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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nerd Culture - A Golden Enterprise: 50 years of Star Trek

Fair Warning: If you aren't a fan of "block of text" posts or Star Trek this post isn't for.
Forgive me my nerd indulgence. :)  I'll try to find a nice meme or apropos Garfield next time.

Space, the final frontier, these are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.  It's five year mission...now reaching the 50 year mark.

Fifty years ago today, the crew of the Enterprise first hit the "small screen". (A term that used to mean TV but today better refers to a phone or watch of some sort.  But I digress.)

Nerd Nation hasn't been the same since.  In the days before the immediacy of email, social media, online polls, and live streaming, and the ability to organize allowed by fan sites, message boards, and subreddits,  Star Trek fans were able to flex their collective muscle to save their show from cancellation through a concerted (snail) mail campaign and then continued to keep the flame burning through pre-photo copier fanzines,  The fandom grew through nearly unprecedented syndication viewership.  Oh, and their passion basically invented the modern fan convention scene.

Future editions of the franchise spearheaded the practice of shows being first released in syndication (Next Generation) and as the cornerstone of a broadcast network (Voyager on UPN, which ironically became part of the CW network that now has almost an entire lineup of geeky shows).  CBS will try to use a new Star Trek show to drive its online streaming network early next year.

But that (along with the progressive casting choices) is the meta.  This is about the personal.

For me it was about the ideas.  Don't get me wrong, I've grown attached to the characters. I still get misty-eyed at the end of The Wrath of Khan.

But the voyage into the unknown, new life forms, the interplay of ideas and philosophy, that was for me.  And yes, I hear some of you yawning about how slow some of the plots were.  And chuckling about Spock walking around without his brain or the giant space amoeba.  Or lamenting some of the inconsistencies from episode to episode.

But for me I settled in for each to episode to see what's next, what's new.  It's best summed up at the end of The Motion Picture when Kirk is asked for a course and he leans forward and responds with an awed and reverent "Out there!"

That's why the original series and The Next Generation pulled me in.  (And other series continued.)  What's out there? And what will we discover about ourselves? 

The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. (A quote or variation of which has been attributed to J.B.S. Haldane, Sir Arthur Harrington, and Werner von Heisenburg.)

I also like the hopeful and positive tone of the Star Trek universe.  The idea that humanity can create a society where basic and even some advanced needs are met, where each individual has both the means and desire to pursue their highest level of achievement in science, art, philosophy.

I hope fifty years from now, we're closer to that future.  I firmly believe that whether we are or not, Star Trek will be there.

Thank you, Mr Roddenberry.  And to all those who have made this franchise come alive.


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