Star Trek ‘boldly’ celebrates 50th anniversary

Star Trek
The USS Enterprise hangs above an exhibit we visited at the Mall of America honoring Star Trek.

From Captain Kirk’s future birth site to watching the last of the originals receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, We’ve enjoyed the adventures of the “Star Trek” franchise since the original series debuted 50 years ago today. Though the series ran for only three seasons during the 1960s, its legacy has boldly exceeded anyone’s expectations.

I remember watching “Star Trek” as a kid, and playing with one of my brothers and friends as we pretended to be members of the USS Enterprise, “boldly going where no man has gone before.” Or, as far as we could go in small town Nebraska.

Star Trek
Phazers and other weapons from the series’ collections.

As the series faded from NBC’s schedule, it lived on in syndication, actually enjoying more success after its first run. As the years passed, the series became a nostalgic thing with people of my generation. It eventually attracted a younger audience, which allowed the franchise to live on and expand its universe. The original launched spin-offs – “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: Enterprise,” as well as an animated series. A new “Star Trek” series is slated to premiere on CBS’ website in 2017. And that’s just television series. Don’t forget comic books, books and graphic novels.

Star Trek’s resurgence began in the late 1970s with a movie, featuring the original crew. The Enterprise accounted for six movies. My all-time favorite is “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.” Two words make that make that movie: “Kiiiirrrrrrkkkk,” spoken with disdain by Khan himself – Ricardo Montalban –  and “Khan!” exclaimed by Captain Kirk. Those words still get repeated, at least in our household.

Star Trek
Captain Kirk’s uniform from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture.”

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” took its turn at the big screen with three movies. Lisa’s favorite series is “New Generation.” While Lisa and I thought they were decent, I don’t think the movie series had the same punch as the original cast’s movies. Today, we have had enjoyed our third incarnation of the “Star Trek” series at the theater with the prequels, featuring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto in the lead roles of Kirk and Mr. Spock.

As Lisa and I continue to enjoy the Trekkie life, we’ve been thrilled to check out Star Trek-related attractions and events.

We visited Riverside, Iowa (about three hours east of Omaha off Interstate 80) – the future birth site of Captain James T. Kirk. He will be born there March 22, 2228, so just a couple of centuries away. The idea for the marker and town’s annual Star Trek celebration grew from a city councilman. As a Trekkie, he knew that Kirk was from Iowa. His hometown was never mentioned. So, in 1985, he proposed the Riverside city council proclaim the town the future birth site of Kirk.

Star Trek
Captain Kirk’s future birth site in Iowa.

We met Walter Koenig at Omaha’s 2015 O Comic Con. He was a guest speaker and later signed autographs for fans. I mentioned to him that we and friends were in Hollywood and watched his star ceremony. He downplayed it, seeming a bit humble. He mentioned several people have been awarded stars. That’s true. There are currently about 2,500 stars on the Walk of Fame, but as I mentioned to Koenig, there are a lot fewer stars on the walk than there have been actors in Hollywood. And he should be proud of that honor.

Star Trek
We attended the ceremony unveiling Walter Koenig’s star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

Koening will always be Chekov in my mind, but he did act in other movies and television series. He mentioned he loved his time on the series “Babylon 5,” appearing as a recurring character over four seasons. While “Star Trek” and other sci fi fantasy shows have occupied several years of his career, his early credits include “Combat,” “The Virginian” and “Ben Casey.”

Star Trek
Walter Koenig.

His ceremony was a fanboy and girl’s adventure. Trek cast members from “Star Trek” to “Voyager” were there to watch Koenig receive his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was the last of the original six – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols and George Takei received their stars previously. Kelly and Doohan passed away previously. Of the remaining original cast members, all but Shatner attended.

Star Trek
Nichelle Nichols (wearing the hat) and George Takei.

Nimoy delivered a wonderful speech, recognizing Koenig as a key member of the show. He seemed legitimately proud of his colleague’s honor. Nimoy passed away last year.

Star Trek
Leonard Nimoy.

Our love affair with “Star Trek” didn’t end at the Walk of Fame. A friend posted on Facebook a photo he had taken during a “Star Trek” exhibit at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Lisa and I were off to the MOA to visit the Star Trek exhibit. The memorabilia and exhibits were impressive.

Star Trek
Series props.

The exhibit logged the history of Star Fleet – the command that oversees the operations of the Enterprise and the subsequent ships in the series. They tied it back to today’s NASA.

Star Trek
Look who took over the bridge of the Enterprise.

The exhibit has a collection of each captain’s uniform, including the only female to lead a Star Fleet ship – Captain Kathryn Janeway. The Dubuque, Iowa, native was great in the role.

Star Trek
Captain Janeway’s uniform from “Voyager.”

Our mission following “Star Trek” isn’t completed. The EMP/Sci Fi Museum in Seattle currently has a Star Trek exhibit through early 2017. Guess who is going to visit it during his November trip to visit our daughter? That’s right, me! I’m just a tad excited.

So, as Star Trek turns 50, its mission feels like it’s just began. Congratulations on the 50th anniversary. And here’s to many more years as a cultural phenomenon.