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"Wagon Train to the stars!"

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

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STAR TREK - THE ORIGINAL SERIES

Star Trek: The Original Series is a science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry and aired between September 8, 1966 to June 3, 1969, with a total of 79 episodes produced. Although cancelled after its short run, the program was placed in syndication and spawned a strong fan following. The success of the program was followed by five additional television series and ten theatrical movies. The Guinness Book of Records lists it as having the largest number of spinoffs. As it was released as Star Trek, in order to distinguish this first series from the sequels which followed (all of which comprise the Star Trek universe or franchise), it has acquired the retronym Star Trek: The Original Series (sometimes shortened to ST:TOS or TOS).

Set in a utopian vision of the 23rd century, Star Trek follows the adventures of the starship Enterprise and her crew, led by William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk and Leonard Nimoy portraying his first officer, Mr. Spock. Shatner's voiceover at the beginning of each episode - with the exceptions of both pilots, "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" - stated the ship'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.

When Star Trek debuted on NBC in 1966, it was not successful; ratings were low and advertising revenue was lackluster. For the show's second season, it was moved to Friday nights at 8:30 P.M. and the threat of cancellation loomed. The show's devoted fanbase conducted an unprecedented campaign, petitioning NBC to keep the show on the air, succeeding in gaining a third season. This was an early example of television activism. But after the show was moved from 8:30 P.M. to 10 P.M. on Fridays (the 'Death Slot', so named because relatively few people watch television at that time), ratings remained poor. The series was cancelled at the end of its third season.

A longtime fan of science fiction, in 1960 Roddenberry (above) put together a proposal for Star Trek, a science fiction television series set on board a large interstellar space ship dedicated to exploring the galaxy. Some influences Roddenberry noted were A. E. van Vogt's tales of the Space Beagle, Eric Frank Russell's Marathon stories, and the 1956 science fiction film Forbidden Planet. Roddenberry also had extensive experience in writing westerns that were particularly popular television fare at the time, and pitched the show to the network as a "Wagon Train to the stars."

In 1964, Roddenberry secured a three-year development deal with leading independent TV production company Desilu (founded by comedy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz). In Roddenberry's original concept, the protagonist was named Captain Robert April of the "S.S. Yorktown". Eventually, this character became Captain Christopher Pike. The first pilot episode, "The Cage", was made in 1964, with actor Jeffrey Hunter in the role of Pike .

Roddenberry envisaged a multi-racial and mixed-gender crew, based on his assumption that racial prejudice and sexism would not exist in the 23rd century at a time when racial segregation was still firmly entrenched in many areas of the United States. He also included recurring characters from alien races, including Spock, who was half human and half Vulcan, united under the banner of the United Federation of Planets.

Other innovative Star Trek features involved solutions to basic production problems. The idea of the faster-than-light warp drive was not new to science fiction, but it allowed narrative device that permitted the Enterprise to quickly traverse space. The matter transporter, where crew members "beamed" from place to place, solved the problem of moving characters quickly from the ship to a planet, a spacecraft landing sequence for each episode being prohibitively expensive.

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The Star Trek pilot was first offered to the CBS network, but the channel turned it down for the more mainstream Irwin Allen production, Lost In Space. Star Trek was then offered to NBC (NBC executives would later be quoted as saying that the initial pilot script was 'too cerebral'), and executives were favorably impressed with the concept and made the highly unusual decision to commission a second pilot: "Where No Man Has Gone Before". Only the character of Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) remained from the original pilot, and only two cast members (Majel Barrett and Leonard Nimoy) carried on to the series. Much of the first pilot's footage was utilized into a later two-part episode, "The Menagerie".

In the second pilot, the main characters, Captain Kirk (William Shatner), chief engineer Lieutenant Commander Scott (James Doohan) and Lieutenant Sulu (George Takei) were introduced. Chief medical officer and the captain's confidante Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) replaced Dr. Piper from the first pilot. Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) became the Enterprise communications officer. Yeoman Janice Rand (Grace Lee Whitney left) was also on board but at some point, for reasons never explained on screen, she disappeared from the show right in the middle of the first season. The Rand character later returned to the Enterprise in 2271 to serve as a transporter chief aboard the refitted vessel as seen in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Gene Roddenberry's inclusion of the Asian Sulu and black Uhura, both of them intelligent, well-spoken professionals, was a bold move when most television characters of the time were white and those who were not were often presented in a highly stereotypical manner. Members of Roddenberry's production staff included art director Matt Jefferies. Jefferies designed the Enterprise; his contribution was commemorated in the so-called Jefferies tube, which became a standard part of the (fictional) design of Federation starships. Jefferies' starship concepts arrived at a final saucer-and-cylinders design that became a template for all subsequent Star Trek space vehicles.

Jefferies also developed the main set for the Enterprise bridge (based on an original design by Pato Guzman) and used his practical experience as a WWII airman and his knowledge of aircraft design to come up with a sleek, functional, ergonomic bridge layout. Costume designer William Ware Theiss created the striking look of the Enterprise uniforms and the risqué costumes for female guest stars. Artist and sculptor Wah Chang, who had worked for Walt Disney, was hired to design and manufacture props: he created the flip-open communicator, the portable sensing-recording-computing tricorder and the phaser weapons. Later, he would create various memorable aliens, such as the Gorn.

The series introduced viewers to many ideas which have become common in science fiction films: warp drive, teleportation, wireless hand-held communicators and scanners, directed energy weapons, desktop computer terminals, laser surgery, starship cloaking devices, and computer speech synthesis. Although these concepts had numerous antecedents in sci-fi literature and film, they had never before been integrated in one presentation and most of them were certainly new to TV. Even the ship's automatic doors were a novel feature in 1966.

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BEAM ME UP SCOTTY BY JAMES DOOHAN

BEYOND URURA BOOK

TO THE STARS BY GEORGE TAKEI

WARPED FACTOR BT WALTER KOENIG

 
Star Trek made celebrities of its cast of largely unknown actors. Kelley had appeared in many films and TV shows, but mostly in smaller roles. Shatner and Nimoy also had previous TV and film experience but neither was very well-known (although Shatner had starred as the terrified air traveler in the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"). After the episodes aired, many performers found themselves type-cast due to their roles.

The three main characters were Kirk, Spock and McCoy, with writers often playing the different personalities off each other: Kirk was passionate and often aggressive, Spock was coolly logical, and McCoy was sardonic but always compassionate. In many stories the three clashed, with Kirk forced to make a tough decision while Spock advocated the logical but sometimes callous path and McCoy (or "Bones," as Kirk nicknamed him, short for "sawbones," a traditional pejorative nickname for doctors) insisted on doing whatever would cause the least harm. McCoy and Spock had a sparring relationship that masked their true affection and respect for each other, and their constant arguments became very popular with viewers. The Spock character was at first rejected by network officials who feared that his vaguely "satanic" appearance (with pointed ears and eyebrows) might prove upsetting to some viewers. The network had even airbrushed out Spock's pointed ears and eyebrows from publicity materials sent to the network affiliates. But Spock went on to become one of the most popular characters on the show as was McCoy's impassioned country-doctor personality. Spock, in fact, became a sex symbol of sorts, something nobody connected with the show had expected.

The series was created during a time of cold war politics, and the plots of its episodes occasionally reflected this. The original series shows encounters with other advanced spacefaring civilizations, including the Klingons and the Romulans, both of which were involved in separate "cold wars" with the Federation.

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Which Star Trek actress came in 4th in the Miss America Pageant?

Terry Farrell.
Lee Meriwether
Roxann Dawson.
Jeri Ryan

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Content intended for informational and educational purposes under the GNU Free Documentation Areement.
"Star Trek", the Star Trek logos and images copyright © CBS Studios Inc.

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