Star Trek wasn’t the first science fiction television show. That would probably be Captain Video and His Video Rangers, which premiered almost seventeen years prior. It wasn’t the first short-form “space opera” feature, either. That was probably Flash Gordon, which has Trek beat by about thirty years. It’s not even the longest-running science fiction franchise; that honor belongs to Doctor Who, which premiered three years before Trek and is still going strong.
But in terms of raw cultural effect, Star Trek leaves them all in the dust.
While science fiction in print had dealt with important social commentary before, Trek was one of the first to bring important issues to the screen, albeit through the mirrors of alien worlds; and with that, it helped kick off a new generation of science fiction that went beyond hijinks and ray guns, and dared instead to address major, earth-shattering issues like racism, the role of women, and even the cold war. Glossed over, of course, with a thin veneer of hijinks and ray guns.
Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the show, discovered that through science fiction he could examine concepts that no other genre could look at. He could literally personify power; he could pull a character into his constituent emotional parts and have those parts duke it out; he could introduce the viewer to a false god and strip him of his strength. And none of it would feel out of place. Every episode of Star Trek investigates and personifies some aspect of the human psyche. Its source is firmly rooted in the cold war, of course, but making it sci-fi pulls it out of that time and makes its scrutiny of humanity timeless.
And when we look at the show through the lens of Redeeming Culture, it gets even more timeless. Not intentionally so – Roddenberry was a well-known secular humanist and atheist, and many of his plots reflect that. But we believe that God reveals Himself through stories told by even the most ardent skeptic, because He made our hearts to love and resonate to certain themes; themes which even those against God can’t ignore.
Star Trek celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this month. On September 8th, it will have been exactly fifty years since the release of The Man Trap, which introduced the world to Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. So, here on Redeeming Culture, we’re going to release a short review of every episode of Season One, one episode per day, all month long; for each episode, we’re writing a 3-sentence recap, a 3-word review, and (as much as we can) answering the questions “What fears or hopes are conquered or realized?” and “How does this point to Jesus or to the way God made us?”
If you’d like to join us on this mission, we’d love to have you! The reviews will contain minor spoilers, so you should watch them first; we’re reviewing the episodes in production order for maximum continuity. They’re not in that order on Netflix, though, so you’ll want to manually choose the episodes in this order:
|9/1||Season 1 Preview (this article)|
|9/2||Where No Man Has Gone Before|
|9/3||The Corbomite Maneuver|
|9/5||The Enemy Within|
|9/6||The Naked Time*|
|9/8||The Man Trap*|
|9/9||Balance of Terror|
|9/10||What Are Little Girls Made Of?|
|9/11||Dagger of the Mind|
|9/13||The Conscience of the King|
|9/14||The Galileo Seven|
|9/16||The Menagerie, Parts I and II|
|9/18||The Squire of Gothos|
|9/20||The Alternative Factor|
|9/21||Tomorrow Is Yesterday|
|9/22||The Return of the Archons|
|9/23||A Taste of Armageddon|
|9/25||This Side of Paradise|
|9/26||The Devil in the Dark|
|9/27||Errand of Mercy|
|9/28||The City on the Edge of Forever|
|9/30||Season 1 Retrospective|
We’re looking forward to taking you with us on this journey. A journey to boldly go…well, you know.
See you tomorrow!
*The Man Trap was the first episode of Star Trek to ever air, and is reviewed out of sequence to correspond with the 50th anniversary of the precise moment the show began airing.
But we believe that God reveals Himself through stories told by even the most ardent skeptic, because He made our hearts to love and resonate to certain themes; themes which even those against God can’t ignore.” Good point, and this does seem to be true. I have to admit it also makes me feel a bit better about other negative messages regarding religion/faith. (As Christian parents and sci-fi fans, I sometimes worry about the effects of these messages on our kids.)
Thank you! I agree, the difficulty does come when trying to figure out how to teach our children to react to these things. My goal is to teach Calvin true theology and how to view the world through that lens, so he can challenge humanist worldviews, and redeem what is valuable from them while rejecting what is not.
Thanks for reading! Glad to have you along.