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Star Trek Turns 43

It was 43 years ago today when Star Trek was born, or at least when it aired its first episode on NBC. Since that time Star Trek has been through a lot with ups and downs along the way. Today we take a trip down memory lane, counting the years since Star Trek was new.  

 

43 YEARS OF STAR TREK
This article runs through all 43 years of the life of Star Trek, picking one (or two) major events from each year, and illustrating each year with an image or video. This is not a comprehensive history of every moment in Trek, but just a way to see how in each year since it first premiered, Star Trek evolved and changed.

1966: Star Trek Premieres
At 8:30PM ON September 8th, 1966 NBC aired the first episode of Star Trek "The Man Trap" (which was actually the 6th episode produced). After the first episode, Gene Roddenberry received a letter that says "Dear Gene and the rest of you hard working people…Just heard the good news and want you to know how proud and happy I am. Looks like you really have a hit on your hands and we appreciate all your efforts." The note is signed just Lucy (Lucille Ball, owner of Desilu, the company that makes Star Trek). The show will eventually be nominated for an Emmy for Best Dramatic Show and Leonard Nimoy will be nominated every year of the show for Best Supporting Actor.

1967: Star Trek enters publishing
Less than a year into production and Star Trek had already branched out with into comic books (published by Gold Key) as well as novelizations adaptations of episodes (published by Bantam). The first original novel ("Mission to Horatius") and reference book ("The Making of Star Trek") followed a year later. Since then the original series and spin-offs have inspired hundreds of novels and comics. 1967 also brought the first fan fiction fanzine, Spocknalia.

1968: Fan Protests Save the Show
Fans protest the cancellation of Star Trek in January outside NBC and through a letter-writing campaign save the show for a third season, something unprecedented at the time.

1969: Star Trek cancelled – Man on the moon
Star Trek was born in the space race and even though there was another fan campaign, the final episode aired on June 3rd 1969, and just a month later the Apollo 11 mission successfully landed a man on the moon.

1970: It’s Dead, Jim?
Cancelled off the airwaves, with just a single book released in the US, Star Trek seemed dead. However, it did live in through the growing fanzines. From just the one in 1967, there were now many with new ones propping up every year. During this period William Shatner traveled the country doing dinner theater and living in a camper and riding his motorcycle.

1971: First Star Trek video game
"Star Trek", a text-based BASIC (and unofficial) Star Trek game becomes a computer favorite. The game eventually became "Super Star Trek" which obtained permission to use the name in 1974, more games followed on computer and console platforms, slowly in the 70s but with dozens in the 80s and 90s.

1972: The first Star Trek convention – reruns
New York is the first city to host a Star Trek only convention from January 21-23, 1972. It was a huge success, leading to dozens more in the 70s and beyond both fan run and commercial. This year also marked when Star Trek returned to the air in syndication, where the show began to find a new audience and grow in popularity.

1973: Animated Trek
Star Trek was back, kindof. The show returned with the original cast for a low-cost Filmation animated series, earning an Emmy and introducing Kirk’s middle name and a prototype holodeck.

1974: Starfleet (The International Star Trek Fan Association) begins
Starting with a club in Texas, fan clubs get organized and form "Starfleet" which is still going today with over 200 region chapters around the world. Eventually in 1982 Paramount would sponsor an official Star Trek fan club.

1975: Star Trek Audio Adventures
Written by scribes such as Alan Dean Foster, Star Trek lives in original audio adventures from Peter Pan records (not featuring the original cast). Future original audio adventures feature original cast members, notably George Takei for a series of Sulu Audio adventures.

1976: Shuttle named "Enterprise"
On September 17, President Gerald Ford’s decree that the prototype Space Shuttle be named after the fictional starship Enterprise becomes reality after receiving nearly 400,000 letters. Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek stars show up for the unveiling.

1977: Star Wars
In the same year Paramount announces that it will be launching a new TV network with a new Star Trek TV show as the anchor, the stunning popularity of Star Wars (along with Close Encounters) helps sparks a resurgence in science-fiction.

1978: Phase II to TMP
The Star Trek Phase II TV series is scrapped and Paramount holds biggest press conference in years announcing major Star Trek motion picture to be directed by multiple Oscar-winner. Robert Wise. 

1979: The Motion Picture
December 7th would see the first Star Trek motion picture eventually earn $85 million with Jerry Goldsmith nominated for an Oscar for his soundtrack. The film also makes history as the first movie tie-in for a McDonald’s Happy Meal. However, the studio feels the film fell short of expectations.

1980: Star Trek comes home
Star Trek’s long history in home entertainment starts (officially) with the release of The Motion Picture on VHS in 1980. Unofficial versions of TOS were also available, but Paramount would release the show later in the 1980s. Star Trek also came home on CED VideoDisc and late on LaserDisks.

1981: script leaks + fanzine letter + Star Trek goes online
1981 is when the fans really started to be heard. Fanzines were flourishing and again Star Trek struck into the new technology when Net.StarTrek, the first Star Trek USENET group, was created (later renamed rec.arts.startrek). During 1981 the script for the upcoming 2nd Star Trek film was leaked and fans learned of the death of Spock, prompting Gene Roddenberry to write a letter to a fanzine protesting, as well as an ad taken out by fans in The Hollywood Reporter, which resulted in a front page story in The Wall Street Journal.

1982: The Wrath of Khan Premieres
June 4, a new team lead by producer Harve Bennett and director Nicholas Meyer help reinvigorate the Star Trek with $79 million in earnings and near universal critical praise, creating a science-fiction classic.

1983: First Star Trek TV Special
Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek Memories is the first television show dedicated to the history and making of Star Trek.

1984: The Search for Spock Premieres
Another June Star Trek film brings $76 million to the box office with Leonard Nimoy’s directorial debut.

1985: Riverside Iowa
Riverside Iowa is granted permission by Gene Roddenberry to be the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk. Riverside is official recognized in 2009’s Star Trek feature film.

1986: The Voyage Home Premieres
For Star Trek 20th anniversary year,
November 26 brought the fourth Star Trek film, and instead of slowing, the box office is an incredible $109 million with the film that had the most mass-appeal.

1987: Star Trek The Next Generation Premieres
18 Emmy Awards, including Best Dramatic Show would be just a few of the accolades for the 178 episodes that follow TNG’s September 1987 premiere.

1988: Star Trek: The Adventure
Star Trek becomes a live action interactive event at Universal Studios Hollywood for the next 6 years.

1989: The Final Frontier Panned
A return to summer Star Trek, the June 9th premiere portends good things with Trek opening as the #1 film of the week. However, competition and critics will eventually limit the film to only $52 million domestically, with this 5th film widely considered to be one of (if not the) worst of the series.

1990: "The Best of Both Worlds" – Best Cliffhanger, ever
TNG transcends itself on June 1990 with arguably the most popular episode of all time, and considered by TV Guide to be one of the best cliffhangers ever. 

1991: The Undiscovered Country Premieres – Roddenberry passes
While
Nicholas Meyer returns to direct the sixth and final original crew feature, restoring the honor for the TOS film series and earning $74 million domestically, the year also sees the passing of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.

1992: Playmates Toys Gets License
Playmates Toys, the company which has made more Star Trek toys and items than another licensee, begins its association with Star Trek. The toys are wildly popular during the 1990s, and many fans are happy when the company gets a license for ST09 toys.

1993: Deep Space Nine Premieres
January sees the beginning of Star Trek’s last syndicated show and first show without Gene Roddenberry, eventually running seven years for a total of 173 episodes. It was the biggest syndicated premiere at that time and began the era with two concurrently running Star Trek series. 

1994: Star Trek Generations Premieres
Captain Kirk (and the Enterprise D) bow out in November with this film featuring some of the original and all of the TNG crew. It will earn $75 million domestically.

1995: Star Trek Voyager Premieres
Winning 6 technical Emmys, Voyager will run 170 episodes and is the first Star Trek return to network (UPN) television.

1996: Star Trek First Contact Premieres
November 22nd is the premiere for the second TNG era film, earning $92 million and with amped up action and a new ship, the film is considered the best of the TNG era.

1997: Starfleet Academy
Interplay releases one of Star Trek’s most popular video games, most notable as it features William Shatner, George Takei, and Walter Koenig as their characters one last time (Shatner would later voice Kirk again for the game Star Trek Legacy, and spoof his role for a Direct TV commercial).

1998: Star Trek’s Experience and it’s Insurrection
The year begins with the opening of Star Trek: The Experience and ends with the December 11th premiere of Star Trek Insurrection ($70 million domestically in box office earnings).

1999: Star Trek moves to DVD
Actually starting in late 1998, Star Trek The Original Series and the feature films start to be released on DVD for the first time with seven releases in 1999, until eventually every season of the live action shows, and every film released at least once or twice by 2005 (with TAS released in 2006).

2000: Star Trek slowing down
With Deep Space Nine wrapping up in 1999, 2000 was the first year since 1992 without two Star Trek shows on the air. Also, following the disappointment with Insurrection, Paramount chose to wait longer than the usual 2 years for the next feature film, all signaling a slowing of the franchise which had peaked in popularity only a few years earlier. Voyager, with the inclusion of Jeri Ryan and amped up Borg, flies the flag alone.

2001: Star Trek Enterprise Premieres
98 episodes and 4 Emmy wins await the latest Star Trek television incarnation, with jumped back to the 22nd century and tried a different take on the franchise.

2002: Star Trek Nemesis Bombs
The TNG era takes its swan song as competition and critical and fan response end the TNG era with a disappointing $42 million in a film written by Oscar-winning scribe John Logan.

2003: Activision Lawsuit – troubles continue
In another sign of trouble, Star Trek’s gaming licensee sues Viacom/Paramount for breech of contract in order to get out of its licensing deal. The suit alleges that Viacom has allowed the Trek franchise to "stagnate and decay". Star Trek Elite Force II will be their last release as the parties settle and Star Trek finds itself without a gaming licensee. At this point it also had no comic licensee as DC comics let that lapse years earlier and the new toy licensee (Art Asylum) output slows to a trickle. All the while Enterprise ratings continue to fall.

2004: Star Trek Fan Films break through
Star Trek fan films go back to the 70s and Internet fan films were being put out by the Hidden Frontier team since 2000, but they hit the big time in 2004 with Star Trek New Voyages, spawning even more fan films in the years since.

2005: Enterprise cancelled Star Trek declared "Fatigued"
With the cancellation of Enterprise, the dismantling of the Official Star Trek fan club, the loss of James Doohan, and other bad news, Star Trek is declared irrelevant and fatigued. Although there were some attempts by fans to keep the show alive, the ratings were not enough and Star Trek was off the air for the first time since 1987.

2006: Star Trek Remastered + signs of life
For the 40th anniversary of Star Trek CBS (now owner of Star Trek on TV since Viacom split in 2005) decides to digitally remaster The Original Series in HD and air it in broadcast syndication. In addition, 2006 brings the first news that Paramount has a development deal with JJ Abrams who will possibly produce a new Star Trek feature film.

2007: Paramount announces Star Trek feature film
After almost a year of development and rumors, Paramount finally announce that JJ Abrams and a new team will make a new tent pole movie, simply titled Star Trek. Later in 2007 the pre-TOS era is confirmed with all the original roles recast and the film goes intro production before the end of the year.

2008: Star Trek Merchandising
While the high profile feature film continues in production and post production (including being extended to 2009), retro Star Trek merchandising helps reveal Trek’s return to the mainstream as items begin appearing online and in many retail stores from Walgreens, WalMart, Target, and Toys R Us again after many years.

2009: ‘Star Trek’ becomes a hit – future confirmed
Star Trek is back, making over $250M domestically, suddenly, Trek is cool again. The studio has already put a sequel into development so it looks like Star Trek has once again come back from looked like the end.

 

Thanks to My Star Trek Scrapbook, Memory Alpha, Memory Beta, the YouTubers and everyone else who helped. 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
September 8, 2009 10:38 am

This was a lot more than I expected. Good work, TrekMovie Staff, on a comprehensive retrospective.

CmdrR
September 8, 2009 10:39 am

43 years and these are all the clips and snippets you could find??

Ha!

Happy Birthday, Trek. Life begins at 43!

--Mandalore--
September 8, 2009 10:43 am

43 years and going strong, Happy B-day Star Trek!!

–M–

September 8, 2009 10:44 am

Happy Birthday Star Trek. I got you a tie.

Master Dex
September 8, 2009 10:49 am

The Great Bird of the Galaxy would be pleased.

To Star Trek, as a franchise of not just TV series, but a franchise of dreams: Live Long, and Prosper.

September 8, 2009 10:55 am

Happy birthday, Trek! I was there on day one. Glad to see you’re fabulous in your 40’s!

Sunfell
September 8, 2009 11:01 am

Excellent retrospective- thanks! And happy 43rd, Star Trek!

I am so glad that it’s back- and better than ever.

VZX
September 8, 2009 11:01 am

I miss the Star Trek adventure at Universal. I wonder what happened to all that equipment and costumes.

September 8, 2009 11:02 am

Sigh, four years on and the Save Enterprise rally doesn’t get any respect. Jimmy Kimmel?

Try this instead…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEO_qPcCFv8

Cheers for embedding my upload of Leonard Nimoy’s Memories show anyhew! :p

THE SMOKE
September 8, 2009 11:06 am

Happy B-day Trek!!! 43 and going where no other sci-fi show has gone!!!

CAPT KRUNCH
September 8, 2009 11:07 am

As I too am about to turn 43…Oct 9…I can truly say I have grown up with TREK in my life…If only I could get a reboot and be younger version of myself! …LIve Long…Make it so…Engage… Happy Birthday!!!!

Gary
September 8, 2009 11:08 am

I watched a bunch of RiffTrax clips. Is this like Monty Python humor? That is, it’s either hilarious or not at all funny?

September 8, 2009 11:09 am

Many Happy Returns on your 43rd birthday Star Trek.

“Vulcan has no moon, Miss Uhura.” :)

Wonderboy
September 8, 2009 11:17 am

There is one Reason Star Trek is alive is becuase of US and it was becuase of us they created Star Trek and it will be becuase of us Star Trek will live long and prosper utnil the end of time

Julie
September 8, 2009 11:18 am

Great piece! Happy Anniversary Star Trek!!! LL & P!

Pyork (JE)
September 8, 2009 11:20 am

Great article. Loved it

T2
September 8, 2009 11:21 am

A wonderful trip down Memory Lane. Great job. Now I might have to go watch “The Best of Both Worlds” and maybe play some “Starfleet Academy”. This really helped jog the ol’ Trek memory. Lookin’ forward to seeing what pops up on this list for 2010.

Danpaine
September 8, 2009 11:21 am

Nice article.

Trek, and I are both 43 this year…and I do believe it looks better for the age….can someone remaster me and put me on dvd?

AJ
September 8, 2009 11:22 am

…Surely…the best of times…

alberto nuñez
September 8, 2009 11:29 am

feliz santo, mister Roddenberry!

Horatio
September 8, 2009 11:33 am

43 years and I still haven’t tired of this show.

God, I love Trek.

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
September 8, 2009 11:35 am

We the fans have saved Trek and J.J Abrams also needs to be thanked for bringing back Trek. Orci and Alex thank you for a great story and a great Movie. Happy Birthday Star Trek. May you live Long and Prosper. Heres to the next 43 years of more Trek.

Shatner_Fan_Prime
September 8, 2009 11:35 am

I heart Star Trek.

:-)

Smike van Dyke
September 8, 2009 11:36 am

Nice flashback…I’ve been a fan since 1993…it’s been 16 great years. Looking forward to the next 10 years and beyond!

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
September 8, 2009 11:37 am

I would not mind playing that first computer game from 1971. Would be kool to see how the games all started. Anyone know where I can find one.

Irishtrekkie
September 8, 2009 11:37 am

its my birthday on the 18th , i will be 23 , so its weird to think i am only half the age of my fav show. It seems like star trek has been around forever , and i really hope it will be.

so to take a line from the first movie
”the human adventure is just beginning”

Capt Mike of the Terran Empire
September 8, 2009 11:40 am

To take a line from Trek 3. (and the adventure continues)

Jeff
September 8, 2009 11:49 am

Happy Birthday Trek! I just got Season 1 on Blu Ray (and bought a player for it). Jaw dropping quality! I was blown away the first time I saw Star Trek in HD and remastered! A great way to celebrate Star Trek’s birthday!

OneBuckFilms
September 8, 2009 11:51 am

Trek has come a long way, and in a sense, has come full circle with JJ Abrams’ Star Trek.

Irishtrekkie nailed it: The Human Adventure is just beginning …

Captain Dunsall
September 8, 2009 11:55 am

Unlike myself, Trek will always be relevant! Thanks for all the hours of awesome entertainment.

September 8, 2009 11:55 am

Yup happy 43 birthday Trek for life

Lore
September 8, 2009 11:57 am

43 is the NEW 3? Thanks JJ, it feels new again. Lucas can’t do that with Star Wars.

Lore
September 8, 2009 12:00 pm

One problem, didn’t we put a man on the moon in 1969, not 1966 as the article states?

Irishtrekkie
September 8, 2009 12:03 pm

yea as lore says
there is an error on 1969, it says the final episode aired on June 3rd 1966
should 1969

Spectrum of the Spock
September 8, 2009 12:03 pm

43 years???

Break out the Tranya!!!

I am not Herbert
September 8, 2009 12:07 pm

Wow! Excellent article! Happy B-day Star Trek! 43! Wow!

…at 45yo myself, I’m proud to have grown up on Star Trek!

raffie
September 8, 2009 12:12 pm

The only day in the year i still watch a Trek episode :D

Daoud
September 8, 2009 12:14 pm

Well, if only you guys had included the T-2 years :)

1964
Roddenberry gets the green light from NBC to shoot the pilot for Star Trek.

Star Trek began filming on November 27, 1964, the scene with Boyce and Pike in his quarters where he laments the disastrous affair on Rigel and questions if he should stay in.

I celebrate that date as the start of Trek. (Well, it’s my birthday after all. :) )

1965
etc.

September 8, 2009 12:14 pm

Wow … 43 years ago today. Hard to believe. 43 awesome years.

OneBuckFilms
September 8, 2009 12:21 pm

It would be fantastic for the new movie to arrive on the 45th anniversary of Star Trek.

Trey
September 8, 2009 12:35 pm

wont that be in 2011? cuz thats when the sequel come out i suppose. anyway 43 years thats good. not a fan but ive enjoyed the new movie and TOS. yeah so im new to this lol.

Trey
September 8, 2009 12:38 pm

@ #40, wont that be in 2011? cuz thats when the sequel come out i suppose. anyway 43 years thats good. not a fan but ive enjoyed the new movie and TOS. yeah so im new to this lol.

new movie on 2-disc DVD 11-17-09, im definitely getting it.

Trey
September 8, 2009 12:41 pm

sorry for the double comments lol

Anton Karidian
September 8, 2009 12:51 pm

Nemesis S*U*C*K*E*D!!!!!!!! Never did I want any (Trek) film to end so I could leave the theater!!!!! B4??? Gimme a frakkin break!!! Worst Trek movie E*V*E*R!!!!!!

September 8, 2009 12:53 pm

by the way folks

check out http://trekmovie.com/tv-viewing-party/

September 8, 2009 12:55 pm

Congrats Star Trek and thanks for everything. Peace and Long Life!

September 8, 2009 1:16 pm

Happy birthday

DavidJ
September 8, 2009 1:23 pm

Wow, I had no idea those Gold Key comics actually started during the original run of TOS.

I always assumed they were from the 70s.

Anyway, great retrospective!

Steve
September 8, 2009 1:31 pm

Long live Star Trek!

Uncle Twitchy
September 8, 2009 1:38 pm

1983 was also the year of the first licensed tabletop role playing game, from FASA.

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