Boldly Rewatching the Voyages: Essays on Star Trek The Original Series

“Star Trek episodes always insisted that humanity is on its bumpy way to what will be a glorious future in the 23rd century, in which we will have left most of our old selfishness – and old hatreds and prejudices – far behind us.” -Gene Roddenberry

 

My first exposure to Star Trek was as a young child in the early 1970s. A friend raved about the show and insisted, during a sleepover, that we stay up to watch an episode airing on late-night syndication. The particular episode was “Shore Leave,” from the first season.

I didn’t get it. I fell asleep before it was over.

In fairness, even in my younger days, I was an early to bed, early to rise kind of person. Encouraged by other classmates, who all loved the adventurous aspects of the show, I revisited Star Trek.

Black and white photo of original Star Trek cast members showing, left to right, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, and Walter Koenig

Thankfully, I soon recovered from my confusion and came to be Star Trek‘s biggest fan in my small community. I was still considerably confused, just in different ways. As a result of growing older, and, hopefully, a bit more mature, The Original Series (TOS) appeals to me in different ways than in childhood; I’ve developed more perspective into the show’s honorable intentions and occasional flaws. TOS becomes less about starships and phasers, and more about the infinite potential of life.

I’m writing this in the summer of 2020, while COVID-19 is still spreading exponentially throughout the United States. One of my “pandemic projects,” a work that has been on my mind for some time, is to finally undertake a series of essays on TOS. The show aired from September, 1967 through June, 1969, and I intend to cover every episode, approximately one per week. These will be posted under a separate page category, available via the menu at the top of the page.  My goal is not to nit-pick or obsess over production trivia. I’ll look at the show’s larger themes, how those are implemented in specific episodes, what elements of life in the 1960s inspired TOS, and some of the lessons it offers us today. There will (I hope!) be a little humor along the way. My introductory thoughts, which you can read here, lay out the groundwork, and my essay on the first episode, “The Man Trap,” is here. TOS had cultural significance when it originally aired, and it is remarkably relevant more than fifty years later.

Image of Kirk and Spock in Roman costumes from Star Trek TV series
Friends, Trekkers, lend me your ears

I’m certainly not the first, nor the wisest, to write about Trek‘s cultural impact. But I’m at a stage in life where I feel I have something to say about TOS, so I hope you will pay a visit. At a time when the world seems to be ending, we need Star Trek‘s hopeful vision more than ever. The crew of the Enterprise may have gone boldly, but they set forth with humility and curiosity, and I hope my words provide a little encouragement for all of us to do the same. Enjoy!

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