Thursday, September 08, 2016

Five Decades in the Final Frontier

It was fifty years ago today that an odd curio entitled "The Man Trap", the debut installment of a brand-new science-fiction series, aired on NBC to little acclaim and even fewer viewers. I wasn't due to arrive on this plane of existence for another decade-and-change, so I can only begin to imagine how the thing was received at the time. No doubt the mix of futuristic spacemen and forbidding monsters seemed to be pointing the way towards something in the mold of recent sci-fi pic Forbidden Planet, while borrowing liberally from the monster-of-the-week formula employed by TV's The Outer Limits which itself had aired (and ended) not too long before.

Those who even bothered to tune in probably thought it would air for a few short weeks before being consigned to the bin where all cancelled series eventually wind up. After all, this thing couldn't possibly last. The show was Star Trek, and as we all know, things didn't quite turn out that way. These days, of course, it's impossible to discuss Star Trek as merely a TV series without the words "classic" and "phenomenon" popping up at some point or other. Back then, though, it was just this strange, cult thing that somehow hung in there juuuust long enough to make the requisite number of episodes to put into syndication. The rest, as they say...

I've been a Star Trek fan almost as long as I've been alive. I love the characters, I love the universe it envisions. It gave me a compass for how to be with others, and how to think of myself. From grade school to high school to college, the various iterations of the franchise have always been there, and it's one of my joys as a parent to now get to share in it with my kids. To date, Star Trek (the TV show and the phenomenon) has spawned five subsequent series (including an animated show that premiered on this same day in 1973), with a sixth one on the way, not to mention thirteen feature films (with another in the pipeline), and mountains of licensing rivaled, perhaps, only by that other cult fave beginning with the word "Star".

While the latest feature, Star Trek Beyond, didn't really perform to expectations (which remains bitterly disappointing to me considering how darn good it was), I don't think anyone really doubts the staying power of the franchise, nor its ability to come back blazing. Like the James Bond series, Trek has proven itself a dozen times over, and more than earned a place in the pop culture firmament for its next five decades. And if anyone doubts Trek's ability to continue to win over new generations of fans, check out the drawing below by the nine-year-old junior Trekker living in my house. Ahead, warp factor four!

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