On Star Trek: The Original Series

The Prime Question

By Eric Greene

We had the overarching authority of science fiction and we could go anywhere with that and under that guise we could also talk about the issues of the day…. The war in Vietnam…no one was allowed to talk about on television if you had a contemporary show, but under science fiction we were able to get in commentary on Vietnam. –D. C. FONTANA, Star Trek Story Editor

Has a war been staged for us, complete with weapons and ideology and patriotic drum beating? Even…race hatred? –CAPTAIN JAMES KIRK, “Day of the Dove” (3-7)

In its forty years Star Trek has become a legend. As the legend would have it, Star Trek derives its popularity from its positive view of the future, a future in which humanity has overcome poverty, prejudice and war, reached out to alien species and joined with them in a United Federation of Planets to explore the stars in peace and friendship.1 Camelot in outer space.

More than an exciting concept for a series, this is an inspiring prospect for humanity. Like any mass media project, Star Trek was many things: entertainment, a livelihood, art, product. But it was also a bold attempt, conceptually, to burst open an unoccupied space–the future–and shape its contours. It was a bid to create that future by suggesting what it might look like, how it might function and what values it should embrace. That must be why the show struck such a nerve, right? Yes. But there was more to it than  …

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