Gene Roddenberry changed the face of sci-fi with this series. He managed to introduce new concepts (like transporters and communicators... ever notice that flip phones look like the communicators on the original ST?) and gave a different vision of inhabitants of other planets. Most sci-fi depended on aliens who were 1) evil or 2) much smarter than us. Star Trek changed that. Aliens were flawed like humans and co-operation was necessary to solve whatever situation was presented. Some episodes were heavy-handed and obvious, but many were written by leading sci-fi writers. I'm glad Mr. Roddenberry got his wish and his ashes were taken into space.
What can we say about Start Trek that hasn't been said already? Probably not much! The series was a trailblazer, paving the way for many of other space travel shows and several very successful spin off series (affectionately known as TNG, Star Trek Voyager, Deep Space Nine, Enterprise, etc.).
The charm and appeal of the series lies not in its story lines or special effects, but in its characters. Kirk and Spoke have become cultural icons in our generation. And who hasn't heard the phrase "Beam me up, Scotty." Add to this the interaction between the characters (the friendly bantering of Spoke and Dr. McCoy, for example) and you have a great show.
I have the entire series on DVD and enjoy watching it to this day. A true classic!
The original Star Trek is such a classic program. When looked at in retrospect it often seems quite simple but the stories are still as engaging today as they were then. The formula must have been a great one, because even though the original came in at just under three seasons, future Star Treks use almost the same formula. I have always been fascinated with the way you can take a story or screenplay written for one Star Trek and with only minor name tweaking could use it for any of the others. This is not meant as a criticism, but a compliment that they came up with a sound formula, and weren’t afraid to continue using it as long as people kept watching.
Star Trek - the original series was a ground breaking series that brought new thought to the TV screen. Aliens and robots right into our living room. But not in a way that was frightening. Each week the new was battled in a way that made an issue that had to be handled with intelligence and feeling and humanity.
Captain James T. Kirk was the man to do it. His crew at his side - Spock, McCoy and the rest. They all lent a little bit to the masterpiece that other shows have tried to echo ever since.
The original Star Trek was a quantum leap forward in televised science fiction for it's era. Before Star Trek, most of what passed as science fiction on television was silly and pathetic beyond words. In an age when our space program was still in it's infancy, Star Trek was T.V.'s first serious attempt at visualizing what travel beyond our solar system to the stars, encounters with alien civilizations and the engineering challenges involved with interstellar travel might entail. More importantly, it was a gateway for a lot of kids (myself included)to the world of real science. Star Trek got me into astronomy. Before the series ended, I'd built my very first telescope (a six inch Newtonian reflector) and I used that sucker every clear night! On a personal note, Mr. Spock was like the big brother I never had. Mr. Spock's approach to logic and thinking his way out of tough situations had a lot to do with my own personal approach to problem solving to this day. Wonderful, wonderful show!
It's hard to remember a time when there was only one Star trek show. When there was just one cancelled series. When all we could do to live the adventure was to watch these 79 episodes over and over again...and were happy to do it. As a child, I had my fandoms. Star trek was not one of them. Oh, I had always been aware of Star Trek...I liked Star Trek. But along the same lines as Lost In Space. Nothing more. I was never a ..you know..Trekkie (ooooh, that word). When Star trek premiered I had not even turned Two yet. When I was 10, my fandom was The Six Million Dollar Man. I had little or no use for spaceships and stuff. Until 1977. In July of that year, I finally found what all the fuss was about, and saw Star Wars! I was hooked! A freak! A geek! Whatever. Then it was Battlestar Galactica in 1978. Buck Rogers in 1979. But I still hadn't gotten the hang of Trek. It was kind of old school, ya know? Then in December 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released. I saw it. Eh, it was okay. Kind of long and boring. Then in June of 1982, The Wrath of Khan came out. Wow! I saw this one in the theater about five times. I brought friends. I snuck a cassette recorder into the theater to record the audio. BOOM, baby! I was hooked. I watched all the old episodes. I was a Trekker. What? You thought I was kidding when I said i was never a Trekkie? I wasn't. Never. I hate the term. See, the difference between Trekkies and Trekkers, is that Trekkies go around in costumes and pointed ears holding a phaser and carrying a communicator on their belt. No, I am not talking convention visits. I'm talking about daily life. People who loose themselves in the show at the expense of leading a productive, real life. Trekkers love the show for the great piece of fiction it is, and the way it presents a hopeful view of the future. For this show.. which was born in the most confusing , turbulant , and transformative decade in American history, I loved how Gene Roddenberry and fellow writers helped present stories about us..about human nature, in a Science Fiction medium. I love the cast, and the chemistry they had. But most of all, I love the characters and their relationships with each other. The era of true ensamble casts would not truly come into being for another twenty years, so many of the great and multi cultured crew's development suffered in comparison to the three leads, so for the most part..I'm talking about Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Spock of Vulcan, and Dr. Leonard H McCoy. The holy trinity of Star Trek. Many critisize Shatner's over the top acting as the legendary Kirk, to the point of mocking parody . And, in a lot of ways, that critisizm is justified. But it is also a part of who Kirk is. And it's a trait the character cannot do without. I pity Chris Pine on the new movie. He's going to be forced to emulate Shatner at the expense of his own interpretation. He'd better. Shatner's legacy doesn't leave room for another approach. One technique I used to love of Shatner's was one he learned doing Shakespeare. He would open his mouth to say something...stop...then walk towards the camera, pivot around to another camera, still with his mouth open to say something, and pause before he spoke the line. With that move, the audience is hopelessly fixed on him, waiting to hear what he has to say. Say what you want about over-dramatism, but it worked! Kirk was the penultimate leader. Nothing was more important than the safety of his ship and crew. ..except anybody with a red shirt. Screw them. We can get more. One of the things that could make Kirk a sort of tragic figure is, all the one night stands and conquests aside, he was a very lonely figure. His love for and relationship with his ship , would always keep him from that one special relationship. That one beach to walk on. Of course, Kirks leadership skills would be nothing if not for his two closest friends...Spock and McCoy. Spock has to be my favorite character amongst all other characters in all the series that I've grown to love over the years. Coming from a race of Vulcans, whom ..it is often overlooked..do not lack emotions...they surpress them. Vulcans are..it is pointed out..in fact very emotionally passionate and intense by nature. But in order to avoid not killing each other, the only way to survive their passions, is to reject them, and embrace logic and the sciences. Spock..is half human. so he has to work extra hard all the time..surrounded constantly by humans, to maintain his Vulcan nature. It is this unique factor that has given Leonard Nimoy the greatest challenge facing any actor I know. How do you play something like that? And to pull it off, and have the character maintain a legendary status for all these years? As well as being a sex-symbol for millions of women of the world? Truly a magnificent feat. It is, in fact, Nimoy whom I love to watch on this show, more so than any other character or actor. And some of his best moments are the result of a good sparring session with McCoy. Just an old country doctor, McCoy hated the modern technology, especially the transporter, and argued on the side of humanity all the time. As such, he was the perfect foil for spock, often taking sadiastic joy at throwing razor- barbed jabs at Spock for his cool, inhuman attitude. You never needed to feel sorry for Spock, though. He gave as good as he got. Ah, De...You are truly missed. McCoy was never really given much to do in this series except look and act crotchety. All the more credit to DeForest Kelly for still being able to endure the character to us so well. then there were the supporting cast. The late James Doohan as Montgomery Scott. How many people actually thought for years that it was his own natural accent they were hearing. Good old Scotty, the Miracle Worker. Always worrying about his poor beloved engines bursting at the seams every time Kirk shouted for Warp 8 speeds. The rest of the crew , rather than charactarization , were more noted for the cultural influences they represented at the time. George Takai. an Asian in the command crew, in an era when most Americans were still seeing Asians as an enemy. Not only were WWII and Korea not so distant memories, but Viet-Nam was raging at that time. Sulu had more to do in the beginning of the series than in it's last two Seasons (not counting the movies). I'm glad they decided to make him a Captain eventually. Uhura ..not only a female command member ( in a time when Women's lib had yet to reach fruition), but a Black woman! Remember this era..strewn with civil Rights debates, violence, riots, and deaths. And Chekov? Hello! at the height of the Cold war? Unfortunately, these three had little to do in the show. And it was only Walter Koenig's resemblance to Davey Jones of the Monkees ( and the resulting appeal to young women), that allowed him as much screen time as he was. Had we the ratings technology we have today, Star Trek would have lasted much longer, I'm sure. But as it was, it was cut short after Three seasons. In 1970, syndication brought the show new exposure, resulting in the growing audience, along with a burgening convention circuit. Talks of a revival sparked a return..sort of. Anybody remember the Animated series? A new live action series , then feature was discussed and dismissed in 1976. Then came 1977, and star wars, which started a sci-fi revival, and the rest is history. Now, almost 40 years after it's cancellation.. after a time when the Star Trek universe consisted of 79 old episodes..there are now 6 series ( 7, if you count New Voyages), and 10 movies to experience, with another due next year. We can look back on these 79 episodes as the beginning of a wonderful universe. I can only hope that Abrams is doing the right thing with this movie, and does not end up sounding the death knell for this amazing world permanently. As a wise man once said..." There are always possibilities"
Even though i was just a kid, i still thought there was something a bit sick and kinky about a story where scenes of a sweaty, raving madman, who's been psychologically tortured, are juxtaposed with a woman in a mini-skirt, sexy black tights, and blue knickers clearly on view, waltzing around in a prison for the criminally insane. Morgan Woodward was famous for his portrayals of lunatics (he also played a madman in an episode of `Kung Fu'). There's a really embarassing scene in the transporter room, where Kirk and Spock both look at Helen Noel as if they've never seen a woman before!
Star trek sets the bench mark for all sci-fi series. It allure is virtually everlasting. Even battlestar galactica had to bow to its superiority.
As far as I can remember, I literaly grew up with star trek. As I grew older, I began to see star trek differently. I saw how the universe of star trek is firmly rooted in our real world.
How the Federation is a symbol of America, the vulcans - Europe, the Klingons - Russia, the Romulans - China, and the rest of the alien races represents the diversities we see in different cultures of people of our real world.
It talks about the subtle tensions and under currents that shapes this world of ours. Whether the directors or the creator intended of this, I don't know. But I know, I have grown to love this show and the hope it leads us to see in our own lives.
In my opinion the best of the Star Trek series. OK so the special effects are hardly up to Industrial Light and Magic standards in our post Star Wars world, and sure there's William Shatner's over acting (which fits Kirk perfectly) but for my money Gene Roddenberry's original is still the best. Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Checkov, Uhura, and yes, Nurse Chapel are like a family. There's plenty of action that ST:TNG, ST:DS9, ST:VOY, or ST:ENT could often have learned from the original series.
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.
This is where the world of Star Trek began, the original series (TOS). The brain-child of one Gene Roddenberry, whose vision has led to millions upon millions of fans or casual followers since its inception.
The Original Series was unique and ahead of its time for the 60's, the episodes were extremely realistic then, some caused the change to government policy.
We follow the main characters of Capt. Kirk, Spock, Bones mainly, as they boldly go into space, exploring the unknown and having mini adventures along the way, meeting alien races, preventing wars, not to mention starting and then stopping a few too.
This is still an all time classic regardless of the media hype of today's shows, but to have witnessed this being broadcast for the first time must have been truely amazing.
As a boy, I caught the second wave of Star Trek fever to hit the UK, but it must have been great to have been a part of the first wave of trekkiness, wow that would have been awesome.
I have to say that this is one of the best shows ever put on television. The way Gene Roddenberry put his vision of the future on the air waves and into our living rooms was outstanding. The way he put current events of the time on tv and right pass the censers. Gene Roddenberry also put historical authors in his vision of the future, authors like Shakespeare. The budget may have been low and the special effects may not have been the best but Star Trek was way ahead of it time as a television show and as a cultural icon.
Every word in the book has been used to describe this show. Revolutionary, bold and visionary are just a few. Even though it failed to catch on during its original run, it now permeates every facet of our modern lives, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. It portrayed a future in which mankind not only got over its own internal struggles, it began to reach out to other worlds to expand its understanding of the universe.
From a more down-to-Earth standpoint, it inspired the tech-heads of this generation to build many of the electronic gadgets we take for granted today. The character names are burned into the collective consciousness of modern society. Catchphrases from the show are bandied about without any need for explanation.
I am not a big a fan of the original series as others but I have to admit that it had some of the best storylines and was really good at looking at the deeper meaning of things. Action was at a minimal during these times of limited graphics and animation. For what they had to work with around this time, I'd say they did a good job of making everything seem futuristic. I thought that the show had some good acting, good writing, and some nice lessons that could be applied to today's world. Overall, a decent show that is a classic. Thank you.
It's none too hard to understand why the young adults of today see Star Trek TNG as a boring, dated show. Their lives have been filled with special effects and little in the way of plot or character development. They never lived in a time when women were seen as homemakers or nuns and very little else. They never knew an age where blacks and whites were separate.
Trek was only a decade past the "step 'n fetch it" boys of the early cinema. Blacks were not seen on television shows, and neither were orientals. To have women, blacks and orientals in positions of responsibilities was revolutionary. To have war be a thing of the past was almost too good to be true. The idea that we could find excitement in traveling the stars and finding new civilizations and making friends was a thing of Science Fiction.
We were in the era of the Cold War. Building bomb shelters and practicing for air raids. Time and again we'd come to the brink of war and we were all terrified. The only bright spark on our horizon was the space program and here comes a show that told us just how far we could go with that program. We needed the good news that Star Trek brought.
I'm sorry if kids of today think of it as boring but they miss the point. This is a show to tell you what 1967 thought the future held. the future held. It's a way to look into the past and feel a different era. Well worth watching, Star Trek still holds fascination for me. It was the first time that a black kissed a white. The first time an alien was shown as equal to a human. The first time that diversity was considered a positive thing. I think we still have things we can learn from that old show.
This show is the greatest... oh wait, I'm repeating what I've already said. Anyway the greatest characters in the world are in this show. There's Spock (my favorite), Captain James T. Kirk, Dr. Leonard McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov. Spock is a Vulcan from the planet Vulcan... It's true. Kirk is the only one to ever pass the Kobayashi Maru test, even though he did it by cheating. Dr. McCoy is the greatest Doctor ever. Scotty the best engineer ever. Uhura is the best communications officer ever... I know I don't really have anything great to say about some of these characters, so just bare with me. Now Sulu and Chekov... I guess I could say that they are the best navigators ever. Anyway enjoy the show.
This show was so great. Spawning 5 different spin offs and so far 10 Movies. How can anyone say anything bad about such a great show. The Visual effects were great...for its time. The show was such a mixture of Sci Fi, Drama, and Comedy, that it was a shame that it only lasted 3 seasons, but at the same time if it would of lasted longer it might not of had the following it has today. Even while there was only 3 "Stars" the rest of the crew of the Enterprise deserve alot of prase because they were geat. I don't think I can say a bad thing about this show exept I can't believe it is over.
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.
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.
We begin with the original. This is the show that started them all, that was a favorite of mine while I was growing up. Yes, I actually saw the series when it was on prime time…and was very active as a kid in it’s return. I still have my personal letter from DC Fontana.
Now, with that said, it’s clear that my personal view of the original series will remain high. I do have an affinity for the others as well, but not as much as for this one.
You all know that this series is like an old friend or a good pair of old shoes. If there is nothing on, you can also catch a rerun of two of Original Trek and comfortably kill a couple of hours. It’s familiar and pleasant. As for the series itself, it doesn’t have the flash and crispness of the newer CGI versions of Trek, nor the intense rapid action scenes, but it’s a classic none-the-less.
This series is available on DVD, originally terribly high priced, is now available at half the cost from Paramount thru special retailers.
The Original Star Trek has a way of getting you interested in a saga that has grown beyond just a television series. This series introduced you to characters that eventually became legends. This series brought together different cultures and nationalities that would bring a world of peace and exploration to a galaxy that has riches worth having. Learning about new races and cultures gives you an sense of joy in knowing that one day we may have a possible future that definately worth living in. Having explorers like James T. Kirk and Spock in that future brings excitement to a series that treks the stars.
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!!!!!
"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.
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.
Star trek isnt just s science fiction oddessy, it is a show for all times. Start trek was on for only three short years but the affect on the 1960's was profound. It broke bounds in its interratial relationships in its casting. To have a Russian, a Black woman, an asian, and numertous wierd aliens, it proved that differences didnt matter to the future. Gene Rodenbury was a genious, and was far ahead of his time. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. admitted to Nichele Nicoles(Lt. Ohura) that their show was one of the few shows that both he and his children would watch together. Those people who say that star trek is just for nerds doesnt see the big picture. The tech of trek, the pricipals of trek, and the ideas of trek transcend to even today. I gurantee that if u ask an actor if they would like to be a part of the next trek movie or tv series, they wouyld jump at the opportunity. It is a legacy, it is a life, it is Trek.
When you watch the episodes today, especially the first season or two, you see so many stories that have been redone since, but were done best on Star Trek. Great cast mix and wonderful stories from an age where the special effects didn't predominate. The third season episodes were not as earth shattering but were entertaining. (Okay, there were two painful exceptions: the one with the Yangs and the Comms was just absolutely horrible, and the last episode, the one with the lady who wanted to be a starship captain and switched bodies with Captain Kirk, was almost as bad.) I wish I could find the series at a better time to watch, but the episodes are on late at night on G4 cable channel, on nice clean prints so no blurry pictures and faded colors.
I can still enjoy each of these episodes after watching them dozens of times!! I purchased all of the original dvds for this series, at quite a high price. I'll still be watching this series in my deathbed!!!
I don't think you could possibly improve on this series. Thank goodness Gene gave us something beyond CBS's "Lost in Space" joke!
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!
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