This day in 1966 Star Trek first beamed its way on to American airwaves and however unlikely it seemed, began leaving its mark on pop culture. The voyages of the Enterprise crew – Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov (and occasionally Nurse Chapel or Yeoman Rand) – were only transmitted for three years but thanks to years of syndication Star Trek eventually involved into a phenomenon of six movies, later birthing six more movies and five other television series. The most fervent fans – Trekkies, or Trekkers as some preferred to be called – spearheaded the convention-going culture we today enjoy across many fandoms. Basically, much of what comprises our “geek” culture owes a large debt to Star Trek. It’s been a tent pole among nerdy interests for over four decades!
But even with all that rich history, it’s the original crew that has become the most iconic. Those actors – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Koenig – were forever typecast and depending on when you asked them it was either for better or worse. It was their Enterprise crew J.J. Abrams sought to re-imagine in his 2009 reboot of the series, a film almost universally loved by fans old and new. And today, fans internet-wide are still putting their own stamp on Gene Roddenberry‘s original “Wagon Train to the stars,” with fan fiction, fan art, cosplay, and even fan produced movies and web series.
Star Trek is more alive now than it ever was, and it seems the days of being ashamed by your intense love for phasers, red shirts, and Romulans – not to mention their ale – are far behind us. If you’ve never given Star Trek‘s original series a shot because you thought it looked campy – it is – then you’re missing out on what is genuinely a fantastic show with wonderful writing, heartfelt performances, and excellent explorations of the relationships between its characters. You’re allowed to laugh when the set looks a little shaky, or an alien monster’s zipper is clearly apparent, or when Shatner performs a little too enthusiastically. That’s part of the charm. And sure, there will be truly awful, almost unwatchable episodes, too. But for every “Spock’s Brain” there’s plenty of “Balance of Terror,” “Amok Time,” or “The City on the Edge of Forever.”
Today every episode of Star Trek can be streamed online, for free, from a variety of sources. The most free, meaning you don’t have to already have a subscription to Netflix or Amazon Prime, is on CBS’ own TV.com. You could even renact history by tonight at 8:30 pm ET watching “The Map Trap,” the first aired episode of Star Trek. I like it because it heavily features Dr. McCoy, my favorite character, but I’m not kidding you when I say the villain is salt-sucking vampire creature. Seriously.
To sign off, I’ll leave with the immortal words of Phillip J. Fry from Futurama‘s “Where No Fan Has Gone Before,”
‘Cause it-it taught me so much. Like how you should accept people. Whether they be black, white, Klingon, or even female. But most importantly, when I didn’t have any friends, it-it made me feel like maybe I did.