Saturday, July 23, 2016

Where No Man Has Gone Before

August 1976
STAR TREK BEYOND opened Thursday night.

It's the 13th movie in a 50-year-old franchise... blah blah blah.

So what? Why do we care? Why should we care?

Here's why:

Before it became a reliable cash machine, a source of blockbuster movies (which really only began with the 2009 reboot), it was a means of imparting a message.

The message was about a particular type of future, a future where we could surmount our earthly difficulties, a future where people of different nationalities, races and species could peaceably co-exist.

Because of that ability to put aside those differences, those better versions of us were able to build faster-than-light spaceships, powerful portable computers and tiny flip-top radios. They figured out how convert matter to energy, transmit it across great distances and reassemble it into the people or things they'd deconstructed in the first place.

Dec. 22, 1986
The U.S.S. Enterprise traversed star systems, meeting beings hostile and friendly. People fought. People died. Some episodes in the original series and its five sequels were downright silly.* Others were profound.** Most of them were memorable.***

They all made us think about impossible things. Warp drive? Transporters? Time travel? We still don't have any of those things, but we WANT them. Those pocket-sized communicators? We got 'em.

Star Trek helped us to aspire.

This newest movie comes 47 years after the United States first put men on the moon. Star Trek, the original series, was conceived amid our struggle to get there. Incredibly, regrettably, after just three years and six missions, we quit.

We quit trying to go anywhere really.

The U.S.S.R. put the first man in orbit in 1961 -- 55 years ago -- the U.S. matched the feat nearly a year later with John Glenn's historic flight. So, we mastered that trick a long long time ago. But that's really all we do now. We put folks up in the International Space Station and subsequently bring them home, generally without incident. And hardly anyone gives it a second thought.

Aug. 31, 1991
Meanwhile, fostering the unity of people within countries and across boarders seems as improbable as visiting Alpha Centauri.

We need Star Trek.

Not the dark, J.J. Abrams-infused version (though I'll certainly see the new movie and the new series CBS says it'll roll out next year) but the original concept, the one that filled us with hope and awe, the one that made us want "to boldly go where no man has gone before," and to want to go there together.

* Spock's Brain, where a mysterious woman boards the Enterprise, surgically removes the Vulcan's gray matter and uses it to power her civilization

** City on the Edge of Forever, where Dr. McCoy, accidentally overdosing on a powerful drug, goes back in time and changes history. Kirk must ensure his girlfriend dies to set things right. Also, The Inner Light, where an alien probe knocks out the Next Generation's Captain Picard. He regains consciousness living somebody else's life.

*** Yesterday's Enterprise, a rip in the space-time continuum sends a past version of the Enterprise into the future, changing everything that happened after it left.

-- Follow me on Twitter @paperboyarchive

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