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Star Trek shoots into semi-centennial

The latest installment to the resurrected franchise arrives just in time.   |   Photo Illustration by Tony Flores/THE CHIMES

 

“Space: the final frontier.” Even though those words planted an affectionate seed in the hearts of American households the first time they aired, the juggle of timeslots and average weekly viewership drew NBC to cancel the show after three seasons.

The 50th anniversary of the first aired Star Trek episode takes place on Sept. 8, 2016, despite its rocky start. Lasting this long in the film industry is an achievement in and of itself, with fans spanning several generations and the trademark spaceship U.S.S. Enterprise boldly exploring the turn of the century and beyond.

A culture-changing phenomenon, Star Trek eventually created the first ever fan base included in a professional dictionary under the name “Trekkie.” From “The Cage” to “Beyond,” its legacy has sufficed to satisfy the hunger for more content through all subsequent decades.

An astro footprint

Star Trek represents much for progressive audiences. From its infamous and controversial interracial kiss to the concept of complete intergalactic peace, Trek warped through boundaries and presented ideas in a time when no one else in the film industry dared to.

The diversity of the Enterprise crew alone shocked American households in an era where the civil rights movement and the United States endured backlash and fear, respectively. With the heated tensions between Russia and Japan through the 60s and 70s, a look toward a hopeful future stood as a beacon for many.

For example, the crew of the NCC-1701 comprises a Japanese pilot, a Russian ensign, a black female lieutenant, a Scottish engineer, a non-human first officer and an American captain. The show touches on deep ethical dilemmas in every episode, likely a projection of Gene Roddenberry’s hopes for a brighter future of thought before action and trust before prejudice. Roddenberry, the father of the original series, passed in 1991.

Action over exploration

Come the 21st century, Star Trek has once again taken the public captive with its charms of philosophical grandeur. However, the third installment of the rebooted franchise, “Star Trek Beyond,” seems to have abandoned the original series’ mental ventures. This felt like whiplash for Trekkies everywhere, myself included.

Justin Lin adds his typical “Fast and Furious” flair to the Trekkie’s beloved fandom. Action drove the film rather than themes of exploration, trading mighty ethical dilemma for a battle of weaponry. To top it off, the Enterprise disappeared as a character before the meat of the story progressed.

Ode to Absent Friends

“Beyond” devotes ample time to the remembrance of the late Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played the original and ever-so-logical Mr. Spock in the late 1960s. His successor, Zachary Quinto, expressed a deep distress on and off screen for the loss. Similarly, the young Anton Yelchin who graced the screens as the rebooted Second Lieutenant Pavel Chekov passed away earlier this summer in a freak automotive accident.

Roddenberry’s legacy and ideas remain some of the most pivotal and influential in the world. While he did not live to see the bloom of the Next Generation or today’s reboots, many of the same themes carry throughout every reincarnation: intellect, hope, understanding, tolerance and respect.

Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. Bee

    "For example, the crew of the NCC-1701 comprises a Japanese pilot, a Russian ensign, a black female lieutenant, a Scottish engineer, a Jewish first officer and a white captain."

    WTF? When you say "Jewish first officer", are you referring to Spock? Spock certainly wasn't Jewish. Actor Leonard Nimoy was Jewish, just as are actors William Shatner (your "white captain") and Walter Koenig (the Russian ensign). September 7, 2016

  2. Samantha Gassaway

    Hello, Bee. In the article, I was referring to the ethnicities of the respective actors as represented in their characters in the show, as the purpose of that paragraph was to highlight the diversity of the character choices Gene Roddenberry initiated. While I understand that Walter Koenig came from Russian Jewish immigrant parents, the ethnicity of his character (ensign Chekov, more predominately Russian as presented in the show) required more of a mention. As to William Shatner, I honestly admit I did not consider his ancestry as seriously as I should have; I only considered him as a Canadian actor, not as a man of Jewish descent. While I admit this was a neglect of Shatner as an actor, I will fix the mistake online as soon as I can. Thank you for the feedback, as we always welcome criticism at the Chimes for topics we do not cover as carefully as we should. I was merely attempting to, again, highlight the unusual diversity the show offered for its time. I will be more careful in how I discuss ethnicity in the future. Again, thank you for the feedback. The article has since been updated. September 7, 2016

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