Star Date 2264.7 — The Romulans’ experiments in space/time manipulation have threatened the very fabric of our existence. In Earth’s early 21st century, an alien life form known as the “Orange Entity” became President of the United States. Cunning, ruthless, and completely without morals, the Orange Entity threatened to destroy the United Nations, which eventually would merge into the United Federation of Planets. Without the Federation, Earth and all the civilized planets would suffer incalculable centuries of warfare, strife, disease, and starvation.
The Romulans, however, were careless. The breach they created in the space/time continuum allowed the transfer of a deadly novel coronavirus, COVID-19, from the Epsilon galaxy to Earth. The resultant death and chaos ended the tyrannical reign of the Orange Entity in Earth year 2021.
As part of Operation Warp Speed, the Enterprise traveled back in time to Earth year 2020. There (and then) our senior science officer Mr. Spock, and our chief medical officer Dr. McCoy, planted surreptitiously the scientific data necessary for the creation of several different coronavirus vaccines. In accordance with the Prime Directive, Star Fleet has forbidden any further interference or involvement in Earth politics or science circa 2020.
The Enterprise has traveled at warp speed to the Epsilon galaxy and our own time, Earth year 2266. Measures have been taken to close and seal the breach in the space/time continuum. Ambassador Sarek is negotiating a treaty with the Romulans, ensuring the permanent cessation of their space/time manipulation.
The original Star Trek series ran for three seasons, from 1966-1969. According to Wikipedia: “Star Trek‘s Nielsen ratings while on NBC were low...ratings continued to decline during the second season...NBC next reduced Star Trek‘s [Season 3] budget by a significant amount per episode...Nichelle Nichols described the budget-cutting during the final year as an intentional effort to kill off Star Trek.”
In short, Star Trek was not immediately successful. Perhaps the show was too smart for the average viewer. “The letters supporting Star Trek, whose authors included New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller, were different in both quantity and quality from most mail that television networks receive.
“The show, according to the 6,000 letters it draws a week (more than any other in television), is watched by scientists, museum curators, psychiatrists, doctors, university professors, and other highbrows. The Smithsonian Institution asked for a print of the show for its archives, the only show so honored.
“In 2011, the decision to cancel Star Trek by NBC was ranked number four on the TV Guide Network special, 25 Biggest TV Blunders 2.”
Perhaps Star Trek was ahead of its time. Much of its futuristic technology has now become real. Communicators have been realized as cell phones. Replicators now exist as 3D printers. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says the Alexa voice-activated AI assistant was inspired by Star Trek‘s talking computer. MIT has created a device similar to Dr. McCoy’s hypospray. According to Geek.com, it “delivers a drug through the skin at speeds of up to 340 meters per second and in under a millisecond.” Big screen TVs, tablet computers, universal translators, phasers, and tricorders have all become real in one form or another.
Star Trek‘s socio-politics were also ahead of its time. According to Smithsonian Magazine (9/5/2018), “Fifty Years Ago, Star Trek Aired TV’s First Interracial Kiss,” by Matthew Delmont: “On Nov. 22, 1968, an episode of Star Trek titled ‘Plato’s Stepchildren’ broadcast the first interracial kiss on American television.
“The episode aired just one year after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia decision struck down state laws against interracial marriage. At the time, Gallup polls showed that fewer than 20% of Americans approved of such relationships.”
(Gallup’s latest update, in 2013, shows 87% of Americans approve of interracial marriage.)
Wikipedia goes on to say: “Through syndication, Star Trek found a larger audience than it had on NBC, becoming a cult classic. Airing the show in the late afternoon or early evening attracted many new viewers, often young. By 1970, Paramount’s trade advertisements claimed that the show had significantly improved its stations’ ratings, and the Los Angeles Times commented on Star Trek‘s ability to ‘acquire the most enviable ratings in the syndication field.’ By 1972, what the Associated Press described as ‘the show that won’t die’ aired in more than 100 American cities and 60 other countries; and more than 3,000 fans attended the first Star Trek convention in New York City in January 1972.”
When Star Trek aired on NBC from ’66-’69, I was 12-15 years old. I was not a fanatical fan, but I watched the show with keen appreciation. I perceived Star Trek as something more than a gallant romp through space.
In the early and mid ‘70s, Star Trek reruns ran every Sunday morning where I lived. In lieu of church, I watched Star Trek reruns religiously. Smoking a joint (marijuana cigarette) served as my sacrament and enhanced my viewing pleasure. As I grew older and a tad bit wiser, I began to appreciate Star Trek‘s socio-political themes.
In The New York Times (7/24/2017) “ ‘Make It So’: ‘Star Trek’ and Its Debt to Revolutionary Socialism,” A.M. Gittlitz writes: “Interest in alien life was not just the domain of scientists and fiction writers. U.F.O. flaps worldwide captured pop cultural attention, and many believed that flying saucers were here to warn us, or even save us, from the danger of nuclear weapons. In the midst of the worldwide worker and student uprisings in 1968, the Argentine Trotskyist leader known as J. Posadas wrote an essay proposing solidarity between the working class and the alien visitors. He argued that their technological advancement indicated they would be socialists and could deliver us the technology to free Earth from the grip of Yankee imperialism and the bureaucratic workers’ states.
“Such views were less fringe and more influential than you might think. Beginning in 1966, the plot of Star Trek closely followed Posadas’s propositions. After a nuclear third world war (which Posadas also believed would lead to socialist revolution), Vulcan aliens visit Earth, welcoming them into a galactic federation and delivering replicator technology that would abolish scarcity. Humans soon unify as a species, formally abolishing money and all hierarchies of race, gender and class.”
I haven’t smoked pot in many years, but I still believe in Star Trek‘s basic humanistic tenets: Treating all sentient life forms (even those from Edmonson County) with respect and equanimity. Helping others through the compassionate use of science and knowledge. Resolving conflicts and disputes through diplomacy; using violence only as a last resort.
Happy New Year! Live long and prosper!
Mark Heinz lives at Nolin Lake. Visit his website at amazon.com/author/markheinzbooks.