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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, compared to today's visually stunning special effects, Star Trek: The Original Series was very low-budget in both props and special effects and may consequently seem silly to modern kids. But beyond that, the series was a metaphor for the upheaval of the 1960s. Behind the storylines of space travel and aliens are important social commentaries on racism, sexism, politics, and the fear that machines might one day rule the world. Taken at face value, though, most of the adventures are pretty innocent and are fine for young tweens and up.
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What's the story?
Iconic series STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES -- a show that's launched a thousand spin-offs, movies, books, games, action figures, and conventions -- chronicles the adventures of the U.S.S. Enterprise, a spaceship representing the United Federation of Planets in the 23rd century. The ship is on a mission to explore the space frontier, but the show itself isn't as much about space as it is about the people on the Enterprise. Among them are brash, emotional Capt. Kirk (William Shatner); logical Vulcan Spock (Leonard Nimoy); and hot-headed Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley). Creator Gene Roddenberry also made a point of including crew members of various ethnic backgrounds, including Japanese Lt. Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), Russian Ensign Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), and Scottish Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (James Doohan), and African-American Lt. Nyota Uhura (Nichelle Nichols).
Is it any good?
Forty years after it's premiere, this series still succeeds in syndication because its messages about racism, sexism, politics, and respecting differences really are timeless, even if the special effects aren't. (Though the early episodes are being remastered and enhanced with more up-to-date effects and imagery). In their 80 episodes, the Star Trek: The Original Series crew encountered deadly diseases, alien races, time warps, beautiful women in skin-tight outfits, and furry creatures called Tribbles. Kirk was put on trial for crimes against humanity, split into two alter-egos (good and evil), and cloned into an android. But at the core of the show is the idea that humans are complex creatures, and dilemmas often have no right or wrong answer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of respecting differences and not asking others to conform in Star Trek: The Original Series. Parents, stress the value of teamwork, even when not all participants agree. How can people from different backgrounds come together to collaborate and achieve their goals?
What would our world be like if money was no longer used? If sickness and injuries were easily healed with high-tech medicine? If we could travel the universe and visit other planets? Would you be afraid, or would you embrace new ideas and new concepts?
A lot of the messages in Star Trek are meant to be social commentary on major issues in the 1960s. Which ones are still relevant today? How are racism, sexism, and prejudice portrayed in the Star Trek universe?
The show portrayed ground-breaking diversity in its cast. Why do media role models matter?
- Premiere date: September 8, 1966
- Cast: DeForest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner
- Networks: G4, Syndicated, TV Land
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Empathy, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-G
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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