"Star Trek": A Chronicle

Space... the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship
"Enterprise." Its continuing mission: to explore strange new
worlds... to seek out new life and new civilizations... to boldly
go where no one has gone before...
The above blurb has been used to introduce the television show
Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show\'s run has elapsed that of
it\'s predecessor, the original Star Trek. The original spawned six
movies and endless conventions, and both have given way to action
figures for children, national clubs, and other various
paraphernalia. This is the chronicle to end all chronicles: the
full analysis and timeline of one of the most popular television
programs in contemporary American history.
Americans are fascinated with the possibility of intelligent life
somewhere else in the universe; this has been displayed in books
and plays and movies too numerous to mention, not to mention the
accounts of "everyday people" who say that they have encountered
aliens and unidentified flying objects (UFOs). This fascination
became so great that in the late 1970s, President Carter decided
to launch an investigation within NASA (the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration) to uncover the mystery of UFOs and
intelligent life in the universe.
Science fiction plays upon this obsession. The great science
fiction writers have sent our imaginations into overload with
scores of stories to tell. The two most popular futuristic science
fiction stories, Star Trek and Star Wars, both have similar
characteristics. Both involve many different species of life (our
nearest equivalent would be "races"). The Ferengi, Vulcans,
humans, Betazoids, Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, androids, and
Bjorans are in the Star Trek series (which includes the original
television series, the six movies, the NextGeneration television
series, and the television series Deep Space Nine), while the Star
Wars movie trilogy includes humans, Wookies, Jawas, Ewoks, droids,
Tusken Raiders, and a host of various other strange and exotic
looking lifeforms. Each species has its own heritage, customs,
beliefs, and socioeconomic status. I am sure that each science
fiction storyline has it\'s own unusual breed of lifeform, but this
paper will examine only a particular science fiction storyline
which has mushroomed into a cultural obsession. I choose not to
focus on the works of Ray Bradbury and the like; I\'m sure that
they are superb writers. (A fantastic example is Bradbury\'s "A
Sound of Thunder," which is the probable predecessor to all of
today\'s hype surrounding the film Jurassic Park and the children\'s
character Barney the dinosaur.) However, I\'ve never heard of a Ray
Bradbury convention, or action figures based on characters he\'s
created.
Star Trek appeared in the right place at the right time. It was
the middle of the 1960s, an extremely vibrant decade which
primarily transformed America from a quiet-yet-strong idealism
with do-or-die patriotism to a wild and eccentric liberal age,
exhibiting imaginations let loose from the taboos and inhibitions
of the era of World War II and the 1950s. The 1960s are difficult
to describe briefly; I\'d do a better job in another whole paper.
However, major contributing factors that made the 1960s what they
were included Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, assassinations of
President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King (among
others), the music revolution (which was symbolized and brought to
a head at Woodstock), the Vietnam war, and the space program. Not
to mention (to quote Dave Barry) 42 hillion jillion other things.
But it was the space program (which was President Kennedy\'s
dream), along with American curiosity of UFOs, that gave Star Trek
a nearly guaranteed fan base.
Having completed the Mercury 7 shift, NASA was in full gear with
the Gemini spaceproject when Star Trek premiered on television
sets across the country. It told the tale of a time (nobody knew
if it was the future, the present, or the past -- nobody knew
exactly when the stories took place in reference to our time here
on Earth, because the time sequences were given in a
mysterious-sounding five-digit "stardate") in space with a
governing body called Starfleet, and the vessel of focus was an
exploratory starship named the Enterprise. The characters of the
show were the ship\'s main personnel: Captain James Tiberius Kirk
and his crew.
All of the signifiers that these characters displayed in