Star Trek Essay

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Star Trek is the most successful ”brand” in the history of US television science fiction. The first version ran from 1966 to 1969 with several other series to follow (an animated children’s series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise). A movie spin off Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979, with ten further movie sequels to follow. Both TV series and films acquired a worldwide fan base.

Commentary on ideology tends to situate Star Trek in relation to 1960s US liberalism. So its quasi-utopian optimism about technological and social progress is reminiscent of the official enthusiasm for the space race and social reform under the Democratic administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Star Trek’s initial successes and those of the NASA space program were roughly contemporaneous. Eventually, what began as temporal overlap evolved into institutional symbiosis: the first NASA space shuttle was named after the Enterprise; and the fourth Star Trek movie was dedicated to the astronauts killed in the shuttle Challenger. Penley describes how the Agency and the TV show merged symbolically to ”form a powerful cultural icon . . . ‘NASA/TREK’,” which ”shapes our popular and institutional imaginings about space” (Penley 1997: 16).

Star Trek’s fan base is exceptionally active. When the NBC network threatened to cancel the series in 1967, a ”Save Star Trek” campaign produced over 114,667 letters of protest and finally secured its renewal. This mass ”movement” of ”Trekkers” has since become a semi-permanent accompaniment to the franchise. For Star Trek,as for science fiction more generally, the convention, where fans meet with each other and with actors, directors and writers, has become a crucial fan institution.


  • Penley, C. (1997) NASA /TREK: Popular Science and Sex in America. Verso, London.

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