Forty-five years ago today, the first episode of Star Trek aired on NBC.
Anyone who knows me can attest to the profound influence the show has had on my life. (I've read the Star Trek Encyclopedia cover to cover, twice. Yeah.) Since moving back to Boston just over a year ago, I've reconnected with a group of guys that I essentially became friends with because we were all obsessed with the franchise and even though we're all now adults (relatively speaking) we still talk about Trek with the same nerdtastic glee we had in middle school.
For me, Star Trek served as the gateway drug into the larger world of science fiction. I was a brainy, unpopular kid attending a Catholic elementary school and not quite buying into this whole "God and Jesus thing." While I certainly enjoyed the hell out of Star Wars, I loved Star Trek not only for its optimistic view of the future, but for its strong roots in actual scientific concepts that truly fascinated me. Aliens, time travel, alternate universes, faster-than-light spacecraft...this was the good stuff! More importantly, it felt real and immediate, while Jedis and The Force were a bit too mystical for my tastes. The only things I'd ever learned in a science class up to that point had been about the water cycle and diagramming the different parts of a flower. It makes me drowsy just remembering it. Once I sunk my teeth into concepts like evolution and the Big Bang, it was as if something clicked in my brain. This was how the universe really worked! I was hooked. After Star Trek I gobbled up all the science I could, and once I got to high school I was eventually able to take classes like Cosmology, Advanced Physics and Astronomy .
If not for Gene Roddenbury, I might never have been exposed to the wonderful writings of Hawking, Einstein and Feynman, or the musings of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ronald Mallett and Carl Sagan. If not for the Starship Enterprise, I might not have become so enthralled with computers and technology, a field which is currently paying my rent. And if not for the great storytelling and larger-than-life cast members, I might not have studied acting and directing in college, leading me to move to Los Angeles and eventually meet my fiancee.
So today I say thanks. Thank you to Star Trek, Gene Roddenbury and all the various Enterprise captains (alright, Sisko and Janeway too) for helping to lead me down a path of logical analysis bolstered by a heart of human emotion, just like Mr. Spock himself. To Trek fans everywhere, fire up your Netflix and enjoy some of your favorite episodes today. My wish to you is the same I have for Star Trek itself:
Live long and prosper.