Created by Gene Roddenberry
Star Trek is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry, produced by Desilu Productions (later Paramount Television). Star Trek was telecast on NBC from September 8, 1966, through June 3, 1969. Although this television series had the title of Star Trek, it has acquired the retronym of Star Trek: The Original Series (Star Trek: TOS or TOS) to distinguish the show within the media franchise that it began. Star Trek's Nielsen ratings while on NBC were low, and the network canceled it after three seasons and 79 episodes. The show became a cult classic in broadcast syndication during the 1970s, leading to five additional television series, 11 theatrical films, and numerous books, games, and other products.
Star Trek follows the adventures of the starship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) and its crew, led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), first officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and chief medical officer Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), in the 23rd century. Shatner's voice-over introduction during each episode's opening credits stated the starship's purpose:
Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
In 1964, Gene Roddenberry, a longtime fan of science fiction, drafted a proposal for a science-fiction television series that he called Star Trek. This was to be set on board a large interstellar spaceship in the 23rd century whose crew was dedicated to exploring a relatively small portion of our Milky Way Galaxy.
Some of the influences on his idea that Roddenberry noted included A. E. van Vogt's tales of the spaceship Space Beagle, Eric Frank Russell's Marathon series of stories, and the film Forbidden Planet (1956). Other people have also drawn parallels with the television series Rocky Jones, Space Ranger (1954), a less sophisticated space opera that still included many of the elements — the organization, crew relationships, missions, part of the bridge layout, and even some technology — that were part of Star Trek. Roddenberry also drew heavily from C.S. Forrester's Horatio Hornblower novels that depict a daring sea captain who exercises broad discretionary authority on distant sea missions of noble purpose. Roddenberry often humorously referred to Captain Kirk as "Horatio Hornblower in Space".
Roddenberry had extensive experience in writing for series about the Old West that had been popular television fare earlier in the 1960s and the 1950s, and he pitched his new show to the networks as "Wagon Train to the stars." In 1964, Roddenberry signed a three-year program-development contract with a leading independent television production company, Desilu Productions. In Roddenberry's original concept, the protagonist was Captain Robert April of the starship S.S. Yorktown. This character was developed into Captain Christopher Pike.
Roddenberry first presented Star Trek to CBS, which turned it down in favor of the Irwin Allen creation Lost in Space. Roddenberry next presented his concept to the head of Desilu Studio—Herb Solow—who eventually accepted it. Solow then successfully sold Gene's vision of Star Trek to NBC, which paid for but turned down the first pilot "The Cage", stating that it was "too cerebral". However, the NBC executives had still been impressed with the concept, and they understood that its perceived faults had been partly because of the script that they had selected themselves. The NBC executives then made the unusual decision to pay for a second pilot, using the script called "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Only the character of Mr. Spock, played by Leonard Nimoy, was kept from the first pilot, and only two cast members, Majel Barrett and Nimoy, were carried forward into the second pilot. This pilot proved to be satisfactory to NBC, and the network selected Star Trek to be in its upcoming television schedule for the fall of 1966.
The second pilot introduced the rest of the main characters: Captain Kirk (William Shatner), chief engineer Lt. Commander Scott (James Doohan) and Lt. Sulu (George Takei). Paul Fix played Dr. Mark Piper in the second pilot; ship's doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) joined the cast when filming began for the first season, and he remained for the rest of the series, achieving billing as the third star of the series. Also joining the ship's permanent crew then was the communications officer, Lt. Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), the first African-American woman to hold such an important role in an American television series. Walter Koenig joined the cast as Ensign Pavel Chekov in the series' second season.
The show's production staff included art director Matt Jefferies. Jefferies designed the starship Enterprise and most of its interiors. His contributions to the series were honored in the name of the "Jefferies tube", an equipment shaft depicted in various Star Trek series. In addition to working with his brother, John Jefferies, to create the hand-held phaser weapons of Star Trek, Jefferies also developed the set design for the bridge of the Enterprise (which was based on an earlier design by Pato Guzman). Jeffries used his practical experience as an airman during World War II and his knowledge of aircraft design to devise a sleek, functional, ergonomic bridge layout.
The costume designer for Star Trek, Bill Theiss, created the striking look of the Starfleet uniforms for the Enterprise, the costumes for female guest stars, and for various aliens, including the Klingons, Vulcans, Romulans, Tellarites, Andorians, Gideonites and many others.
Artist and sculptor Wah Chang, who had worked for Walt Disney Productions, was hired to design and manufacture props: he created the flip-open communicator, often credited as having influenced the configuration of the portable version of the cellular telephone. Chang also designed the portable sensing-recording-computing "tricorder" device, and various fictitious devices for the starship's engineering crew and its sick bay. Later into the series, he helped to create various memorable aliens, such as the Gorn and the Horta.
Season 1 (1966–1967)
NBC ordered 16 episodes of Star Trek, besides "Where No Man Has Gone Before". The first regular episode of Star Trek aired on Thursday, September 8, 1966 from 8:30-9:30 as part of an NBC "sneak preview" block. Reviews were mixed; while The Philadelphia Inquirer and San Francisco Chronicle liked the new show, The New York Times and Boston Globe were less favorable, and Variety predicted that it "won't work", calling it "an incredible and dreary mess of confusion and complexities". Debuting against mostly reruns, Star Trek easily won its time slot with a 40.6 share. The following week against all-new programming, however, the show fell to second (29.4 share) behind CBS. It ranked 33rd (out of 94 programs) over the next two weeks, then the following two episodes ranked 51st in the ratings.
Star Trek's first-season ratings would in earlier years likely have caused NBC to cancel the show. The network had pioneered research into viewers' demographic profiles in the early 1960s, however, and, by 1967, it and other networks increasingly considered such data when making decisions; for example, CBS temporarily cancelled Gunsmoke that year because it had too many older and too few younger viewers. Although Roddenberry later claimed that NBC was unaware of Star Trek's favorable demographics, awareness of Star Trek's "quality" audience is what likely caused the network to retain the show after the first and second seasons. NBC instead decided to order 10 more new episodes for the first season, and order a second season in March 1967. The network originally announced that the show would air at 7:30-8:30 PM Tuesday, but it was instead given an 8:30-9:30 PM Friday slot when the 1967-68 NBC schedule was released, making watching it difficult for the young viewers that the show most attracted.
Season 2 (1967–1968)
Star Trek's ratings continued to decline during the second season. Although Shatner expected the show to end after two seasons and began to prepare for other projects, NBC nonetheless may have never seriously considered cancelling the show. As early as January 1968, the Associated Press reported that Star Trek's chances for renewal for a third season were "excellent". The show had better ratings for NBC than ABC's competing Hondo, and the competing CBS programs (#3 Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and the first half-hour of the #12 CBS Friday Night Movie) were in the top 15 in the Nielsen ratings. Again, demographics helped Star Trek survive. Contrary to popular belief among its fans, the show did not have a larger audience of young viewers than its competition while on NBC. The network's research did, however, indicate that Star Trek had a "quality audience" including "upper-income, better-educated males", and other NBC shows had lower overall ratings. What did surprise NBC was the enthusiasm of Star Trek's viewers. The show was unusual in its serious discussion of contemporary societal issues in a futuristic context, unlike Lost in Space which was more "campy" in nature.
When rumors spread in late 1967 that the show was at risk of cancellation, Roddenberry secretly began and funded, and Bjo Trimble, her husband John, and other fans organized, an unprecedented effort which persuaded tens of thousands of viewers to write letters of support to save the program.:138:377-394[ Using the 4,000 names on a mailing list for a science-fiction convention, the Trimbles asked fans to write to NBC and ask ten others to also do so.:128 The network had already received 29,000 fan letters—more than for any other except The Monkees—for the show during Star Trek's first season.:218 NBC received almost 116,000 letters for the show between December 1967 and March 1968, including more than 52,000 in February alone;:218 according to an NBC executive, the network received more than one million pieces of mail but only disclosed the 116,000 figure.:138-139 Newspaper columnists encouraged readers to write letters to help save what one called "the best science fiction show on the air. More than 200 Caltech students marched to NBC's Burbank, California studio to support Star Trek in January 1968, carrying signs such as "Draft Spock" and "Vulcan Power". Berkeley and MIT students organized similar protests in San Francisco and New York.
The letters supporting Star Trek, whose authors included Governor of New York Nelson Rockefeller, were different in both quantity and quality from most mail that television networks receive:
The show, according to the 6,000 letters it draws a week (more than any other in television), is watched by scientists, museum curators, psychiatrists, doctors, university professors and other highbrows. The Smithsonian Institution asked for a print of the show for its archives, the only show so honored.
Much of the mail came from doctors, scientists, teachers, and other professional people, and was for the most part literate–and written on good stationery. And if there is anything a network wants almost as much as a high Nielsen ratings it is the prestige of a show that appeals to the upper middle class and high brow audiences.
NBC—which used such anecdotes in much of its publicity for the show—made the unusual decision to announce after the episode "The Omega Glory" on March 1, 1968 that the series had been renewed. The announcement implied a request to stop writing, but caused fans to send letters of thanks in similar numbers.
Season 3 (1968–1969)
NBC at first planned to move Star Trek to Mondays for the show's third season, likely in hopes of increasing its audience after the enormous letter campaign surprised the network. In March 1968 NBC instead decided to move the show to the 10:00 PM Friday night death slot, an hour undesirable for its younger audience, so as not to conflict with the highly successful Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In on Monday evenings. In addition to the undesirable time slot, Star Trek was now being seen on only 181 of NBC's 210 affiliates.
Roddenberry—who complained, "If the network wants to kill us, it couldn't make a better move" — attempted to persuade NBC to give Star Trek a better day and hour, but was not successful. As a result of this, he chose to withdraw from the stress of the daily production of Star Trek, though he remained nominally in charge as its "executive producer." Roddenberry reduced his direct involvement in Star Trek before the start of the 1968-69 television season, and was replaced by Fred Freiberger as the producer of the television series. NBC next reduced Star Trek's budget by a significant amount per episode, as the per-minute commercial price had dropped from $39,000 to $36,000 compared to the Season 2 time slot. This caused a marked decline in the quality of many episodes for the 1968-69 season. Nichelle Nichols has described these budget cuts as an intentional effort to kill off Star Trek:
The last day of filming for Star Trek was January 9, 1969, and after 79 episodes NBC cancelled the show in February despite fans' attempt at another letter-writing campaign. One newspaper columnist advised a protesting viewer:
You Star Trek fans have fought the "good fight," but the show has been cancelled and there's nothing to be done now.
Although many of the third season's episodes were of poor quality, it gave Star Trek enough episodes for television syndication. Most shows require at least five seasons for syndication, because otherwise there are not enough episodes for daily stripping. Kaiser Broadcasting, however, had already purchased syndication rights for Star Trek during the first season for its stations in several large cities. The company arranged the unusual deal because it saw the show as effective counterprogramming against the Big Three networks' 6 pm evening news programs.:138:220 Paramount began advertising the reruns in trade press in March 1969; as Kaiser's ratings were good, other stations, such as WPIX in New York City, also purchased the episodes:91-92 for similar counterprogramming.
Through syndication, Star Trek found a larger audience than it had on NBC, becoming a cult classic. Airing the show in the late afternoon or early evening attracted many new viewers, often young. By 1970, Paramount's trade advertisements claimed that the show had significantly improved its stations' ratings, and the Los Angeles Times commented on Star Trek's ability to "acquire the most enviable ratings in the syndication field". By 1972, "the show that won't die" aired in more than 100 American cities and 60 other countries, and more than 3,000 fans attended the first Star Trek convention in New York City. Fans of the show became increasingly organized, gathering at conventions to trade merchandise, meet actors from the show, and watch screenings of old episodes. Such fans came to be known as "trekkies", who were noted (and often ridiculed) for their extreme devotion to the show and their encyclopedic knowledge of every episode. Unlike other syndicated reruns, prices for Star Trek rose instead of falling over time, because fans enjoyed rewatching each episode many dozens of times; by 1987, Paramount made $1 million from each episode in syndication, and by 1994 the reruns still aired in 94% of the United States.
In the early 2000s, The Sci-Fi Channel broadcast a "Special Edition" of all The Original Series episodes in an expanded 90-minute format in which some material from the original NBC broadcasts that had been deleted during the show's syndication run was restored. Approximately 3–4 minutes of the original episodes were edited out of the syndicated shows in order to make room for additional commercial time. The Sci-Fi Channel's Special Edition broadcasts included not only the deleted scenes, but also introductory and post-episode commentary by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and interviews with writers, cast members, and guest stars who provided memories about the specific episodes (titled as "Star Trek Insights"). The episodes were broadcast in what was presented as the sequence from the original NBC broadcasts, but there were also some discrepancies between the Sci-Fi Channel's broadcast sequence and the original NBC broadcast sequence.
In terms of its writing, Star Trek is notable as one of the earliest science-fiction TV series to utilize the services of leading contemporary science fiction writers, such as Robert Bloch, Norman Spinrad, Harlan Ellison, and Theodore Sturgeon, as well as established television writers. Series script editor Dorothy C. Fontana (originally Roddenberry's secretary) was also a vital part of the success of Star Trek-- she edited most of the series' scripts and wrote several episodes. Her credits read D.C. Fontana at the suggestion of Gene Roddenberry since he felt a woman might not be taken seriously because the majority of science fiction writers were men.
Several notable themes were tackled throughout the entire series which involved the exploration of major issues of 1960s USA, including sexism, racism, nationalism, and global war. Roddenberry utilized the allegory of a space vessel set many years in the future to explore these issues. Although Sammy Davis, Jr. and Nancy Sinatra had briefly kissed on the December 1967 musical-variety special Movin' With Nancy, Star Trek was the first American television show to feature an interracial kiss between fictional characters (between Capt. Kirk and Lt. Uhura in the episode "Plato's Stepchildren") although the kiss was only mimed (obscured by the back of a character's head) and depicted as involuntary.
Episodes such as "The Apple", "Who Mourns for Adonais?", "The Mark of Gideon", and "The Return of the Archons" display subtle anti-religious (owing mainly to Roddenberry's own secular humanism) and anti-establishment themes. "Bread and Circuses" and "The Omega Glory" have themes that are more overtly pro-religion and patriotic.
Roddenberry also wanted to use the series as a 'Trojan Horse' to push back the envelope of NBC's censorship restrictions by disguising potentially controversial themes with a science fiction setting. Network and/or sponsor interference, up to and including wholesale censorship of scripts and film footage, was a regular occurrence in the 1960s and Star Trek suffered from its fair share of tampering. Scripts were routinely vetted and censored by the staff of NBC's Broadcast Standards Department, who copiously annotated every script with demands for cuts or changes (e.g. "Page 4: Please delete McCoy's expletive, 'Good Lord'" or "Page 43: Caution on the embrace; avoid open-mouthed kiss").
Several episodes used the concept of duplicate Earths, allowing reuse of stock props and sets. "Bread and Circuses," "Miri" and "The Omega Glory" depict such worlds, and three episodes, "A Piece Of The Action", "Patterns Of Force", and "Plato's Stepchildren" are based on alien planets that have adopted period Earth cultures (Prohibition-era Chicago, Nazi Germany, and ancient Greece, respectively). However, "A Piece Of The Action" and "Patterns Of Force" show this as having resulted from contaminations of the native cultures of those planets, either before the imposition of the Prime Directive or by violations of it.
Star Trek: The Animated Series intertitle
Star Trek: The Animated Series (originally known as simply Star Trek but also known as The Animated Adventures of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek) is an animated science fiction television series set in the Star Trek universe following the events of Star Trek: The Original Series of the 1960s. The animated series was aired under the name Star Trek, but it has become widely known under this longer name (or abbreviated as ST: TAS or TAS) to differentiate it from the original live-action Star Trek. The success in syndication of the original live action series and fan pressure for a Star Trek revival led to The Animated Series from 1973–1974, as the source of new adventures of the Enterprise crew, the next being the 1979 live-action feature film Star Trek: The Motion Picture. TAS was the first Star Trek series to win an Emmy Award.
The series was produced by Filmation in association with Paramount Television and ran for two seasons from 1973 to 1974 on NBC, airing a total of twenty-two half-hour episodes. An early Filmation proposal for this series had children assigned to each of the senior officers as cadets, including a young Vulcan for Mr. Spock. According to interviews with Norm Prescott, Paramount offered Roddenberry a substantial sum of money to abandon creative control of the project and let Filmation proceed with their "kiddy space cadet" idea. Roddenberry refused. Filmation would later develop the idea into its own original live action program, Space Academy, in 1977.
While the freedom of animation afforded large alien landscapes and believable non-humanoid aliens, budget constraints were a major concern and, as was typical of most Filmation productions, the animation quality was generally only fair, with very liberal use of stock shots (as was often the case with many of Filmation's shows). There were also occasional mistakes, such as characters appearing on screen who were elsewhere, or a character supposed to appear on the bridge's main viewing screen, but then appeared in front, indicating bad ordering of animation plates. These were typically isolated errors however. Occasionally, though, parts of episodes would be animated at a near-theatrical quality level.
The series featured most of the original cast performing the voices for their characters, except for Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), who was omitted because the show's budget could not afford the complete cast. He was replaced by two animated characters who made semi-regular appearances: Lieutenant Arex, whose Edosian species had three arms and three legs; and Lt. M'Ress, a female Caitian. James Doohan, and Majel Barrett, besides performing their characters Montgomery Scott and Christine Chapel, performed the voices of Arex and M'Ress, respectively.
Initially, Filmation was only going to use the voices of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan and Majel Barrett. Doohan and Barrett would also perform the voices of Sulu and Uhura. Leonard Nimoy refused to sign up to lend his voice to the series unless Nichelle Nichols and George Takei were added to the cast — claiming that Sulu and Uhura were of importance as they were proof of the ethnic diversity of the 23rd century and should not be recast.
Koenig was not forgotten, and later wrote an episode of the series, becoming the first Star Trek actor to write a Star Trek story. Koenig wrote "The Infinite Vulcan", which had plot elements of the original Star Trek episode "Space Seed" blended into it.
As is usual for animation, the voice actors did not perform together but recorded their parts separately to avoid clashing with other commitments. For instance, William Shatner, who was touring in a play at the time, would record his lines in whatever city he happened to be in and have the tapes shipped to the studio. Doohan and Barrett, besides providing the voices of their Original Series characters and newcomers Arex and M'Ress, performed virtually all of the "guest star" characters in the series, except for a few notable exceptions such as Sarek, Cyrano Jones and Harcourt Fenton Mudd, who were performed by their original actors from The Original Series. Occasional other guest voice actors were also used, such as Ed Bishop (Commander Straker on UFO) who voiced the Megan Prosecutor in "The Magicks of Megas-tu", and Ted Knight who voiced Carter Winston in "The Survivor". Nichelle Nichols also performed other character voices in addition to Uhura in several episodes, including "The Time Trap" and "The Lorelei Signal".
The 22 episodes of TAS were spread out over two brief seasons, with copious reruns of each episode. Most were directed by Hal Sutherland.
All the episodes of this series were novelized by Alan Dean Foster and released in ten volumes under the Star Trek Logs banner. Initially, Foster adapted three episodes per book, but later editions saw the half-hour scripts expanded into full novel-length stories.
Star Trek: The Animated Series was the only Star Trek series to not feature a cold open ("teaser") and started directly with the title sequence (although some overseas versions of the original live action series, such as that run by the BBC in the U.K. in the 1960s and 1970s, ran the teaser after the credits).