On Star Trek: The Original Series

Introduction: Boarding the Enterprise

Welcome Aboard the Enterprise
By Robert J. Sawyer

Last fall, I got invited to the Singapore Writers Festival, along with fellow science fiction authors Bruce Sterling and Norman Spinrad. Periodically, when we were out sightseeing in that beautiful city, people would notice our fancy name badges, or overhear us chatting about the festival, and ask who we were. At first we mentioned our books, but, of course, the titles elicited blank stares. And so I started simply pointing to Norman and saying, “This man wrote an episode of Star Trek.”

“Oh, wow!” people always replied. “Which one?”

“‘The Doomsday Machine,’” I said. And the appreciative nods began. Four decades on, and all over the planet, people still know and love Star Trek–indeed, they know it so well that they recognize individual episodes by their titles.

And of course, everyone is familiar with the catch phrases from the show: “Beam me up,” “He’s dead, Jim,” “The Prime Directive,” “Warp factor six,” “At the time, it seemed the logical thing to do,” “Phasers on stun,” “Hailing frequencies open,” “Live long and prosper” and the most famous split infinitive in human history, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Those last words, part of Star Trek’s opening narration, were first heard on September 8, 1966, when the debut episode was broadcast. In a way, that narration was hopelessly optimistic: it promised a five-year mission for the starship Enterprise, but Star Trek was taken off the air after only three seasons.

But in another way, the words also turned out to be enormously shortsighted. Forty  …

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