PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Film

Star Trek at 50

Montage @copy; by Stormy94 of Deviant Art.

On 8 September 1966, the sci-fi television show Star Trek aired its first episode, setting into motion a chain of events that would leave no aspect of pop culture unchanged.

On 8 September 1966, the sci-fi television show Star Trek aired its first episode, setting into motion a chain of events that would leave no aspect of pop culture unchanged. What began as a single low-budget show, the brainchild of creator/director Gene Roddenberry has, over the last 50 years, expanded into a veritable institution. As of this year, the Star Trek franchise is comprised of 726 television episodes distributed across seven different series, 13 feature films, and innumerable merchandise tie-ins, novelizations, comics, games and magazines, and this doesn't even take into account those texts produced by the show's prolific, organized fandom.

However, Star Trek's outsize influence on pop culture cannot be measured solely by the number of media objects it has generated. The show is also responsible for a number of political, cultural, and technological developments. Some of these developments have been the result of the show's content. Beginning only three years after the formal end of America's Jim Crow laws, Star Trek consistently challenged midcentury representational norms by placing women and people of color in central roles.

In particular, the character of Lieutenant Uhura, played by Nichelle Nichols, gestured toward a utopian future in which racial oppression had given way to a global ethos of knowledge, peace, and unity. The revolutionary nature of this character and its impact on American culture cannot be underestimated. There is, of course, the matter of the kiss, but there's also a lot more, too. In an interview with the Emmy Foundation in 2010, Nichols recounted how civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. persuaded her of the importance of the role, citing the positive influence it would have on future generations.

He was, of course, absolutely correct. It was the character of Uhura and, importantly, Nichols' own tireless activism that pushed NASA to admit people of color to its astronaut program. One of those who benefited from Nichols' efforts was Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to enter outer space. Jemison, who has long been vocal about Nichols' influence on her, eventually had her own Star Trek moment, appearing for a cameo in an episode called "Second Chances" in The Next Generation.

There have, of course, been a number of other important contributions. In 1976, the show's fans (a group of folks not to be trifled with) successfully petitioned NASA to name one of its space shuttles after the iconic starship Enterprise, a fitting tribute given the show's tendency to drive technological innovation here on Earth. It's unlikely that we can attribute any one particular technological development to the show; influence is a tricky thing to track. However, there are a number of Star Trek technologies that have moved from fiction to fact: food replicator, universal translator, tablet computers, tricorder, holodeck.

We're happy to honor the 50th anniversary of this incredible institution by bringing together a collection of essays that cover a variety of topics related to the films, the fans, the televisions shows, the parodies, and the political influence of Star Trek. Make it so!

Desirae Embree

Associate Film Editor

Montage @copy; by Stormy94 of Deviant Art.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Music

Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."

Music

50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.

Film

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.

Film

The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.

Music

Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.