In the late ’70’s, sunday mornings meant Dad cooked breakfast (ham and cheese omelets, fried potatoes, and either sausage or bacon, mmmmm so good). It also meant that until Mom woke up we had to sit in front of the tv and watch what he wanted; Star Trek: The Original Series. I didn’t like it then, but who knew it would take on a life of its own; a life that would change geek culture forever.
Today is August 19th, 2015 and if the man who had created the global movement that is now Star Trek was still alive he would have been 94 years old. What other amazing worlds would he have taken us to by now? How would he feel about the world today and all the things that we take for granted that are undeniably inspired by the universe that he brought to life in 1964 (Yes, “The Cage”, the original Star Trek pilot, was filmed in late 1964 and presented to NBC in 1965)?
The most obvious examples of course are technological: communicators=mobile phones (although we’ve moved well beyond flip phones but not quite to the communicator pins of ST:TNG) , PADDS=tablets, etc. Scientists have come closer and closer to creating warp drive, cloaking devices, and transporters. It was even recently revealed that transparent metal had been achieved. “Hello, computer!”
Only slightly less obvious however, is the cultural impact. I say slightly, because who amongst Geek culture has not said “Beam me up Scotty”? Or “Live long and prosper”? Do you have a friend with exceptional hearing? Have you ever cursed their ‘Vulcan ears’? Who can resist the “I see dead people” joke when ever some one in a red shirt comes into view?
My personal favorite is “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated”. I even used it as a greeting on my voice mail once.
Mr. Roddenberry gave us the original series, and The Next Generation. He was consulted about Deep Space Nine before his death, and the team behind Voyager felt they were following his ideals with that series. Enterprise…well fans argue about that one endlessly. While Star Trek is not the only contribution he made to film and television, it is the best known. (His wife, the indomitable Majel Barrett, whom he met while working at Screen Gems, produced at least two series based on scripts that he had written, Earth: Final Conflict and Andromeda.)
Each show added to our Geek lexicon. We went from cool Vulcan logic, to Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. Though not created by Roddenberry himself, Voyager’s EMH will forever remind us to “state the nature of the medical emergency”. Over the years so much from Trek has crept into our lives. So much of it has been for the better.
He was the first television writer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was given a Macintosh 128K by Apple, Inc in 1986 (later a Macintosh Plus that they liked to say was the first one off of the production line) and has a crater on Mars named after him.
Most recently William Shatner’s documentary “Chaos on the Bridge” has shown Trek fans a dark side to Mr. Roddenberry. Whether one believes the film’s claims or not, the reality is that we all have a dark side. Despite his flaws, (or maybe even because of them), Mr. Roddenberry gave us a future world where hope, imagination, and dreams would carry humanity to the stars. He gave us a future where all the people of earth were equal, and had moved beyond greed, power struggles, violence, etc. While we wait for that future, (or work on it fervently across the world), so many little things from the shows have become invisibly normal and will most likely continue to do so. Care for a cup of tea? Certainly, better make it Earl Grey, and hot.