It was on this day, the 8th of September, 1966, that the very first episode of Star Trek, “the Man Trap,” premiered.
I came a tad late to the Star Trek thing. I missed pretty much the whole first season. This was the sixties, and my young adulthood, after all. So I wasn’t sitting watching lots of television.
First there was sex, drugs, and some rock n roll.
Then Zen came along.
But I liked what I saw. According to Wikipedia, Gene Roddenberry pitched it as “wagon train to the stars” while telling his close associates it really would be Gulliver’s Travels with two levels of storyline. While that meta story was occasionally, okay regularly, heavy handed, it also conveyed a sense of dignity and worth that was a precious message at the time. And, truthfully, for anytime.
I very much liked the subsequent series and dipped into those that followed. Never developed a taste for the movies.
My thoughts tend toward, religion and thinking of Star Trek is no exception.
I’ve always thought kindly of the gentle religion that seems implied in the various episodes of the various series. I think it is fair to say there isn’t really much about religion in Star Trek, and certainly not in the shows that Gene Roddenberry had anything to do with. But an assumption Roddenberry is a relentless anti-religious secularist is challenged by others.
There is a persisting, although I have to note unsubstantiated assertion he was a Unitarian Universalist. I like the notion. And I can see why some would think so. But. What he seemed to me to most clearly be was a humanist of the mid-twentieth century stripe.
There might be some be further nuancing of his religious views. Some suggest Rodenberry was a pantheist, a religious sensibility with which I am in close harmony, and which makes to my mind a compelling argument.
This acknowledged, I believe bottom line, Roddenberry, and therefore Star Trek was ultimately inspired by a humanist spirituality. And I feel while it is a dynamic stance, hard to describe with any sense of finality, the rational spirituality that is humanism is one of the great spiritual impulses, worthily expressed in this seminal television and later movie franchise.
And really, in these hard times, a simple faith in human intelligence, and possibility, and a belief we can rise above the ugly and destructive parts of us, while seemingly unlikely, is stirring.
And for that small bit of spiritual humanist evangelism, I’m grateful.
The world has to be better for it…