“Building Star Trek” Smithsonian Documentary Continues Trek’s 50th Anniversary Celebration

The Smithsonian Channel special focuses on the refurbishment of The Original Series Enterprise model on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and looks forward to how today’s scientist are bringing us into the 23rd century.

“These guys saw it coming.”

Exclusively focusing on The Original Series, The Smithsonian Channel’s Building Star Trek joins the long list of celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of the franchise Gene Roddenberry created in 1966. Aptly titled, the episode’s focus will be on the Smithsonian’s restoration and conservation efforts of the original 11-foot, 250-pound Enterprise, as well as a look at the futuristic technology first predicted as a plot device to move the story along for the writers of TOS.

“If we can have one object at the Smithsonian of imagination, inspiration that is so important to real space flight, it’s got to be the starship Enterprise.”

Lauded for their efforts to once again hang the original model of the USS Enterprise in the Smithsonian, part of the documentary centers on the attempts to repair and ensure the preservation of the model. During the trailer, one specialist even states they are concerned that hull is just going to split in half. Fifty years a is a long time, and while the series itself was innovate, the Final Frontier was constructed on a small television budget. The materials used for the sets, props and models were not designed to stand the test of time, let alone 50 years.

However, that’s not all Building Star Trek will offer, as the documentary also emphasizes those futuristic technologies that are still in the works. Scientists talk about their ongoing efforts to realize a cloaking device, a Lockheed Martin Senior Fellow discusses actually creating a hand phaser, and we hear about the continuation of efforts from XPrize’s medical tricorder contest.

Interviews include such Star Trek franchise luminaries as Nichelle Nichols, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, and David Gerrold, the latter two of which take the opportunity to remind the audience that Star Trek is both about the unknown and inclusion.

“It would be somewhat ignorant of us to believe we are the only form of life to exist,” Karl Urban stated in the trailer.

“There’s a place for you on the starship Enterprise, not just white men, we are all going,” David Gerrold added.

Join The Smithsonian Channel four days before the televised birth of Star Trek, on Sunday, September 4 at 8 p.m. EDT and enjoy a unique look at the franchise 50 years later. The Enterprise, which is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum in Washington, D.C. is already there and waiting for you.

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REALLY hope I get to see this, but no Smithsonian channel here. Anyone know of any other ways?

“It would be somewhat ignorant of us to believe we are the only form of life to exist,” Karl Urban stated in the trailer.

Actually it would be sad, not ignorant. There is a plausible theory that we are among the first life to evolve anywhere in the universe, sentient or otherwise, much less to the point of technology we have achieved.

There was an episode of TNG that dealt with the concept of the Preservers, or being similar to them, being the first evolution of life in the galaxy. We could end up being the Preservers in our reality.

Speaking of which, only The Preservers really explains the fact that most life in the galaxy depicted in the Trek universe is essentially on the same level of development or lower. The rest are mostly all superior beyond our reach and understanding and don’t seem to have much interest in the lower forms of life. Fortunately, there aren’t too many species that fall somewhere in between who are capable of destroying the lower forms of life and aren’t interested in expanding their territory. It all turns out pretty serendipitously for humans in Trek.

Given the age of the universe and the commonality of our star and the time frame of star main sequences and galaxy formation and now that we can find all these proto planets we should have encountered something. This is known as the Fermi paradox. As a scientist I actually feel we don’t discuss it that much due to the drastic implications.


Excellent points, all. We just have too few data points to even begin to even make an educated guess at this stage of human existence, and Fermi’s Paradox lies over the whole question like a giant shadow.

The worst possibility? Given the distances and time scales involved, we may never know.

Worst probabilities is that we are programmed to self destruct, that civilizations cannot harness the resources in solar systems before becoming trapped and eventually dying with their home star or regular super nova that take out civilizations before one can escape.

Cmd Brennon

All due respect, that’s so speculative I can’t really lose much sleep over it. Programmed by whom, and for what purpose? By the time our sun explodes, Homo Sapiens will be long extinct, or will have become something else entirely. Meanwhile, on the shorter (i.e. human) time scale it seems reasonable to assume that we have abundant in-system resources to support a thriving, sustainable civilization so long as we manage to get our baser natures and appetites under control. If we fail to do so, that’s entirely on us.

The possibility that we find ourselves in a universe so vast and utterly indifferent to our most basic human aspiration to know and understand, no matter what we do, that we never answer the question of whether we’re alone–that’s what haunts me.

That is what’s exciting about the Fermi Paradox; the implications are grand. Maybe we just naturally develop that way that we develop nuclear weapons, pure fusion bombs, who knows and all civilizations end up destroying themselves. “Abundant in-system resources to support a thriving, sustainable civilization so long as we manage to get our baser natures and appetites under control” – Maybe not!! The solution to the Fermi paradox could be that you simply do not have the resources in your solar system to build a probe, let alone a starship that can make the 100+ year journey to a habitable star. Or we never get productive enough to make it happen. Hate to say it but that you look up and don’t see warp ships pretty much is evidence that faster than light travel is NOT going to happen. Why don’t seed ships work though? Why no micro probes? Or is the Earth really the only place life exists – given the amount of main sequence stars and proto-planets detected that would be like finding out we are the center of the universe; it just does not make sense (unless planned like an event in a computer game). Maybe there IS a super Prime Directive to the point they hide civilizations and block detection? Maybe the universe has been programmed that life doesn’t start until X,Y,Z. Funny thing is that thermodynamics shows us how the universe will end – heat death were entropy moves to zero. Is there no one out there because they’ve escaped somewhere else? Or maybe they go TNG and decide that holodecks are more exciting then actually exploring space and end up downloading themselves into computers. The truth in this case is set up to be stranger than fiction… and grand in scale both in space and time. That being said I’d urge speculating on this topic is at least as entertaining as watching a TV show.

Well, you’re kind of conflating things like the practicality of interstellar travel; whether civilizations have enough resources to survive, the dearth of evidence for extraterrestrials; etc. which, while certainly related, are different things. (For an interesting, if somewhat biased, examination of the first topic you might want to check out Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent novel “Aurora.”) But the question about whether we are alone depends a lot on definitions: life isn’t necessarily intelligent life, which isn’t necessarily intelligent tool-making life, which isn’t necessarily tool-making intelligent life which would communicate in the way humans do, and so on. There are literally dozens of possible explanations for the Fermi Paradox that don’t strictly mean that humanity is alone in the cosmos (though in the case of many of them, we might just as well be). I remember reading a fairly convincing piece somewhere making the claim that while human-like intelligences may be fairly common in the universe, easy access to the ores necessary to develop technologies might not be, due to Earth’s anomalous large moon and the tectonics created through tidal activity. So we could be literally surrounded by thousands of species steeped in philosophy and brilliant art who endlessly tend sheep (or the equivalent) and will never be able to devise any way to contact us. Aside from definitely identifying 3000-plus extrasolar planets–a great accomplishment in and of itself, of course–we’re no closer to coming to any conclusions than we were thirty years ago when Carl Sagan was messing with the variables in the Drake Equation, and I suspect it’ll be a long, long time, if ever, before we do.

I remember listening to a radio show very early in TNG’s run where a prominent SF author (might have been Greg Benford, but I can’t say for sure) pointed out that the Ferengi could have easily stomped the Federation of Kirk’s era. Serendipitous, indeed.

Wow, nice to know I am not the only one who has been thinking that there is at least the possibility that Earth may indeed be a very lonely planet or that if even intelligent life exits we may never get to experience it.

Then again there is the argument that we have so many problems here that to look outward to the stars is foolish and way to expensive an endeavour.

Anyways, so cool the “E” is getting restored, the original is still the best.

Human beans can’t presume anything simply because we can’t figure it out even though the brainiacs keep imparting that we can. Our science changes constantly. Other lifeforms will not be paddling a log (like only we can conceive it at present) through space to travel here or anywhere else. There are no rules.

This really love looks awesome.

A german dubbed version will be broadcast on September 9th on ARTE, a public Franco-German TV network. More information: http://www.arte.tv/guide/de/067116-000-A/building-star-trek


Merci für die Info.

This comes out on home video next month!