Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Star Trek Premieres 1966
Star Trek, also known as "TOS" or The Original Series, debuted in the United States on NBC on September 8, 1966. The show tells the tale of the crew of the starship Enterprise and its five-year mission "to boldly go where no man has gone before." The original 1966–69 television series featured William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, James Doohan as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, George Takei as Hikaru Sulu, and Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov. During its original run, it was nominated several times for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and won twice: for the two-parter "The Menagerie" and the Harlan Ellison-written episode "The City on the Edge of Forever." After three seasons the show was canceled and the last original episode aired on June 3, 1969. It was, however, highly popular with science-fiction fans and engineering students, in spite of generally low Nielsen ratings although later demographic profiling techniques indicated the series was appealing to a highly lucrative audience. The series subsequently became popular in reruns and a cult following developed, complete with fan conventions. Originally presented under the title Star Trek, it has in recent years become known as Star Trek: The Original Series or as "Classic Star Trek"—retronyms that distinguish it from its sequels and the franchise as a whole.
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise. The original Star Trek is an American television series, created by Gene Roddenberry, which debuted in 1966 and ran for three seasons, following the interstellar adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Federation Starship Enterprise, following an earlier pilot film “The Cage,” which starred Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. Following the release of other series in the franchise, the Kirk-headed series was retroactively referred to as "Star Trek: The Original Series." These adventures were continued by the short-lived Star Trek: The Animated Series and six feature films. Four more television series were eventually produced, based in the same universe but following other characters: Star Trek: The Next Generation, following the crew of a new Starship Enterprise set a century after the original series; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, set contemporaneously with The Next Generation; and Star Trek: Enterprise, set before the original series, in the early days of human interstellar travel. Four additional feature films were produced, following the crew of The Next Generation, and most recently a 2009 movie reboot of the franchise featuring a young crew of the original Enterprise set in an alternate time line.
The franchise also includes dozens of computer and video games, hundreds of novels, as well as a themed attraction in Las Vegas (closed in September 2008). Beginning with the original television series and continuing with the subsequent films and series, the franchise has created a cult phenomenon and has spawned many pop culture references.
As early as 1960, Gene Roddenberry had drafted a proposal for the science fiction series that would become Star Trek. Although he publicly marketed it as a Western in outer space—a so-called "Wagon Train to the Stars"—he privately told friends that he was actually modeling it on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels, intending each episode to act on two levels: as a suspenseful adventure story and as a morality tale.
Star Trek stories usually depict the adventures of humans and aliens who serve in the Federation's Starfleet. The protagonists are essentially altruists whose ideals are sometimes only imperfectly applied to the dilemmas presented in the series. The conflicts and political dimensions of Star Trek sometimes represent allegories for contemporary cultural realities: Star Trek: The Original Series addressed issues of the 1960s, just as later spin-offs have reflected issues of their respective decades. Issues depicted in the various series include war and peace, the value of personal loyalty, authoritarianism, imperialism, class warfare, economics, racism, religion, human rights, sexism and feminism, and the role of technology. Roddenberry stated: "[By creating] a new world with new rules, I could make statements about sex, religion, Vietnam, politics, and intercontinental missiles. Indeed, we did make them on Star Trek: we were sending messages and fortunately they all got by the network."
Roddenberry intended the show to have a highly progressive political agenda reflective of the emerging counter-culture of the youth movement, though he was not fully forthcoming to the networks about this. He wanted Star Trek to show mankind what it might develop into, if only it would learn from the lessons of the past, most specifically by ending violence. An extreme example are the Vulcans, who had a very violent past but learned to control their emotions. His efforts were somewhat thwarted by the network's concerns over marketability, e.g., they were opposed to Roddenberry's insistence on a racially diverse crew of the Enterprise.