Culture Of Star TrekBy Fred Shedian
Posted at September 20, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT
After spending the past week preparing for Hurricane Floyd and then attempting to return to the normal routine, I started to contemplate what remarks I could make here. Before I begin with this week's column, I would like to extend my prayers towards those residence in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and in New Jersey who are currently flooded out of their homes due to the hurricane.
When a person discusses what has made Star Trek the franchise it is today, most people tend to make remarks touching on the impact the show has had on our culture. Yet, these days, the impact itself is now under scrutiny. How much of an impact have the shows really had on how we live and dream?
Evidence exists showing this fictional television show has made a dramatic impact on the culture of the United States. This can be clearly seen with the naming of the first space shuttle. Upon the announcement of a new design, NASA received thousands of letters with ideas for a name. Strangely, the vast majority of those letters stated the shuttle should be named Enterprise in honor of the television show that took us to the final frontier. The result was, of course, the presentation of the prototype space shuttle Enterprise.
Moving beyond this single event, the show has also found a place in some of the world's most unique museums. The Smithsonian Institue in Washington, DC is a place where many American relics and icons can be found. This extensive library includes the Declaration of Independence, the first airplane, the Apollo 13 capsule, and more. The area dedicated to space and aeronatucis follows the example presented in many other divisions of the institutie. It is a division that does not accept fictional items....yet, a person can find a strange glowing model hanging from the ceiling. What is this odd item some may ask? For those that do not know it, is the original USS Enterprise model that was used for filming during the Original Series. The model holds the honor of being the only fictional item in this section of the institue.
Even with these two important features, a person can still be justifiably cautious to think that Star Trek has made a major impact on our society. However, let us take a moment to contemplate how many people it has impacted.
Star Trek was the first to show an interracial kiss, something that was considered disgraceful by some at the time. Star Trek spawned an entire generation of dreams and people reaching out to the stars. Many Doctors entered their profession due to one Leonard McCoy, and one recently deceased DeForest Kelly. African Americans saw that anything was possible when an African Communications Officer was seen. Quoting an actress, "I saw this show and screamed throughout the house. 'Mamma! Mamma! Come quick! Come quick! There's a black lady on TV and she ain't no maid!'" Whoppi Goldberg made this remark and decided at that point to become an actress.
Phrases like "Space, the final frontier," "Live long and prosper," "Beam me up Scotty," and of course "He's dead Jim" are common place in our society. People who have never watched Star Trek can normally tell you what a Klingon is, some even a Borg. The word "James T. Kirk" brings up a certain image in the mind of anyone who hears it, Star Trek fan or not.
Current figures show that a Star Trek fan can be found in six out of every nine houses in the United States. The average holds true in other nations, including Germany, France, Italy, and the Middle East. Even Russia has taken a liking to this franchise. How many fans are there? Sadly, I doubt a count will ever be conducted....but I would not be surprised if it was in the mid to upper millions.
For a show, a franchise, and a fictional universe to make that type of impact on the reality of our lives is extraordinary. My friends, when people ask why Star Trek is popular, this is the answer you should give. It is a representation of hope, a universe we all wish to learn from and be a part of. I ask everyone to keep this in mind as the Star Trek phoneme continues to spread, now making it's way into the US postal service. A stamp with a model from a 1960's TV show on it? Who would have thought? Who would have imagined? Who should we blame this on?
I invite you all to look in a mirror and congratulate yourselves. We have made Star Trek a world wide icon, something millions of people look up to. New and old fans alike strive to create a world like the one we see made in a Paramount lot. It takes strength, dedication, insight, and a will to make things better in order for such a feat to even be attempted. This is what Star Trek has done, continues to do, and will do in the years ahead.
Fred Shedian writes a weekly 'A Take On Trek' column for the Trek Nation.