Star Trek Day 2021 Celebrates 55 Years Of Most Storied Sci-Fi Franchise
It’s Star Trek Day 2021, and when I think of this franchise I am always struck by how if not Lucille Ball we wouldn’t have Star Trek at all. Starting out as a “Wagon Train in space” show, this weird little vehicle for social and political allegory is now one of the most recognizable franchises in the universe. Today, there are a dozen television series and a dozen films. There are also comic books, novels, and video games. All this because one of the sharpest minds about the future potential of television went with her gut and let creator Gene Roddenberry make a second pilot episode after the first one failed. Over the next 55 years, Star Trek became an immutable part of our popular culture. From “Beam me up, Scotty” to the Picard facepalm gif, even people who aren’t fans know something about this world.
2021 has been a crazy year, so it’s understandable if people aren’t really feeling up to Star Trek Day. There may not seem like much to celebrate. Star Trek imagines a future where science, morality, and a sense of common cause amongst people who are very different will win the future. Yet, currently, we are in the middle of a delayed pandemic recovery because divisions and anti-science attitudes have never been stronger in the culture. So, while the most cynical of us might wonder why we’re celebrating an entertainment franchise (designed to make its parent company money) is even something to consider.
Of course, such an attitude belies the true power of stories and iconic characters. From inspiring real-life science to awakening generations of people’s sense of wonder, Star Trek is so much more than just a franchise.
On Star Trek Day 2021 We Remember the Good With the Bad
Image via CBS Interactive
A Hollywood legend suggests that despite its progressive bona fides, the 1990s Star Trek series actively avoided LGBT+ representation. From not casting a man (at Jonathan Frakes’ suggestion) to play the genderless alien Riker falls in love with to the active avoidance of making Doctor Bashir and Garak a couple on Deep Space Nine, there are many missed opportunities. However, despite our real-world and outmoded sociopolitical hang-ups, Star Trek is the sort of story that gets far more right than it gets wrong. In the Star Trek that’s come out in the past 10 years, they’ve tried very hard to correct those mistakes. There are now LGBTQIA characters and actors involved in the flagship series. They even, in honor of George Takei being a gay man, made Hikaru Sulu gay in the rebooted original series of movies. Star Trek is one of the rare franchises that has been positively influenced by its own messaging, despite not necessarily living up to it at first.
Image via Paramount
That’s what makes Star Trek such a safe place for many nerdy and geeky outcasts throughout the years. We get to see a glimpse of our own “future” that is hopeful that the moral arc of the universe does, as Star Trek fan Martin Luther King Jr. suggests, bend towards justice. Yes, the thrill of every iteration of Trek (including Star Trek: Lower Decks) is fun sci-fi adventure and thrilling conflicts. But it’s also a lot more than that. Real-world foibles aside, many people (especially those who sometimes feel like outcasts) feel at home in the Star Trek universe. Whether it’s merely enjoying the stories or cosplaying with people at conventions, it’s a community. Even with the massive outrage grift problem in fandom, the Trek folks get it.
The Trekkers and the Trekkies Know How to Do Fandom
Image by Michael Gibson via CBS Interactive
Like all communities, they’ve had their disagreements. Many long-time Trek fans feel like the newer series, especially Star Trek: Discovery’s first season, lost the plot of what the franchise is supposed to be. Still, even with that disappointment, you don’t really see the levels of harassment and anger you might see in other Star-related fandoms. Sure, there are dumb-dumbs out there who make videos like “SJW Star Trek Is Political Now!” But Star Trek fans are just built differently. They can hate Discovery or Picard with a passion, but they don’t whine about it. They just fire up The Next Generation or Star Trek: The Original Series and fall back in love with the stuff they enjoyed the first time around.
— OREO Cookie (@Oreo) September 8, 2012
Yet, what we call “fandom” today is based on the Star Trek blueprint. From fanfiction to cosplay to conventions, the geeks of old boldly went where pop culture hadn’t before. And like May the 4th before it, Star Trek Day started organically with fans celebrating the premiere of the original series in 1966. Sure, Star Trek Day 2021 is fully embraced by the parent company with a marketing campaign. But fans were already doing it, so of course “brands” wanted to get in on the fun. Companies like Google and Oreo were putting out Trek-themed ads for a decade now.
Image via Paramount Plus.
At a time when known intellectual property and nostalgia are high priority for studios, fandoms of all kinds should be constantly celebrating. You don’t even have to like the latest installment of whatever franchise to take pleasure in the fact that it lives on. Yet, social media and senses of entitlement are roiling fandoms who should be celebrating the continuation of That Thing They All Like™. When we look at the Star Trek fan community, just like with the show, we see the possibility of a bright and hopeful future.
Enjoy Star Trek Day 2021!
What do you think? How will you celebrate Star Trek Day 2021 (if at all)? Let us know your favorite Trek (Voyager), favorite Captain (Janeway), and favorite movie (The Voyage Home) in the comments below!
Featured image via Paramount
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.