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Star Trek became a cult sci-fi televison hit in the 1960s and 70s.
Star Trek is a science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry. Star Trek was aired from September 8, 1966 through June 3, 1969. 80 episodes of Star Trek were produced, 79 of which were aired. Although Star Trek was cancelled after a relatively short run, the program Star Trek was placed in syndication, where it spawned a strong fan following. Star Trek later achieved iconic status as an American - and eventually worldwide - television phenomenon.
Star Trek was set in the 23rd century. Star Trek follows the adventures of the Starship Enterprise and her crew, led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his First Officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Bill Shatner's legendary introduction to the show stated the starship's purpose and encapsulates the enduring draw for the fans then and now:
The success of the program was followed by five additional television series and eleven theatrical movies. The Guinness Book of Records lists it as having the largest number of spinoffs. Though the show was released as and is officially titled simply Star Trek, it has acquired the retronym Star Trek: The Original Series (sometimes shortened to ST:TOS or TOS), in order to distinguish this first series from the sequels which followed (all of which comprise the Star Trek universe or franchise). It was also sometimes known as Classic Trek.
When Star Trek debuted on NBC in 1966, it was not successful; ratings were low and advertising revenue was lackluster. During the show's second season, the threat of cancellation loomed. The show's devoted fanbase conducted an unprecedented letter-writing campaign, petitioning NBC to keep the show on the air. The fans succeeded in gaining a third season, however NBC moved the show to a certain Friday Night Death Slot, and ratings remained poor. The series was cancelled at the end of its third season. The show became successful in reruns, and thus the Star Trek saga was born.
Awards for Star Trek.
Although it never won, Star Trek was nominated for the following Emmy awards:
Eight of its episodes were nominated for one of science-fiction’s top awards, the Hugo Award, in the category "Best Dramatic Presentation". In 1967 the nominated episodes were "The Naked Time", "The Corbomite Maneuver", and "The Menagerie". In 1968 all nominees were Star Trek episodes: "Amok Time", "Mirror, Mirror", "The Doomsday Machine", "The Trouble with Tribbles", and "The City on the Edge of Forever". Unlike the Emmys, Star Trek won both years for the episodes "The Menagerie" and "The City on the Edge of Forever".
In 1968, Star Trek's most critically acclaimed episode, "City on the Edge of Forever" written by Harlan Ellison, won the prestigious Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Teleplay, although this was for Ellison's original draft script, and not for the screenplay of the episode as it aired.
Broadcast history of Star Trek on NBC television network. All times are Eastern Daylight Time.
Creation of Star Trek.
A longtime fan of science fiction, in 1960 Roddenberry put together a proposal for Star Trek, a science fiction television series set on board a large interstellar space ship dedicated to exploring the galaxy. Some influences Roddenberry noted were A. E. van Vogt's tales of the Space Beagle, Eric Frank Russell's Marathon stories, and the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet. Parallels have also been drawn with the 1954 TV scifi series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, a much less sophisticated space opera that nevertheless included many of the elements -- organization, crew relationships, missions, elements of bridge layout, and even some technology -- that made up Star Trek. Roddenbery also drew heavily from the Horatio Hornblower novels depicting a daring sea captain exercising broad discretionary authority on distant missions of noble purpose; his Kirk character was more or less Hornblower in space. Roddenberry had extensive experience in writing westerns that were particularly popular television fare at the time, and pitched the show to the network as a "Wagon Train to the stars."
In 1964, Roddenberry secured a three-year development deal with leading independent TV production company Desilu (founded by comedy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz). In Roddenberry's original concept, the protagonist was named Captain Robert April of the "S.S. Yorktown". Eventually, this character became Captain Christopher Pike. The first pilot episode, "The Cage", was made in 1964, with actor Jeffrey Hunter in the role of Pike.
At a time when racial segregation was still firmly entrenched in many areas of the United States, Roddenberry envisaged a multi-racial and mixed-gender crew, based on his assumption that racial prejudice and sexism would not exist in the 23rd century. He also included recurring characters from alien races, including Spock, who was half human and half Vulcan, united under the banner of the United Federation of Planets.
Other innovative Star Trek features involved solutions to basic production problems. The idea of the faster-than-light warp drive was not new to science fiction, but it allowed a narrative device that permitted the Enterprise to quickly traverse space. The matter transporter, where crew members "beamed" from place to place, solved the problem of moving characters quickly from the ship to a planet, a spacecraft landing sequence for each episode being prohibitively expensive. The famous flip-open communicator was introduced as a plot device to strand the characters in challenging situations by malfunctioning, being lost or stolen, or out of range; absent such a device, the characters could simply beam up at the first sign of trouble. The flip-open communicator has been copied in many popular cell phone designs from the mid-1990's on.
The Star Trek concept was first offered to the CBS network, but the channel turned it down for the more mainstream Irwin Allen production, Lost In Space. Star Trek was then offered to NBC, who commissioned and then turned down the first pilot (NBC executives would later be quoted as saying that the initial pilot episode was 'too cerebral'). However, the NBC executives were favorably impressed with the concept and made the unusual decision to commission a second pilot: "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Only the character of Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) remained from the original pilot, and only two cast members (Majel Barrett and Leonard Nimoy) carried on to the series. Much of the first pilot's footage was used in a later two-part episode, "The Menagerie".
The second pilot introduced the main characters: Captain Kirk (William Shatner), chief engineer Lieutenant Commander Scott (James Doohan) and Lieutenant Sulu (George Takei); Sulu's title in this episode was Ship's Physicist (changed to Helmsman in subsequent episodes). Chief medical officer and the captain's confidante Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) (a Dr. Piper was present on the pilot), Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) and communications officer Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) were introduced later. Roddenberry's inclusion of the Asian Sulu and black Uhura, both of them intelligent, well-spoken professionals, was a bold move when most television characters of the time were white and those who weren't were often presented in a highly stereotypical manner.
Roddenberry's production staff included art director Matt Jefferies. Jefferies designed the Enterprise; his contribution was commemorated in the so-called Jefferies tube, which became a standard part of the (fictional) design of Federation starships. Jefferies' starship concepts arrived at a final saucer-and-cylinders design that became a template for all subsequent Federation space vehicles. Jefferies also developed the main set for the Enterprise bridge (based on an original design by Pato Guzman) and used his practical experience as a WWII airman and his knowledge of aircraft design to come up with a sleek, functional, ergonomic bridge layout. Costume designer William Ware Theiss created the striking look of the Enterprise uniforms and the risqué costumes for female guest stars. Artist and sculptor Wah Chang, who had worked for Walt Disney, was hired to design and manufacture props: he created the flip-open communicator, the portable sensing-recording-computing tricorder and the phaser weapons. Later, he would create various memorable aliens, such as the Gorn.
The series introduced television viewers to many ideas which later became common in science fiction films: warp drive, teleportation, wireless hand-held communicators and scanners, directed energy weapons, desktop computer terminals, laser surgery, starship cloaking devices, and computer speech synthesis. Although these concepts had numerous antecedents in sci-fi literature and film, they had never before been integrated in one presentation and most of them were certainly new to TV. Even the ship's automatic doors were a novel feature in 1966.
After a few episodes were in the can, but before they had been officially aired, Roddenberry screened one or two of them at a major science fiction convention, and, according to legend, received a standing ovation.
Characterizations on Star Trek.
Star Trek made celebrities of its cast of largely unknown actors. Kelley had appeared in many films and TV shows, but mostly in smaller roles. Shatner and Nimoy also had previous TV and film experience but neither was very well-known (although Shatner had starred as the terrified air traveler in the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"). After the episodes aired, many performers found themselves type-cast due to their roles.
The three main characters were Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, with writers often playing the different personalities off each other: Kirk was passionate and often aggressive, Spock was coolly logical, and McCoy was sardonic but always compassionate. In many stories the three clashed, with Kirk forced to make a tough decision while Spock advocated the logical but sometimes callous path and McCoy (or "Bones," as Kirk nicknamed him (short for "sawbones," a traditional, slightly pejorative nickname for doctors)) insisted on doing whatever would cause the least harm. McCoy and Spock had a sparring relationship that masked their true affection and respect for each other, and their constant arguments became very popular with viewers. The Spock character was at first rejected by network officials who feared that his vaguely "satanic" appearance (with pointed ears and eyebrows) might prove upsetting to some viewers. The network had even airbrushed out Spock's pointed ears and eyebrows from publicity materials sent to the network affiliates. But Spock went on to become one of the most popular characters on the show as was McCoy's impassioned country-doctor personality. Spock, in fact, became a sex symbol of sorts, something nobody connected with the show had expected.
Some advocates of logic in real life have criticised the depiction of Spock as logical arguing that his actions in the series did not support this. Originally intended in the series as a foil to Kirk's intuition, and as a demonstration of the perils of being overly logical, Spock's actions are often based on inadequate or willfully ignored information. In order to disguise both their own inability to create a truly logical character, and to demonise the exercise of logic generally, the writers are sometime accused of characterising Spock as "rigid, inclined to ignore or disregard relevant information, and both emotionless and disregarding the emotions of others"as a substitute for logic. To pick just one example, a truly logical leader, knowing he led emotional men, would not disregard their emotions in difficult situations or expect them to be successful in suppressing them entirely but would rather include their likely emotions, and the unavoidable consequences of those emotions, into his assessment. Most fans defend Spock's lack of total logic due to the character being half human.
The series was created during a time of Cold War politics, and the plots of its episodes occasionally reflected this. The original series shows encounters with other advanced spacefaring civilizations, including the Klingons and the Romulans, both of which were involved in separate "cold wars" with the Federation.
Episodes of Star Trek.
In terms of its writing, Star Trek is notable as one of the earliest science-fiction TV series to utilize the services of leading contemporary science fiction writers, such as Harlan Ellison and Theodore Sturgeon, as well as established TV writers. Series script editor Dorothy C. Fontana (originally Roddenberry's secretary) was also a vital part of the success of Star Trek - she edited most of the series' scripts and wrote several episodes. Her credits read D.C. Fontana at the suggestion of Gene Roddenberry since he felt that a woman might not be taken seriously because almost all science fiction writers were men.
Several notable themes were tackled throughout the entire series. The most important was the exploration of major issues of 1960s USA, like sexism, racism, nationalism, and global war. Roddenberry utilized the allegory of a space vessel set many years in the future to explore these issues. For example, Star Trek was one of the first (though not, as is frequently repeated, the very first) television shows to feature an interracial kiss (in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren"), although because of the censorship of such displays prevalent at the time, it was depicted as being compelled by an alien of great mental ability, not as a voluntary act.
One of the most celebrated episodes was "The City on the Edge of Forever" written by Harlan Ellison, which garnered both the Hugo Award and Writers Guild Award. Guest starring Joan Collins, the story dealt with the concept of time travel and changing the future, later utilized in films such as The Terminator (the end credits of which acknowledge Ellison's works) and Back to the Future. The first-season episode "The Menagerie" also won a Hugo Award.
Episodes such as "The Apple", "Who Mourns for Adonais?", and "The Return of the Archons" display subtle anti-religious themes. "Bread and Circuses" and "The Omega Glory" have themes that are more overtly pro-religion and patriotic. Network interference, up to and including wholesale censorship of scripts and film footage, was a regular occurrence in the 1960s and Star Trek suffered from its fair share of tampering. Many scripts had to be revised after vetting by the NBC censors and, according to one book about the series, the gaping mouth of the "salt vampire" monster in the episode "The Man Trap" was actually an in-joke which referred to the network censors' persistent habit of cutting love scenes which featured open-mouthed kisses.
The Original Series was also noted for its sense of humor, such as Spock and McCoy's pointed, yet friendly, bickering. Episodes like "The Trouble with Tribbles", "I, Mudd" and "A Piece of the Action" are written and staged as comedies. The third season episode "Spock's Brain" is an all-out parody of the show, written by the reportedly disgruntled writer/producer Gene L. Coon under the pen name "Lee Cronin". Star Trek's humor is generally much more subdued in the spin-offs and movies, with notable exceptions such as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Several episodes used the conceit of duplicate Earths, allowing re-use of stock props and sets. "Bread and Circuses", "Miri" and "The Omega Glory" depict such worlds, and two episodes, "A Piece of the Action", and "Patterns of Force" are based on alien planets that have adopted period Earth costumes (Prohibition and Nazi, respectively).
All 79 episodes of the series have been digitally remastered by CBS Paramount Domestic Television, and have since been released on DVD in the "official order", which does not coincide with original air date.
Best episodes of Star Trek.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the following are the ten best episodes of Star Trek:
"Star Trek Memories".
In 1983, Leonard Nimoy hosted a one-hour special as a promotional tie-in with the film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, in which he recounted his memories of working on The Original Series and explained the origins of things such as the Vulcan nerve pinch and the Vulcan hand salute. This special continues to be widely seen in some areas; it was included in the syndication package for The Original Series, in order to bump up the episode count to 80.
Music from Star Trek.
The show's theme tune was written by Alexander Courage, immediately recognizable by many, and has been featured in a number of Star Trek spin-off episodes and motion pictures. The "lyrics" for the introduction were written by Gene Roddenberry without Courage's knowledge and without intending for them ever to be sung. Roddenberry would nevertheless get a 50% share of the music's performance royalties. Jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson would record a "fusion" version of the tune with his big band during the late 70's as well.
Dramatic underscore of Star Trek.
For budgetary reasons, this series made significant use of "tracked" music, or music written for other episodes that was re-used in later episodes. Of the 79 episodes that were broadcast, only 31 had complete or partial original dramatic underscores created specifically for them; the remainder of music in any episode was tracked from a different episode. It was primarily the decision of Robert H. Justman, credited as Associate Producer during the first two seasons, which episodes would have new music.
Screen credits for the composers were given based on the amount of music composed for, or composed and re-used in, the episode. Some of these final credits were, though, occasionally incorrect.
Beyond the short works of "source" music (music whose source is seen or acknowledged onscreen) created for specific episodes, eight composers were contracted to create original dramatic underscore during the series run: Alexander Courage, George Duning, Jerry Fielding, Gerald Fried, Sol Kaplan, Samuel Matlovsky, Joseph Mullendore and Fred Steiner. All conducted their own music. Of these composers, Steiner composed original music for the largest number of episodes totalling eleven, and it is his instrumental arrangement of Alexander Courage's main theme that is heard over many of the end title credits of the series.
The tracked musical underscores were chosen and edited to the episode by music editors, principal of whom were Robert Raff (most of Season One), Jim Henrikson (Season One and Two), and Richard Lapham (Season Three).
The original recordings of the music of some episodes were released in the United States commercially on the GNP Crescendo label. Music for a number of the episodes were re-recorded by the Varese Sarabande label, with Fred Steiner conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; and on the Label X label, with Tony Bremner conducting the Royal Philharmonic.
Cast of Star Trek.
Sulu and Uhura were not given first names in this series. Sulu's first name, Hikaru, was revealed non-canonically in Vonda McIntyre's Pocket Book novel Enterprise: The First Adventure. The name was "officially" put into the canon by George Takei in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Uhura's first name was never mentioned on screen, but the name Nyota was used in fandom, and in Pocket Book novels. The Original Series holds the record for the most original novels, with over 100 published (including the James Blish and Star Trek Logs book series). Kirk's middle name was never used in the series until the episode B.E.M. in Star Trek: The Animated Series.
Majel Barrett also provided the voice of the computer in TOS and many other Star Trek series and movies. She also played (as a brunette) the part of Captain Pike's First Officer in the pilot episode "The Cage". Barrett married Roddenberry in 1969.
The relatively young, mop-topped Russian navigator Chekov was added in the second season. There may be some truth to the unofficial story that the Soviet newspaper Pravda complained that there were no Russians among the culturally diverse characters. However, studio documentation suggests that the intention was to introduce a character with more appeal to a teenage market, especially the female sector. It's also been claimed that former Monkees member Davy Jones may have served as a model for the character.
In addition, the series frequently included characters (usually security personnel wearing red uniforms) who are killed or injured soon after their introduction. So prevalent was this plot device that it inspired the term "redshirt" to denote a stock character whose sole purpose is to die violently in order to demonstrate the dangerous circumstances facing the main characters.
Star Trek Original Series cameos in later series.
The sequel to the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered in 1987, was set approximately 80 years after the events of TOS. As that show and its spin-offs progressed, several TOS characters made appearances:
Besides the above examples, there have been numerous non-canon novels and comic books published over the years in which TOS-era crew are depicted in the TNG era, either through time-travel or other means. In addition, many actors who appeared on TOS later made guest appearances as different characters in later series, most notably Majel Barrett, who not only provided the voice for most Starfleet computers in episodes of every spin-off series (including Enterprise), but also had the recurring role of Lwaxana Troi in TNG and DS9.
Star Trek 2.0 on G4.
On April 10, 2006, an interactive version of TOS, known as "Star Trek 2.0," began broadcast on the television channel G4 where members can use the online chat and "Spock Market." Messages from the online chat may be shown during the broadcast along with "Trek Stats" and "Trek Facts." The feature debuted on the cable network G4 began playing episodes of Star Trek along with showing interactive menus. Presently it not shown on G4 at all.
On January 15, 2007, G4 launched Star Trek: The Next Generation 2.0 at 9:00pm Monday through Friday. A press release for the show indicated it features TNG Facts and Stats along with 32 (up from 24) new stocks for the Spock Market game. Star Trek: The Next Generation 2.0 was later removed from Monday nights. It is now shown in 2.0 format only on Saturdays from 7 PM to 9 PM.
An urgent subspace message on the Star Trek 2.0 Hailing Frequencies e-newsletter stated that Star Trek: The Next Generation 2.0 is scheduled for a refit. It will no longer feature live chat, stats, or facts on screen. But the Spock Market game will still be active and continue running as usual.
Also, on April 16th The Original Series 2.0 returned from its nearly 3 weeks of a 2 week 'refit' on weekday mornings at 9am EST/PST, with "Where No Man Has Gone Before".
On May 7, 2007...less than a month later G4 canceled TOS 2.0 with no warning or announcement. The only way this was confirmed was on G4's own network schedule posting. All other TV guides and listings had it still running.
At this rate...TNG 2.0 has an unknown and uncertain future. It is hard to speculate how much longer it will remain.
Star Trek: Remastered series.
In September 2006, CBS Paramount Television began syndication of an enhanced version of Star Trek: The Original Series in high definition with new state-of-the-art CGI visual effects. These are being done under the supervision of Mike Okuda, technical consultant to the show. All live action footage was scanned in high definition from its original 35mm film elements, while visual effects shots have been digitally reproduced. Notable changes include new space shots with a CGI Enterprise, and other new models (a Gorn ship is shown in Arena for example), redone matte background shots, and other minor touches such as tidying up viewscreens, etc. A small number of scenes have also been recomposed, and in some cases new actors have been placed into the background of some shots. In addition, the opening and closing music has been re-recorded in digital stereo.
The first episode to be released to syndication was "Balance of Terror" on the weekend of September 16, 2006. Episodes are being released at the rate of about one a week and broadcast in 4:3. And the visual effects artists heading the remastering report a great deal of positive feedback.
While the CG shots have already been mastered in 16:9 for future applications, they are currently broadcast along with the live action footage in the original 4:3 TV format to respect the show's original composition. If the producers choose to reformat the entire show for 16:9, live action footage would have to be recropped, widening the frame to the full width of the 35mm negatives while trimming its height by nearly 30%; though this would add a marginal amount of imagery on the sides, much more would need to be eliminated from the top and bottom of the frame to fit.
Fan material and downloads from Star Trek.
Star Trek has inspired fan-made and -produced series for free internet distribution, including Star Trek: New Voyages. Walter Koenig, D. C. Fontana and other Star Trek actors and production personnel have participated in producing various episodes.
In January 2007, the first season of Star Trek became available for download from Apple's iTunes Store. Although consumer reviews indicate that some of the episodes on iTunes are the newly "remastered" editions, iTunes editors have not indicated such, and if so, which are which.
All first season episodes that had been remastered and aired were available from iTunes, except Where No Man Has Gone Before, which remain in its original form.
On 20 March 2007, the first season was again added to the iTunes Store, with separate downloads for the original and remastered versions of the show, though according to the customer reviews, the original version contains minor revisions such as special effect enhancements.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 videogame console provides downloads of the Original series on the Xbox Live Marketplace.
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