I love everything about the show the drama the action the characters and everything else. Gene Roddenberry had to be a genus to create such a good show if it weren't for him I would not be a Trekkie to this day. I love star trek so much I started collecting it and just this last month I went to the (2007) Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas and I bought a photo op ticket to see George Takei (Sulu) so I met him in person and I was to happy that day, good memories. So I love the Storyline and the Storyboard and everything else.
An episode called the Doomsday Machine was frightening when the whooshing sound associated with the laser-like beam destroyed a planet. This giant planet killer looks like a mighty marble-stoned telescope roughly made. Luckily, an unfamiliar Star Trek man died inside the thing and snuffed it out. I have missed many episodes since I was a teenager. I'm glad I will see the re-mastered series in dvd. Now that new technology is making television more exciting, such as plasma and LCD. If Star Trek is re-mastered for blu-ray dvd, no doubt the series would look like it has been dramatized recently. The most hypnotic actor that stood out is pointy-eared Spock. His brilliant logic and low voice would make men, as well as women, fall in love with him. Without Spock, no one can survive in space where dangerous alien enemies are lurking. The Enterprise's circular control room with buzzing and whistling electronic controls seemed that the ship was very real. I don't remember any of the famous crew being killed in the series - who would?
Despite Star trek's humble beginnings, this show have changed tv in ways that we never could have imagined. this show is a classic. it predates star wars and the spirit of this show transcends generations. The worldwide phenomenon of star trek really changed so much of how a sci fi show will look like. Capt. Kirk and Capt. spoke are very iconic characters. They are legends. No show comes close to Star Trek the original. It's a really great show. It's a perfect show for the whole family. When I watch episodes of this show on dvd, it looks dated, but it still looks good.
The DNA of every major science fiction show to follow it can be traced back to this audacious TV experiment, cancelled after 3 seasons due to low ratings, which is now the most spun-off series in history and the inspiration for countless sci-fi programs.
Looking at the original Start Trek episodes today, one might wonder what all of the fuss was about: the special effects and costumes were often laughable; the stories could sometimes be overly sentimental and preachy; the acting was at times over-the-top and hammy. So how did this series become so popular that fans initiated an unprecedented letter writing campaign that brought the series back after NBC had threatened to cancel it at the end of the second season? Personally, there are numerous reasons why I will forever love the original Star Trek. for one thing, I was a teenager when the series originally aired. In those days, there was nothing like it anywhere. The production values and special effects were, believe it or not, advanced for that time. And the thinly veiled social commentary at the heart of most of the episodes appealed to me. I was encouraged by the optimism of Gene Rodenberry's vision of the future: radically different civilizations coexisting peacefully with each other; a multicultural crew aboard the Enterprise; the high ethical and moral standards of the Federation Code. The action sequences were thrilling, and, oh yeah- Uhura was HOT! Speaking of hot, so were many of the guest stars, who were often love interests for the ever-randy Captain Kirk, who would gladly romance any creature who was even remotely feminine, purple skin and all. The enduring success of the franchise bears out the universal appeal of the Star Trek premise. I like many of the spinoff series and most of the movies (The Wrath of Khan is my personal favorite) but the original series will always occupy a special place in my heart.
Star Trek is the grandaddy of the sci-fi genre. With out it, this genre would not exist in the state that it does today.
Even though the special effects are cheesy (let's not forget it was the late 60's) and there are some serious plot holes in some episodes. This is where sci-fi stopped being about space travel and aliens from other planets, and became a vehical for social and political commentary. Racism, sexism, and cold war were all subjects that were taken on by Capt. Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise. Besides what other sci-fi show or movie can say that they have a real space craft named for it.
Love it or not Star Trek changed the face of sci-fi television forever.
Star Trek when it hit the airways on September 8, 1966 was an experiment by NBC. Gene Roddenberry, The great bird of the galaxy to friends and fans alike, was in the hotseat with a series that was far ahead of its time in theme and content. Roddenberry, envisioned a galaxy where mankind had risen above primitive origins to become something that he always believed we have the capacity to evolve into. The series not only presented all human cultural groups coming together as humankind, but a pointy-eared alien also showed up and nearly caused a massive faint in the boardroom at NBC. Mr. Spock, was a real risk taken by Roddenberry! No one had ever tried this even on a science fiction show at the time. Star Trek only lasted three years, but has sponned four other series and eleven motion pictures. Not bad for a series that everyone at the time thought had vanished from television for good!
Star Trek is a good show and i am safe to say that it is adaquet in many prospects exept for HUMOR. If it was overly suspenseful or even dramatic beyond reason like many Sci-Fi shows i could understand the lack of humor but to be honest it just dose'nt make sense why there isn't a joke here and there. i'm not saying make a sitcom but just throw in a joke somtimes even once and awhile here and there somwhere! its a good show but i cant seem to wrap my mind around the no humor prospect thats all.
The Enterprise's 5 year mission (although the original series only lasted for 3 seasons) is to explore new plants and seek out new life, as stated in the opening credits. The star characters are Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner), a Vulcan science officer named Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and Dr. Leonard Horatio “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelly). Minor recurring roles are Lt. Sulu and Chekov, Scotty, and who could forget the red shirts. This show was one of the all time greatest show I have ever seen, and that isn’t surprising even though this Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) only lasted for 3 seasons before getting cancelled it has earned a cult following, and has spawned numerous spin-offs an a number of movies. Personally my favorite character is Spock, and all of the Vulcans. Vulcans are a race of people, who live on the planet Vulcan, they are completly devoted to logic and reason, they claim to have no emotions, but you can see this is clearly not so if you watch specific episodes, both in the original series and in the spin-off series. Most of the episodes involve the Kirk, McCoy, and Mr. Spock beaming down to a planet an encountering a specific problem, although it would seem that this would get monotonous the writers found a way to make each episode, simply put, excellent. Other popular plots include the crew fighting an alien being(s)/force; including the Klingons and Romulons. Star Trek truly was far ahead of it's time which could explain why it was cancelled so early. I really cannot even begin to explain Star Treks greatness in words, there is SO much more I could say about TOS, but I will leave you with these words of advice: watch Star Trek it is AWSOME!!!!!
Compared to the other TV series of its time, it is easy to see why Star Trek has become such a phenomenon and surpassed pretty much everything that was new about TV in the 60s. Unlike other shows that focused on the now or the past, Star Trek made a bold statement and told what would be in the future. It is more than aliens and spaceships, but it is peace on Earth and the end of famine. No more racism or hate for no cause. That is what Star Trek is, as it used aliens to symbolize the problems of that day. Since the problems of that day are todays problems as well, Star Trek will always have life and will never die. It gives new life to every generation and never gets old.
Space...the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise. It's 5 year mission. To explore new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE. DA DAAAAAA DA DA DA DA DAAAAAAA!!!!! Assume
I caught the first episode in September 1966. I must say it was love at first "sight". The colors were assume. Color TV was a rare commodity in the 60's. The first aired episode was about the salt creature.."the last of it's kind." Originally Star Trek was to air in 1964, however it was deemed by the studios that the programs were too cerebral for the general public. In a sense that could be true, but in my view it would have been a perfect time. Shatner as Kirk was a well rounded actor to play the varies roles that were required for the Sci-Fi aspects of Kirk. A perfect choice. Nimoy as Spock was my favorite character. His non emotional stance was played to the tee. The doctor and Spocks comedic scenes were always hilarious. Uhura was beautiful as the communications officer. And of course Scotty as the Chief Engineer was well played by the late James Doohan. My favorite episode was "The Alternative Factor". This one I would watch over and over again. The best scene is where Kirk and Spock are discussing the two different Lazarus's in the meeting room. The light highlight on Kirks eyes was a nice touch. Anyway Spock makes it clear to Kirk that the two beings are matter and antimatter, and that they must be stopped. Kirk at first doesn't follow. Spock explains "Picture this, two beings, one positive, the other negative or more specific...one matter the other antimatter. Kirk replies,"Do you know what your saying..matter and antimatter have a tendency to cancel each other out...violently. "And if they meet..total and absolute annihilation of everything..everywhere!!!!" I may have the dialog a bit out of place, however you get the picture. An excellent scene. I can go on and on about the different episodes but all in all...Star Trek was well ahead of it's time. Too bad it only lasted 3 seasons. But they were all well worth it. Thanx for reading....DonZ
"Space, the final frontier," When I first heard those words, I knew that I was in for a treat. After all the different shows and movies, I still look forward to seeing something else. The chemistry between Kirk, Spock, and Bones was classic. Who knew that in my lifetime, devices used on the show would somehow show up in the real world today. I would say that a flip-phone was designed after the communicator, and that the military are working on Star Trek-type weapons today. It is only a matter of time before the technology that was made up in the 60's will be a reality in the present.
I was young and naive when Star Trek was new - I didn't realize that having a inter-racial (and inter-life-form) crew was a rarity. As a result of that show the notion of living amongst "aliens" not only became something acceptable but something that we could all look forward to enjoying. I often wish that more of today's shows spent less time telling people that they should be able to live together in spite of their differences and more time just having stories that indicate that the people who are there, are just there... In an effort to force harmony I think that too often we are merely reminded of our differences.
The show Verry good I alway thought It was for Geeks But It's very Smart and funny..Star Trek is about the starship Enterprise's 5 year missions around in space. The Main characters are Captain James T. Kirk who Makes the orders and Is a Ladys man Not to much of a Good Captain But Is always running around Trying to get the girl. Then theres Mr.Spock Whos the Science officer and Jim's best friend also he's a no felling Vulcan(Half human too). Who always talks logical. And then theres skinny Leonard McCoy "Bones" Whos the Chief Medical Officer. He has alot of anger and is always yelling at eveyone( I don't know Why they Keep him)Theres other on the ship too like Scotty, Sulu, Chekvo, and Theres some mean nurse named Christine Chapel Whos McCoy's assistant(Yep this shows got alot of Mean Doctors) She's Likes Spock ands always going after Him. The show only had 79 episodes but Many Spin-offs and movies.
Star Trek Is My #1 Favorite Sci-Fi Show! My Dad and I Sat together and watched the re-runs every night I Absoultly enjoyed those times. 40 years and 10 Star Trek Movies Later It Remains The Best Sci-Fi Show Ever! Scotty, Bones, Sarak Maybe gone but they'll always live on in the DVD's of both the show and Movies and so will the rest of the crew of the Enterprise.
The "Original" Star Trek is still a classic.
The five year mission of the Starship Enterprise boldly went where no man ever went before...not to mention going where no TV show went before...into many spinoffs & movies.
William Shatner stars as the intrepid Captain Kirk.
Together with Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock & DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy, the crew discover new life...both corporeal and non-corporeal...lifeforms friendly and unfriendly...and plenty of gorgeous, scantily clad alien women. (Which is why Kirk went out into space, in my opinion)
They also encounter a warrior race called the Klingons....who give them plenty of problems along the way.
This show was made before I was born, but I've seen so many reruns of the show throughout the time I've been around, since to this day, the show is still very popular and reruns are bound to be seen on so many different channels! So I first saw it when I was very young, and didn't really like it much then, but years later, I really started to enjoy it. This show is truly a classic, with lots of action, great story lines, and occasionally some pretty funny moments. It turned out to be a milestone in the history of television, which is the reason why it's still so popular after over thirty years. There's so much to like about this show.
What can be said that has not already been said about the original Star Trek series? From the chemistry between the actors to the visionary sets, with props that ultimately influenced the design and technology of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, to stories that can be viewed over and over and still be enjoyed... Star Trek had it all and captured the psyche of the time.
This show would inevitably go on to spawn 10 films, 5 additional series with more than 650 additional episodes, hundreds of novels, and all sorts of related merchandise, propelling the franchise into a billion dollar industry.
Within the series itself, there are a number of classic episodes like Balance of Terror, Journey to Babel, and Arena, that combine action, adventure, science fiction, and drama in order to convey a message that yes, humanity does not have to end in apocalypse as its future, but has limitless possibilities to explore itself and its surroundings in the great beyond.
The main thing keeping this show from getting the perfect 10 was the producer switch-up during that 3rd season resulting in a loss of coherency and consistency to the characters in many of the episodes. However as a primer to the Trek universe, this series is a must-watch. And when done so critically from a dramatic standpoint, the viewer will find that it is not what the nay-sayers who never really watched it, claim, but managed an amazing feat in television storytelling.
My favorite upto Firefly. Babylon 5 came with great writing not seen since UFO. SG1 had the same chemistry in the cast that the Enterprise crew had. I think Voyager was the only Trek series to capture the OS style. I mean that show with Kirk and Ears have made alot of our pop culture. Cell phones, flat screens, pcs, on and on its wild. I loved the color we had a black and white tv till 82. So when I saw Star Trek reruns, wow. Its easy now to critique it but way ahead of its time. As great as it was it could have been alot better but budget cuts hurt it. The last season it became more the Kirk, Spock, and McCoy show. The Enterprise still the best space ship in history. Kirk what a man. No Space tramp was safe. Utopian goverment would never work. But its nice to imagine it. American Conservative bashed the federation for being a UN commie thing then the show Firefly proves it. I would never want to live in the Federation but the show is a nice escape. Great space battles with the big E against Klingons and Romulans.
That said, the original series (TOS) was sometimes uneven and cheesy and certain episodes are nearly unwatchable (any episode featuring Harry Mudd comes to mind along with the Hippie episode about going to an Eden like planet that was turned out to be toxic). There were also excellent episodes like the one involving the Doomsday Machine and the one where they hunted a Romulan warbird that destroyed several outposts along the neutral zone. This series broke new ground and it was the 60s, so overall the series is a classic and so influential it has affected nearly every space/sci-fi series since; not to mention its influence on pop culture. The very fact it has spawned several series, 10 movies and countless imitators gives it a special place in TV history.
My ranking of Star Trek Series:
#1 - TNG (got better as time went on - ended very strong)
#2 - DS9 (got much better as time went on - ended strong)
#3 - TOS (rollercoaster, alot of ups and downs)
#4 - Voyager (got better as time went on, but ending was abrupt and unsatifying)
#5 - Enterprise - Event though it got way better in Season 3 and 4, bad casting of Archer really hurt. Prequels are almost always a BAD IDEA.
#6 - Animated Series - The only series I dont care to every watch again. It just seemed cheap and poorly done. I dont like live action series done as cartoons in general.
Star Trek is a fantastic show. I love the constant strife between Mr. spock and Dr. Macoy. The stories are so clever yet predictable. I wish Spock could show emotion though I knew he has, dew to a special something but maybe just a little taste of emotion would have been better then him being strait forward and logical. But then if he did have emotions then he wouldn’t be Spock. Another thing I realized is that Captain Kirk has his chest showing a lot. LOL. well He did have the body. But I just recently watched a episode where they call the captain from his room and his shirt is off! Is that necessary? All of the effects were cheap and cheesy. But that is what makes the show even better. Even though the show was canceled early there are more people becoming Star Trek fans everyday.
The original Trek series established, within it's brief 3-year span, the panorama of an ever-expanding Federation of planets & civilizations, of which Earth was, in the 23rd century, a founding member (tho the audience never saw Earth during this run, except in time travel stories back to our 20th century). This series also presented mankind as, first & foremost, explorers, embodied by the trio of dynamic captain James T. Kirk (Shatner), his number two, science officer Spock (Nimoy) and irascible but kindly Dr.McCoy (Kelley) - but Spock was, of course, an alien (a Vulcan), an example of the alliances Earth held with many extraterrestrial races. They operated from a magnificent starship, Enterprise, with a crew of about 400. Creator Roddenberry used the series as a platform to address many social & political concerns of the time. The general consensus of most familiar with the show is that the 1st & 2nd years were superior; the 3rd suffered in the writing & budget dept's. The best episodes: "City on the Edge of Forever"-Kirk almost sacrifices Earth's history for the love of a woman. Almost, and he might've done so had he known her a little longer; "Mirror,Mirror"-4 members of the crew switch places with their counterparts in a parallel universe, where the Federation is a hostile Empire; "Space Seed"-the crew awaken Khan, an old-time conqueror boosted by eugenics, who returned in the 2nd Trek film("The Wrath of Khan"); "Arena"-Kirk battles a lizardian captain of an unfriendly race on a desolate asteroid; "The Naked Time"-the crew lose their inhibitions, back when this was original; "This Side of Paradise"-another one with everyone affected emotionally and forgetting their mission; "The Trouble With Tribbles"-hugely entertaining romp on a space station; "Shore Leave"-another romp on a weird planet; "Journey to Babel"-Enterprise hosts ambassadors, Spock's parents included, dealing with intrigue & politics; "Where No Man Has Gone Before"-the 2nd pilot which green-lit the series and the 1st with normal humans acquiring godlike powers; "The Enemy Within"-examines duality of human nature; "The Doomsday Machine"-space epic about a huge alien weapon destroying planets; "Amok Time"-detailed look into Vulcan customs; "Balance of Terror"-warships testing each other in space,introducing the aggressive Romulan race; "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"-answering all questions on androids; and "The Devil in the Dark"-which shows you cannot judge monsters by appearance.
As the list above demonstrates, all the concepts we have come to know in later films and series (Next Generation,Deep Space 9,Voyager) were laid out just fine in the late '60s by some inventive writing (the first film to follow this, for example, merely reworked the episode "The Changeling" with a $50 million budget). The 2nd season also ended with a pilot for an unrealized spin-off "Assignment:Earth" which would have focused on human agent of aliens 'Gary-7' in the present day. It was back then, also, that omnipotent beings, such as "The Squire of Gothos" and the Organians ("Errand of Mercy"-which introduced Klingons) popped up to work miracles. The final 3rd season show ended things on a hysterical note as Kirk's body was taken over by an unbalanced woman - quite unPC these days but nonetheless intriguing & entertaining. Finally, I'm still struck, or starstruck, by how, after all this time, it was this show that convinced me we really were on a huge ship traveling in space - more so than the later sophisticated shows (TNG) or the movies. Yes, the original is still the best, and it's easy to see why.
To boldy go where no man has gone before! The classic phrase that begun one of the most successful TV series of all time. Its a shame it was canceled before completing its 5 year mission because it is one of the best shows of all time. I hope who ever cancelled start trek was fired shortly afterwards. weather your watching kirk be tortured by tribbles, or watching spock go crazy trying to win a mate this show hits a home run every time. Even ill admit every episode isnt a perfect 10 but about 80-90% would fall in this range. Its also amazing what the special effects staff was able to pull off at this time with the color age of TV just beginning. I will continue to watch star trek till i die and i hope you will too because if you dont you dont know what your missing
Event though the special effects are nothing compared to today's standards, Star Trek was more of a character and story driven show than mere eye-candy (though at the time, I'm sure it was quite something). Star Trek had a positive outlook on the future of humanity and some incredibly cool and lasting characters (Spock!). Each episode was different from all of the rest, and each had a certain theme and form of entertainment ranging from space battles and scientific problems, to basic moral issues and a bit of humor was thrown in as well. Many of the basic story themes can still be seen in many Sci-Fi shows today including the spin-offs. Even though the show was canceled after just 3 seasons, Trek is still on television today and still recruiting new fans. What other show has lasted 40 years, has legions of fans, has almost single-handedly created a genre of TV, and still remains entertaining today? I can't wait to see all of the newly CGI updated episodes!
This is a show where superlatives just do not seem adequate. I grew up watching the orininal run back in the sixties and have stayed with it ever since. Unlike a lot of people today, I still prefer this incarnation of Trek to all its spin offs. I was moved to study science and watch other Sci Fi because of my undying love for TOS. I also watch out for any other shows starring the regular cast like Mission Impossible, Stargate and Babylon 5. I could go on saying how great the show was but more eloquent people than me have already done this. Suffice to say that the best legacy is the continuing love and admiration of the fans, which will go on long after any Trek show. Happy 40th.
It's rare when you can pin point your exact actions to an exact time and place years in the past. But that is what is happening right now. As I watch "The Man Trap", I can truthfully say I know where I was on this night, 40 years ago. I was sitting in front of our new color television set, September 8th, 1966, watching with great delite, a new series on NBC.
I would go on to watch every single Star Trek episode through the season finale of Enterprise, plus all of the cartoons and feature films. Am I a fanatic? No, not by a long shot. But I sure was a fan. And still am.
As to this episode now airing on TV Land in celebration of the 40th anniversary, it was one of my least favorite episodes originally and still is not at the top of my list. But as my brother in law would say, "It's good science fiction".
And so Star Trek was, and is. It may not have set the ratings on fire in 1966, but it was good science fiction. And it's father to one of the most successful television and movie franchises in the history of entertainment.
Long live Captain Kirk and the crews of the Enterprise.
1. It is one of the top ten series ever aired on T.V. I knew this immediately when I saw the first episode in the late 60s when I was 11 years old. As a science fiction series, it stood head and shoulders above any thing on at that time -- only Rowan and Martin\'s Laugh-In came close. Why? The writing and acting. Shatner is superb as Kirk and Nimoy has the role of a lifetime playing Spock. Many of the scripts were done by top grade science fiction authors, as well.
2. The interplay between the top characters of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty is flawless. We identify with them individually and as a team. We CARE about these people.
3. The breaking of the racial barrier on T.V. by casting African-Americans in powerful roles. And let\'s not forget the first inter-racial kiss.
4. The special effects and lighting were above average. See \'The Cloud-Minders\' for some of the best lit scenes ever aired on television. On an analog color t.v., the effect was stunning; the effect is lessened on digital, however - try increasing the color to simulate analog.
September 1966, watching the Premier of Star Trek, was the best Birthday present I had ever gotten that year.
Even though our family, like most others at that time, only had Black & White TV sets.
BUT I WAS HOOKED!!
I just loved this show and I can even forgive some of the bad shows, especially season 3.
The Characters were great. In deep space the mighty Starship ENTERPRISE along with its\' crew, Captain James Kirk, 1st Officer Spock & Dr. Leonard \"Bones\"McCoy were the trio who explored the universe in hand with a mix of multi- cultural explorers, for 1966 television this was cutting edge.
Of course NBC execs\'did not beleive that the character,
No. 1, a woman could be 2nd in command of a starship, so she was dropped after the pilot in order to keep the, Mr. Spock character.
Today we would not even think twice about a woman being in charge of something like that. It is so common now with women holding positions in the fields of, Medicine, Law, Court Judges, Police, Fire, Construction, Science, Mayors, Senators, Congress, Military, Pilots as well as Commander of Naval Vessels.
These execs had their heads stuck in the sand!
Mr. Spock was on the chop block due to his satanic looks.
Talk about bizzare!!
The additional cast, Chief Engineer Scott was a Scottsman who was the miracle worker for the show.
In todays work place, who would not want to be known as, \"A Miracle Worker\", the person that can make things happen and put things right.
The Helmsman was, Lt. Sulu, an asian who was loyal, insightful, and dedicated to his ship.
Communication was held down by Lt. Uhura, an intelligent, beautiful woman of African decent, she could also handle herself in a fight.
Ensign Checkov of Russian heritage who was eager to please his Captain by always showing his best.
Nurse Chapel, Majel Barrett who was No. 1, in the pilot episode, was Dr. McCoys assistant and in love with Mr. Spock.
This show touched on stories that were hot button issues of the unstable 60\'s era and even reflect some of the current today\'s events, hidden in the realm of Science Fiction.
It is amazing today, that the Star Trek devices concieved in a 1960\'s TV show have become commonplace today.
Just sit back and enjoy the shows, especially season 1.
Most of the special effects still hold up today.
Some of the planet sets look cheesy but it was the 60s.
It was nice to see, Star Trek Enterprise pay homage to the origional series durinig its\' 4th Season.
This show is a classic, hat's off. Even this show came out in the 60s, and before the advent of CGI, this show defined what sci fi dramas should be. When I watch it, I'm still enjoying the show regardless of the outdated special effects. Sadly, the show finished with just 3 seasons, 2 years short of its supposedly 5 year journey into space to go boldly where no man have gone before and seek out new life forms. The stories in this show had holes that were plugged in future trek shows like the kligons looking like people. Even with the shortcomings of the effects at the time, this show will always be the best sci fi show ever.
this is the show that all sci fi shows should pay homage to. in just the few seasons that it was on it made an impact that is still felt today. it not only spurned several movies, but also four spin off series. ones that came about almost twenty years after the original was off of the air.
This is not a personal review:
Happy 40th Birthday, Star Trek
Why Captain Kirk’s story is the story of America
Tim Cavanaugh, Reason Magazine
The starship Enterprise began exploring space, the final frontier, 40
Reason Magazine wishes Star Trek a Happy 40th Birthday:
Happy 40th Birthday, Star Trek
Why Captain Kirk’s story is the story of America
The starship Enterprise began exploring space, the final frontier, 40 years ago this September. Initially (and in hindsight, mistakenly) described as a five-year mission to seek out new life and new civilizations, explore strange new worlds, and boldly go where no man had gone before, the series Star Trek took its place in the National Broadcasting Company’s prime time lineup on Thursday, September 8, 1966.
And it flopped.
The low-rated show lost money for the network throughout its first season, then lost money again through its second season. Despite this poor performance, NBC renewed Star Trek for a third year, thanks in part to a massive letter-writing campaign by fans. For its faith in Star Trek, the network would be forever reviled by the show’s volatile creator Gene Roddenberry (who, we now know, had a secret hand in the letter-writing campaign). Through its ill-starred third season, Star Trek suffered from management turmoil and the sale of its production studio to the Gulf & Western Corporation. The new studio, Paramount, tried to shave costs, producing a ghastly hybrid: an expensive show that looked cheap, featuring radioactive bombs of episodes that focused on “Spock’s Brain” and a cult of space hippies whose signature song “Steppin’ Into Eden” failed to climb the 1969 charts. The show was not just a failure but an embarrassing failure: The acting was old-fashioned; the scripts were square; it was intelligent in a way nobody respected, corny in a way nobody liked anymore; the cast’s only breakout star was a straight man with pointy ears. After three seasons, NBC cut its losses and put Captain Kirk and his crew out to pasture.
The real story of Star Trek begins here, for Star Trek is a story of resurrection, and after this first death there is no other. Just ask Mr. Spock, for whom we mourned at the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan but who had returned to life before the end of the tellingly titled Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The risen Trek predicted the future through good guesses (and plenty of bad ones) about technology. It welcomed the future with a secular spirit that may be the closest thing America has to a national religion: confidence in what lies ahead. And it created the future by building an environment where multimedia conglomerates must court fans not only as customers but as co-creators. You could search all 50 states (and since Canadians, including even William “Kirk” Shatner, play crucial roles in this story, you could look up there too), but you wouldn’t find a leader or politician who deserves a tribute as much as Star Trek does. If the franchise is approaching its 40th birthday somewhat worse for wear, it has some great stories to tell.
Among other things, there’s a story of a tough, almost millennial faith that endures no matter how absurdly bad things may look: Even in its darkest decade of cancellation, when the only Star Trek remnant was a half-hour animated series that ran in 1973 and 1974, the fans would no more give up hope than Kirk would have surrendered the Enterprise to those space hippies. There’s also a story of democracy, in which motivated masses of people guided the behavior of programmers at a giant media company (a class almost as craven and powerful as elected officials). There’s a story of management and governance, in which the keepers of the franchise have maintained fairly good continuity over many years, through a constitutional “canon” of texts (in the form of scripts, licensed media, and series “bibles”).
And finally, a story of a powerful belief in what the franchise represents: the right of individuals, through machinery, weaponry, or barehanded intelligence, to live, be free, and pursue happiness, no matter how horrific the results (and we can all agree that Robert Wise’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture was as slow and agonizing as any torture devised on that evil Enterprise from the “Mirror, Mirror” episode in which Spock has a beard). Put all these ingredients together and it’s clear: Star Trek is the story of America.
As an American story, Star Trek is not just about resurrection but about production, and there’s been plenty of that: Fan books such as Dave Marinaccio’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned From Watching Star Trek, a tome that more than lives up to the promise of its title. Fan films like the Star Trek: New Voyages series (freely watchable at newvoyages.com, and executed with an astonishing degree of commitment and creativity). Fan fiction in which Captain Kirk, a man whose robustly heterosexual libido made satisfied customers out of white, black, brown, and green women, finds his true soul mate in Mr. Spock.
And that’s just the unofficial stuff. Paramount declines to say how much money Star Trek has made for it over the years. A 1999 Salon article estimated that the Star Trek franchise had earned $2.3 billion in TV revenues, more than $1 billion in movie box office, and $4 billion in merchandise sales; there have been more series, movies, and merchandise since then. But any dollar amount is dwarfed by the overall content amount the franchise has produced.
On the big screen, there have been 10 movies so far. Paramount and J. J. Abrams, the creator of the hit TV shows Lost and Alias, have announced development of Star Trek XI, though seasoned Trek numerologists are wary of the movie’s place in the series. (Just as you should stick with the odd-numbered Beethoven symphonies, you’ll have better luck with the even-numbered Star Trek films.)
On the small screen, in addition to the cartoon (now remembered mainly for bringing Lucien the goat-man into many an already troubled childhood in the ’70s), there have been four live-action spin-off series. Star Trek: The Next Generation featured Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard and the only post-Kirk crew member this viewer can fully endorse, Data, the coolly curious and helpful android played by Brent Spiner. Deep Space Nine, a darker, more pessimistic show, moved the action to a space station and explored the ugly, sausage-making dynamics of maintaining the Federation on a daily basis.
Voyager featured Kate Mulgrew as the franchise’s first woman commander as well as a sexy but unapproachable “Borg” character played by Jeri Ryan, the actress who later gained fame in her divorce from sex-club-addicted Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan. (Scientists may never be able to calculate the number of teenage geeks whose adolescences were soothed by the women of Star Trek.) Enterprise was a prequel cleverly set on an earlier, ramshackle version of the flagship. For many viewers (including this one), Captain Kirk’s is the one true Trek, but it should be noted that each of the spin-off series ran through many more episodes than the original show’s 79 and won many more Emmy awards than the original’s zero.
None of this stuff—the successful TV series, the big-screen Trektaculars, the video games and action figures and merchandise—would have happened if the decisions had been left to the actual owners of the brand. The value of Star Trek remained hidden by some Romulan cloaking device until the Trekkies, doggedly gathering at fan conventions and bombarding Paramount with letters throughout the ’70s, demonstrated the franchise’s potential. The commitment of those fans (along with the unprecedented success of George Lucas’ Star Wars, which may yet turn out to be merely an epiphenomenon of Star Trek) eventually persuaded Paramount to bring Trek to movie theaters in 1979. With a less rabid fan base, Wise’s disappointing film would have been the end of the franchise, but the Trekkies hung on, demanding more movies, more television series, more Star Trek crap than there were tribbles on the Enterprise. For in the resurrection story of Star Trek, the fans are the Holy Spirit.
“That’s impressive,” you may say, “but it doesn’t prove that Star Trek is the story of America!” No? Then imagine that through an ion storm or transporter malfunction, we were all beamed to some other universe where Star Trek had never existed. For one thing, we wouldn’t know that we had “beamed” there because that usage would not be part of the American vocabulary. Nor, when a person reacted defensively in conversation, would we say that his or her “shields” had gone “up.” Some of the most useful catch phrases that we have used in making sense of the last 40 years—“He’s dead, Jim,” “where no man has gone before,” “highly illogical,” “Beam me up,” “Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated”—would never have been uttered. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, whose record looks increasingly humble next to the Federation’s, would not have named its first shuttle Enterprise. We would not find Star Trek’s DNA in concepts as disparate as flip-top cellular phones and Shatner-fu, the foursquare fighting technique (ill-advisedly including a two-handed clubbing motion on the opponent’s back) that still shows up on dramatic television. You would need an extra sentence in this article explaining who “Captain Kirk” was. When James Mann published his history of President Bush’s war cabinet, Rise of the Vulcans, none of his readers would have grasped the title’s allusion, or understood the noun Vulcan to suggest specific habits of logical, overly rational, nonintuitive thinking. When you told people Star Trek is known in Japan as Sulu: Master Navigator, nobody would get the joke.
And we would not have been able to enjoy Star Trek at its many levels of achievement, including the level of high, hilarious camp. (Though it must be stated that knowing irony is the least sophisticated way to appreciate Star Trek. The cable network G4 now plays to this demand with Star Trek 2.0, interactive broadcasts of the original series in which chatting fans trade fossilized jokes about Lt. Uhura’s panty flashes and the deaths of crew members in red shirts.) We would not have had the literary works of Leonard Nimoy, including both I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock, nor William Shatner’s albums of spoken-word cover versions of pop hits: 1968’s The Transformed Man and its 2004 follow-up Has Been, featuring a performance of Pulp’s song “Common People” that is better than the original.
And we would not have been able to kick around the fans, crowding the conventions in their bumpy-forehead Klingon or Ferengi makeup. We could never have heard the story of Barbara Adams, who wore her Star Fleet commander’s uniform while serving on the jury in the trial of Jim and Susan MacDougal in 1996. At the time, Adams gave a simple reason for wearing the costume while discharging the duties of citizenship. Just as every juror brings deeply held beliefs into the courtroom, she brought her creed: Faith in the Federation, in its pluralistic society and its noninterventionist code of conduct.
Just what was that society in which Adams and millions, in America and around the planet, put so much confidence? On many of its aspects we should look with horror. The Star Trek universe can be called libertarian in but one important way: It never pretends to be a utopia. As University of Virginia professor of English Paul Cantor has explained, the society of the Federation is the kind of thing that might spring fully grown from the hernia scar of Lyndon Baines Johnson—a galacticized Great Society. A vaguely militarized government makes all decisions. Any time the Enterprise crew encounters a private entrepreneur or contractor, that person will almost certainly turn out to be a thief, a swindler, a coward, or all three. (Roger C. Carmel’s mincing, scheming Harry Mudd is Star Trek’s idea of a businessman.) Entire planets and populations are wiped out at a time by disease or invasion. Despite frequent references to a “noninterference” directive in contacting alien civilizations, Star Trek eerily predicts the era of total interventionism, as James T. Kirk, an interstellar Gen. Tommy Franks, routinely smashes planetary autocracies, promising (sometimes) that others will come along later to do the nation building.
While some of these attitudes are rooted in a certain ’60s peak of big-government confidence, Star Trek was an old-fashioned show even in its own time. Gene Roddenberry pitched it to NBC as “Wagon Train to the stars,” and it is Roddenberry’s original vision, for better or worse, that has informed every iteration of Star Trek. Many people contributed to the franchise’s success. Dorothy C. Fontana, a story editor and writer, created such favorites as the aforementioned space hippies, the Vulcan death grip, and “Charlie X,” the dangerously psychokinetic teenager, a precursor to the Columbine killers, played with icy longing by Robert Walker Jr. The writer-director Nicholas Meyer had a hand in the three most successful of the movies. The producer Rick Berman kept the franchise moving after Roddenberry’s death in 1991 at the age of 70. In different ways, fans have insufficiently appreciated the contributions of Fontana, Meyer, and Berman (and others). But Roddenberry’s was the individual intelligence behind Star Trek.
Two books help flesh out that intelligence. The former nun novitiate Yvonne Fern’s Gene Roddenberry: The Last Conversation establishes the self-described “Great Bird of the Galaxy” as an original though not always profound thinker (and a strong opponent of religion, a trait that comes across in a striking number of Trek episodes). Joel Engel’s unauthorized, unfriendly, and largely persuasive biography Gene Roddenberry: The Myth and the Man Behind Star Trek, documents him as a hard-drinking TV tyrant who repeatedly rooked his collaborators out of money and credit, manipulated the personal loyalty of the show’s fans to insinuate himself with movie and TV players who would have preferred to lock him out of developing Trek projects, and through megalomania and general nuttiness managed to obstruct as much as he created.
During World War II, Roddenberry, born in 1921, piloted B-17s in the Pacific and suffered a takeoff crash that killed several crew members. During the 1950s he served on a Pan Am plane that crash-landed in the Syrian desert, killing several people. Later, he served the Los Angeles Police Department as a flack and was mentored by legendary Dragnet creator Jack Webb in the art of TV screenwriting. By the time of Star Trek, Roddenberry had already produced a series called The Lieutenant, with Gary Lockwood as a young Marine officer—and though that show performed well in the ratings, it was canceled after one season, according to Roddenberry because the Vietnam War had made present-day military dramas toxic for television.
Through the first run of Star Trek and in the no man’s land that followed, Roddenberry held on doggedly, working the fan conventions and struggling to get new projects off the ground. (Who can forget—or more accurately, who can remember —Genesis II, with Mariette Hartley as a futuristic babe with two belly buttons, or the mind-blowing Questor Tapes, with Robert Foxworth as an android rookie with the LAPD?) At one low point in the mid-’70s Roddenberry took a gig writing a script for the Circle of Nine, a New Age channeling cult in Ossining, New York. What emerges from this life is a character many Americans, and especially many Angelenos, will recognize: a hard worker to whom a stingy helping of success arrives maddeningly late in life and who never overcomes the pettiness and resentment bred of being an outsider among big shots less talented than himself.
Yes, Star Trek was the product of a man’s midlife crisis, which by good luck hit during a time of great cultural ferment. Even the most ardent Trek hater must acknowledge that the show is a wonderful reading text for the tensions of late-’60s America. Star Trek engaged the Cold War obliquely (with an episode wherein the Federation and the Klingons must arm opposite sides in a planetary proxy war), directly (with a hokey time travel episode, brightened somewhat by a young Teri Garr, in which America circa 1968 narrowly avoids a nuclear exchange with the Russians), and tragically (with a planet where the superpowers have already pressed the buttons, and the Yankees and Communists are now reduced to iron-age “Yangs” and “Coms”). Through it all, Roddenberry accurately predicted the U.S.-Soviet conflict would be resolved peacefully and that Russians, personified in the Enterprise’s never-believable Ensign Chekhov, would go on being Russians long after they had stopped being Reds.
The show’s gestures toward the counterculture and the sexual revolution are more intriguing. Star Trek approached what was then called the “generation gap” from radically different angles. In the legendary space hippies episode (which is both disdained as a low point in series quality and beloved as unintentional comedy), the crazy longhairs come close to destroying the Enterprise in their kooky search for a California-style “Eden.” In another, Kirk, following orders he never really questions, breaks up an idyllic settlement whose residents enjoy practically Mennonite contentment under the influence of mood-elevating, and entirely benevolent, flower spores. Discontent, not dilithium, is the real driving force of Star Trek, but the show is open-ended and curious, embodying an over-the-hill producer’s simultaneous fascination and revulsion with the ways of the flower children.
Star Trek’s sexual politics at first seem even more embarrassing, a Hugh Hefner fever dream of middle-aged authority figures scoring with beautiful and compliant young women. In its treatment of gender roles, however, Star Trek is underrated, and its vision of luscious Lt. Uhuras in miniskirts and go-go boots may be the show’s most visionary and subversive element (and not merely for featuring the fabled “first interracial kiss” on television—a Kirk-Uhura moment so hot it may melt your picture tube). Postwar science fiction was as male-dominated as any field in American culture, and a classic like Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy features long stretches where women are as silent and invisible as they are in the streets of Riyadh. Star Trek countered that view with a world where women are independent, competent characters capable of command and occasional self-defense, and it did so in a way that bypassed the budding women’s movement of the ’60s and went straight to what we now think of as third-wave feminism, a society wherein women are recognized as equals while remaining entitled to sexiness and traditional gender roles.
If that point seems tangential, it contains the most important kernel of Star Trek’s appeal: its rejection of the notion that progress would leave us diminished, less sure of our genders, our free will, or our humanity. The representative science fiction film of Star Trek’s era, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, paints a largely bleak future of dull, robotic humans, hostile and powerful central computers, and an endless Cold War; the movie’s only note of optimism comes at the end, with the possibility that a human being might leave behind his body and his humanity, and be reborn as a cerebral super-being. Star Trek’s future, skeptical of super-beings and dehumanization alike, shows progress and technology mostly allowing people to be more human, not less—more manly or womanly, better fed, smarter, healthier, and wiser. Its important message, as one Reason Online reader put it, was its simplest: “Technology solves problems.” And even when high tech causes problems it won’t defeat us, as Captain Kirk proves in countless episodes that have him arguing computers into self-destructing—the most ludicrous being an incident where he disables the Enterprise’s powerful electronic brain by having it compute pi (3.14) to its final digit.
This optimism, more than any correct guesses about wireless telephony, police use of Tasers, or the shape of 21st-century neoconservatism, was the dangerous message of Star Trek. The dystopian science fiction of the late ’60s and early ’70s (to which Star Trek was a rare exception) shares something with contemporary hysteria over stem cell research. Both claim to fear that the advance of science will hurt us, but their real fear is that it won’t hurt us. Because if human life really is getting better, then maybe you’ve wasted your life fearing the unknown, clinging to useless traditions, missing out on better things ahead.
One useless tradition of the ’60s, a decade that began with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minnow’s description of television as a “vast wasteland,” held that mass media were turning Americans into passive, hypnotized zombies. This view had dissenters at the time, the Canadian philosopher Marshall MacLuhan most prominent among them.
But nobody did more to smash the myth of the passive audience than the fans of Star Trek. More than anything else, Star Trek was about participating. “It is my sincere wish that you do not give up your search for Eden,” Spock tells the space hippies after their quest has crashed and burned. “I have no doubt but that you will find it, or make it yourselves.” That’s what the fans did: They made it themselves, in immensely ambitious and creative ways, through the films and fiction mentioned above, through the conventions and communities and three-dimensional chess leagues. The clearest expression of the fan phenomenon is not found in Star Trek or even in Paramount’s fun but perfunctory documentary Trekkies but in the 1999 spoof Galaxy Quest. That film’s conceit holds that a civilization of real aliens, so persuaded of the truth of the television broadcasts emanating from planet Earth that they shed a tear for the hapless castaways of Gilligan’s Island (another essential building block of the America we love, as Paul Cantor argues in his book Gilligan Unbound), have patterned their society on a long-canceled Star Trek–type show. As the alien leader appeals for help from the show’s cast (wittily depicted as slightly pathetic has-beens working the convention and superstore-opening circuit), he expresses the fan’s deepest, most shameful, most admirable wish—that it all might turn out to be real:
“For years, since we first received transmission of your historical documents, we have studied every facet of your missions and strategies.…For the past hundred years our society had fallen into disarray. Our goals, our values had become scattered. But since the transmission we have modeled every aspect of our society from your example, and it has saved us. Your courage, and teamwork, and friendship through adversity! In fact all you see around you has been taken from the lessons garnered from [your] historical documents.”
The Trekkies built their world in an era when science fiction thrillers did not yet command vast budgets, when Hollywood was not yet desperate to stroke “viral” and “grassroots” support for its properties. Entertainment has since become a two-way street, and the Trekkies helped make it that way. Star Trek fans endured decades of ridicule on the path to the glorious present (including an infamously mocking sketch by William Shatner himself on Saturday Night Live), but when Trekkies and Galaxy Quest hit theaters in the late 1990s, the films felt less like a vindication of fandom than a victory lap. Science fiction fans, you had nothing to be ashamed of all those years. It was those others, those techno-skeptics, those narrow-minded, pig-headed anti-Trekkies, those mere spectators, who turned out to be history’s real losers.
The interactive, on-demand media environment the Trekkies helped create has been with us just long enough that we’re beginning to take it for granted. Fan conventions are a regular feature of popular entertainment. “Slash” fiction, the fan genre named for the gay Kirk/Spock romances, now flourishes to the point that virtually any two TV characters you can name are getting it on somewhere out on the Internet. As the WB and UPN networks have found out during their merger, fan lobbying to rescue favorite shows has become extremely sophisticated, involving massive fund raising, bribery attempts, and skywriting campaigns. Entertainment properties are now routinely conceived in multimedia terms, with video games, action figures, merchandise, and labyrinthine back stories. Captain Kirk is the little acorn from which this mighty oak grew.
But in a real way, Star Trek itself is over. When the series Enterprise went off the air last year, it ended an era, stretching back to the early Reagan administration, during which some version of Star Trek had been continually in at least pre-production. Paramount will give Trek XI its day, and there will probably be an audience around when that happens. But the circumstances were unique. It’s unlikely we’ll see a similar fan phenomenon in a world of endless entertainment choices and eternal afterlives in home video (and if this birthday tribute has moved you to nostalgia or curiosity, be advised that Paramount has brought out all of Star Trek on DVD, with the original series packaged in a handsome set of color-coded tricorders).
The culture has moved on too. Technological change and greater personal freedom are now widely accepted as positive forces, rendering much of the Trek message superfluous. The romance of space travel that accounted for much of Star Trek’s appeal (the original show went off the air two months before Apollo 11 landed on the moon) has withered; and the problems of the Yangs and the Coms seem quaint in a world where the Coms have signed onto a perverted form of capitalism. And who can get exercised about the hippies and the squares at a time when only Islamic fundamentalists are wearing beards?
It’s even less likely we’ll see another popular entertainment with such proudly mythic elements: thunderous musical cues, larger-than-life acting, props and special effects so basic they function more as symbols than as on-screen visuals. This article would be incomplete without an appreciation of at least one of those elements: the acting. If you still believe Shatner is just a laughable ham, nothing will convince you otherwise. People of refinement know better and recognize Captain Kirk’s total commitment, his vein-popping intensity, his refusal to be cooler than the material, as the acting equivalent of the right stuff—an indefinable quality, not quite stagy, not quite cinematic, at once too big for TV and just right for it. On a fresh viewing, it’s striking to see how ably Shatner, Nimoy, and the late DeForest Kelley sell Star Trek. Because even if you never believe those tinfoil props are really phasers or communicators, you never doubt for a second that they believe it.
That theatrical quality dwindled in the later, desexualized spin-off series. (At times in the 1980s, it almost seemed the execrable Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, with its paunchy, wisecracking leading man and bevies of perverse and exotic beauties, captured more of Star Trek’s daffy spirit than the Star Trek franchise itself.) In all its iterations, Star Trek continued to provide juicy guest roles for some of the greatest character actors ever to chew Styrofoam scenery. What other series would give radical attorney Melvin Belli a job playing an androgynous angel? Where else but on Deep Space Nine could Andrew Robinson, the loathsome “Scorpio killer” in the original Dirty Harry, have found years of work playing an alien in bumpy-forehead makeup? But it wasn’t merely acting styles that passed the franchise by. Star Trek was a work of innocence, a relic of the mythic past lingering in a more wised-up, ironic age.
It seems very wistful, very un–Star Trek, to be looking back fondly on that mythic past, but on this one occasion, we can let our human halves overpower our Vulcan halves. Once upon a time, when our nation was in trouble, many brilliant people came together to produce a humble entertainment that was more than a sum of its parts: The most retrograde and prescient, the most religious and agnostic, the most male and female, the most heroic and absurd, the most rarefied and popular, the most American television show ever made.
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