(Editor’s Note: This essay addresses my diatribe against giant space amoebas.)
Gently, gently. Remember when those shows aired. It was the late 60s. We were shooting for the moon (and made it). Nothing seemed impossible to us. Back then a transistor radio the size of the palm of my hand was the latest and greatest portable music. 8 track tapes were all the rage for your car. Technology by today’s standards was Neolithic. Cars were not fuel efficient; their cubic inches were only surpassed by their horsepower ratings. Personal/corporate jets were becoming more popular. Most television programming was still in B&W, although prime time went all color in 1966. Color TVs did not outsell B&W televisions until about 1970. CB radios were just becoming the thing. Still mostly as trucker toys until the mid-seventies. Cars did not have cellular phones, they had radiophones and they were so expensive only the wealthy had them. Seat belts? Just beginning to attract notice. GPS? A dream someone in DARPA had. Night vision? First generation Starlight Scopes. Lasers? Sci-fi. Bell labs was doing some laser research but as a weapon, or as a range finder, or as a thermometer or as a pointer? That was genuine Star Trek stuff. Lost in Space had its first season in B&W. A self-aware robot? Laser pistols? FTL travel in a flying saucer? Golden aliens? Remember the sci-fi movies of the 50s and 60s. Godzilla, a mutant lizard so huge he would collapse under his own weight in the real world. Rodan, another impossibly huge reptile who incidentally could exceed the speed of sound without flapping his wings. The Giant Claw, an antimatter bird from another galaxy, here to lay eggs and destroy our world. Robot Monster, a movie with the villain as a man in a gorilla suit with a space helmet for a head. War of the Worlds with Gene Barry. A lot of eye candy in there, but science? Nah. When Worlds Collide, where we as a species land on an interloper planet when our world is destroyed and it just so happens to have a breathable atmosphere and earth-tolerant temperature.
All entertainment and even world events led us to suspend belief. For the USA, nothing was impossible. Colonize Luna (the Moon), then Mars. Mine the asteroid belt. Surely FTL ships would be along before our grandchildren passed away. It was a time of unbounded enthusiasm. Science fiction was mostly fiction and was pure escapism, entertainment.
Yet, many things have come true. Kirk’s communicator was our flip phone. His tricorder our Tablet PC. We have remote monitoring of body functions as McCoy had in sick bay. Our machines talk to us and are voice-programmable. Ever talk to Siri or Alexa? We can compress enough data on a postage stamp sized SD card (like Spock’s data discs) that would have taken three buildings filled with machinery and magnetic tape storage in the 60s. We can stream live events and movies in excellent resolution and stereo sound to our hand-held smart phones. We have access to most of the world’s information at out fingertips. We can shoot down planes and missiles with lasers.
Roddenberry didn’t dream big enough. My maternal grandfather was born in the nineteenth century. He told me of how things were when he was a child. He was literally born in the horse and buggy era. He remembers the big hooraw over the Wright Brother’s first flight, and he lived to see men walk on the moon. I in turn tell my grandson what it was like when I was a child. I also add in the parts about walking to the school bus drawn by a team of muskox in minus 40-degree weather through snow three feet deep and fending off dire wolves who were trying to get my school lunch made from mammoth tenderloins. Just for fun. But remember back in your childhood, photog. Compare it to today. You and me both listened to 45 RPM records. Technology is advancing faster all the time. My first airliner ride was in a Super Constellation, a prop-driven airliner. My first helicopter ride was in a Sikorsky H-34, the type Fernando Lamas piloted in The Lost World, with Michael Rennie.
We’ve come a long way pretty fast. Back then it took less suspension of disbelief than it does now.