10 Times Star Trek Changed The World

9. Lives Long And Prospers

Trekkies Gabriel Koerner
CBS Media Ventures

Even if you’re not a green-blooded Star Trek fan, you’ve probably tried (and perhaps failed) your hand at the Vulcan salute. The greeting has become so well known that it entered that 21st century lingua franca, the emoji, in 2014.

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It was even suggested as an alternative to the handshake by some scientists at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Barack Obama stated that he greeted Leonard Nimoy with the gesture when the two met, and he re-iterated the reference upon Nimoy’s passing in 2015.

Nimoy invented the salute during the filming of the episode Amok Time, and fans immediately began making the gesture back to him after it aired. With this, as well as the pointed ears, the inscrutable logic, the mind-melds, the nerve-pinch, and the eyebrow, Spock became a pop culture phenomenon. Interviewees in the documentary For the Love of Spock (including Neil deGrasse Tyson) also speak about the character as the inspiration for their entering the sciences, as a positive portrait of 'otherness,' and as a role-model for the successful merging of different cultures in an atmosphere of respect.

That the Vulcan salute and its accompanying 'live long and prosper' have entered the lexicon is a testament to Nimoy’s brilliance, and equally to the longevity of Star Trek itself. Beaten only by Doctor Who in terms of number of years and episodes (although only just), Star Trek has truly prospered. Its near sixty-year run has meant that entire generations have grown up with it. The latest shows such as Prodigy are ensuring that its cultural and ethical ideals are reaching the next generation.

'Fascinating!'

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Jack Kiely is a writer with a PhD in French and almost certainly an unhealthy obsession with Star Trek.