LOS ANGELES — For generations, one show has inspired us to go boldly where no one has gone before, and now you can get up close and personal with the "Star Trek" universe with a new exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center, opening Oct. 7.
For Academy Award-winning filmmaker John Ottman, "Star Trek" was more than just a show. It was a life-changing experience that helped form a large part of his worldview. As a kid, Ottman would make "Star Trek" fan films in his backyard and, over the years, has collected models of the USS Enterprise, but Ottman took a recent trip to the Skirball to check out some actual artifacts from the "Star Trek" universe.
As it is for millions of fans, Ottman said "Star Trek" was his gateway into a lifelong obsession with science fiction.
"Star Trek really woke me up to it because it became far more than science fiction," Ottman said. "It became about a certain view of the future. A hopeful view of the future, and everyone sort of getting along and embracing science, and the excitement of gaining knowledge and being rational. It's a little disorienting these days to be a person who was brought up with that philosophy."
Ottman is now part of the "Star Trek" creative universe himself, having just returned from Toronto after directing his first episode of "Star Trek Discovery," one of the many shows spun off from the 1960s original series.
Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds is an exhibition filled with models, props, costumes and ephemera spanning over 60 years of "Star Trek" lore.
Curator Brooks Peck said the exhibition shows the depth and complexity of "Star Trek" as envisioned by creator Gene Roddenberry.
"We really tried to dig into why 'Star Trek' has endured so well," Peck said. "Why is it so inspiring to people? And we look at how 'Star Trek's' big messages of optimism, of cooperation, of embracing diversity…I feel like those are what have inspired people to hope for that future and keep making more and more 'Star Trek.'"
The exhibition also provides a socio-historical context for "Star Trek." Skirball Cultural Center curator Laura Mart said that by weaving issues of the day into science fiction storylines, Roddenberry and his writers could tackle things — such as the Vietnam War, civil rights movements, the Cold War and the space race — in a way that wouldn't ruffle TV censors.
"(In the original series) problems of racism, and war, and poverty were ostensibly solved on earth," Mart said. "You had the storylines of 'Star Trek' exploring these very timely issues in space."
The best part of the exhibition is getting to see things that formed his childhood fantasies up close, Ottman said, including a detailed Klingon battle cruiser from the Robert Wise-directed "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." Ottman marveled at the detail on the model and said seeing the ship on the big screen blew him away in 1979.
"It's one of those moments you never forget in your life," Ottman said. "So, whenever I see this, I just get chills."