Star Trek Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Jacob Bryant, Staff Writer

“Space: The final frontier.” The world first heard this iconic line fifty years ago, when the first episode of Star Trek premiered on NBC in September of 1966.

Since the initial run of ‘The Original Series’, there have been thirteen feature films, five spin-off series, and a new series set to air in 2017.

The show’s birthday has been celebrated in many ways, including an interactive ‘Starfleet Academy’ in New York, reunions of cast members, and a complete re-airing of the original series beginning on the exact day it began in 1966.

Amidst its inherently obsessive fans and overall “geekdom”, Star Trek has consistently succeeded in breaking down social barriers.

Whoopi Goldberg, star of dozens of films and television series, including Star Trek: The Next Generation, has credited Nichelle Nichols to inspiring her acting career.

“Well, when I was nine years old, Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, Mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.”

Nichelle’s inspiration did not stop with Goldberg. Modern actress Leslie Jones, best known for her work on Saturday Night Live and the recent Ghostbusters reboot, has accredited her pursuit of a career as an actress to Whoopi Goldberg.

Nichelle Nichols, who played the communications officer Nyota Uhura in the original series, was ground breaking in racial equality. Nichelle playing Uhura was “the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a black woman in television history”, Martin Luther King, Jr. said.

During the show’s second season Nichelle was considering quitting to pursue different acting jobs. Eventually Martin Luther King, Jr. talked her out of it, encouraging her to continue as her role promoted racial equality.

Additionally, the show was credited with depicting the first inter-racial kiss on American television, between Nichelle and William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk.

In the franchise’s most recent installment, “Star Trek Beyond”, Hikaru Sulu was depicted as a gay man. This was an homage towards the strong LGBT activism of George Takei, who played Sulu in the original series.

In its 50 year run, Star Trek has always featured a diverse cast, both on and off the screen.  Revitalized by the next generation of actors, writers, and innovators, Star Trek shows no plans of stopping anytime soon.