50 years ago a TV show called “Star Trek” aired its first episode. The series, about the 23rd Century adventures of a crew of Space explorers on board the Star Ship Enterprise, should have been an all but forgotten curiosity. It lasted only three seasons before being ignominiously canceled by the network, ironically just weeks before the Apollo 11 moon landing, one of the most watched television shows in human history.

How is it, then, is “Star Trek,” 50 years later, so much a part of human culture, with TV and movie spinoffs almost without number? Was the appeal the ahead of its time diversity, with the alien, the Russian, the Asian, the African, the Scotsmen, and even two Americans as part of the cast?

Mind, Dr. McCoy would be in sensitivity training in any modern organization for all of the politically incorrect things he said about Spock over the years (“Green blooded, pointy eared…”)

The enduring appeal of “Star Trek” is its depiction of a space-faring future. The civilization of the series, which seems to have solved a lot of the social problems that afflict us even today, saw space exploration as an integral part of its purpose. Space exploration, exploring those strange new worlds, etc. was not something that was “nice to have” like the current NASA, but something seen as vital to the long-term health of society. The series never depicted politicians wanting to cut spending on Star Fleet to pay for social programs.

The act of finding new worlds to settle and new civilizations to interact with was just part of the way things were, not subject to debate.

To be sure, other aspects of the future of “Star Trek” were a bit puzzling. How does a “nonmonetary economy” work, for example? Even replicators that make everything anyone needs has to run on energy, which has a certain cost to generate.

The devices need to be repaired from time to time as well.

Still, unlike the futures too often depicted in science fiction, filled either with soul-crushing tyrannies or bloody, after the Holocaust anarchy, “Star Trek” was something one would like to look forward to as a reality and not just as an upcoming TV episode or movie.

That cannot be a bad thing.

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