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Wednesday, September 7th, 2016 11:26 pm
50 years ago tomorrow marks the date of a cultural shift that is still being felt today.

At 8:30 pm on September 8, 1966, people were introduced to something called Star Trek.

Not to geek out too much, but I seriously believe that our world would not be the same without Gene Roddenberry's creation.

Yes, it has spawned 5 TV series (with a sixth on the way) and 13 major motion pictures, as well as a mountain of novels, short stories, and other forms of entertainment, but that's not what I'm referring to.

An untold number of children (including yours truly) fell in love with science and engineering because of that show. Many of those children grew up to pursue that love, especially at places like NASA. They've taken things that they saw as children on that show and made them real: things like cell phones, iPads, and more.

The show re-shaped our cultural landscape in some profound ways, as much by the things it DIDN'T do as by the things it did. For example, the show had a very racially and culturally diverse crew -- it simply assumed that this was how the world should be, and that we would eventually get there. Actress/Comedienne Whoopi Goldberg mentioned in an interview that Star Trek was the first time there was a black person in sci-fi. Not only was Nichelle Nichols/Lt Uhura black, but she was an officer and a member of the command crew, not a menial doing the housekeeping. Goldberg said she remembered being so surprised that she literally ran into the next room to tell her mother and make her come see.

That one role changed a lot of black children's self-perception. In fact, the role was so important to the civil rights movement that when Dr. Martin Luther King himself found out that she was considering leaving the show, he urged her not to.

The show was so loved by so many that when NASA built the first Space Shuttle, fans found out about it and started a huge letter-writing campaign to have the first one christened Enterprise. Remember, this was before the days of the Internet, when such things took considerably more effort to do, and the show had been off the air for seven years at this point. The first shuttle was originally going to be named Constitution in recognition of her completion date (1976). This name could also have been considered a tip-of-the-hat to Star Trek, but you have to be more than just a casual Trekkie to understand why. (If you know why and didn't have to resort to Google, kudos to you -- let your geek flag fly!)

One particular episode, "Charlie X," even taught a small boy how to do a forward roll. Not long after seeing that episode, I was running an errand with my mother. I was probably 10-11 years old at the time. When I got out of the car, I tripped over the curb. Rather than falling flat on my face onto the concrete sidewalk, I went smoothly into a forward roll, got up, and kept walking as if nothing had happened -- from my perspective, nothing had. But I still remember my mother asking what the hell I had just done, where I had learned it, etc.

Sorry, Mom! ;-)

Just think -- if a television show that only ran three seasons can have that kind of impact across that many facets of our world, from the global scale down to the personal level, what kind of changes might we be able to bring about?

Tomorrow, I'm going to (finally) go see the new Trek movie. Won't you join me in hoisting a glass to Roddenberry and the others, for what they started?
Thursday, September 8th, 2016 12:41 pm (UTC)
This is a beautiful post! And I am slightly irked to realize I have NO Star Trek shirts.

Hmm. Maybe I'll wear my Romulan pin and my Starfleet insignia.
Thursday, September 8th, 2016 01:43 pm (UTC)
+cheerful bouncing+

You're going to go see it!
Saturday, September 10th, 2016 09:57 pm (UTC)
I know, right?!?!

I just... that was a Star Trek movie. (As you can tell, I haz a new favorite.)