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History of Star Trek


It was 40 years ago today
Roddenberry taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile…

On September 8, 1966 the first episode of Star Trek premiered on NBC. The first episode shown was “Man Trap” aka the Salt Vampire, but that was not the first episode recorded.

The first pilot, began on December 12, 1964 at the Desilu Studios. This pilot, “The Cage” starring Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Pike was seen 2 years later inside a later, 2-part episode in November of 1966 called “Menagerie”. The pilot also featured a female “Number One” played by Majel Barrett, and an excitable pointed-ear “Martian” named Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy.

The NBC executives asked for some changes and called for a second pilot. This second pilot, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, starred William Shatner as Captain Kirk. The network said, “Get rid of the woman and the guy with the pointed ears”. So he married the woman, Majel Barret, and kept the guy with the pointed ears. Leonard Nimoy would not have had it the other way around. The woman dyed her hair blond and waited in her husband’s reception office so that when he walked in even he didn’t recognize her. She became Nurse Chapel. The guy with the pointed ears, this “Martian”, became less emotional, more logical, and Vulcan green rather than Martian red (which wouldn’t photograph correctly).

The series lasted for 3 of the “5 year mission” of the Starship Enterprise, a victim of poor ratings. Ironically, the following year, demographics were used and it was discovered that Star Trek was appealing to exactly the kind of audience that advertisers wanted!

The show remained incredibly popular in syndication, spawning 19 years later another TV series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Then there was “ST: Deep Space Nine,” later “ST: Voyager” and eventually a kind of prequel, “Enterprise.” There was even an animated Saturday morning series that ran from 1973-74 with the voices of some of the original show.

There are Trekkies, Trekkers, and Trek junkies. I belong to the later. I remember watching the previews in the summer of 1966, “A starship the size of a city!” I’ve personally seen or met all of the cast of “Star Trek Classic”, and half of the cast of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

I’ve always been there the first day of the movie premiers. On December 7, 1979, a day that will live in infamy, the first full length movie opened, “Star Trek: The Motionless Picture”. Despite a plodding plot, the movie did amazing well, and led to 9 more films. The second, “Star Trek II” The Wrath of Kahn” was considered the best by the faithful, featuring a return engagement of a popular opponent from Kirk’s past. When it was leaked that Spock would die, a futile boycott was called. A hasty tag-on was filmed and put on the end of the movie.

This movie was followed by the Leonard Nimoy directed “ST III: the Search for Spock”, which was followed by “ST IV: Still Looking for Spock”. Just kidding. “ST IV: The Search For Whales”, I mean, “The Voyage Home”, was considered the most generally popular and successful of the movies, with plenty of jokes and a modern-day San Francisco as a back drop.

Now that Leonard Nimoy had directed his second film, William Shatner wanted a turn. “ST V: What a Mistake” came out, as his first and last excursion. The campout with the backdrop of Yosemite couldn’t pull this one out of the fire.

“ST VI: Quoting Lines From Hamlet” was the last of the Classic-era movies, and featured Kirk’s last heard line as Captain of the Enterprise, a line I’ve been waiting for him to say for years… It’s a line quoted by another fly-boy hero of mine:

“Second star to the right and straight on till morning.”

This was followed by “Star Trek Generations,” a mixture of the old Classic-era generation and an extended Next Generation episode. Here we see the changing of the guard as Scotty, Checkov, and Kirk inaugurate the Enterprise NCC 1701-B.

Subsequent movies featured the cast of the Pepsi-Generation series: “First Contact” where we go back in time and meet the inventor of warp drive (faster than light speed travel.) “Insurrection” followed with the Next Generation cast again, directed by TNG First Officer Will Riker, aka Jonathan Frakes, as he had directed “First Contact” and episodes of “TNG,”

“Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager.” “Star Trek X” was release in 2002 and should have been subtitled “Send in the Clones” but was not enough to push the franchise further for several years. In general, the even numbered movies were better than the odd numbered ones.

The last TV series, “Enterprise” has a relatively short life, compared with The Next Generation, Deep Space 9, or Voyager.

But rumors persist that J.J. Abrams is working on Star Trek XI for 2008 and hope rings eternal for Trek junkies like me.

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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