50 years and beyond: Voices from the 'Star Trek' universe

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Capt. Kirk from "Star Trek." - Wikimedia Commons

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Capt. Kirk from "Star Trek." - Wikimedia Commons

Produced by Levi Sharpe

September 05, 2016 | 5:50 AM

"Star Trek" turns 50 on Sept. 8, and instead of buying it a fancy sports car, our mission is to boldly go down the "Star Trek" rabbit hole, or rather, wormhole, and nerd out about the show to mark this milestone.

We spoke to fellow Trekkies, including a "Star Trek” historian, a NASA technologist and a showrunner, about why this series matters.

For all of the show’s focus on teleporters and holodecks and deflector shields, the one thing that everyone seemed to agree on is that the show transcends fiction. Underneath the fantasy, “Star Trek” tackled real issues and inspired real people.

Check out our series of features below, where we discuss the show’s use of sci-fi and technology, how the series reflected modern-day issues, and what it was like working behind-the-scenes.

The historian:

Mark Altman speaking at the 2015 WonderCon. - Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Mark Altman speaking at the 2015 WonderCon. - Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Mark Altman has been called the “world’s foremost Trekspert” by the Los Angeles Times. To celebrate the show’s 50th birthday, he co-authored a two-part oral history titled “The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete, Uncensored, Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek.” Altman reveals that the sci-fi series had the capability to mirror our own lives, from its allusions to the Vietnam War to its ability to predict future technology. 

The scientist

The ''Star Trek'' cast visits NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) circa 1976. - Courtesy NASA

The ''Star Trek'' cast visits NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) circa 1976. - Courtesy NASA

"Star Trek" writers like Mark Altman, along with many other  fans, might think that the science and technology of Star Trek isn’t “beyond the realm of possibility.” But David Batchelor, an aerospace technologist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, has given it real scientific thought. He decided to rank 18 of the show’s technologies based on how scientifically plausible each one is.

The insider: 

Showrunner Brannon Braga says there's no show out there like "Star Trek." - Cindy Ord/Getty Images for FOX

Showrunner Brannon Braga says there's no show out there like "Star Trek." - Cindy Ord/Getty Images for FOX

Brannon Braga has done it all for “Star Trek.” He’s worked on the movies and TV series as a writer, producer and showrunner. Braga sat down to talk with us about the series’ longevity and what it was like planning some of the show’s plotlines. He bravely admitted that maybe he relied a little too much on technological fixes to resolve some storylines. “Technobabble,” he calls it. But that’s what makes the series so great, right? After all, don’t you think it’s important to know that the inertial dampers are offline?

The viewers:

Ray Gaffoor from Toronto Canada; Marketplace producer Levi Sharpe; and Monica Ferguson from New City, NY get teleported.

Ray Gaffoor from Toronto Canada; Marketplace producer Levi Sharpe; and Monica Ferguson from New City, NY get teleported.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum in New York City is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek with a large exhibit called “Star Trek: The Starfleet Academy Experience.” Inside there are costumes and props from the show, as well as interactive stations where museum goers can learn Klingon, shoot phasers and teleport. At the entrance, a projected Starfleet officer welcomes museum-goers by saying  “Live long and prosper,” and some even lift up their hands in the iconic Vulcan gesture. Check out our interviews with some of the attendees on what the show means to them.

Our Listeners:

Captain Kirk tries to use his communicator. - YouTube

Captain Kirk tries to use his communicator. - YouTube

We asked our audience: How do you identify with "Star Trek" and what's a film or episode that especially resonated with you? Turns out that the franchise taught our listeners about friendship and helped jump start careers. Go ahead and take a listen. 

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