It occurred, or rather, will occur, some 300 years in the future. But there it was. On the desk of the commander of a space station in such a remote corner of the universe that the name of the outpost was Deep Space Nine. The simple prop which still held much meaning was…a baseball!
Commander Benjamin Sisko was a baseball fan, futuristic proof the game will endure, but more importantly, it was just another one of the thousands of examples and references that made a little television show that began in its original convection a half-century ago so real for millions and millions of fans around this globe we call Earth. This unique connection will culminate this weekend in New York as thousands of fans celebrate the 50th Anniversary of its debut.
They called it…STAR TREK.
So today, boys and girls, we deviate slightly from the world of sports for a different kind of sport, the “sport” of Star Trek, an allegiance to a uniform of a different kind. We still “root for the laundry,” but in this case those colorful costumes transported us to different worlds and visited different species, “where no man went before.”
“Star Trek 50: Mission New York” will converge on the Javits Center in Manhattan this weekend with arguably the largest contingent of Trek acting alumni, its supporters and contributors, and perhaps, its fans. Thousands are expected to fill the Javits halls, and if you know where “Beam me Up” and “Live Long and Prosper” originated, well, then, you’ve got to be there.
Dozens of special guests will be in attendance including Macca, William Shatner, and most will be available for photo ops and autograph sessions, but don’t forget to bring the wallet.
Autograph tickets range generally from $30-$40 per for most of the guests. Shatner signatures cost $80 per, and he will be available for a brief period on Sunday, Sept. 4 (11:00 AM-12:15 PM). Photo ops with the stars carry an additional fee. And check this out -there will be no selfie pics with the guests at their signing tables. It slows down the line.
Guests include: Shatner, Walter Koenig, Jonathan Frakes, Kate Mulgrew, Levar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Nana Visitor, Bruce Greenwood, Gates Mcfadden, Denise Crosby, Terry Farrell, Roxann Dawson, John de Lancie, Peter Weller, Rene Auberjonois, Robert Picardo, Connor Trinneer, Dominic Keating, Robert Duncan McNeill, Robin Curtis, Ethan Phillips, Armin Shimerman, John Billingsley, producer Brannon Braga, the son and daughter of Leonard Nimoy, and Gene Roddenberry’s son, Rod Roddenberry.
It was Gene Roddenberry’s vision in the early ‘60s, after transitioning from a Los Angeles policeman into a television producer – first dabbling with a show called, “The Lieutenant,” to create a “Wagon Train” to the stars. Star Trek intended to become a five-year mission where each week, the starship went to uncharted expansions of the universe and encountered guest starts as alien species with problems not unlike our own on Earth.
Roddenberry masked dealing with Earth-like controversies by placing them on other planets – war, race relations, poverty, overpopulation, hunger, greed, actually all elements of our human condition were exposed and examined. It set precedents, such as the first televised interracial kiss, and along the way, both by accident and by design, Star Trek invented the future.
Fifty years ago, it was fun and perhaps miraculous to see someone communicate with a hand-held device over many, many miles. Today, we all carry cell phones that do the same thing. Fifty years ago, we were impressed that characters on the show could walk through doors without touching them. Today, doors in almost every store and building do the same thing. Fifty years ago, a hospital stay placed you in a barren room with maybe an IV in your arm. Star Trek thought it would be interesting and colorful to have a bank of blinking lights above each sick bay bed that told the doctor what was wrong with the patient. Today, every hospital bed has monitors that do the same thing.
Young fans watched such “inventions” on television, even dozens of others, then grew up to invent them. And each will tell you that Star Trek inspired them.
Star Trek 50: Mission New York will include more than just actor meet and greets. The US Postal Service is celebrating Star Trek’s 50th Anniversary by unveiling a new set of four forever stamps at the convention. Hallmark will make available special ornaments exclusive to the convention. Toy manufacturers will bring in their newest Star Trek inspirations. And the exhibitors room will feature dozens and dozens of vendors selling just about everything ever associated with the series and its various incarnations.
There will also be an auction of some of Leonard Nimoy’s personal effects, including signed scripts, photos, record albums, and his love of photography will be reflected by making available many of the vintage cameras he collected.
Of course, Trekkies, or Trekkers, as its fans are known (full disclosure: I consider myself a Trekkie, the original fan nickname) know that previously referenced Deep Space Nine was the fourth of the five televised series.
Star Trek debuted almost exactly fifty years ago, Sept. 8, 1966, on NBC, just another TV show looking to sell advertising. It was nearly canceled after its first and second year, saved by the strongest fan support ever generated on behalf of a TV show, and eventually was doomed to a poor time slot in its third season, and subsequently canceled.
But that was just the beginning of the story. The sets may have been struck, the actors went on to other things, but then syndication placed Star Trek in your living room on a nightly basis, and the reruns became more popular than when they were originally broadcast.
Fans continued to try and revive the series, NBC, and each of the only primary networks at the time, CBS and ABC, were not interested.
But interest never waned. New York is the perfect location for this 50th Anniversary celebration, because New York City was the site of the first Star Trek Convention in 1972 (additional disclosure: I went to that one, too!).
After the original series (known to fans as TOS), a new series debuted in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation; with a new crew in a new Star Ship Enterprise and in a future even further than when TOS supposedly occurred. Its popularity led to Star Trek: Voyager, which explored a different quadrant of the universe, and Deep Space Nine, which anchored around a space station.
The next venture was Star Trek: Enterprise, which was a sequel that really was a prequel to the original series. And now we’re only weeks away from a new Star Trek series that CBS is being all hush-hush about, which will debut on its network, and then be available on their streaming service.
So Happy Anniversary, Star Trek. Beam me aboard.
MORE: For tickets, autograph schedules, and additional info on Star Trek 50: Mission new York, click on: www.reedpop.com, or www.startrekmissions.com.