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.
Happy #StarTrekDay! We boldly went through the Archives to bring you this 1979 clip featuring William Shatner – aka James Tiberus Kirk. pic.twitter.com/f7FKYVPEiQ
— BBC Archive (@BBCArchive) September 8, 2018
What has Star Trek done for you?
Sound off below on what Star Trek means to you.
Thank you, Star Trek. If not for that show, I never would have majored in physics and my life would be totally different.
Shatner’s interview with Michael Parkinson is wonderful. Parky was such an amazing host though, who knew exactly how much space to give guests and exactly how to guide the conversation.
The best of Star Trek reminds me of our resilience, individually and as societies. We get off track and sometimes even move backwards — but, ultimately, we’re able get back on and keep moving forward. It doesn’t always happen quickly, but the possibility is always there.
Happy Birthday Star Trek! I love this franchise to death and been watching it over 30 years now. WOW! It’s been great to see it what it’s become today and how far it’s expanded from TOS to Discovery with all the great films and shows in between. And even more will be coming soon! :) I would love to see where it goes for the next fifty years!
I’ve heard/read that Vietnam POW story a few times over the years. Chokes me up every time I encounter it. How awesome and humbling to think that our favorite shared passion got these men through something so horrible and unimaginable. Daaamn.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, STAR TREK! LLAP!!
I rewatched my first ever episode of Star Trek tonight – Operation Annihilate. Saw it when I was about 6 years old and it gave me the willies. Still does. My wife laughed lovingly at my childlike glee rewatching it.
I’m now on to The Captains documentary.
Thank you for this, Trekmovie. And a happy 52 to Trek! The show is only one month older than I am!
Funny… The show is almost EXACTLY one year younger than me!
I had no friends, my dad was an alcoholic, the Enterprise crew were my heros, especially Mr Spock. Mr Spock taught me that there is always hope and possibilities.
I honestly count the 1964 production of The Cage as the first Star Trek so IMO it is really Happy 54 years haha. Of course it doesn’t really matter. I can still remember watching TOS back in the late 60s and early 70s on my parents colour tv and that combined with my fascination with NASA’s Project Apollo guided me to my eventual and current career in the commercial satellite industry. More importantly TOS and all that came after it has provided me with hours and hours of entertainment and discussion with friends and family. That continues today when a bunch of us showed up to the see the two Disco panels and Fan Expo Canada. So Happy Birthday Star Trek and thanks again to Gene Roddenberry for a lifetime of thought-provoking and influential science fiction entertainment and a lot of fun.
Great article, but did anyone else get a chucked at the oxymoron of ‘newly re-released’? :D
In my youngest days, I connected with Mr. Spock. I felt like I was an outcast, that I didn’t fit in, or didn’t belong anywhere. My greatest passion was music and the only time I felt significant was playing my guitar. As time went on and I became more confident in myself, I began to identify more with Capt. Kirk. He was heroic but human. I really related to him in TWOK, as I began to feel “old and worn out.”
There was nothing about Star Trek situations that affected me. It was all about character, primarily Kirk and Spock. They were a huge part of my life and, in some ways, they still are.
I thank Star Trek for helping me explore my own final frontier…
I remember watching The Man Trap on September 8, 1966, on my birthday. I was actually a bit scared of that episode and only watched it scarcely thereafter probably because I thought it to be too cerebral, difficult to understand but I was a huge fan of the Outer Limits though. Still a fan of both after all these years.
Happy Star Trek Day.
I was 5 years old that year.
Not sure what episode was the first I ever watched.
But my brother and I clearly remember watching “The Menagerie”, mainly because of the visual imagery of the large headed aliens….and watching the ship fly by during the opening credits.
Surely the best of times.
That was a powerful story he told.
I’m sorry that it’s “The Man Trap” that gets talked about on every anniversary, since it was neither the first episode made nor the best episode nor the most characteristic episode.
I recommend that people who KNOW they want to watch TOS for the first time watch in production order, starting with “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” And when people are just trying out a single episode of TOS, to figure out what it’s like, I recommend “The Devil in the Dark,” since I think it’s one of the most Trekkian episodes, and it’s one where viewers don’t have to know very much about the show to understand what’s going on.
@ Corylea – yeah, I always wish they had just initially gone with the production order too. I find ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’ to be an excellent episode to kick off a nostalgic rewatch of the show every few years or so (spread out throughout the year) – and after the 3rd season ends, I then continue on with the TOS movies, finishing up with ‘The Undiscovered Country’ as the crew’s final onscreen adventure in this particular ‘Trek universe/timeline.
I then conclude this nostalgic TOS rewatch with ‘The Cage’ episode’s ‘alternate universe’ crew and storyline to round things off for myself until the next time.
(and I always watch the original TOS episodes, as I strongly dislike the look of some of the new effects in the uneven ‘remastered’ versions)
By the way, I introduced my young son to these characters with ‘The Doomsday Machine’ and ‘The Cats Paw’ episodes one halloween, and he was immediatly hooked. :)
My favorite episode was “The Doomsday Machine”. Lots of great stuff there. Still think it had one of the best end of acts in the series. “We’re blind here. What does it look like?” “It appears very much to be Commodore Decker’s planet killer. And it is pursuing us.” Fade out.
And I loved, “Blast regulations! Mr. Spock, I order you to assume command on my personal authority as Captain of the Enterprise!”
I just wanna *be* good enough to be a part of that Enterprise crew. I want to have the skills and the gumption. Trek taught me to be curious, but it also taught me to be heroic, that a team of hard-working people can accomplish anything, even save the world. That’s the kind of optimism we need today. With our world under a real, civilization-ending threat, I’m proud to be fighting for the future of our planet so that maybe, just maybe, we’ll be lucky enough to get a Trekian society someday.
Can someone explain what “raw audience” is?
People tuning in on transmission.
Thanks! I think they have different terms now.
What does Star Trek mean to me? You know, if I’m honest I don’t watch nearly as much Trek as I used to, at least not with the same frequency, so why do I still have a deep interest in it? Quite simply it has been a fundamental part of my life. Throughout my childhood it was TOS and the TOS movies. Then TNG in my teens. DS9 and Voyager crossing in to my twenties and so on. Trek was there always during my formative years.
Growing up I viewed Trek differently from how I do now. Back then I would seemingly be more interested in the cool aspects than the stories. The ships, the uniforms and so on. I would poor over things like Mr. Scott’s Guide to The Enterprise and so on. But what I didn’t realise was that all along Trek’s characters, morality plays and ethical dilemmas were having a subconscious impact on me. I come from a working class background and my parents were both ill-educated bullies, and worst still were unaware that they were bullies because to them their behaviour was normal. At school I would always do well in the humanities subjects, particularly history, which I went on to study at A Level (an educational stage between secondary or “high” school and university). We were often encourage to think about and debate how historical events happened. It helped develop a sense of analysis. All at the same time Star Trek was continually encouraging my moral development. Instilling a sense of decency, the capacity to consider arguments for and against things, to consider the value in a human being, to have a heart.
It think it is in no small part Star Trek that pushed me to try and escape my social trappings and study law, by no means an easy study or career route for someone like me back then. When I was studying and in the early years of my career I would think to myself every now and again, “I have to work hard, succeed and have a meaningful life because that’s what Kirk or Picard would expect of me”. Silly I know, but it was a motivator. These characters were role models. Early in my career I was primarily a civil litigator but I happened to join a firm that was dealing with immigration law. I ended up falling in to that work by chance and have now been doing in for twenty years. It has enabled me to explore different peoples and cultures to an extent my upbringing never could and to was Star Trek that taught me how to be open minded to difference. It is a combination of this factors that have led me in the past to be part of multi-ethnic relationships and have helped me travel the world and immerse myself in different cultures. Even the little things have enriched my life. That little boy eating egg and chips 35 years ago never even knew what, for instance, an Iranian khorest was, let alone being able to cook multiple versions years later. Most importantly, even though I earn less than I could in other fields, it is that sense of helping every day people from around the world get justice that fulfils me. Makes me feel I have done something that have benefited humanity to some extent. It all comes back to the influence Trek had on me.
People here love to mock some of us older fans who grumble about JJ Trek and Discovery (and to a lesser extent Voyager and Enterprise). There are various things I grumble about. But one thing I always say is more important to me than anything else is the scripts. It is because of how Trek impacted me growing up that I want it to still be special. To still encourage people to think. To wrestle with ethical questions. Not be some generic action sci-fi shlock. I hold modern Trek to a higher standard than it has so far offered precisely because I want those young people of today to have what we had, especially in these especially dark times. I want little boys and girls like me who are otherwise not exposed to good environments as a child to have something to look at that teaches positivity, humanity, decency and equality, and above all makes them think. That is what Star Trek has meant to me, and I shall always be grateful for it…and that is why I demand the very highest from the modern versions.
LeVar Burton posted this wishing everyone a happy Star Trek day!
I have a feeling we may be seeing some of these guys back in action just in time for the next Star Trek day! :)
I was 7 years old in 1973 when I saw my first episode of Star Trek (while in its syndicated run.) The episode was Catspaw and, although I could barely comprehend what was going on, I was absolutely mesmerized and Captain Kirk was my instant life-long hero.
If you’re Canadian, then “Star Trek Day” is actually 6 Sep 1966. CTV in Canada aired Star Trek 2 days earlier than NBC did in the US.
Interesting complication for NBC, according to Inside Star Trek, is this quote…
“In a twist of fate, in order to meet the Canadian schedule, an almost wet-from-the-lab 16 mm print of each week´s episode was air-freighted to NBC in New York, hustled by messenger across town to ABC facilities on West 66th Street, and then fed into Canada via NBC competitor´s transmission lines — an unsusual practice for those, or any other, times.”
I celebrated the 52nd anniversary by rewatching my favorite episodes from each series:
1. The City on the Edge of Forever from TOS
2. Yesterday’s Enterprise from TNG
3. Children of Time from DS9
4. Drone fron VOY
5. Two Days and Two Nights from ENT
I tried to choose episodes that I thought utilized the entire cast, and these really fit the bill for me. Ran out of time for watching movies before The Day was over. Maybe next year!
Great list Josh! :)
Sadly I didn’t have time to watch any episodes on the day itself but I did a mini-rewatch of some of my favorite TNG episodes the day after.
Children of Time is one of the most underrated DS9 episodes. It’s amazing people don’t talk about that one more.
I think it may have kept me from getting laid a lot, frankly. But I love it anyway. :-)
Been watching Star Trek since the mid 70’s. I loved it as a kid and as I grew older I saw many of the episodes much differently. It worked on both levels. Quite the feat.
Regarding the cancellation, I think it is widely known that if demographics of just 10 years later were adhered to Star Trek would have lasted on air a while longer. It’s audience skewed younger and in the mid to late 60’s that was not the age group advertisers coveted as they felt the younger demo did not spend money. Later, they realized they did.