how different their homeworlds are, they come together to form families. No one, in the Star Trek universe, is too different to belong.

That's what I've always taken away from it, anyway.

Oh, and who's my favourite character? Duh. It's Porthos!

I can't pick a single favourite character or episode. Film... oh, I can do that.

But it takes its place in a much larger universe. I love Star Trek because it allows us to see a future for humanity in which we've united and taken our place in the universe. There's not a lot else out there with so much hope for us. I think it's a huge part of why the franchise endures. I'm so excited to see Discovery bring Trek back to TV in 2017, because as much as I love the films, Star Trek is at its best on the small screen where we can really get to know the people and their worlds.

Happy fiftieth birthday, Star Trek. Thank you for always being there. I can't wait to see where you go next.


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