A Brief History
On September 8, 1966, Americans in love with science fiction were treated to the most iconic space-oriented television show of all time when Star Trek made its debut on NBC.
In the days before cable or satellite television, VHS or DVDs, Americans usually only had 3 television channels to choose between. Better-equipped households might also have gotten the PBS station on ultra high frequency (UHF) television. TV shows were a much bigger deal in those days, with each show having much less competition than now.
Detailing the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the crew of the Enterprise, the original Star Trek ran for three seasons, though it was nearly cancelled during its second season, however, public outcry kept the show around for its third and final season. The original series was followed by a short-lived animated series and 6 feature films that had mostly the same characters and actors playing them.
Other more recent television versions included Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek Deep Space 9, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. All in all, well over 700 episodes aired. Another 4 feature films based on Star Trek: The Next Generation have been made, as well as 2 more films based on the original series as a “reboot.” A third “reboot” film is planned for 2016. So far 6 television series independent of the franchise and several independent Star Trek films called “fan films” have also been made.
The Star Trek phenomenon also spawned comic books, magazines, novels, all sorts of toys and games, logo T-shirts and sweat shirts, Halloween costumes and 2 traveling exhibits of memorabilia. The merchandising franchise is owned by CBS and is worth billions of dollars. There was even a Star Trek-themed attraction in Las Vegas from 1998 to 2008. Star Trek conventions bring special appearances by the old actors and are attended by thousands of fans called “Trekkies.”
Needless to say, anything this popular also draws spoofs and skits galore, even as far away as Germany! Please watch the above Youtube video for an example of this.
History and Headlines Fact: The original series exposed American audiences to the first interracial kiss on a television show.
The original Star Trek series has become the most persistent cult favorite television show, and the actors from that series have become icons: William Shatner (Capt. Kirk); Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock); DeForest Kelly (“Bones”); George Takei (Mr. Sulu); Patrick Doohan (“Scotty”); Walter Koenig (Chekov); and Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) have become as familiar to Americans as family members.
Question for students (and subscribers): How has Star Trek touched your life? Did you play with Star Trek toys or carry a Star Trek lunch box to school? Did you use the “Vulcan death grip” on your little brother? When was the last time you ordered someone to “Beam me up, Scotty!”? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
For another interesting event that happened on September 8, please see the History and Headlines article: “Infamous Pardons.”
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For more information, please see…
Block, Paula, Terry Erdmann, et al. Star Trek: The Original Series 365. Harry N. Abrams, 2010.