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
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.