By Jason Snell
September 8, 2016 3:15 PM PT
Space: The Final Frontier
Today’s the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek,” which aired its very first episode on September 8, 1966, on NBC. (It was “The Man Trap,” not the best episode of “Star Trek”, but the best episode that was available to air on September 8, 1966.)
I can’t remember a world where “Star Trek” didn’t exist. I was born about a year after the show’s last episode was broadcast on NBC, but that means that at a very young age I was exposed to “Star Trek” in syndication, five days a week in the early evening. 79 total episodes meant that the series looped around every 16 weeks. If you watched “Star Trek” every weekday at 5 p.m., you’d see the same episode three or four times a year.
By the time I was ten years old I’d wager I’d seen every “Star Trek” episode at least 20 times. And this was in the days before widespread home video, where you could watch what you wanted, when you wanted, an unlimited number of times.
When “Star Wars” arrived on the scene in 1977 I was already a loyal “Star Trek” fan, to the point of being jealous of the success of the new Star Franchise. (It all worked out—I saw “Star Wars” and reacted with glee like any other six-year-old would, and I have a great fondness for that franchise, too.)
But “Star Trek” is different. “Star Trek” is the music of my childhood. Did “Star Trek” make me enthusiastic about science fiction and technology, or was it my enthusiasm for those subjects that made me love “Star Trek”? My guess is that it’s the former, but again, I can’t tell—I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know and love “Star Trek.”
I just finished reading the three volume history of the series, “These Are the Voyages.” It has given me a much greater understanding of the time and budget pressures the show was under in those days. What a strange thing, to be a guest star on a TV series in the mid-1960s for a single week and have it be the thing that people would ask you about for the rest of your life. But that’s what happened with “Star Trek.” It was made as disposable entertainment and ended up becoming canon instead.
Happy birthday, “Star Trek.” I’m looking forward to the new “Star Trek: Discovery” TV series in January.
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