Fifty years ago, Star Trek made its debut on American television. Yet I was not viewing it, unlike many kids my age (I was eight). Why not?
Well evidently my parents didn’t like the show. I remember them mocking it at some point when I was a kid. This made no sense, as they watched just about every other cheesy sci-fi series of the 1960s (Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel, It’s About Time) and I watched along with them, but alas no Star Trek. To add insult to injury, Trek was only halfway over when it was my bedtime so even had they watched it, I’d have been booted out of the room at 8:30. Yeah, parents were stricter back then.
Fast forward to junior high, say 1971. A friend of mine was into sci-fi and she brought the James Blish books to school and talked up Star Trek, which was in syndication then. I read one of the books and was immediately interested in seeing the show. I had always loved science and anyone who was a child in the 1960s loved the idea of space travel. Plus – I had grown up on 1960s TV sci-fi (minus Star Trek). The show was airing in my city on weeknights from 5-6 PM and I tuned in and became a great fan. I was lucky enough that some of my friends really liked it too, so unlike many Trek fans, I was not alone in my love of the show. I devoured those Blish books!
What attracted me to Star Trek? Hope. My first non-family memory was JFK’s funeral and I was in front of the TV to see the announcements of the 1968 assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Riots and Vietnam War news were daily fare on the evening news. There was the ever-present threat of nuclear armageddon courtesy of the U.S.S.R. It was a real fear back then.
But Star Trek provided hope for the future and that was very appealing to a young teen. In their world, humanity had finally got past the bad stuff and somehow they hadn’t nuked themselves into non-existence. Humans were explorers now, and meeting all sorts of cool aliens. To someone wondering if she would ever get to grow up in a dangerous, chaotic world, Trek was uplifting.
And who could beat the combination of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy? The three characters meshed together perfectly. As a teen, lost in a confusing world, Spock appealed to me as another outsider in the game of life. Personality-wise, I was (and still am) all McCoy.
I must confess, in 1971, I thought I had missed out on the heyday of Star Trek. How wrong I was. The adventure had only got started. Fifty years on, it’s still going strong.
Happy Birthday, Star Trek. You HAVE lived long and prospered!