It’s been 50 years since the Star Trek franchise premiered, ultimately giving the world five TV series and 13 feature films. In celebration of the anniversary, George Takei — who played Sulu on the original series — stopped by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Thursday to explain exactly what made the show so special.
Takei recalled his first table read for the pilot of Star Trek, saying, "I can’t forget that day; it was very, very special." He described how Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry explained the core of the show:
He said that the Starship Enterprise was a metaphor for Starship Earth, and the strength of this starship lay in its diversity coming together. The acronym was "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combination": I-D-I-C, IDIC. We were each to represent different parts of the planet, and working together, seeing the common problem that we had, confident of our problem-solving capabilities, our genius for invention, innovation, we were going to boldly go where no one had gone before.
It’s that commitment to diversity and intellectual problem-solving that made the original Star Trek series so groundbreaking — and also what made it one of our most utopian sci-fi franchises.
Of course, it was also at many times a hilariously low-budget show, most notably during the "turbulence" scenes, where the production couldn’t afford to actually shake the set. Instead, the camera would shudder wildly as the cast threw themselves dramatically about, in a convention that inspired some of William Shatner’s most scenery-chewing work.
So at the end of the interview, Colbert couldn’t resist reenacting one of those scenes with Sulu himself. He announced a red alert, and the camera shook as Colbert and Takei threw themselves left and right and back again.
"I can’t wait to go back in time and tell my childhood self I got to do that with you," Colbert said.
May both Colbert and Takei live long and prosper.