Thursday 8 September 2011

Star Trek's birthday and visions of the future

On this day, September 8,1966, the first episode of Star Trek - the classic SF series about the crew of the Starship Enterprise and their mission to boldly go where no man has gone before - was broadcast on television.

The first episode had a bit of a cheesy plot - the ship's doctor, Dr McCoy, found out his ex-girlfriend was actually some sort of salt-sucking vampire after crew members began dying from saline deficiency.

Actually, quite a few of the episodes of the original series of Star Trek had pretty cheesy plots as well as some infamous ham acting from William Shatner as Captain James T Kirk. But along with the cheese and ham, Star Trek and its later incarnations such as Next Generation and Deep Space Nine served up quit a bit of food for thought.

The early episodes had some quite obvious thematic messages about such things as sexual and racial equality, the futility of war and the importance of thinking for oneself rather than slavishly following outdated ideas.

However, Star Trek also aimed to offer a hopeful example of what centuries to come might be like if humans follow their highest ideals. This was a future where everyone was able to fulfil their true potential in a society where people were generally happy.

The crew of the Enterprise offered good models for problem-solving too - the main characters generally resolved situations through a balance of logical thought, physical action and emotional understanding - as exemplified by Spock, Kirk and McCoy respectively. In the later series, Star Trek Next Generation, Captain Picard was an example of the perfect leader - a boss who everyone admires and who listens to the opinions of those around him before making well-considered decisions. Many managers could learn a lesson or two from Picard.

And the series has been influential in respect of the advice it offered. Back in 1995 a book was published entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek. I have to admit I haven't actually read the book, but the description says it is: "A life-enhancing handbook that sold more than 100,000 copies in hardcover. An inspiring collection of down-to-earth philosophy..." Maybe I should get a copy.

Star Trek fans have written loads on the subject too. One website, by Trekkie Steve Pavlina, states: "One of the best examples of the fulfillment of human potential can actually be found in the Star Trek universe created by Gene Roddenberry... Despite the fictional elements, it’s actually a compelling model for thinking about where the pursuit of personal development might take us." You can read the rest of his theory here:

So I am happy to celebrate the birthday of Star Trek - and its vision of what the future could hold if we all work together to make it so.

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek
Star Trek - The Original Series - Series 1 - Complete - Remastered [DVD]
Star Trek - The Original Series - Series 2 - Complete - Remastered [DVD]

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