The 1960’s in America was extremely difficult for our country. We were coming out of the Korean War, the country was rocked by political corruption, the “Red Scare” was full blown, the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated, the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement was at its pinnacle. The country and the world were drastically changing in front of our eyes. There was a sense of not knowing who to trust. Some took to the streets in riots for protest of civil liberties or war. Society was changing its colors and everywhere we looked the culture began to represent this sense of uncertainty and abandonment. Even in the means of society to escape from these feelings, there was no where to turn. In print and film media these events were being chronicled in the tone set by writers and directors. Even in music were there the themes of disarray and abandonment. It was a sobering time in America.
1964, a young writer, who saw the best that society had, pitched an idea to the heads of a television studio for a show that would follow the basics of another show Wagon Train. This show followed the adventures of a group traveling to the west after the Civil War. It was a journey to explore new lands and new beginnings. The studio ordered a pilot but didn’t like it. A few years later the pilot was recast and the story was altered and it was eventually picked up by NBC. This was the beginning of a show that would change television history.
“Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Her five year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” These words are ingrained in the American culture now as apple pie and baseball. What originally started as a promising show turned to failure but due to syndication turned into a cult following and exploded into a phenomenon. This show was released before its time on the social issues it represented. Star Trek, at its core, has always dealt with how we, as human beings, deal with adversity and new challenges in life. Whether it was having a diverse cast in the original series to how, different races deal with different ideologies when living together, to understanding that just because we my look a bit different we all share the same desires and goal in life. We all share that burning passion to live. Star Trek pushed the boundries of the time by showing all cultures being equals. It was not without its creative difficulties though where the role of Uhura, play by Nichelle Nichols, was to be the 2nd in command behind Captain James Kirk. The studio felt that a woman would never be able to fill that role and changed the 2nd in command to Leonard Nemoys Spock. The shows creator, Gene Roddenberry, wanted to portray a society that had overcome fear and hatred of the unknown by having a cast that was diverse and varied. This utopian society was, at the time, something that was truly science fiction. Star Trek, used the social issues of the day to help propel its stories and tackle subjects not seen on broadcast television at the time. It crossed boundaries, showing that it wasn’t about race or gender but about a common goal. A life where everyone worked to achieve a better world. A better galaxy.
One of the most controversial aspects of the show was when the first interracial kiss was filmed on TV. At this time in history, whites and blacks still couldn’t legally have a relationship. In most states across the country you had to apply to have it approved to get married and there were many hurdles to cross. This kiss helped move Hollywood forward. On television most couples were still portrayed as sleeping in separate beds. This act, defying the status quo, helping usher in a portrayal of life that America and the world knew existed but couldn’t accept to watch from the comfort of their television sets at home. It wasn’t until decades later that a kiss would spark outrage and controversy when on the show Rosanne showed the first kiss between two people of the same sex. Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a future helped shape and mold not only a cult following that is as rabid today as it was when the show last originally aired but helped pave the way for social issues to be tackled in ways that could be accessible by entertainment means. Now as we look to the future how will we shape what we have. Would we still hold onto the fear of the unknown and the persecution of that which we do not understand? Will be all come together and reach for a common goal of equality for all? Can we shed the painful shackles that have divided us as human beings and reach for the stars? Can we boldly go where no man has gone before?