To boldly go where no man has gone before - Star Trek Revisited
I, as most fans of Science Fiction, began my life-long love of the genre by watching “Star Trek”. I honestly didn’t discover the series on my own. I was “persuaded” to watch the series by my older cousin Rick, who was an avid fan. The first episode I ever saw was “Arena” which pitted Captain Kirk against the lizard-man captain of the Gorn species in a fight to the death orchestrated by yet another unseen alien species. Being a young man who was in love with Dinosaurs the reptilian Gorn first captured my interest, but it was the intelligent and well-written story that brought me back for more episodes. My own youthful spirit of adventure combined with a longing to travel beyond the boundaries of my own back yard were a perfect match for the series exploration storylines and charismatic characters. What six-year-old boy doesn’t long to pilot a starship across the vast unexplored regions of infinite space? Thus I became a Trekkie and a Sci-fi fan for life.
Although the show did enjoy a loyal fan following during its initial run on prime-time television it never was a ratings success. The network that aired the program, NBC, often switched the shows time slot and many times placed it opposite the competitions most popular programs. As is the case almost every time a show receives this form of shuffling, it spelled doom for “Star Trek” and the series was soon on the road to cancellation. A mass letter writing champagne organized by the shows loyal fans did persuade the network to extend the series one more season, but ultimately the ratings figures just weren’t high enough to keep the show on the air.
Syndication was the saving grace for “Star Trek”. Soon after the show had been canned by NBC, Paramount, who had purchased the rights to the show from Desilu, began shopping the show around to local TV affiliates. The show gained a huge following when it was marketed to younger viewers as part of their after school programming. Soon “Trek” toys began appearing on store shelves and a mass marketing snowball began rolling. Lunch boxes, posters, miniature starships and even an animated series were all hurriedly put into production. Fans began to organize fan clubs and conventions that quickly grew into large-scale star-studded events. Never before had a series been reborn in the manner “Star Trek.” did after it was syndicated. “Star Trek” quickly moved from a mere TV series to a cult phenomenon.
(More After The Break)
Originally the concept of Gene Roddenberry’s brainchild was a much different series all together. The show was initially conceived as a sort of “Wagon Train” in space that would have given the shows writers a vast variety of story concepts. Anyone who has seen the shows pilot episode “The Cage” understands that the original concept for “Star Trek” was a much different creature than what finally ended up on network television. In a lot of ways the show would have more resembled “Trek’s” offspring “Star Trek: The Next Generation” than the “use diplomacy while we charge the phasers” program we have all grown up with. The executives at NBC, however, believed that the show as too cerebral for the general American populous and only agreed to air the show if the scripts were “dumbed down”. Also the shows writers decided to streamline the plot to a basic “spaceship in trouble” format. Ultimately Roddenberry would have to make these changes in order to see his creation reach the airwaves.
“Star Trek” would employ some of the best writers in the genre including Robert Bloch and Jerome Bixby. (Fantastic Voyage, It! The Terror from Beyond Space) This talent pool would be responsible for some of the best series writing in the history of Sci-Fi TV. Ultimately many of these writers would come to resent the constant interference of both producer Gene Coon and consultant Dorothy C Fontana who were both responsible for adapting each screenplay. Many times the writers complained that what ended up on television didn’t live up to what they had put to paper. In fact Jerome Bixby’s son mentioned to me how much his father disliked the way his scripts had been reworked. He also stated that his father became visibly upset each time the episodes aired. Such is the television and movie business I suppose.
The show was designed to center around the Enterprises charismatic girl-chasing captain James T Kirk (William Shatner) however the focus of attention would belong to the ships second in command the always logical and unemotional half Vulcan half human Science Officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). This came much to the surprise of the series producers. Spock, it would seem, would become an unintentional sex symbol and icon to the shows female audience. It may be hard to believe but in the late 1960s’ Spock was considered the ultimate symbol of cool. Spock cooler than Captain Kirk? Initially yes. This factor would ultimately find its way into some of the series later episodes. Who’s cooler than someone who doesn’t seem to give a damn? Don’t tell Shatner. He still thinks it’s his show.
So now here we sit forty years (+) after “Star Trek” made its debut on American television. The show still enjoys the same popularity and loyal fan following it did after it entered into syndication. The franchise it spawned is still going strong with four spin-off television series and ten motion pictures (the 11th is in the concept stages) to its credit. There are still fan clubs and conventions. People still build life size replicas of the Enterprise Bridge in their living rooms and still many yet try to conquer the complex Klingon language. “Trek” is unique pop-culture phenomenon that perhaps only comes around only once in a lifetime. Maybe twice if you count “Star Wars”. Could a television series ever again achieve this kind of a cult following? Only time will tell. It is however certain that in another forty years there will be “Trekkies” somewhere out there.
Star Trek (1966-1969)
Aka: Star Trek The Original Series, Star Trek TOS
Created By: Gene Roddenberry
Written By: Gene Roddenberry
William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock
DeForest Kelley as Lt. Cmdr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy, M.D.
James Doohan as Lt. Cmdr. Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott
George Takei as Lt. Hikaru Sulu
Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Nyota Uhura
Walter Koenig as Ensign Pavel Chekov (1967-1969)
Majel Barrett as Nurse Christine Chapel / Number One (Pilot Episode)
Runtime: 79 - 60 Minute Episodes
Air Date: September 8, 1966
Star Trek - Episode List
The Cage ST:TOS 1 (originally un-aired) Unknown
The Man Trap ST:TOS 6 9/8/1966 1513.1
Charlie X ST:TOS 8 9/15/1966 1533.6
Where No Man Has Gone Before ST:TOS 2 9/22/1966 1312.4
The Naked Time ST:TOS 9/29/1966 1704.2
The Enemy Within ST:TOS 5 10/6/1966 1672.1 Mudd's Women ST:TOS 4 10/13/1966 1329.1
What Are Little Girls Made Of? ST:TOS 10 10/20/1966 2712.4
Miri ST:TOS 12 10/27/1966 2713.5
Dagger of the Mind ST:TOS 11 11/3/1966 2715.1
The Corbomite Maneuver ST:TOS 3 11/10/1966 1512.2
The Menagerie, Part I ST:TOS 16 11/17/1966 3012.4 The Menagerie, Part II ST:TOS 16 11/24/1966 3013.1
The Conscience of the King ST:TOS 13 12/8/1966 2817.6
Balance of Terror ST:TOS 9 12/15/1966 1709.2
Shore Leave ST:TOS 17 12/29/1966 3025.3
The Galileo Seven ST:TOS 14 1/5/1967 2821.5
The Squire of Gothos ST:TOS 18 1/12/1967 2124.5
Arena ST:TOS 19 1/19/1967 3045.6
Tomorrow is Yesterday ST:TOS 21 1/26/1967 3113.2 Court Martial ST:TOS 15 2/2/1967 2947.3
The Return of the Archons ST:TOS 22 2/9/1967 3156.2
Space Seed ST:TOS 24 2/16/1967 3141.9
A Taste of Armageddon ST:TOS 23 2/23/1967 3192.1
This Side of Paradise ST:TOS 25 3/2/1967 3417.3
The Devil in the Dark ST:TOS 26 3/9/1967 3196.1
Errand of Mercy ST:TOS 27 3/23/1967 3198.4
The Alternative Factor ST:TOS 20 3/30/1967 3087.6
The City on the Edge of Forever ST:TOS 28 4/6/1967 3134.0
Operation: Annihilate! ST:TOS 294/13/1967 3287.2