ONE of the few joys of growing older is that you can remember the beginning of things half a century ago. Things like Star Trek, or The Prisoner, both of which series are celebrating 50 year anniversaries and both of which achieved cult status with the Boomer generation.
In the days of the Cold War, Star Trek brought a multi-racial, multi-national crew of the starship Enterprise into our homes of the Sixties, breaking new ground in television casting. The command structure featured a Russian, a Japanese, an Afro-American woman and… a Vulcan-Human first officer.
All under the command of an American, of course, the famous Captain Kirk.
The scripts examined some of the issues of the time, including race relations, the search for peace, and cultural communications. The futuristic ‘toys’ of the show inspired designers of modern technology including the hand held mobile phone and the computer tablet. We haven’t quite reached the stage of teleporting but it looks pretty simple in Star Trek.
Some modern day critics argue that the altruism of the United Federation of Planets, a sort of United Nations of the 23rd Century, was a little misplaced in that they were seeking to impose human values across planetary inhabitants of different species. A bit like America in the 20th and 21st centuries really!
Meanwhile, across the pond, the Brits were tackling societal issues of the Sixties in a typically understated and subtle manner.
The Prisoner ran for 17 episodes. It began without a beginning and ended without an ending, but along the way the viewer was forced to consider themes of authoritarian control and secrecy, suppression of individuality, manipulation of minds and behaviour by media and communication processes. Themes which were starting to emerge in the counter-culture era of the Sixties; themes which in many respects are even more worrying today.
Both shows live on over 50 years with remakes, films, documentaries, books, comics, magazines, parodies, fan events and endless discussion about what it all meant then and what it all means now.
It’s a great privilege to have been there at the beginning. To boldly go where no man has gone before.
Photo credit: By NBC Television – eBay itemphoto front photo backpress release, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17205358