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From Trekkies to Tranquility Base

It was June 3, 1969.

A TV show which had not gotten great ratings aired its final episode on NBC. A check on the Internet shows it won exactly one award in its three-year run – the NAACP Image Award for TV shows that have improved the presentation of Negroes.

A lot of things have changed in 50 years. For one thing, I suspect the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has changed the exact designation of the Image Award to remove a word some people even then were finding offensive – Negro.

It’s not that the show was a bad one, it’s just that it seemed to have trouble finding its audience. It may not have helped that the main cast included a female Negro, a Russian, a Japanese-American and a green-blooded alien.

Yes, the show was Star Trek, or as Trekkers refer to it, Star Trek TOS (The Original Series). It needs that designation, because while the original series only lasted three years, it has spawned almost countless offshoots.

By my count, there have been seven TV series set in the Star Trek universe and four others that have been announced. There have also been 13 movies already released and who knows how many more on the planning table.

As anyone knows who visits a large bookstore and goes to the science-fiction section, there are (by my scientific count) umpteen million and fine books released as fiction, not counting the various biographies of cast members, books looking at the science of the TV shows and movies, books looking at the psychology of the series and what it shows about humans, and probably a book written from the point of view of Spot, the cat belonging to Data from Star Trek TNG (The Next Generation).

There are an uncountable (technically not, but you know what I mean) number of TV series which ran for three or four seasons, and then vanished, never to be heard from again. So what made Star Trek different?

Some will argue it was the well-thought-out characters in the original series, or the willingness to take on a lot of different social issues in the plots.

I think one thing certainly didn’t hurt occurred just over a month after the final episode of Star Trek ran.

On July 20, 1969, the words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed,” crackled across the world’s airwaves, spoken by Neil Armstrong from the Moon.

All of a sudden, what man had dreamed of for years had been shown to be possible.

And if we could reach the Moon, why not the stars?

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