George Takei and the Legacy of Star Trek

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About This Episode

For a show that only ran 3 seasons before being cancelled, the impact Star Trek had is unparalleled. In the podcast version of our StarTalk TV premiere episode, host Neil deGrasse Tyson delves into that legacy with George Takei, who played Lt. Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise. George shares Gene Rodenberry’s vision of the future, where strength lay in the diversity of its crew, at a time when America itself was grappling with issues of race, gender and the Cold War. You’ll learn about George’s own experiences growing up in an internment camp in the swamps of Arkansas during WWII. In studio, Neil discusses the science and technology of Star Trek with co-host Leighann Lord and astrophysicist Charles Liu, from warp drive, to communicators, to transporters, to the possibility of silicon-based life (the Horta!) and what it would take to create a real Starship Enterprise right now. Bill Nye stops by to talk about how StarTrek inspired the future. Plus, you’ll get to hear Neil, Leighann and Charles recite the introduction to the series, “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise…”

CLARIFICATION: In this episode, it was inaccurately stated that German Americans and Italian Americans were not interned by the US government during WWII. The point being made in the episode was that Japanese Americans were treated very differently than others. To wit, approximately 110,00-120,000 Japanese were interned in the continental US out of a population of approximately 127,000. For comparison, a little over 11,500 Germans were interned out of over 6 million Americans with at least one parent born in Germany. As to Italian Americans, the number interned has been reported variously between 418 and 3000, out of over 1.5 million here in the US.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: George Takei and the Legacy of Star Trek.

In This Episode

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Episode Topics

  • Eduardo Sorinhach

    Oh My! This is going to be interesting.

  • Doubting Thomas

    It was the Klingons that couldn’t stand the tribbles, not the Romulans!

  • Re: the photo of Takei next to deGrasse Tyson, to quote Jon Stewart, “can a brother get a phone book?”

  • ReginaldDj

    Totally Luv Neil DeGrasse Tyson My Science Mentor

  • Emily Menzel

    I’m going to use that tip with wine 🙂 Actually, my grandfather met Niel at some fancy-pants wine-o thing once, I wonder if he told him about using blenders, or if that’s too radical? 😛

  • Good catch, Thomas.

  • David

    I’m sure it was entirely innocent, but I thought it was funny that Bill Nye’s list of countries/regions living in harmony excluded his home country in North America.

  • Pingback: Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of April 27 | Pasco Phronesis()

  • They touched on it a tiny bit, but were running out of time but…

    Star Trek explained the prevelence of humanoid species with something along the lines of there was an ancient, now extinct race that spread/manipulated DNA throughout the galaxy to make humanoids more common. The race, and I think the episode that refers to it is called The Seeders.

    • Charles Hinkle

      Star Trek TNG, The Chase. Although there was a TOS episode, The Paradise Syndrome that had Spock speculate on it also.

  • Jarvis

    I was born during the first run of Star Trek and didn’t get hooked until the second run. Thanks for another great show Star Talk Radio!

  • Jarvis

    I was born during the first run of Star Trek and didn’t get hooked until the second run. Thanks for another great show Star Talk Radio!

  • Heath Liles

    Sulu in the 2009 alternate reality, stated he was training in fencing, although his futuristic retractable sword was definitely not a rapier, and his fighting style was not fencing like at all.. sooo, to quote Dr. Tyson “I’m just sayin’!”

  • Heath Liles

    Sulu in the 2009 alternate reality, stated he was training in fencing, although his futuristic retractable sword was definitely not a rapier, and his fighting style was not fencing like at all.. sooo, to quote Dr. Tyson “I’m just sayin’!”

  • Pablo MR

    the best radio program of the Galaxy !!!!

  • Kana Sihsobhon

    There is an anime’ miniseries, “Gunbuster”. Besides fighting strange aliens, it also shows how time moves at different rate for people who travel at faster-than-light speed and people who don’t and how it effects people. And Gunbuster was made in 1988-1989.

    • Taxil Necrobane

      And there have been a few other more recent anime shows that touch on that as well. Among other topics and effects.

  • Neil I love you man, but a little honest critisism here, there was a lot of interupting going on in this episode… by you! Charles was about to say things from time to time, but kept getting cut off. Otherwise, always a pleasure to be a listener and always shall be….

    • Martin

      I think I understand why you may feel that way, but I think it is necessary to see the picture how the interview was made: as Neil said, it was more or less a friendly discussion of George as an actor and Neil as his friend astrophysicist… a loose friend discussion. And in such it is really difficult to keep it “balanced”, to take “turns” who will speak now and who will be silent: it was evident, that George was more “hungry” for the astrophysical knowledge from Nel sometimes than just to share his views… and Neil just provided it. I think I understand your criticism, but I don’t think there would be many ways to change it: it wasn’t a formal interview and I understand that.

      • Well, it was Charles who was getting cut off, especially in the begining. My advice would be, if the guest is speaking, don’t steamroll him mid sentence. Look, I totally get it. It was just some honest feedback! We learn nothing from endless praise, of which I have an indordinant ammount for my all time hero, Neil Degrass Tyson.

  • disqus_87ZaWGqp0s

    Actually German-Americans and Italian-Americans were interned during WWII as well. Not to the same scale as the Japanese-Americans, but it happened (contrary to Neil’s statements at ~17:40)

    • Jay

      Although the number of Italian-Americans interned were not high, evacuations to inland areas and 8pm to 6am curfews seriously impacted the lives of perhaps 50,000 along the West Coast, particularly in California. See

  • Aaron Tovey

    Why is there a brick on the shelf to the right?

  • Tipsy

    Well I’m sure this has been said, but they explained the bipedalism of all the life forms by saying they all come from a common ancestor that propagated itself across the milky way.

    So they actually dealt with that in Next Gen.

  • Mairsx

    Great talk Mr. Tyson,

    but youve mentioned one issue in this great talk that is a pet peeve of mine. The Fermi paradox.
    It isnt really difficult to solve at all. So its kind of very annoying hearing people still talking about as if it makes any sense.

    The solution is thus:

    1.It is simply based on incorrect starting bases, the gross presumption that “we listened or looked for but we haven’t heard or saw anything”.
    We have been listening only for about 50 (60, 70?) years and we have been doing so in extremely limited scope and direction.
    That kind of extremely short “listening” means absolutely nothing compared to the age and size of the Universe as it is. Its not even a needle in a haystack. Its a quark in our solar system or galaxy or probably even less, both in terms of physical sizes and coverage of time

    2. It presumes that once a civilization level by any intelligent beings is reached that civilization will simple continue to evolve and exist forever. We cant claim that! There can be millions of different kinds of civilizations and millions of different ways they could die off or disappear or change into something completely different. Billions of billions really.

    Therefore the statement and conclusions that Fermi paradox poses are completely meaningless.
    There could have been hundreds of all kinds of transmissions or signals hitting earth any time before we invented radio, there could be millions that simply havent reached us yet since they are still traveling over hundreds of thousands or millions of light years, etc, etc etc.

    Please do me a favor and publicly debunk this annoying fake paradox once and for all.

    • Mairsx

      I have to add, this does not mean that aliens exist. This just means that Fermi paradox doesnt really say anything and should not be considered. As for aliens the only true answer right now is: We dont know.

  • Alan Daters

    I am glad to see the clarification about WWII internment. The FBI also demanded that certain Germans be deported back to the US from South American countries- over 4000 were sent back to the US for detention.

  • Kathy Ruffner-Linn

    Okay, diversity and equality in the future…then why did women (in the original series, and much ot the science fiction genre up to current) always wear mini-skirts and in the original series close-ups of the female face went all fuzzy had special lighting?
    Neil, you’re a guy — don’t you think that it is a little stale for females in the future to be stereotyped in this way? But you didn’t bring it up amongst all the possible life forms discussed. Could sexism be the strongest prejudice of all?

  • Taxil Necrobane

    As of recent turn of events showing Mr Takei’s racist views of black people, I wonder how he held those view back while speaking to Mr. Tyson? It is a sad day to see such a man turn into exactly the close minded, emotion filled hatred that he had claimed to fight against. From here on out, count me as a Star Wars fan.

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