TV - Mar 17, 2017

Documentary: The Truth Is in the Stars

How Star Trek has influenced space exploration and inspired our future

William Shatner is back in the hot seat.

Premieres Sunday, March 19, 2017, at 8:30 p.m. ET on The Movie Network (Channel 301), repeating at 10:30 p.m. ET (Channel 306). Also available at The Movie Network On Demand (Channel 309).

Few of us would question the enormous impact Star Trek continues to exert on popular culture (as we await the newest TV incarnation, Star Trek: Discovery, expected to land in 2017) but you might be surprised to learn that the series has actually inspired and influenced space exploration itself. Really?

William Shatner takes a break from lampooning himself (and his inescapable Captain Kirk alter ego) to seriously address – well, almost seriously – the scientific legacy of the 50-year-old Star Trek franchise.

What part did the Star Trek play in the space race? How was the Starship Enterprise a prototype for the NASA Space Shuttles that followed? And what do NASA flight engineers, astrophysicists, cosmologists, planetary geologists, futurists, environmentalists, astronauts and Professor Stephen Hawking have in common? You guessed it – a shared love of Star Trek.

Shatner talks to all of them – about the relationship between science fiction and science fact, the interplay between art and science, the future of human settlement on the moon and Mars, why humans represent the self-consciousness of the universe, the concept of time and aging, alien life, black holes, the Big Bang, what happened immediately before the Big Bang, and why the smartphones we carry today will be considered abacuses in 10 to 20 years.

The common thread is the communal perception of Star Trek’s mission as an expression of hope, optimism, peace and international collaboration. Most of all, in the Star Trek view of the future, “everything has the right to exist.”

Clearly humbled by being seen as the mascot for all things Star Trek, Shatner also makes no secret of loving every moment of it. He even visits the Star Trek exhibit at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York and proudly reclaims his position in the captain’s chair of the Starship Enterprise.

Whoopi Goldberg discusses how she is inspired by Star Trek’s vision of the future, Seth MacFarlane credits Star Trek with his determination to revive the TV series Cosmos, and Shatner visits Trekkie nerd Ben Stiller, whose stash of Star Trek memorabilia prompts Shatner to ask why the heck Stiller would want to pay serious money for such baloney.

• Broadcaster: The Movie Network (Channel 301) and The Movie Network On Demand (Channel 309)

• Premiere: Sunday, March 19, 2017, at 8:30 p.m. ET