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Credit: CBS via Getty Images

William Shatner says Star Trek is as popular as ever because humanity's on the 'verge of extinction'

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Mar 29, 2021, 1:36 PM EDT

Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise has violated the Prime Directive to drop some major truth bombs about the state of the world and our future as a species. During a recent appearance on People TV's Couch Surfing, the legendary William Shatner was asked about the enduring legacy of the Star Trek franchise and why it remains so popular nearly six decades after its initial creation.

According to the actor, who turned 90-years-old last week, the property has stuck around for so long not just because it's a fun sci-fi universe to explore, but also because it represents humanity's only hope for survival.

"We're on the verge of extinction," Shatner said. "We are poisoning ourselves out of life and Mother Earth, Gaia, will survive and this little cancer called mankind that's growing all around her will die off the way a body gets a temperature and kills the germs off. Mother Earth will get rid of us because we're a pestilence, but we don't have to be and we can join with the rest of life that makes it here on Earth with equanimity. And the fact that Star Trek exists 400 years from now is sort of a promise that if you do those things, your children [and] your grandchildren will continue to live, and live in fairly decent circumstances if you follow what we're supposed to follow."

Credit: CBS via Getty Images

That sentiment definitely hits home in a time when the globe is still trying to beat back one of nature's smallest, yet most deadly organisms: a virus. It may feel like the end of days at times, but according to Shatner, if we treat our home planet a little better, we'll get good out, paving the way for a more idyllic future that echoes the United Federation of Planets. Placing our petty differences aside may be just what we need to move forward and boldy conquer the final frontier.

"Star Trek says, 'Hey! We exist 400 years from now and we exist and there's hope,'" he continued. "I think that's what the audience gets — is the hope. That's the message of Star Trek and that's why I think Star Trek is popular."

In terms of programming, Paramount+ (under the guidance of Alex Kurtzman) is slowly expanding its slate of projects inspired by Gene Roddenberry's iconic brainchild. Discovery, Picard, and Lower Decks will soon be joined by a Section 31 spinoff with Michelle Yeoh, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and a kid-friendly animated series on Nickelodeon — Star Trek: Prodigy. A new movie is currently in the works from The Walking Dead writer, Kalinda Vasquez.