The Five Ages of Star Trek: Day One, 1966 to 1976

To finish out the 50th, TrekMovie’s Jared Whitley looks at the franchise’s five decades of history, dividing them according to the classical “Ages of Man” – Golden Age, Silver Age, etc – but with an appropriately Trek twist. Today he looks at the first 10 years.

As the 50th anniversary winds down, we at TrekMovie thought out would be important to take a look back at how various periods of Trek history have been different from one another, decade by decade.

One curiosity long extant in comic book culture is dividing its history according to terms from the classical Ages of Man – Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age – with some level of debate about when each started and ended. (The only one everybody seems to agree upon is the Golden Age started with the creation of Superman in 1938.)

But if you were to give the same treatment to Star Trek, how would you divide its various epochs? If you just cut it up it by decade, you’d have two awkward half-decades (in the 2010s and 1960s). There has to be a better way to do it, one that follows various trends that have shaped the phenomenon.

And because this is the Internet (and more importantly because this is Star Trek), you are all invited (and obliged) to argue about it in the comment section.

Golden Age: 1966 to 1976

As with Superman, the start of this one is pretty easy. The franchise began with airing of The Man Trap on Sept. 8, 1966 in the USA. True, it’s not the first episode in continuity, but it was the announcement to the world that science fiction could look a little different than Flash Gordon. Note that of course The Cage had been filmed a year earlier, but fans wouldn’t see any of it until The Menagerie in 1967 or all of it until its restoration in 1988.

The Golden Age includes all of The Original Series and all of The Animated Series, which includes the franchise’s first Emmy Win with “How Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth” in 1974. TAS wouldn’t have been possible without Trek’s conquering  syndicated television; by 1972, reruns of the show were so popular the AP labeled it “the show that won’t die.” That year would also see the first ever Star Trek convention in 1972.

Finding an exact point with which to end the Golden Age is a little tricky, so I’ve settled on Sept. 17, 1976 – a decade after Man Trap almost to the day – with NASA’s christening the Shuttle Enterprise and this classic photo. 


I love how Gene is optimistically looking to the future while Walter can’t hide just how miserable he is.

NASA’s naming convention includes explorers (Colombia), concepts (Discovery), and mythology (Apollo) – but it also includes a TV show, thanks to Trekkies writing letters to the White House asking that the first Space Shuttle be named Enterprise.

Now because the Gold / Silver / etc. Age is a little inadequate for something as futuristic as Star Trek, we’ve renamed each of these something more appropriate. Therefore, Trek first decade is The Dilithium Age.


Dilithium Age

  • Start: Sept. 1966
  • End: Sept. 1976
  • Episodes: 101 – 79 (TOS), 22 (TAS)
  • Movies: 0

Return tomorrow when we enter Trek’s Silver Age!

Read the rest of the 5 Ages of Trek:
The 5 Ages of Trek – Day 2
The 5 Ages of Trek – Day 3
The 5 Ages of Trek – Day 4
The 5 Ages of Trek – Day 5
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Re: shuttle pic, it’s just ‘resting Pavel face.’

Jared Whitley,

Re: the start of this one is pretty easy

There’s much to quibble about that. It actually aired first in North America on CTV on September 6, 1966. The episode aired on CTV and NBC later was not a part of the series’ schedule per se but rather a part of an early “sneak” preview series’ advertising promotion of it and other NBC series.

I’d say “September, 1966” is probably sufficient for a start date, then.

Trekkies, amiright?

Disinvited, you pretty much show a prime example of why I love Trek but hate most trek fans. That comment seems to indicate you’re so uptight you’d need a tractor to drag a needle outta your ass. Jesus, “much to quibble about”.

Harry Plinkett.

Re: hate most trek fans

That’s your problem, not mine. I love their diversity. The initial series’ characterization of Spock must have been a real challenge to your needling love.

No one counts the sneak previews of STAR WARS as that franchise’s start nor do they count the first 1966 US theatrical exhibitions of Peter Cushing’s DOCTOR WHO AND THE DALEKS as the WHO franchise’s start out of some false overinflated import given to the US’ launching of entertainment franchises.

For other franchises focused on myths rather than rationality, printing the myth suffices, for Trek, it’s myths are constantly challenged and it is something about STAR TREK I celebrate when done with an evenly applied rational approach and an open mind.

Kayla Iacovino

Re: “September, 1966” is probably sufficient for a start date

Agreed, while also achieving the inclusive fact that it was more than solely just a domestic phenomenon from the start.

Columbia, not Colombia.

know what they were smokin’ when they wrote Colombia!

Redshirt Rosie,

Re: Columbia, not Colombia.

RUN! Someone around here looks like they are ready to darn socks.

Why does the 50th anniversary have to end now? We should be celebrating it until the 51st year. :)

I agree.


Re: does the 50th anniversary have to end now

If I understand Jared’s reasoning correctly, the 50th anniversary of the Dilithium Age has ten more years of celebratin’ left in it. I hope CBS catches on.

::tongue firmly in cheek::
501st year. Oh wait wrong franchise.
But 501st year still sounds good to me

Koenig looks like he’s hiding it pretty well if he even is hiding anything. I’ve seen that picture a hundred times before, and he always looks like he’s smiling to me. His arms are just folded is all.

My question always is, was Shatner there?

For the record, all of NASA’s shuttles (including Columbia- not Colombia, that’s a country) were named for sailing ships. The exception was Enterprise, although of course there were a number of sailing ships named Enterprise.

Shat was NOT there – think he was making KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS or maybe something a little cheesier than that, going by his gameshow/commercial/highschooleductional film output in the 70s.



I believe that’s right, i.e. that he begged off because of some such scheduling conflict. These days, I wonder if he feared being cajoled into riding along either in it or the Boeing toting it?

I look at that picture, and see Dee Kelley chatting with a NASA official, and thinking what an amazing opportunity that must have been — it was the start of the shuttle program, and it honored the series these actors are crediting with making an inspiration for many in the scientific community. How revered they must have been, and they got a personal tour of the latest in space exploration technology, I would have been there no matter what if I had been invited. This just puts Shatner’s persona in stark perspective.

That said, where is Majel Barrett?

Curious Cadet,

Re: Majel Barrett

Her filmography shows two 1977 releases: SPECTRE and THE DOMINO PRINCIPLE. Anyone have any idea whether either or both were in production then?

At that point the biggest part Koenig had had since Star Trek was two guest appearances on a science fiction show called Starlost. That might be cheesing him off a bit.


Re: That might be cheesing him off

Hmmm…I seem to recall seeing his name pop up more for behind the scenes stuff like writing. He certainly talked a lot about it on HOUR 25.

He wrote a TAS and a FAMILY episode and an ep of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE CLASS OF 65? and did a teeny appearance on COLUMBO (I think), as well as the blinkNmiss him on THE QUESTOR TAPES.


At the time of that picture only an episode of TAS and one of Land of the Lost. He wasn’t even in TAS due to budget concerns, which is insane. A kids show could have used his youth and comedic talent. Was never thrilled with the furries that replaced him.

Where was Shatner in the shuttle pic? Too cool for school? Man I do love the 70’s fashion statements too, especially De’s necklace.

Filming ‘Kingdom of the Spiders’.

Oh well, as long as he was doing something important.

When grown-ups sign a contract saying they’ll be somewhere doing something, like filming a movie for a major studio, that’s what we do. I know that concept is foreign to our current ‘it’s all about me’ generation.

Yeah, a thing called WORKING.

Too bad Shatner was working. if only he had NOTHING AT ALL TO DO like the rest of the cast who went on to take pot shots at the guy who helped line their pockets. With all respect to Kelley and Nimoy.

While not acknowledged in the article, I think the Nexus/Zenith/Apex of Trek’s popularity was in the early to mid 70’s. The show was on in every market in the country either at 6:00pm or 7:00pm and sometimes airing at other times too.
The ratings for the show in syndication in the 70’s was off the hook and the early era of merchandising kicked in with the “Star Trek Technical Manual” and “Star Trek Blueprints” parking in the New York Times Best Seller list top 10 week after week after week. The Calendar’s, Model Kits and Toy Ray Guns with “Star Trek” name on it were flying off the shelves.

…Oh…and the Blish books, Poster Magazines also flew off the shelves…all leading to the birth of “Starlog” in what 1976 or ’77.

….and how could I have forgotten ..the Photo Novels..they flew off the shelves as well…

“I love how Gene is optimistically looking to the future while Walter can’t hide just how miserable he is.” He’s in polyester in 89 degree weather on a concrete tarmac. I’d be miserable too!

If you’ve listened to Walter being interviewed, you can tell the poor guy has had a hard time lightening up and having fun…but I think he’s mellowed a bit in recent years.

During the 70’s, when I was still in elementary school, our local station aired Star Trek at 10:30 PM on weeknights. I wasn’t allowed to stay up that late on school nights but my parents watched it on their bedroom TV, so I would sneak into the hallway and watch from a distance. Friday nights I got to stay up and watch it, usually with my Mego figures close by. Ah, the memories…

Unfortunately, Trek fans in the 70s were a little short sighted regarding their favorite show & the naming convention. The first shuttle should have been named “Constitution” & the first one to go to space should have been named “Enterprise”. Of course that would mean the Enterprise would have eventually burned up on reentry which would have been really spooky after the imaginary Enterprise did the same in The Search for Spock.

I’d just cut it up into 2 halves, the same way that was done with the two volume series ‘The 50 year mission’, where the first 25 years covers TOS up to TNG, and the next 25 years covers TNG through to JJ Abrams era. Then next year 2017, Discovery will kick off the next 25 years.

Pardon me, but wouldn’t the golden age be when Star Trek was at its height? I.e. two tv series and movies at the same time. So 1995-1999 or extending it to (1993-2002) with the beginning of DS9 to Nemesis. I don’t know if I would call 1966-1976 the golden age considering it was canceled and wouldn’t hear a peep from it until 1979 (not counting animated). I know Scott and Phil from the Transporter Room 3 podcast have called the DS9/VGR/TNG movie era the golden age…..or am I having a Tuvix moment?

still feel fandom was at its height in 76 or so, when there was virtually no product but absolutely insane levels of attention. So gold is probably right.

Berman-era trek (ds9 excepted) would be more like the wooden splinter era trek for me.

Well, the entire Berman era would be a “golden age” of THAT kind of Star Trek. But since it barely resemebled, in any shape form or fashion, the original Star Trek, I hesitate to even put it in the same category. It’s in the Trek universe…but as far as entertainment goes…in production, writing, ideas, aethetics, music…it might as well be Buck Rogers. Like Lou Grant was a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It wasn’t a bad series…it was just a very different type of series set in the same universe. All of the Berman Treks were competently produced, by-the-numbers cranked out television of the time. But any resemblence to the orignal series is hard to find.

And I agree in Mid 70’s being the height and probably “Golden” age of the original series. Everyone watched it at the same time, after school. Kids were playing “Star Trek” in yards and playgrounds everywhere. Conventions were getting media coverage and Kirk and Spock found themselves on everything from bed sheets and party hats to action figures and popsickle sticks. The merchandising was crazy.

Jonboc, I think you’re being a little tough on “ST-TNG”.

If you watched the original “Star Trek” and then someone told you, there’s going to be a spin off series set 80 years into the future and here we are living in 1987 and it’s been 18 years since the classic series went off the air… “Star Trek-TNG” is basically what you should have expected to be receiving.

The ship and special effects were much upgraded although I still preferred the classic look of the 60’s Enterprise since that’s what so many of us grew up on. The music of the series was appropriate and quite effective and the soundtrack of the show had evolved because show’s in the 80’s didn’t really use music to accentuate a scene the way they did it in the 60’s..when things were far more melodramatic.

The series still explored themes about Humanity like “Measure of a Man”. Data obviously was the Spock of this series in that he was the most unique and different character.

The relationship of the crew wasn’t all that different from the close relationship the original cast had. In fact they had 4 more seasons to hang out in holodecks, play cards together and even have an occasional shore leave.

I agree with you that I don’t seek out “ST:TNG” episodes to watch as I feel like I’ve been there, done that. I am still loyal to the original classic series and still watch it when it appears on MeTV. But even that being said, I don’t think there could have been a show that respected Classic Trek and still broke new ground and new adventures for themselves like TNG did.

I love that picture with the shattered dilithium crystals, and Scotty and Spock working to solve engineering problems. Those were great episodes, and ones that helped draw me into to Trek as a kid. Looking at that picture makes me wonder how anyone found Bad Robot’s omission of a proper engineering room acceptable.

“…The Cage had been filmed a year earlier, but fans wouldn’t see any of it until The Menagerie in 1967 or all of it until its restoration in 1988.”

That’s not entirely true. The Cage made the rounds in the late 70’s – it was shown at the local arts center where I grew up, when I was in high school.