Friday Fun: Star Trek at 50

Quickly, before September ends: The sci-fi TV series Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry‘s “Wagon Train set in space,” first aired in September 1966 and ran for three seasons. The original series, that is, with Captain James Tiberius Kirk, his Vulcan first officer/science officer Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy (aka “Bones”), and several other regulars who served aboard the Federation’s U.S.S. Enterprise. Since then there have been several TV series and movies.

screenshot from Smithsonian Channel web page for video Building Star TrekThe show is well worth celebrating, not just because it’s been entertaining, but because it’s also been inspirational and thought-provoking, as is explained in The Smithsonian Channel’s video “Building Star Trek.”

There are examples of the Star Trek “technology” becoming reality. Consider, for example, the communicators used on the show. Do they resemble cell phones in form and function? Did you know that Gene Roddenberry and cast members were present as NASA’s first space shuttle Enterprise made its debut in 1976? NASA posted a photo of that day when Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played Mr. Spock, passed away, and also noted that the series had “served as an inspiration for many at NASA over the years.” The author of The physics of Star Trek visited UWW for National Physics Day in 1999 and talked to a packed Hamilton Room (then the Hamilton Center). Did you know that there are seven teams from four countries in the final round of a $10 million XPRIZE competition to develop a tricorder? Who knows what bit of Star Trek fiction will become reality next? The invisibility cloak? The tractor beam? The transporter? Physics students and others: Get cracking!

The allure and impact of the show isn’t limited to speculation about the technology of the future, though. The show also tackled social issues such as racial prejudice and political tensions between nations.

cover of Living with Star Trek bookWould you like to learn more? Andersen Library can help! Search Research@UWW to find books including Living with Star Trek: American culture and the “”Star Trek”” universe (online via ebrary), The ultimate Star Trek and philosophy: The search for Socrates (online via Wiley Online Library), and Beyond Star Trek: Physics from alien invasions to the end of time (3rd-floor Main Collection, QB500 .K64 1997). Andersen Library has DVDs of some of the Star Trek movies and television series as well (see 2nd-floor Browsing DVDs at “call number” Sta). Search article databases to find articles such as “Star Trek and the musical depiction of the alien other” (Music, Sound & The Moving Image, 2013, vol.7:no.1, pp.19-52), “Star Trek’s mirror universe episodes and US military culture through the eyes of the other” (Science Fiction Studies, 2014, vol.41:no.3, pp.562-578), “Space and the single girl” (Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol.35:no.2, pp.143-178), ““There’s genderqueers on the starboard bow:” The pregnant male in “Star Trek”” (Journal of Popular Culture, 2009. vol.42:no.4, pp.699-714), and “Star Trek replicators and diatom nanotechnology” (Trends in Biotechnology, 2003, vol.21:no.8, pp.325-328).

If you’d like assistance with finding additional resources, please ask a librarian (choose chat or email, phone 262-472-1032, or visit the Reference Desk).

About Barbara

I am a Reference & Instruction librarian, head of that department in Andersen Library, an associate professor, and a member of the General Education Review Committee and Faculty Senate. I've been working at UW-W since July 1, 1990.
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