Seattle’s MoPop: ‘Star Trek’ at 50

Star Trek

One of the upgraded versions of the USS Enterprise on display at Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop).

It started as a five-year mission “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.” This was the mission of the original “Star Trek” television series. Its mission was cut short after three seasons and 79 episodes. However, it proved to be the starting point for a phenomenon that celebrated its 50th anniversary last fall.

“Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” explores the history of the “Star Trek” franchise at Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture (formerly the EMP/Sci Fi Museum). The special exhibit runs through the end of February.

“Star Trek” was one man’s dream of a society where we saw past skin color or politics. Gene Roddenberry (who passed away in 1991) created the series to see what society could be like in the future. The original pilot was seen as too “brainy” and less “brawny,” so CBS passed on it. The pilot was marketed to NBC. Network executives were going to pass again, until Lucille Ball came to his rescue. She supported the idea for the series. It eventually landed a spot on NBC’s 1966 season schedule.

The show suffered in ratings throughout its run and was canceled following the 1968 season, short of its “five-year mission.”

Star Trek

A view of the bridge from the original series.

As if its fans would let it rest at that point. An animated series ran on television for a few seasons. Then in 1979, the franchise really took off when “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” hit the big screens. Since then, we’ve averaged seeing a movie version of “Star Trek” every three years, with the longest drought being seven years in the early 2000s.

The original cast, starring William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, made six movies. The “Star Trek: The Next Generation” cast, featuring Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes, filmed four movies. The franchise took a break from films from 2002-09, when the series was relaunched as a prequel to the original. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto have headlined a cast that has made three films, with a fourth planned.

The MoPOP exhibit features hundreds of costumes, sets and props form every series. I especially enjoyed seeing part of the bridge from the original television series. It includes a timeline of major events during the course of all things “Star Trek,” such as when first contact was made with the Vulcans.

Star Trek

Props from the franchise’s series.

While the movie series has proven to be successful, the franchise has maintained a strong presence on television.

The small screen versions of “Star Trek” have included five series, with a sixth series (“Star Trek: Discovery”) premiering this spring. Each of the ensuing series ran longer than “Star Trek,” also known as STO. “The Next Generation” – Lisa’s favorite series – debuted in 1987 as a syndicated series and ran for six seasons. She received the complete series as a Christmas gift from our daughter, Mallory.

Star Trek

Geordi’s uniform and visors from “Next Generation.”

“Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” premiered in 1993 and lasted seven seasons on television. It also featured an African-American actor in the lead role. Avery Brooks played Benjamin Sisko.

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Capt. Janeway’s uniform and bridge chair from “Voyager.”

Continuing its ground-breaking casting, the first female to captain a Federation vessel for a series was Kathryn Janeway. She led the crew in “Star Trek: Voyager” for seven series after it debuted in 1995. This was my second favorite “Star Trek” series, behind the original. Kate Mulgrew (A Dubuque, Iowa, native) portrayed Captain Janeway.

Star Trek

Seven of Nine’s uniform from “Voyager.”

The most recent series starred Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer in “Star Trek: Enterprise.” The prequel series debuted in 2001 and ran for four seasons.

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Uniforms from “Enterprise.”

The franchise featured some fantastic villains. My two all-time favorites are Khan (from STO and “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”) and the Borg, from “Next Generations” and “Voyager.” Ricardo Montalban was my favorite Khan. The 2013 movie “Star Trek into Darkness” featured Benedict Cumberbatch in the role. Both actor’s costumes are on display. You can even act out a scene and yell “Khan!” Play it back and you’re a star.

Star Trek

Outfits worn by both Khans from the film series.

The USS Enterprise has undergone several adaptations for television and movies. The various ship classes and other ships are featured in the exhibit.

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A view of all things “Star Trek.”

A super cool thing to do while you’re there is to transport from the Enterprise to inside a scene. You have a few choices. I chose one where I could use a phazer. Mine wasn’t set for “stun.” I watched a monitor as I was transported to the surface of a planet. I got to fire my phazer (thanks to great special effects) and then I was transported back to the ship. By the way, I wasn’t the only one geeking out to this. Four people went before me and a few more getting ready when I finished.

Star Trek

I enjoyed my time aboard the Enterprise.

“Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” is an amazing exhibit that all Trekkies should see. If you’re in Seattle any time through the end of February, I urge you to visit. Who knows, maybe it’ll be so popular, it sticks around for a few more months (Lisa is hoping so). If the exhibit comes to a city near you, make sure you visit it.

For more information on the exhibit and the museum, please visit www.mopop.org.

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