Happy Star Trek Day!
September 8th is the day Star Trek premiered back in 1966. Star Trek was a ground-breaking television show in many ways! Gene Roddenberry conceived Star Trek in 1964, inspired by Gulliver's Travels, Wagon Train, and Horatio Hornblower. The series follows the adventures of the USS Enterprise of the United Federation of Planets, an interstellar government set in the 23rd century that included humans and various alien species.
The Enterprise crew included a diverse cast: Captain James T. Kirk and 1st Officer Spock played by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy respectively, Chief Engineer Scotty, Medical Officer Leonard McCoy, and the notable Nichelle Nichols and George Takei as Lt. Uhura and Hikaru Sulu. The latter casting was especially notable because Nichols and Sulu came at a time when racial diversity in television was sorely lacking, and minorities very rarely had prominent heroic roles. One of the series' biggest fans was Dr. Martin Luther King, and his favorite character was Uhura. According to Dr. King, Star Trek was one of the only television shows his family went out of their way to watch.
The original show premiered on NBC to rave ratings and managed to secure support for three seasons. Originally aired in black and white, as most television series were at the time, the show was eventually remastered in color and updated with special effects. Star Trek married a futuristic setting with familiar character archetypes and relatable morals, while also pushing the boundaries on various topics, including authoritarianism, feminism, racism, sexism, and more. Star Trek tackled these various issues and often included guest appearances from other actors and actresses, including Ricardo Montalban (Fantasy Island), Kim Darby (True Grit), and Ted Cassidy (The Addams Family).
Star Trek ran for three seasons before finally being canceled in 1969, but that was far from the last adventure of the USS Enterprise. The first ever Star Trek Convention was held in 1972. The expectation was that only a couple hundred people would attend, but thousands of fans showed up. The popularity of the show continued while Paramount ran reruns of the show. In 1973, Paramount produced Star Trek: The Animated Series, which ran for another 22 episodes and included virtually the entire cast reprising their roles. The short-lived television series won an Emmy award (Best Series for Children's Entertainment) and paved the way for an avalanche of films: Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, and The Undiscovered Country. Years later, the first film of The Next Generation's era was Star Trek Generations, serving as an epilogue of sorts to the adventures of the original Star Trek cast.
By the 1990s, Star Trek was a thriving franchise that was already on its next series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and with many more to come. Future content would one day include a rebooted film series based on the original adventures of Kirk, Spock, and the crew. But that's a discussion for another day!
Feel free to relive the original series, and live long and prosper!