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March, 2006

The Forty-Year Trek

by George Takei

It is hard to believe, but in September 2006, Star Trek will be 40 years old. Most of the fans of the show are younger than Star Trek. In fact, many were born after we were cancelled in 1969. That was the year that Astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. I remember thinking we, the actors who played the characters on Star Trek, were "beaming down" onto planets three years before that. Armstrong's moon landing looked so bulky and old fashioned. We were so much more futuristic. On Star Trek, we talked to each other on our "communicators" as we walked around the corridors of our Starship Enterprise. That was amazing science fiction - then. Now, it is a commonplace reality. We talk on our cell phones as we walk down the sidewalk. What was once eye-opening science fiction has now become reality. Today, Blackberry isn't just a fruit; Spam isn't just canned pork; I-pod isn't the husk of some exotic vegetation. They are just a part of the vocabulary of our everyday techno-world. Increasingly, the 23rd century envisioned by the creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, is becoming the recognizable society of our times. So much has happened to change the world since that September night in 1966 when Star Trek, with its shiningly optimistic view of the future, made its debut on our television screens. America was so different forty years ago.

I remember the horror of a fiery night in August when the south central area of my hometown exploded in angry rioting. Years of racial injustice and despair suffered by African Americans ignited the southern skies of my beloved Los Angeles in black smoke and enraged flames. While the fires of race riots were breaking out in many other major American cities across our country, internationally we were frozen in the coldest of cold wars with another great world power, the Soviet Union. We lived in fear of a red button being pressed by either the President of the United States or the Premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that could end civilization as we knew it. It was to that society of racial strife and global tension that Star Trek brought an idealistic picture of a starship in space with a crew made up of the many peoples of the known universe working as a team, "boldly going where no one had gone before." Of course, that was science fiction - then. Today, we have in fact a craft in space called the International Space Station with a crew made up of people of many races, citizens of many nations and - of all things - Americans and Russians working together in concert. Today, we have an African American woman serving as the Secretary of State of the United States. An African American man preceded her. There are two Asian Americans currently serving as Cabinet Secretaries. These are phenomena hoped for but quite implausible just forty years ago. So much has changed in forty years.

Those changes didn't just happen. They were the results of bold initiatives taken by venturesome people. Whether in the arena of politics, or the research laboratories and test chambers of the sciences, or the marketplace of entrepreneurs, or the streets of our cities by social activists, changes happened because of the energies, ideas, and imagination of dedicated people - optimistic people with a vision of a better society.

There will always be the Klingons, the adversaries of change. There will always be some setbacks. Today, we live with another kind of terror, both domestically and globally. There still is a racial divide in this nation - as we saw so distressingly during the Katrina hurricane disaster. Yet, look how far we have come in forty years - in our lifetime. Optimism, imagination, and hard work trump obstacles and setbacks. We have made amazing progress.

As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Trek with a host of conventions throughout the world, I will always be mindful of the fact that we, at the same time, celebrate the genius of the optimistic mind. We celebrate the science fiction world transformed into our very real society today by those visionary minds.

We celebrate the people, the fans, who connected with that positive vision of Gene Roddenberry. In September, on the 8th, the birthday of Star Trek, I will be joining the fans at the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle for a big 40th Anniversary Convention. Then, most excitingly, I venture forth on a project I had never imagined in my wildest dreams. I begin filming a new manifestation of Star Trek - this time to be accessed only on the Internet! This miraculous rebirth of Star Trek called, Star Trek: New Voyages, is the brainchild of a venturesome young fan, James Cawley. James is an extraordinarily enterprising fan "boldly going" where no fan had ever gone before. He has already produced two Internet episodes, one with Walter Koenig, who spoke highly to me of his experience on the show. For mine, titled, "World Enough and Time," James Cawley has gathered a remarkable pool of veteran Star Trek talent. The gifted team of Marc Zicree and Michael Reaves are currently busily at work on the script. Marc will also be at the helm as director of the film. Ron B. Moore, a good friend and veteran of "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager," will be doing the visual effects. In addition, playing the heroic Captain Kirk is the truly heroic James Cawley. He, in fact, personifies the adventurous spirit of Star Trek.

On this propitious fortieth year of Star Trek, we, most of all, celebrate the spirit that looks to the challenges yet to come - that vast unknown with such intriguing mysteries yet to be explored. I look forward to sharing that journey into our common future as we "boldly go where no one has gone before" for many more years.

 



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