Star Trek turns 52 years old today. On September 8th, 1966 at 8:30 pm NBC aired “The Man Trap,” from Star Trek: The Original Series. Although it was the sixth episode produced for the series, counting both pilots, the episode was chosen as the best way to introduce the characters and premise, along with featuring a scary monster in the form of the M-113 Salt Vampire creature.
Of course, that was just the beginning of a franchise which went on to spawn an animated series, five additional live-action series, including the current Star Trek: Discovery, and a film franchise with thirteen releases and more in development. Plus too many books, games, comics and various pieces of merchandise to count.
Star Trek has thrived throughout the decades by exciting people of all ages with stories of adventure, all with an inspirational message of hope about the future. It is for these reasons that tonight the Television Academy is honoring Star Trek with the Governor’s Award.
Today we are celebrating the birth of Star Trek with a few newly re-released pieces of Star Trek history covering from the start, end, and renewal of the franchise.
From 1966: Gene Roddenberry explains Star Trek
Earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter republished a column written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in November 1966, where he explains the scope of the series. Titled “Science Fiction Thing of the Past,” the piece presents Star Trek as a “real adventure in tomorrow’s space.”
Roddenberry explains the reasoning behind his new ambitious series:
Why a journey into space? Because science is now learning that the infinite reaches of our universe probably teem with as much life and adventure as Earth’s own oceans and continents. Our galaxy along is so incredibly vast that the most conservative mathematical odds still add up to millions of planets almost identical to our own — capable of life, even intelligence and strange new civilizations. Alien beings that will range from the fiercely primitive to the incredibly exotic intelligence which will far surpass Mankind.
Star Trek aims to match the action-adventure of the best television westerns, the suspense-mystery of the finest detective tales. Authenticity and believability are maintained with the help of cooperative space scientists and technical advisors. As such, Star Trek may become the first fully believable space adventure. At the least, it is probably the most ambitious and difficult project of its type ever attempted.
From 2011: Former NBC exec explains 1969 mistake canceling Star Trek
Last week the Television Academy released a clip of an extensive 2011 interview they did with former NBC programming executive Herbert S. Schlosser. In it, he talks about how the show needed two pilots to get approved by the network. He also defended how the network handled the show by noting how they contributed to making it better by pushing Desilu to spend more money, telling Desilu’s Herb Solow “Get them off the spaceship, let them spend a little money.”
He also talked about the decision to cancel the show after three seasons:
In those days raw audience was much more than it is today. A show could get canceled with a 28 or 29 share, 27 share, forget it. Because there were three networks. We had 92 or 93 percent of the audience…It was cancelled, I think, because it didn’t get enough raw audience, a mistake.
From 1979: William Shatner explains Star Trek revival and how it impacted some Vietnam POWs
Our last bit of unearthed history for the week comes today from the BBC Archive on Twitter, which celebrated Star Trek day with a clip from a 1979 talk show interview with star William Shatner who explained how the show was reborn through syndication in the 70s leading up to Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979.
The actor also then told a tale of a particular fan and former Vietnam War POW he met, who told him an amazing story about how Star Trek helped him and his fellow prisoners. The show was one thing they could all agree they loved and by playing the “Star Trek game” of recalling episodes they “preserved their sanity” amidst the torture and suffering of being held prisoner.
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