Star Trek, the Original Series (TOS): A Necessary Social Commentary, Part 6
This will conclude my argument that began two months back with the Axiom: Star Trek is the most influential Science Fiction television program in history.
I believe my logic has been sound, although largely rhetorical. I expected at least a few contrarian views, maybe alternatives suggested, but no one has risen to challenge me. I guess we are all in agreement.
In Part 1, I introduced my thesis, and the reasons I felt I needed to make the argument. I discussed how I intended to proceed, and how I would divide my discourse into specific spheres of society I felt Star Trek influenced.
In Part 2, I demonstrated several realized technologies that owe their existence to the show. These technologies were fiction in the 1960’s, but they exist now a couple of centuries before Star Trek’s timeline. Some of the developers themselves offer kudos to the show’s creators for initiating the dream.
In Part 3, I discussed how Star Trek advanced societal mores regarding race relations. Dr. Martin Luther King believed that Star Trek perpetuated a vision of equality that was not yet reflective of America. He convinced Nichelle Nichols to remain on Star Trek even though she felt she wasn’t getting enough to do. He helped her understand that even her passive presence aboard the star ship Enterprise was sufficient to indicate that a person of color could not only become a Starfleet officer, but could also work alongside whites as an equal.
In Part 4, I wrote about the Feminist movement, and how Star Trek served to progress its goals despite the short skirts and misogynistic story lines. Grace Lee Whitney communicated feeling empowered despite her stereotypical role in the show. I also illustrated moments when both Nichelle Nichols and Majel Barret’s characters acted in strong and aggressive ways.
In Part 5, I discussed Militarism and Peace. This is significant because the TV series is a series that requires conflict and more often than not extensive diplomacy. In making my case, I visualized the show as a metaphor and inferred meaning from the narrative. I believed that the Federation, Starfleet, the Klingons, and the Romulans all had corollaries in the cultural milieu of the 1960’s. It is imperative to understand that despite the ideas of militarism, more often than not, each episode ends with diplomacy and the promise of peace.
After its cancellation, Star Trek became more popular due to its constant airing via syndication. As it was repeatedly broadcast, the fan base grew to form clubs, discussion groups, and forums. These discussion groups soon turned into full-fledged conventions in which the fans would gather to expound on the most innocuous aspects of the series. People would dress as their favorite characters. Invited guests to these conventions include science fiction writers, actors in the show, and behind the scenes guests. Behind the scenes clips, actual show footage, and even bloopers were shown at these conventions. Fanzines and memorabilia were displayed and sold. An entire subculture grew around the show, such that they even call themselves “Trekkers” and the more pejorative “Trekkies.”
In 1976, after a massive letter writing campaign, NASA named one of its shuttles the Enterprise. Also, Nichelle Nichols was hired to promote diversity in the sciences. Her major responsibility is to recruit women and African Americans to become astronauts.
To date there have been:
- 6 live action series, including the newest one that begins in the fall Star Trek: Discovery
- 1 animated series
- 14 movies grossing over $3 billion worldwide
- 70 million books in print (including a Klingon dictionary) not to mention comic books
- Numerous video games including an online game that is going strong
- Various Star Trek theme park rides and fan experiences
- Merchandising is extensive and will only grow with the new series
- Not to mention the tons of fan-generated films, videos, fanzines, and music
Lastly, it is important to note that many people anecdotally communicate that they were influenced by Star Trek. Among these are scientist, engineers, actors, writers, and dreamers alike. Generations of people number among the Star Trek fan. For almost 50 years, viewers of the show have been moved by Star Trek in its distinct mediated realities. With the new show, Star Trek: Discovery, I have no doubt that it will continue to perpetuate the idea that Star Trek was and continues to be the most influential science fiction series in history.
Thanks for reading my ramblings.
Louie Matos a.k.a Papa Smerph