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‘Building Star Trek’ links TV with future tech

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A model of the Starship Enterprise hangs from the ceiling at “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds,” an exhibit at Seattle’s EMP Museum marking the TV show’s 50th anniversary. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

The vision of the future that “Star Trek” laid out in 1966 may have been bright and shiny, but 50 years later, the most valuable artifacts that the show left behind were a real mess.

“Building Star Trek,” premiering on the Smithsonian Channel on Sept. 4, tells how those artifacts were restored to their 23rd-century glory – for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, and for Seattle’s EMP Museum.

You can see the fruits of the conservators’ labors at the EMP’s 50th-anniversary “Star Trek” exhibit, but “Building Star Trek” shows you much more: glimpses behind the scenes at what it takes to preserve the past, parallels between the futuristic fiction of “Star Trek” and cultural trends of the 1960s, and present-day technological developments that echo the show’s sci-fi innovations.

There are even enough cheesy clips from the original series to remind you that this was a TV program from the days before computer-generated wizardry took hold, when “Bonanza” led the ratings.

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5 tech tidbits from ‘Star Trek Beyond’

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A starship takes on a swarm of foes in “Star Trek Beyond.” (Credit: Paramount Pictures via YouTube)

Spoiler Alert! This post doesn’t reveal any major plot twists, but it does explore some new twists seen in “Star Trek Beyond.” Stop reading now if you want it to be completely surprised.

The latest big-screen saga about the voyages of the Starship Enterprise, “Star Trek Beyond,” pays tribute to all the Trek technologies we’ve come to know and love over the past 50 years. In fact, the crew members go old-style when it comes to the communicators they use to stay in touch, the transporters that beam people back and forth, and the tricorder that Bones uses to check Spock’s medical condition.

One slight upgrade is that the tablets they use on the bridge look more like an iPad Air and less like an Etch-a-Sketch.

There are a few new twists to the science and technology on view in “Star Trek Beyond,” blending the totally fictional with the somewhat factual. To find out how the movie universe resonates with the real world, read on. But if you’re super-spoiler-phobic, stop right now and wait until you’ve seen the movie.

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Here’s how Jeff Bezos looks as ‘Star Trek’ alien

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Jeff Bezos wears a Starfleet uniform (and heavy makeup) in “Star Trek Beyond.” (Credit: Justin Lin)

You’d hardly recognize Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos in the super-heavy makeup he wears as an alien Starfleet official in “Star Trek Beyond,” the latest big-screen voyage of the Starship Enterprise.

But just to make sure you’re able to spot him, Bezos posted a Vine video in which you can see him getting a bite while waiting for his scene. “Cheers,” he says into the camera.

In a Twitter update, Bezos said the “Star Trek” appearance checked off an item on his bucket list. He also gave a shout-out to director Justin Lin, the cast and the crew.

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‘Star Trek’ exhibit relives 50 years of the future

Image: Starship Enterprise
A model of the Starship Enterprise hangs from the EMP Museum’s ceiling. (GeekWire photo by Kevin Lisota)

From several yards away, the bridge of the Starship Enterprise looks as if it was beamed down from the 23rd century into the “Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds” exhibition that opens Saturday at Seattle’s EMP Museum.

But up close, you can tell it’s a 50-year-old movie prop, with rocker switches from the ’60s and bits of plastic peeling off the control console.

In a weird way, that’s a big part of the golden-anniversary exhibition’s appeal. When the TV show had its premiere in 1966, “Star Trek” was all about a bright and shiny future. It still is, but the exhibition also casts a spotlight on the social issues and foibles that have shaped the saga over the course of five decades.

“Star Trek” is famous not only for its optimistic vision of spaceflight and technology, but also for its allegorical references to the civil rights movement and cultural diversity, East-West tensions and the rise of environmentalism, gender identity and same-sex relationships.

“All these are ingredients that you can see get funneled into ‘Star Trek,’” museum curator Brooks Peck said today during a preview of the exhibit. And they’re funneled into the exhibition as well.

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Stamps celebrate Pluto, planets and ‘Star Trek’

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The U.S. Postal Service’s souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artist’s rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s enhanced color image of Pluto taken near closest approach. (Credit: Antonio Alcala / USPS)

For the first time since 1991, Pluto and the solar system’s eight bigger planets are getting their own postage stamps – thanks to a U.S. Postal Service cosmopalooza that also spotlights Earth’s moon and “Star Trek.”

The Pluto stamp pays tribute to NASA’s New Horizons mission, and updates 1991’s speculative view of the dwarf planet. Back then, the legend on the 29-cent stamp read “Pluto – Not Yet Explored.” This time, the four-stamp sheet carries the label “Pluto – Explored!”

The stamps follow through on a petition that was filed by New Horizons’ fans more than three years ago – long before the piano-sized probe flew past Pluto on July 14.

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