Star Trek was groundbreaking when it launched in 1966. A multi-racial crew, including a half-human/ half-Vulcan first officer, and as Whoopie Goldberg recounts from her first time seeing the show as a child:

a black lady on television who isn’t a maid.

Star Trek had a progressive political foundation and celebrated diversity without making it an issue (the series featured the first interracial kiss), touched on pre-marital sex (Captain Kirk sitting on the bed pulls on his boots in Yeoman Janice Rand’s berth), and addressed other issues of the 1960s, focusing on humanitarian and peace-keeping missions–and was the first time fans had ever rallied to save a show.

Tonight’s guest David Gerrold wrote one of the most popular episodes of Star Trek (The Original Series): “The Trouble with Tribbles,” in which the crew Enterprise must deal with an invasive, yet adorable, form of alien life which is apparently born pregnant and can reproduce on its own (and it’s still relevant today as it shows the dangers of transplanting species from their native environment.)

Tribbles would later appear in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (“Trials and Tribble-alations”) in which the Deep Space Nine crew is transported back into the original episode–and following the Prime Directive, must not alter history. (Time travel has always baffled me).

Gerrold also wrote a book which changed my life and was instrumental in making me brave enough to be a writer: The Trouble with Tribbles, in which he writes about watching Star Trek as an aspiring actor and writing the teleplay that eventually became produced as an episode of Star Trek.  (All of the Star Trek follow-up series accepted unsolicited scripts, something very unusual for television).

Star Trek‘s spin-off series (there were four official live action ones, plus an animated series, and the fan-created web series Star Trek Phase 2; Gerrold has written for both the cartoon and the non-profit, studio sanctioned Phase 2) addressed the issues of their times: A woman captain, a handicapped pilot Gordi LaForge (named after Gordon La Forge, a Star Trek fan who had been given a year to live, and credited the show with keeping him alive), class warfare, and imperialism.

Along with Star Trek, Gerrold also wrote numerous television scripts for a variety of sci-fi programs, and was an actor.

Star Trek predicted the flip phone and other technological advances, and was the force behind one of the major legal precedents in divorce law (Roddenberry v Roddenberry), as well as giving us phrases that have become part of our everyday language, like

  • Beam me up, Scotty
  • Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated
  • Live long and prosper

and has provided countless hours of entertainment, hope, a sense of community through the Star Trek conventions (there’s at least one going on somewhere this month!), as well as turning countless people on to the ideas of science,  inspiring them to boldly go where no man has gone before–medical advances via Star Trek’s sick bay, SETI and are just two examples.

In May of this year, Star Trek Into Darkness, the twelfth film in the franchise will be released, the sequel to 2009′s alternative timeline Star Trek, itself a prequel to Star Trek: The Original Series. Meanwhile, on the web, Star Trek Phase 2 has a new script in the works. Oh, and just recently it was revealed the IRS used Star Trek as a basis for a training tape. (I don’t mind my tax dollars being used to make a Star Trek-based training film–just make it smart and funny; sadly the IRS failed in that mission).

So beam aboard as we discuss the worlds of Star Trek and science fiction (and maybe David can explain time travel!)

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