In his best-selling debut, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the moment a piece of culture reaches ubiquity. Gladwell uses several factors to determine "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." The popular author sees this "tipping point" as the crest of a wave, and seeks to better measure and understand the moment the wave crashes into popular consciousness.
Although Gladwell doesn't discuss Star Trek, the show, and the way it permeated culture, is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Star Trek built its audience slowly. There were the people that viewed the show as it originally aired, and the ones who caught on later, in re-runs. There may not have been one moment where everything clicked for Star Trek, but for one of its stars, there was a singular moment that exemplified just how massive the series became.
In 1979, DeForest Kelley, Star Trek's Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy visited Australia to promote Star Trek: The Motion Picture. While he was there, Kelley spoke at length with The Sydney Morning Herald. One of the topics of discussion was the sci-fi series' growing footprint within the pop culture sphere. Specifically, Kelley spoke of the moment he realized just how big a deal Star Trek had become.
"The first time I went to a Trekkies convention was in New York in 1973 or so," By then, the show hadn't aired a new episode in 4 years.
"It was the second [convention] they had. I walked out onto the stage and was confronted by 10,000 screaming fans... It was like being a rock and roll star.
"I went home to California and told my wife that something had to happen, that either a film or a new television series would be made. The feeling for the series was running very high."
Star Trek continues to grow in relevance and stature to this day. Every few years the show and its characters are rediscovered by fresh viewers, renewing interest in the original series and the many that followed.
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