All the rage is about Star Wars but if it wasn’t for a low budget science-fiction show called Star Trek, who knows if we’d ever see the likes of the Death Star, lightsabers, and Jedi knights.

Back on September 8, 1966, the now iconic words: “Space, the final frontier…” were beamed aboard the airwaves all over North America.  A TV show that was supposed to be sold as a “Wagon Train to the Stars” was hardly a Space-Western but more a morality play with the futuristic setting of the 23rd Century as the backdrop.  What made the original series such campy fun were no doubt the 60’s themed costumes, the set designs, and the practical yet geeky looking props like the phaser, tricorder, and communicator.

Today, the communicator and tricorder combined have become today’s smartphones. And the genre of science-fiction is stronger than ever with a cable channel dedicated to Sci-Fi.  In addition, legions of fans attend conventions aimed at audiences who dress up as their favorite fictional characters or variations of them.

The first Star Trek convention began in New York in January 1972.   But Star Trek remains an original which helped inspire the popularity of newer conventions.  Nearly 45 years later, the biggest of its kind is San Diego’s Comic Con which brings thousands of fans annually.

December 9-11 marks the 50th Anniversary convention held in the Bay Area. Noted Star Trek cast members included several from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.  Three of the original series cast were there including Walter Koenig who played Mr. Chekov and Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner.

Also there was three time guest star Sean Kenney who is best remembered for his near motionless performance as the crippled Captain Pike in the only two-part episode, “The Menagerie.”  Kenney also played a helmsman/navigator Lt. DePaul in the show’s first season.

The idea behind the conventions is simple. It’s a gathering place for fans to see their favorite Trek celebrities, while buying memorabilia and wearing costumes.  It’s a little absurd to the non-Trekkie but it’s really not much different than sports fans who wear jerseys, caps, and other memorabilia.  Society just doesn’t accept it quite the same but it’s definitely much more “hip” to admit you’re a Trekkie and there is now a company that specializes in authentic Trek and Star Wars costume replicas.

The best thing about attending the convention at the Hyatt Regency in Burlingame near the SF Airport is the intimacy.  The largest yearly gathering is held in Las Vegas but like San Diego’s Comic Con, it’s over crowded so there are barricades everywhere and interaction is limited at best.  Here the intimate atmosphere was evident in the fans being able to talk to the actors and for a fee, they could get their autographs and/or their photos taken with them.

I hadn’t attended a convention since the late 1980’s and since it had been nearly thirty years, many of the original cast and guest stars have passed away.  Most of the fans are also younger and likely are bigger fans of The Next Generation and the other newer spinoffs.  However, the reboot Star Trek films in 2009, 2013, and 2016 have rekindled interest in the franchise and a new show called Star Trek:Discovery is to air in January.

The experience for me was nostalgic.  I also got into the spirit of it by wearing an original series replica uniform similar to the one worn by Leonard Nimoy as “Spock.” Sorry to disappoint but I did not wear pointed ears or comb my hair to resemble a Vulcan.  I will say, the best experience for me was having a casual conversation with Kenney about his memories of being on the original series.  He beamed with pride about his few appearances because once you’ve been on Star Trek, you’re forever remembered fondly by the fans, including myself.

With the recent passing of former astronaut John Glenn, it’s fitting that an entertaining TV show about space exploration continues to have a lasting impact not only on our past but the present and the hope for a bright future.