We are about to boldly go where many people have gone before.
I mean, let's face it. If you've never heard of Star Trek before, you've basically been living under a rock. The Original Series starred William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, cementing their status as pop culture icons to this day.
It also spawned five additional television series, 11 theatrical films, and many novels that you can find in your local library's "Science Fiction" section. Despite Star Trek's modern success and cultural impact, the Original Series was actually cancelled after only three seasons. With the box office success of a few Star Trek theatrical films, notably The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home, Paramount Television tapped series creator Gene Roddenberry to update the series for a new generation of television viewers. The series, aptly named Star Trek: The Next Generation, was drastically different from the original series.
A stand out episode from the third season — "Yesterday's Enterprise" — involves a somewhat complex plot revolving around time travel. The starship Enterprise 1701-D encounters some sort of spatial anomaly. Nobody panics 'cause hey, in the 24th Century, spacial anomalies happen. While the Klingon-born Lieutentant Worf begins reports that something is emerging from the rift, our screens get blurry for half a second and suddenly the Enterprise is different. Not dramatically, but you'll notice the belts are a little more stylized, the bridge is a little darker, and oh hey — Worf is gone! In his place at the tactical station, we see a familiar face: Tasha Yar, the former chief of ship's security. Only she's not supposed to be there — Tasha died during the show's first season. The reason for the reality shift? The previous ship to bear the name Enterprise, the 1701-C, fell through time and space into that anomaly, creating an alternate present where the United Federation of Planets is engaged in a brutal war with the Klingons.
Before joining the cast of The View, Whoopi Goldberg occasionally played the all-ears bartender Guinan on Star Trek: The Next Generation. She was from a mysterious race of "listeners" known as the El-Aurians. Little was revealed about the people, but Guinan was shown to have a type of cosmic awareness that made her wiser than most. When the Enterprise changes, Guinan is aware that something isn't right. The focus of her confusion becomes Tasha Yar, who Guinan feels she isn't supposed to know — Tasha died before Guinan came to live on the ship. While Guinan doesn't recall any specific details, she does know that Tasha died a pointless death, "a death without purpose." As the Enterprise crew works to restore reality to the way it should be, Tasha decides to join the Enterprise 1701-C's crew so that, this time, she can die as a hero.
Love it or hate it, Star Trek: The Next Generation left a planet-sized impact on pop culture. Join us next when when we discuss even more television we love to watch as part of Mid-Manhattan Library's Sci-Fi Summer Reading 2011.