Fifty years ago this evening I sat down with my mom and little brother (Dad was at work.) to watch our little black and white television. We watched a brand new show called Star Trek. I was eight years old. It's hard to say what my first thoughts were. I can't remember exactly. I suppose I liked it because it was different - interesting and different characters having interesting and different adventures. And often it was funny.
It was an immediate hit with the neighborhood kids I played with. We would get together every Saturday morning and act out the previous night's episode. I always got to be Lt. Uhura. Sometimes I couldn't believe my luck - that the other girls never argued with me. ("But you always get to be Uhura.") But there was never any of that. I did always get to be Uhura and no one ever complained. Years later I figured out that my friends were all racists. No one wanted to be the black character. I just liked her because she was the most important female character and she was likeable. Who wouldn't want to be her?
Star Trek started my interest in science fiction, though, strangely, I was an adult before I ever read any science fiction books. For years the only sci-fi I was interested in was Star Trek. I liked thinking about there being a whole galaxy full of strange civilizations and people and ships traveling between them. Of course I always knew it wasn't real but it was fun to imagine that something like it was real or might be someday.
Something else I always knew was that TV shows don't last forever. I hoped it would last a long time but I knew that someday I would grow up and Star Trek would be just a TV show that I had loved when I was a kid. Just a memory. But, it turned out, that's not what happened. First there were re-runs for years and then four more series and a bunch of movies. Oh, and a cartoon. Strangely, I was never a big fan of the cartoon. At the time I wanted the real thing back and making a cartoon of it seemed like a cheat.
I can remember, just barely, the world without Star Trek and it's almost as hard to remember the world before Star Trek was a phenomenon, though it took a few more years for that to really happen. I don't know... maybe, in a sense, there never was a world without Star Trek or, to be less metaphorical, never a world without the things that Star Trek embodies. A world in which people look up at the stars and wonder what's out there, in which people long for adventures, in which people dream of an Earth where everyone gets along no matter one's race or religion.
The world needs Star Trek now more than ever and I think it's sad that, even though it's still popular, Star Trek is not what it once was, and almost certainly never will be again.