Star Trek, that pop culture milestone which gave the world Tribbles, aliens with pointed ears and the Starship Enterprise, was first broadcast on Sept. 8, 1966.
At a time of war, strife and turmoil, show creator Gene Roddenberry gave television audiences a glimpse into an idealized future. The crew of the Enterprise was a diverse band of brothers and sisters working together to boldly take humanity to the stars.
The show grappled with heavy social issues, and its characters tackled head-on real life contemporary problems like overpopulation, war and bigotry. Star Trek famously "got away" with telling these stories because they were presented against a fantastical space opera backdrop which confounded the network's censors.
Though Star Trek was instantly popular with science fiction fans, its network, NBC, didn't know what to do with it. Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock's five-year mission was cut short by the show's cancellation in 1969 after three seasons. Just a month or so after the final season ended, however, men walked on the moon and interest in space exploration hit an all-time high. It didn't take long for Star Trek, through endless syndicated reruns which continue today, to become a belated smash hit.
Fans couldn't get enough. Star Trek conventions began to draw thousands of devotees in the 70s. In the five decades since Star Trek premiered, it has spawned several more TV shows and 13 movies (the latest of which, "Star Trek Beyond," hit theaters just this past July). Countless books, video games and internet sites are devoted to it.
Showing no signs of slowing down, Star Trek plans to roll out its latest TV incarnation, entitled "Star Trek: Discovery," this coming January on the CBS All Access streaming service.
The golden anniversary of this phenomenon is being celebrated in several ways, including a 100-city tour called "Star Trek The Ultimate Voyage," which features a full orchestra performing music spanning the franchise's 50-year history. That tour visited the Cleveland Playhouse this past March.
An insightful and entertaining documentary called "For the Love of Spock," directed by Adam Nimoy, arrives at the Nightlight theater in Akron and the Cedar Lee theater in Cleveland Heights this weekend. Nimoy, son of the late Leonard Nimoy who played Spock, interviewed his father for the documentary before he died in early 2015, and the film offers personal perspectives from the Nimoy family along with many other Star Trek players including William Shatner (Captain Kirk) and Zachary Quinto (who took over the role of Spock in the more recent Trek movies).
Star Trek is many things to many people. For some, it's about groundbreaking cultural diversity; milestones like the depiction of the first interracial kiss on television and a Russian navigating the Enterprise during the Cold War.
For others, Star Trek's about an optimistic view of the future; a hopeful and bright vision for mankind when most science fiction stories revolve around bleak dystopias.
And there are those for whom the Enterprise's cool battle scenes against villains like the Klingons, the Romulans and the Borg are the reason to watch.
For me, Star Trek has always been about great storytelling, great characters and, most of all, great fun.
Here's to the first 50 years, Trek. To quote your most famous creation, may you continue to Live Long and Prosper.